Trump Admin-Tied Group Presents Plan for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

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Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, June 26, 2018:

A think-tank with close ties to the Trump administration is circulating on Capitol Hill and elsewhere a new comprehensive plan on how the White House can foster Israeli-Palestinian peace following President Trump’s landmark decision to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to the country’s capital city of Jerusalem, according to a copy of the plan viewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The Security Studies Group, or SSG, a foreign policy organization with close ties to top Trump administration officials, is seeking to garner support for the White House’s latest push to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The plan presents a roadmap the administration can follow to achieve a two state solution for the parties.

Officials are focused on pressuring the Palestinian Authority government to rein in its support for terrorism and accept a good faith offer that could alter the regional balance for both the Israeli and Palestinian people, sources said.

Those who have reviewed the plan told the Free Beacon that SSG is laying the groundwork to counter the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure Israel into accepting a plan many said would compromise the Jewish state’s security. “This is the first comprehensive survey of what the diplomatic terrain looks like now that Trump has reversed many of Obama’s anti-Israel moves,” said one senior GOP congressional staffer familiar with the paper. “American diplomats have a range of new opportunities but also new challenges, because the Palestinians got used to having America slap around Israel for them, and since we’re now back in the business of supporting Israel they’ve been throwing a global temper tantrum and holding their breath until they turn purple.”

“This study lays out a lot of that, including what more can to be done to reverse the anti-Israel UN resolution Obama’s diplomats generated,” the source said.

In addition to outlining multiple failed attempts by past administrations to ink a peace plan, SSG’s paper provides a fresh pathway forward for the Trump administration on the heels of its decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a move met with fanfare in Israel but with consternation by many Arab nations.

The paper, authored by Middle East expert Matthew RJ Brodsky, recommends the Palestinians be given the entirety of the Gaza Strip and around 96 percent of the territory linked to it by the West Bank.

The West Bank would subsequently be annexed by Israel by up to 10 percent to account for housing communities and other territory where Israelis have been living for decades. This would include critical land points such as the corridors along the Jordan Valley, according to the plan.

The plan also addresses the refugee issue, which has been a sticking point for some time as Israel seeks to retain the Jewish nature of its country. Accepting a mass wave of Palestinians into the country would fundamentally alter Israel’s population composition.

“The establishment of an independent Palestinian state will provide a national homeland for all Palestinians, including the refugees, and thereby bring an end to the historic Palestinian refugee issue and the assertion of any claims against Israel arising from it,” according to the plan.

Palestinian citizens would be permitted to resettle in a new Palestinian state or continue living in their host countries or other locales that would accept them. Israel would also be pressed to accept Palestinians for humanitarian reasons.

Jerusalem would remain Israel’s undivided capital city under the plan.

“This is a monograph that details the evolution of the conflict’s core issues and tracks their treatment in the three previous U.S.-led negotiating efforts that led to offers to end the dispute,” SSG said in a statement to the Free Beacon. “Entitled, ‘Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,’ the SSG also offers what it believes could serve as a negotiating framework for a final status agreement that meets the goal of two states for two peoples with a Palestinian state for Palestinians alongside a secure state of Israel recognized as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Brodsky, the report’s author, told the Free Beacon that the Palestinians must be convinced to abandon violence and come to the negotiating table in earnest.

“The bottom line is that the Palestinian Authority needs to get a handle on its mythology, come to the table, and accept a reasonable statehood offer,” Brodsky said. “It will be good for the Palestinian people, the Israelis, and the region. For far too long they have not been honest with their own people, let alone themselves. The peace process isn’t like a fine bottle of wine that improves with age.”

“Each time they turn toward violence and away from the negotiating table, they spoil their future prospects,” he said. “Luckily, America’s regional allies recognize this and can hopefully provide some direction should [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas find himself lost in his own rhetoric again.”

The White House and State Department did not respond to requests for comment on the progress in peace talks over the past months.

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Meanwhile…

Hamas Turmoil in Gaza is a Reflection of a Deeper Development in the Arab World

Center for Security Policy, by Louis Fleischman, May 17, 2018:

For the last six weeks, Hamas has been organizing protests under the slogan “the march of return.” The protests are presented to the world as peaceful demonstrations, but as the demonstrations unfold, Hamas operatives begin to activate their people urging them to breach the Gaza/Israel border fence. Then, they proceed to instruct their terrorists to use gun fire against Israeli soldiers, and fly inflammable kites aimed at burning fields. Participation in protests is encouraged either by offering payment to participants or by applying direct threats. Women are sent to the forefront of the marches to give Western TV crews the impression that the demonstrations are genuine, spontaneous and conducted by innocent and defenseless individuals.

The purpose, of course, is to trigger an Israeli reaction that would lead to the killing of Palestinians, as martyrdom has always been part of Hamas strategy and indoctrination. That killing would provoke a reaction of anger in the Palestinian and Arab streets. The world would react with outrage. The United Nations would follow with a condemnation while too many western analysts and media would repeat the unfounded notion that the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians causes violence and terror.

The last wave of violence was planned on the day the United States transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That provided an additional reason to mislead the public and make it believe that Hamas has a reasonable motive to start terror activities, regardless of how many times the group has undermined and destroyed the peace process by weakening the Palestinian Authority, murdering its soldiers and carrying terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. There is no need to remind our readers that Hamas has vowed to destroy the state of Israel.

However, this time there might be a deeper reason why Hamas started its provocation.

The Arab world finds itself in the midst of a very serious internal struggle for its soul. The Arab Spring has slowly begun to change the social contract between the Arab people and its rulers. Arab states are now forced to take into account the well-being and desires of their citizens, long scorned by Arab secular autocracies. Arab states try to avoid a mass rebellion and thus they are trying to respond to some pressing domestic issues.

For decades, Arab authoritarian regimes and religious fanatics used Israel as a scapegoat, as an external enemy and a big threat. This is not easily sold to the Arab public today. Arabs may not think highly of Israel but Israel is not their priority. As a young Arab intellectual told me: “We don’t care about the Palestinians. It is not our problem. We care about ourselves and our future prosperity.” In the Arab world, priority is given to economic improvement, restoration of security, reduction of high levels of illiteracy, and the future of their children

Thus, though Islamic radical extremists and violent groups have tried to capitalize on the chaos generated by the Arab spring in order to gain political power, they so far have failed to achieve what they wanted and expected.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was deposed with the blessing of the majority of Egyptian parties and groups. The government of Abdel Fattah El Sisi that deposed the Brotherhood is indeed authoritarian. However, according to several Arab intellectuals with whom I recently spoke, it enjoys support from Egyptians by virtue of the fact that during the year that the Brotherhood ruled Egypt, the country fell into a state of chaos, insecurity and disarray. Furthermore, he added, Egyptians are watching what is happening in other countries of the region such as Syria, Libya and Yemen where civil wars are having devastating effects. Egyptians view El Sisi as the person who saved the unity of the country and restored order. My Arab interlocutors told me cut and clear: people are afraid of Islamists and religious fanatics.

Along these lines, in Tunisia, the Islamist party known as “Enhanda” understood that Tunisian citizens were not willing to live the kind of life that Islamists proposed. Thus, it evolved into a party that attempts to adapt to what Tunisian citizens really demand, which is freedom from tyrannical rule and better conditions. Enhanda also accepted defeat in the elections and transfer of power. Furthermore, the leader of the party, Rachid Ghanouchi openly and publicly rejected the Iran/Taliban type of religious coercive/totalitarian rule.

Likewise, the atrocities committed by ISIS in Syria and Iraq and the fact that ISIS ruled part of these territories, became living proof of what living under Islamic rule is like. This has contributed to discrediting Islamists as well. As I was told by one of the Arab intellectuals I spoke with, “How is it that these organizations that represent religious extremism carry signs that call for Death to America and Israel but we, Arabs, are the only ones dying”?

In fact, even regarding Israel, things have begun to change. El Sisi has introduced the peace agreement with Israel in the curriculum of Egyptian schools; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman recognized Israel’s right to have a homeland (thus indirectly also recognized the right of the Jewish nation to have a homeland); and; Bahrain, in an unusual statement, recognized Israel’s right to defend itself. In addition, these countries and Israel have been working together for some time to counteract Iran’s regional expansion.

To be sure, radical Islam has not yet been defeated. There is still a long way to go to remove its toxic and malicious influence. However, they are in military and political retreat despite their continuous acts of terrorism. ISIS is being defeated in the Levant. Iran has been pushed to the corner and forced to beg to the Europeans to keep the deal so vital for their economic survival.  Furthermore, recent confrontations between Iran and Israel in Syria and the destruction of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria have exposed Iran as weak and vulnerable.

Most importantly,  as the Tunisian and Egyptian case show, the situation generated after the Arab Spring has shown that their ways are not accepted by a large segment of the Arab public. As it was previously mentioned, Islamist parties such as Enhanda  have turned pragmatic and focused on economic challenges , which is the priority of the Arab street.

Thus, Hamas’s bombastic acts such as the “March of Return“ were aimed to serve not only Palestinian Islamic radicalism. It is important to remember that Hamas is not just a Palestinian organization. It views itself as part of a larger Pan–Islamist movement. It is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and it is supported by Iran, ISIS, Qatar and last but not least Turkey. Turkey, that once was presented as a model of democratic Islam (even by our own former President Barack Obama), is clearly showing its radical Islamist face. As scholar Soner Captgay pointed out last February, Islamic law is gaining ground in large sectors of Turkish society. Turkey’s military actions in Syria have been described as “jihad”; Turkey’s 90,000 mosques were instructed to recite the Koran’s ‘Prayer of conquest”; and; national police are actively involved in intimidation and censorship of writings and comments considered to be offensive to Islam. Turkey’s Ministry of Education is using its power to impose Islamic practices in public schools and force teachers to bring students to pray in local Mosques.

Turkey’s foreign policy has been to make alliances with Iran and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It facilitated ISIS activities while launching a war against Kurdish groups that were fighting the Islamic State. In its rhetoric, Turkey is as hostile to Israel and to the Jewish people as any radical Islamist group and Iran and is currently a key supporter of Hamas.

The bloodshed and immolation of Palestinians organized by Hamas is not only an attempt to revive the Palestinian cause but also revitalize radical Islam in general.

Hamas actions are not about freedom for the Palestinians, the site of the American Embassy, or about the Israeli blockade. It is about the radical Islamic agenda, Palestinian and beyond, seeking a new impulse in the midst of defeat and isolation.

About Luis Fleischman

Dr. Luis Fleischman is a Senior adviser to the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy in Washington DC. He is also an adjunct professor of Political Science and Sociology at Barry University He is the author of the book, “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Security Threat to the United States.”

Gaza, borders, and the left-wing war on sovereign nations

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Conservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, May 15, 2018:

It was part of a universal recognition of both parties in Congress that the Jews were the only ones in the area who could properly develop the land and respect the human rights of all. At the time, there were only a smattering of Arabs living in the land, but Congress was concerned they would stir up trouble. During consideration of the resolution on the House floor on June 30, Rep. Walter M. Chandler, R-N.Y., delivered a lengthy and riveting speech summing up the purpose and background of the resolution. He declared that if the Arabs “will not consent to Jewish government and domination, they shall be required to sell their lands at a just valuation and retire into the Arab territory.” And if they refuse to sell their land, they “shall be driven from Palestine by force.”

Throughout the ’20s and ’30s, local Arabs and their surrounding neighbors fomented a violent jihad against the Jews living in their homeland. The riots were incited by Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Hussein, a close ally of Hitler who was eventually expelled from the region and fled to Germany. They flooded these regions with Egyptian and Syrian Arabs and expelled the Jews living there. All of the Jews were officially expelled from Gaza in 1948, when Egypt stole the land in a war designed to annihilate the Jews living in every part of the land.

When Israel reconquered Gaza in 1967, after Egypt lost a war of aggression with the intent to exterminate every last Jew living in Israel, the Israelis once again had to start from scratch. Whenever Arabs win territory, they expel every Jew, but when the Israelis win it back, they never return the favor. Thus, they have always faced a demographic problem. But either way, there was never an Arab “Palestinian” state inside Gaza, much less one with the right to invade the land outside it.

When the Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005, they used their own military to physically uproot every last Jewish resident of the region. Their houses, businesses, and farms were destroyed and they were exiled from their land. Historians regard this move – using a country’s own army to uproot its citizens and hand the territory over to enemies – as unprecedented. What’s worse, far from fostering a peaceful reconciliation, Israel had to dig up every last Jewish grave in Gaza so that their cemeteries would not be destroyed by the inevitable violence of the local Arabs. They were originally going to destroy the synagogues but left them intact after the State Department and the Palestinian Authority promised to guard them. Yet within minutes of the Arabs occupying the land, the synagogues were torched and destroyed, vividly conjuring up images of Kristallnacht.

As a result of the military pullout, the Arab terrorists breached the borders, creating irrevocable consequences for both Israel and Egypt:

  • Al Qaeda and other Sunni terror groups joined with Hamas and established a permanent presence in both Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.
  • Massive caches of weapons, explosives, and infrastructure for building tunnels were smuggled through the border into Gaza.
  • Iran and other terror sponsors began to ship weapons through Iran’s costal port.
  • Israel’s entire southern border became a sitting duck for endless rocket barrages from Gaza.

In 2005, these very same liberals and journalists celebrated the fact that Gaza had become completely Judenrein – deracinating every last vestige of Judaism from the heart of the land. But that was supposed to bring peace. Now liberals won’t allow Israel to defend its own border from the land they ceded over at a painful cost.

The same moral relativism is behind the assault on America’s sovereign border

It is stupefying to watch the speed with which the Left’s assault on sovereignty and security intensifies, fueled by a perverted moral compass. And it has consequences for our borders as well. While those coming over our border don’t engage in the degree of overt violence that the Hamas rioters are employing while breaching Israel’s border, the results – and the deaths – are similar. The disregard for borders and sovereignty has allowed the most violent drug cartels – indeed, “inspired them to do so,” in the words of Judge Andrew Hanen – to smuggle in MS-13 gangs and the most lethal drugs we’ve ever seen, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of Americans.

And whereas Israel is fighting Hamas on its border with Gaza, we face an existential threat from Hezbollah in Latin America, which possibly has more operatives in our hemisphere than in the Beqaa Valley on Israel’s northern border. Every time liberals encourages migration with “dream” amnesty and sanctuary cities, they are putting money in the pockets of MS-13, as well as the Sinaloa and Zetas cartels that work with Hezbollah to smuggle in drugs, weapons, and terrorists. The same holds true for Gaza. Every time the media fawns over the Hamas “protesters,” they are not only endangering Israel but empowering the terrorists to abuse their own people.

Secure borders and rule of law are the lynchpins to sovereignty and security for people on both sides of the demarcation. Compassion for open borders is about as safe as a “compassionate soul” who stops his car in middle of a highway to hand out food and medicine. The stated intentions of the policy don’t change the reality of the car wreck that is created by disrupting the laws of nature.

Violent opposition to national sovereignty is nothing to take likely. It is the biggest threat facing this nation and other nation-states. It demonstrates the dangerous shift on the Left in just one generation. In 1995, the same year Congress voted to recognize Israel’s sovereignty, Bill Clinton boasted during his State of the Union Address of the efforts he was undertaking to protect our sovereignty from illegal immigration. He cited the recommendations of Rep. Barbara Jordan, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose ideas tracked very closely with Trump’s campaign promises. Sure, Democrats believed in socialism for quite some time, but even the leftists understood that you need to have a country in order to promote having a socialist country.

Nowadays, defending borders against an invasion is “deplorable.” We should all be scared – very scared.

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What caused the Palestinian refugee problem? 13 important stories told by refugees from 1948

Also see:

As US relocates embassy to Jerusalem, al Qaeda leader condemns international system

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 14, 2018:

On the eve of the opening of the US government’s embassy in Jerusalem today, al Qaeda released a new message from its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The al Qaeda emir noted at the outset of his speech that there has been a “big uproar” over the Trump administration’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President Trump has been “clear and frank,” revealing “the true face of the modern Crusade, which does not deal with retreat and reconciliation,” according to Zawahiri.

However, Zawahiri quickly pivoted away from the controversy over the embassy relocation, reiterating al Qaeda’s longstanding conspiracy theory: The entire international system is hostile to Muslims. Just being part of the United Nations makes one complicit in this alleged scheme, according to bin Laden’s successor.

Indeed, the title of Zawahiri’s speech, “Tel Aviv Is Also the Land of Muslims,” underscores his point. The embassy relocation is a small issue relative to the vast “Zionist-Crusader” conspiracy al Qaeda claims to oppose.

Zawahiri reminds his “Muslim and mujahidin brothers and the sincere scholars” that “all of the countries of the Islamic world which are members in the United Nations have recognized Israel by signing the United Nations Charter, which confirms the unity and territorial integrity of each of its states, including Israel.” From al Qaeda’s perspective, this is the original sin of the United Nations.

The al Qaeda leader claims that, by signing the UN charter, nations have agreed to leave “ruling by Sharia.” That is, they have agreed that they will not abide by the draconian laws Zawahiri and his ilk prefer. Instead, these nations are “satisfied” with governing and “ruling” according to the “decisions of the [UN] Security Council and the General Assembly,” including the decision in 1947 to partition the land.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are both “Islamic land,” in Zawahiri’s telling. True believers need “to liberate Palestine” and “all the other abodes of Muslims” after declaring the entire “criminal international tyrannical system” to be illegitimate. Zawahiri again calls for Muslim unity, a frequent al Qaeda motif, such that the ummah (worldwide community of Muslims) engages in “battle…on multiple fronts, not as separate groups that retreat before the imperatives of the greatest criminals.”

Zawahiri reminds listeners that Osama bin Laden identified America as the leader of this supposedly corrupt international system and, therefore, as the “first enemy of the Muslims.” Bin Laden first declared that Americans “would not dream of security until we actually live it in Palestine, and until all the disbelieving armies depart from the land of Muhammad.”

The goal is establish “the caliphate,” Zawahiri says, after uniting “around the word of tawhid.” This will require both dawa (proselytization) and jihad. And Muslims must not confuse their enemies for their friends, fighting “the battle of consciousness before the battle of weapons,” remaining “free of illusions.”

In the past, al Qaeda leaders have called on Muslims to use Syrian soil to “liberate” Jerusalem. The group uses this theme as a rallying cry for jihadists in Syria.

Zawahiri’s message is the 9th episode in his “Brief Messages To A Victorious Ummah” series, during which he has covered a variety of topics. Although Zawahiri can be long-winded, the lectures in this program are mercifully short.

Although the lecture series has been running since Aug. 2016, Zawahiri and his propagandists in As Sahab clearly timed the release of this episode to coincide with the US embassy relocation to Jerusalem. It demonstrates that, at times, al Qaeda is still able to time its media to current events. Zawahiri also remains a somewhat prolific commentator, regularly releasing messages from his hideout.

An English translation of the message was distributed via Telegram by Al-Tamkin Media, a propaganda outfit that regularly translates messages from al Qaeda’s senior leadership. The quotes in this article were adapted from Al-Tamkin’s rough translation.

Israel says three ‘armed terrorists’ among 41 reported dead in Gaza border clashes

Fox News, by Greg Norman May 14, 2018:

At least three of the 41 Palestinians reportedly killed Monday in clashes ahead of the Jerusalem opening of the U.S. Embassy to Israel were “armed terrorists” caught trying to plant a bomb near the Gaza border fence, Israel’s military said.

More than 35,000 protesters amassed at a dozen locations along the security fence, with many engaging in skirmishes that pushed the death toll Monday to the highest in Gaza since a 2014 cross-border standoff between the militant group Hamas and the Jewish state, according to the Associated Press.

Gaza health officials told the news agency that 41 people so far have been killed in Monday’s violence, and at least 772 have been wounded.

May 14, 2018: Palestinian medics and protesters evacuate a wounded man during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip. (AP)

The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv, a key campaign promise of President Trump, has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.

“Moments ago, an IDF patrol foiled a bomb-laying attack by a cell of three armed terrorists near Rafah, close to the border,” the Israeli military said Monday. “This is a particularly violent protest point. The troops responded with fire at the terrorists. The terrorists were killed.”

Israel also said its aircraft targeted a Hamas post in Jabaliya after troops in the area came under fire. None of the Israeli soldiers were hurt.

“Rioters are hurling pipe bombs and firebombs at IDF troops, burning tires, throwing stones and burning objects, with the intention of setting fires in Israel and hurting IDF troops,” a member of the Israeli army was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying.

Monday’s demonstrations — dubbed the “Great March of Return” by Palestinian media — are reported to be part of a campaign led by Hamas to break the decade-old border blockade of the territory imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Since weekly border marches began in late March, dozens of Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 2,300 wounded in clashes.

Israel’s security service, Shin Bet, claimed Monday that Hamas is encouraging Palestinian civilians to flood the border, with their own gunmen waiting in the wings to break through if a fence is breached.

Shin Bet said it received that information during interrogations of members who already have been captured after crossing the security fence in recent weeks, The Times of Israel reported.

“There is a prohibition for Hamas operatives to approach the border, from a fear that they will be killed or captured by IDF troops, unless the security fence falls and then they must enter, armed, into Israel under the cover of the masses and carry out terror attacks,” the agency said. “From the information we have, it appears Hamas is encouraging and sending protesters to the border fence in order to carry out violent acts and damage security infrastructure.”

Shin Bet also claimed that Iran is providing funding to Hamas for these border flare-ups, but did not elaborate.

A senior figure in the group, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., said Monday that the border protests will continue until Palestinians have won back their rights.

“We will continue on this path until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved,” Ismail Radwan said, according to the Associated Press.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the army had set up additional “layers” of security in and around communities near the border to defend Israeli civilians in case of a mass breach. He said there already had been several “significant attempts” to break through the fence.

“Even if the fence is breached, we will be able to protect Israeli civilians from attempts to massacre or kidnap or kill them,” he said.

In the West Bank, several thousand people gathered in the center of Ramallah, while hundreds marched to the Qalandiya crossing on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where protesters threw stones at Israeli troops.

The U.S. said it chose today’s date for the embassy opening to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment.

But it also marks the anniversary of what Palestinians call their “nakba,” or catastrophe, a reference to the uprooting of hundreds of thousands who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s independence.

Most of the casualties Monday were in the southern Gaza towns of Khan Younis and Rafah. Israeli forces were firing volleys of tear gas to disperse the crowds, and the sound of heavy gunfire could be heard. Sirens were constantly wailing as the wounded were evacuated on stretchers to nearby ambulances. Groups of young activists repeatedly approached the fence, but were quickly scattered by gunfire and tear gas.

In one of the border areas east of Gaza City, Mohammed Hamami, a 40-year-old civil servant, joined a crowd of hundreds of protesters, along with his mother and five children.

“Today we are here to send a message to Israel and its allies that we will never give up on our land,” he told the Associated Press.

Clouds of black smoke from burning tires was also seen rising into the air. Earlier Monday, Israeli drones dropping incendiary material had pre-emptively set ablaze some of the tires collected in advance by activists.

Protesters have used the thick smoke as cover against Israeli snipers perched on high sand berms on the other side of the border. The army accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover to plan or carry out attacks.

Leaflets dropped over Gaza by army jets warned that those approaching the border “jeopardize” their lives. The warning said the army is “prepared to face all scenarios and will act against every attempt to damage the security fence or harm IDF soldiers or Israeli civilians.”

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Making History In Jerusalem

Front Page Magazine, by Joseph Klein,

The United States is officially opening its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem today, making May 14, 2018 an historic day for the Jewish State of Israel. Other U.S. presidents have made campaign promises to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, only to abandon their promises in deference to the foreign policy establishment and “international” opinion. In moving forward to fulfill his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump ignored the foreign policy establishment and “international” opinion, much as President Harry Truman did when he gave de facto recognition to the newly created State of Israel only eleven minutes after Israel’s proclamation of its independence.

President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner are representing President Trump for the opening of the new embassy. The Israelis are celebrating. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at his weekly cabinet meeting, “President Trump promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and he did so. He promised to move the American Embassy to Israel and he is doing so. Of course we will all celebrate this day.”

President Trump’s decision, denounced not only by the Palestinians themselves, as expected, but by amoral government leaders and opinion makers all around the world, should not be so controversial. Each nation has the sovereign right to locate its own embassies wherever it chooses. The U.S. embassy will be located in West Jerusalem, not in any area claimed by the Palestinians to be part of their future “capital” in East Jerusalem. Moreover, President Trump clearly stated that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not intended to decide any final status issues regarding Jerusalem as a whole. Finally, the United Nations resolutions that the critics of President Trump’s decision rely upon to support their objections on “legal” grounds do little to help their case. The General Assembly has no legal authority under the UN Charter to require anything of the member states except payment of their annual budget assessments. The Security Council has huffed and puffed about so-called “illegal” Israeli settlements including in East Jerusalem and called upon member states to withdraw their embassies from Jerusalem, but did so solely in the form of completely non-binding resolutions.

President Trump did what he thought was the right thing to do, as President Truman had done seventy years ago when he said, “I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have faith in it now.”  President Trump was willing, in President Truman’s words when dealing with his critics regarding the Palestine situation, “to let them all go to hell.”

Unfortunately, it looks like there will be some hell to pay from the Palestinians before this week is over. On Sunday, which was being observed ahead of the embassy opening as Jerusalem Day by Israelis, the day was marred by clashes that broke out between Jews and Arabs on the Temple Mount. In order to keep the peace, Israeli police officers separated the two sides, and removed Jews from the Temple Mount who had allegedly broken the rules of conduct that ban all non-Muslims from praying or singing on the Temple Mount where Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated.

Of course, it is not enough for the Palestinians that the Israeli government forbids Jews to sing or pray at loud on what is the Jewish peoples’ holiest site, out of undeserved deference to Muslims’ sensibilities because of their mosque’s location on the Temple Mount. Palestinians want complete control of Old Jerusalem, including the entire Temple Mount and the area in which the Western Wall is located. Even that is not enough for many Palestinians. They are encouraged by their irresponsible leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who has said that Israel is a “colonialist enterprise,” to believe that the Jewish State of Israel is illegitimate. Millions of Palestinian descendants born years after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 are brought up with the fantasy that they have a so-called “right of return” to “homes” inside Israel, some of which were abandoned by their parents, grandparents or great grandparents seventy years ago.

Israel is preparing for mass Palestinian protests early this week along the Gaza border with Israel, bolstering its IDF forces and bringing in special firefighting squads according to a Debkafile report. The air space over and around Gaza has been reportedly closed by Israeli authorities. More intense violence than in past weeks is expected as Hamas leaders have called for waves of Palestinians to break through the border fence separating Israel from Gaza, the culmination of seven weeks of “Return Marches” demanding the so-called “right of return.” The opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, together with the 70th anniversary of what the Palestinians call the “nakba,” or catastrophe resulting from the creation of Israel as an independent state in what Palestinians still fantasize as their land, are likely to send the protesters into overdrive. “What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?” Hamas’s Gaza head Yahya Sinwar asked rhetorically.

The Palestinian propagandists and their supporters try to portray the Gaza protests as the peaceful exercise of freedom of speech and assembly by unarmed Palestinian civilians. In truth, Hamas leaders and other Islamists are preaching violence and using civilians, including children, as human shields to carry out their jihad against Israel. Late last month, for example, a Gaza cleric Sheikh Musa Abu Jleidan preached violence when he said that the “Great Return March” is a “form of Jihad” that “does not eliminate the need for Jihad by the sword, by missiles, and by rockets. They go hand in hand.” He added that Jews “are the philosophers of terrorism and crime, people of treachery and deceit, who slayed the prophets of Allah. It is an honor for us, here on this blessed land, to have been chosen by Allah to fight them and to strike fear in them.”

A young Palestinian girl protesting at one of the Return March rallies absorbed the jihad message. She was heard exclaiming “Martyrs in the millions are marching to Jerusalem. Palestine forever! Jerusalem belongs to us, not to the filthy Israel.” Other protesters cheered her on, shouting “Allah Akbar.”

Any Palestinians marching to Jerusalem to oust Jews are not martyrs. They are usurpers. Historically, Jews have been living in Jerusalem continuously for more than three millennia. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any sovereign nation except of the Jewish people. In more recent times, Jews have constituted the largest single group of inhabitants in Jerusalem since at least the mid-1800s. Prior to the Jordanians’ illegal occupation, Jerusalem was an undivided city. Jerusalem is so again today, open to worshippers of all faiths. It is the Palestinians who seek to replicate Jordan’s temporary illegal occupation and division of Jerusalem and make it permanent, imposing an ethnic and religious cleansing of any Jewish residents in the Old City. President Trump’s bold decision, fulfilled this week, will go down in history along with his predecessor President Truman’s early recognition of the Jewish State of Israel.

The Waiting Period

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty

By Jonathan Spyer, The Australian,  

It is spring in Israel. On the face of it, all appears normal. Yet underlying the everyday is the hint of tension. The low buzz that presages violent events. We know it well in Israel and it has been all around for weeks.

Two nights ago, there was an eruption. The special forces unit (Quds) of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps launched 20 missiles at northern Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome shot down four of them. The others landed in Syria. Israel’s Air Force launched a counter attack. Iranian storage facilities and logistics sites in Syria were targeted along with five Syrian air defence systems.

As the smoke cleared, an uneasy calm returned. Probably not for long.

A series of milestones is approaching in coming weeks, any of which could precipitate further strife. The extended period in which Israel managed to keep itself largely one step removed from the chaos of the Middle East seems to be drawing to a close.

Donald Trump announced this week he will withdraw the US from the nuclear deal with Iran. The stage is set for a return to open confrontation between the US and Iran.

The US has commitments in the region (in Iraq and eastern Syria, in particular) which would be vulnerable to violent pushback by Iran through its proxies.

Israel’s ongoing efforts to roll back Iranian gains in Syria will constitute an element of this larger contest. This, in turn, will increase the chance of confrontation between Israel and Iran.

As Israeli Housing Minister (and former general) Yoav Gallant told Bloomberg News this week, “It’s clear that friction between Iran and the U.S. can lead to a situation in which Iran decides to deploy Hezbollah against Israel … That’s their tool.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week expressed Israel’s readiness for such a confrontation, if it comes. ‘“We don’t want an escalation, but we are prepared for every scenario. We don’t want confrontation, but if there needs to be one, it is better now than later,” the Prime Minister told reports following a meeting of Israel’s Cabinet.

With the situation regarding Iran at such a point of tension, other events which would normally command centre stage are being relegated to a secondary role. Nevertheless, the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14 is set to cause an uptick in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. The opening will be followed on May 15 by the culmination of Hamas’s six-week “March of Return” campaign in the Gaza Strip. This series of marches to the border fence is intended to revive the fortunes of Hamas, whose Gaza domain is isolated and cash strapped. May 15 is also the anniversary of the State of Israel’s declaration of independence (though strictly speaking the declaration took place on the 14) and is remembered by Palestinians as the date of their Nakba (catastrophe).

It is possible there will be attempts to break through the border fence. Israeli communities are located as little as one kilometre from the fence, so the situation will be tense.

It is worth remembering that Gaza is not hermetically sealed off from the stand-off with Iran in the north. Teheran possesses its clients among the Palestinians, who may be directed to escalate the situation. The small Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation is a wholly owned franchise of Iran. Hamas’s relations with Teheran are more complex and the movement sought in recent years to distance itself from the Iranian regime. Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar has worked to patch up relations over the last year abd in August Sinwar declared that Iran was once again the largest backer of Hamas.

But it the northern tier of Syria and Lebanon that remains by far the gravest concern for Israel. It is here the ambitions and agendas of Iran appear most directly set on a course of potential collision with the Jewish state.

Iranian assistance has been vital to the cause of Bashar al Assad since the the uprising against him in early 2011. The Syrian president, whose regime rests on a narrow platform of sectarian support, was beset from the beginning by a problem of insufficient loyal manpower. It is the Iranians, not the Russians, who addressed this vital issue throughout the war.

However, Iran, in its usual fashion, did not elect to strengthen the existing, regime-controlled Syrian Arab Army. Rather, in accordance with similar methods pursued in Iraq and Lebanon, Iran has preferred to create its own, Revolutionary Guards-controlled structures in Syria. These defend the Assad regime, to be sure, but they are not under its sole control. Thus, Iran organised and created the National Defence Forces, consisting of Syrian volunteers, mainly from non-Sunni communities and now numbering 50,000 to 60,000 fighters.

Iran also mobilised its proxies throughout the region and brought them to Syria to plug the manpower gap. Thus, there are today about 6000 Lebanese Hizballah fighters on Syrian soil, along with perhaps 3000 Revolutionary Guards personnel and an additional 10,000 to 15,000 members of other Iran-supported Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As the rebellion against Assad has continued to lose ground, so the construction of Iranian infrastructure in Syria has continued. The examples of Hizballah in Lebanon and the Popular Mobilisation Units in Iraq indicate that Iran’s version of assistance is not dismantled when the threat has subsided.

Israel is concerned that this infrastructure, with its contiguous land link to Iraq and thence to Iran itself, is intended primarily for use as a tool of pressure and violence against the Jewish state. Iran is openly and noisily in favour of the destruction of Israel. It wishes to achieve this goal through a long-war strategy of attrition and harassment. Entrenchment in Syria would significantly increase the Iranian ability to pursue this strategy.

While the local and regional militias pose a challenge, the main worry in Jerusalem is the hardware that Iran is seeking to import and base in Syria. Consolidation of this infrastructure – UAV bases, surface-to-surface missiles and anti-aircraft batteries – appears to be what Israel is most determined to prevent.

On April 9, Israeli aircraft struck at a drone facility maintained by the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace force at the T4 base near Palmyra. Fourteen people were killed, among them seven Iranians, including a Revolutionary Guards colonel, Mehdi Deghdan Yazdeli.

On April 30, Israeli aircraft carried out a larger scale raid on two points – the 47 Brigade base south west of Hama, and the Nayrab military airbase close to Aleppo. The New York Times reported that the strikes killed 16 people, including 11 Iranians, and destroyed 200 missiles.

On May 9, following reports of “irregular Iranian movements” in southern Syria, explosions were heard south of Damascus. Israel opened public bomb shelters in the Golan Heights. Regional media reported that Israel attacked an army base south of Damascus, where Iranian personnel were based. Nine militiamen were killed, according to the usually reliable Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Then, in the early hours of May 10, the Iranians launched their 20 missiles, and Israel responded. The Iranian strike was not successful, and it is not clear whether Teheran will consider it to have constituted sufficient retaliation for the Israeli action on April 30. Given the scale of the Israeli response to the attack, this seems unlikely.

What form is further Iranian action likely to take?

Iran has a number of options. It possesses a global terror infrastructure and might seek to attack an Israeli facility or an Israeli or Jewish target abroad. In the past, Teheran and Hizballah have sought retribution in this way. The attack in 1994 on the Amia Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, and the murder of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012 are examples of this.

Alternatively, Iran could instruct its Lebanese Hizballah proxies to carry out an attack on Israeli forces across the border from Lebanon. This is how Teheran sought to retaliate for the killing by Israel of a number of Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah personnel close to the Golan Heights in January 2015.

Israeli planners were expecting Iran’s retaliation for the nine dead militiamen was likely to be carried out in Syria, probably with the help of Shia militia personnel on the ground. It was not the first time Iranian personnel have been killed by Israel on Syrian soil. But it was the first time Iranian facilities, not those of proxy groups, were targeted. The Iranian action on May 10 was the first time Israel was directly targeted in a real-time conventional military operation led by the Revolutionary Guards. This is likely to set the pattern for further events to come.

So where is all this heading? Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that allowing Iran to consolidate its infrastructure in Syria would be “agreeing to the Iranians placing a noose around our necks”. This, the defence minister said, would be prevented “at all costs”.

It is not entirely clear, of course, what “consolidation”, “entrenchment” and their prevention actually mean, or could entail. Does Israel require that all presence of the Iranians be removed from Syria, down to the last proxy fighter? If so, then conflict between Teheran and Jerusalem is a near inevitability, since there is no chance of Iran acquiescing to this except by coercion. On the other hand, if the Israeli intention is to prevent the Iranians from transferring certain weapons systems into Syria – advanced anti-aircraft systems, ballistic missiles, UAVs – then conflagration may not be so imminent.

Iran has an interest in keeping to what it is good at. What it is good at is developing paramilitary proxy political-military organisations. This is the key to its success in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. What it is much less good at is conventional warfare, particularly in the air. The country has a poorly equipped, Cold War-era air force. It possesses ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel, to be sure. But Israel has in recent years developed in cooperation with the US some of the most advanced missile defence systems in the world. Iran’s own defences against Israeli retaliation, meanwhile, are far less developed.

This means that Iran may well prefer to absorb Israeli strikes, carrying out a token retaliation for form’s sake. Such an approach would derive not from pacific intentions. Rather, the Iranians would calculate that it is in their interests to continue to quietly build their strength in Syria, while absorbing periodic Israeli disruptions of their arrangements. Since the Iranians may well be engaged, as in Lebanon and Iraq, in a project concerned with the long-term transformation of these countries into clients/puppets of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the immediate settling of scores may not be deemed of paramount urgency.

Of course, this begs the question as to whether Israel will wish to acquiesce to the pursuit of such an Iranian strategy, with all it implies for the future security of Israel. In the meantime, following the fire and smoke of the night of May 10, and until the next move, we are back to the waiting period.

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