Israel must be ready for November 4

Analysis: Both candidates are committed to Israel’s security, but will act differently; Biden is unlikely to reverse recognition of Jerusalem but will likely reinstate settlement policies, while Trump could flip on Iran if he sees chance for deal

Regardless of who wins the American presidential election, the U.S. stance on Israel’s security and its position within the international community would remain mostly as is.
Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee former vice president Joe Biden have proven their deep commitment to keeping Israel a sovereign and democratic nation, with a strong and stable Jewish majority.
And although both candidates’ policies seem to have little to no difference on some issues, Israel must be ready for the morning after the elections, especially on key topics.
Iran nuclear deal
Both Trump and Biden are interested in a reworked nuclear deal with the Iranians and an end to their missile production and cover regional actions. Both are very worried by the latest developments coming out of the Islamic Republic regarding atomic production.
Tehran has accumulated a large amount of enriched uranium and is developing state of the art centrifuges, stating that if the U.S. can break the agreement – so can they.
Both candidates know that the eventual results of this creeping development could lead to a scenario where the Iranians take the “Samson route” – toughing out any new sanctions while speeding up the development of their first ever operational nuclear warhead, all the while holding a loaded gun to the West’s temple.
When and if this happens, America’s chief allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, will turn to the White House and demand it meet its obligation to preventing any Iranian nuclear weapons.
The U.S. administration will find itself in a dilemma: either forfeit to the Iranians or launch an all-out military intervention.
This possible scenario is both Trump and Biden’s worse nightmare and they will do anything they can to prevent it from coming to pass.
Both candidates’ foreign policy calls for a reduction in American military presence in the Middle East to the absolute minimum (with China and Russia now the main strategic challenge for Washington) and definitely not bring any more American soldiers back home in caskets.
Logic for both candidates and their advisers dictates that after the elections, regardless of which of them wins, the Iranians will want to go back to the negotiating table to save their citizens from economic collapse, brought forth by the incumbent’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran.
This assessment also leads them to believe that Tehran will be willing to make concessions.
The Islamic Republic’s current position, voiced straight from Iranian upreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s close circle, is that the U.S. must first end its sanctions and compensate for the economic damage caused – and maybe then talks can resume.
The conservative ayatollahs who are set to replace the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani in the 2021 elections emphasize that Iran has learned to live with the sanctions, and that they do not believe the U.S.
Meanwhile Rouhani, whom Trump portrayed as a naïve leader, remains silent.
So what does all mean?
For starters, it seems that both Trump and Biden are willing to reach a compromise to get the Iranian issue off their backs in the coming years.
Both are willing to tone down the U.S. demands on Iran’s nuclear and missile developments and its covert operations in the area.
Tehran, on the other hand, has presented very stringent terms for returning to the negotiating table and is prepared to conduct fierce and unrelenting deliberations on all matters.
Israel must make doubly sure that whoever ends in the Oval Office will not compromise with the Iranians at the expanse of its national security interests and that of the moderate Sunni Arab nations.
If Biden is elected and Benjamin Netanyahu remains Israel’s prime minister, the possibility for a diplomatic clash only worsens. During Biden’s tenure as vice president, there was a lot of bad blood between Netanyahu and the White House.
The prime minister and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer – a former Republican operative – have managed to totally position Israel within the GOP. Any intimate conversation between Netanyahu and Biden will be difficult.
With Trump, Netanyahu found an intuitive and attentive partner. But the unpredictable and narcissistic businessman, reigning
for a second and final term, might turn on Israel in a flash if he smells a hint of a “good deal” with Iran.
With reelection no longer relevant, the Evangelical vote and support from Sheldon Adelson become inconsequential beside
the prospect of a legacy as a master statesman, with the tantalizing hope for a Nobel Peace Prize drowning out any cries of anguish from Jerusalem and Riyadh.
Palestinian issue
A second Trump government is likely to wait for Mahmoud Abbas’ disappearance from the Palestinian political scene and an end to the subsequent infighting to decide on the identity of his heir.
In the interim, senior White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will continue to persuade more Arab nations to reach normalization agreements with Israel in preparation for a post-Abbas Palestinian Authority.
When that day arrives, a consolidated, rich and moderate Arab camp will be at hand to “help” bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table with Israel on the basis of Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan.
For the time being, there will be a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and no annexation. However, settlements will be allowed to expand to meet the needs of a growing population, which has been a long standing arrangement understood by multiple administrations.
A Biden administration will probably not reverse the steps taken by his predecessor to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
But with influence of the more liberal wing of his party, Biden is expected to revive the policy labeling the West Bank settlements as a breach of international law.
He is expected also to champion the idea that the basis for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is based on a two-state solution, along the 1967 lines with some border concessions and a corridor connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
A Biden White House and a Netanyahu-led government would essentially be a rerun of the Obama administration. It would probably not happen immediately, with the former vice president and his cabinet first having to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the trade war and tensions with China, a new disarmament agreement with Russia and many other pressing issues.
Only then – assuming the Iranians do not make any serious headway in their nuclear development plans – will Biden deal with the Palestinian issue, possibly more than a year into his presidency.
Mideast arms sales
A second Trump term will maintain its current policy of weapons sales to Middle East countries: sell as much and as quickly as it can to U.S.-friendly nations who are all threatened by Iran and are able to spend tens of billions of dollars on weapon systems (mostly aerial) that would bring prestige and influence to their leaders.
Trump will give them all they want without any unnecessary moral considerations in order to create more jobs and money for the American economy in general and the arms industry in particular.
Biden will probably take the more selective and calculated route, opting to refrain from selling F-35 fighter jets, advanced security systems and long-range drones to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and Kuwait, which Trump has already authorized for the UAE.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. refused to even instruct the Emiratis on how to operate these systems.
However, Biden will most likely authorize the sale of defense-oriented weapon systems such as advanced alert systems, UAVs, advanced radars, anti-missile installations, naval defenses and logistical systems.
In any case, the IDF will still retain its qualitative military edge regardless of any future weapons sales in the region.
Even if the results on November 4 are clear cut and do not deteriorate into a legal battle, the U.S. will remain a divided nation long afterwards. Every decision by the future president regarding a controversial issue could whip up a storm and even lead to violent clashes on the streets.
It is likely that the president will be reluctant to make unpopular decisions on fateful issues for fear of public reaction, especially on social media. A president who does not enjoy public trust and support is a lame duck, especially when it comes to foreign and security affairs.
The Russians, Chinese and Iranians understand this and are trying to increase the mistrust in the American authorities – especially the president – and deepen the division among the people with a stream of “fake news” directed at American social media.
And a weak America is a nightmare for Israel’s security.
The article was published in Ynet

Moving White House ceremony starts to relegitimize a precious little word: Peace

26 years after the Israel-Jordan treaty, a whole generation of Israelis and Arabs witnesses something it had simply never seen before

(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up the documents they signed at the Abraham Accords ceremony where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

“In Israel’s entire history, there have previously been only two such agreements. Now we have achieved two in a single month. And there are more to follow.” Thus spoke US President Donald Trump near the start of his remarks to hundreds of people at the White House, and untold numbers around the world, watching on Tuesday as Israel established relations simultaneously with both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Our first, earth-shattering peace agreement came in 1979, when Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat — having restored his country’s self-respect in the 1973 war, after its six-day humiliation in 1967 — shattered three decades of intransigent Arab hostility to the very fact of Israel’s existence and signed the Camp David Accords with prime minister Menachem Begin.

And then came… nothing.

Israel had wanted to believe that after Egypt, the floodgates of normalization would open. Instead, Egypt was boycotted by the rest of the Arab world for its crime in legitimizing Israel, and Sadat was soon gunned down.

Only 15 years later, in 1994, did Jordan’s King Hussein dare to become our second full peace partner, liberated to publicly acknowledge his hidden alliance with Israel because prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had pledged to try to resolve the Palestinian conflict and had warily shaken hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.

And then came… nothing. Nothing, this time, for a full quarter century

Until Tuesday’s dual wedding.

And so, when Trump noted that he was overseeing the doubling of Israel’s entire history of peace alliances, he was also telling a whole generation of Israelis and of Arabs — a generation that has simply never witnessed such a ceremony before — that, yes, Israeli-Arab peace is actually possible. It can be achieved here and now. It’s not something that happened a couple of times long ago and then froze over, or that dreamers talk endlessly about being almost within reach.

And it’s hopefully not something that, after it is ostensibly attained, disintegrates into conflict and bloodshed, as was the case with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” and the strategic Palestinian terrorist onslaught of the Second Intifada.

For once, “let us put all cynicism aside,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his remarks. And for a rare few hours, in the midst of a pandemic, and even as Hamas tried to spoil the show with rocket fire from Gaza, everything about the ceremony encouraged us to do precisely that.

What Netanyahu called “the pulse of history” was tangible in the warmth of the separate interactions between Trump, the two Gulf foreign ministers, and Netanyahu that preceded the main event. If Tuesday’s widening of the circle of peace was insufficient, Trump vouchsafed to Netanyahu that “five or six” other states are waiting in line. “Frankly, we could have had them here today,” he said, but that would have been disrespectful to the UAE, which had shown the courage to go first, and to Bahrain, which had been so determined to join the festivities.

It was tangible in the content of all the leaders’ speeches — their individual declared commitments to genuine and lasting peace between our peoples — and the sincerity and warmth with which they delivered their remarks.

It was tangible in the little-noticed moments, such as when UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Al Nahyan, having completed his address, walked over to where Netanyahu was standing, and, with attention focused elsewhere, they smiled at each other and exchanged a few words. Or when everybody — and especially the joyful star of the show Al Nahyan — laughed good-naturedly at the logistical complexities that inevitably arise when two-to-four leaders are signing and/or witnessing three accords.

If Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel was the first vital step toward the acceptance of modern Israel’s revival in the Jews’ ancient homeland, Tuesday’s ceremony may come to signify our belated acceptance by those further afield who, as Trump noted, have for decades been fed lies and falsehoods about Israel, and especially Israel’s ostensible religious intolerance.

The Palestinians are still absent, of course, dismally led in the West Bank by President Mahmoud Abbas into what appears to be a deepening alliance with the Gaza-ruling terrorists of Hamas. Still, the US president who brokered these accords remains insistently optimistic that, as he told the press pack during his Oval Office session with Netanyahu, “at the right time, they’ll be joining too.”

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said at the very start of his speech. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” he went on, and “thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”

Trump delivered these hitherto mind-boggling claims in tones that were almost matter-of-fact. These new peace allies are “going to work together; they are friends,” he said, as though this was the most normal thing in the world.

But for a whole generation, 26 years after any of us last saw anything like it, Tuesday’s ceremony was anything but normal. It was, rather, unprecedented, surprising and heartening. For once in the tortured context of Israel and the Arab conflict, it was a pleasure to put all cynicism aside.

For after 26 years, Tuesday’s ceremony tentatively relegitimized that precious little word: Peace.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


UAE-Israel agreement followed many years of discreet talks

In-depth: Agreement between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem comes as little surprise to those closely following the nuances of Mideast politics, with Trump almost single-mindedly pushing deal without resolution first to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Secret talks and quiet ties: That’s what paved the way for last week’s deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize relations.

Touted by President Donald Trump as a major Mideast breakthrough, the agreement was in fact the culmination of more than a decade of quiet links rooted in frenzied opposition to Iran that predated Trump and even Barack Obama, as well as Trump’s avowed goal to undo his predecessor’s Mideast legacy.
And the deal leaves behind what had been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region: resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The effort to achieve that goal picked up speed 17 months ago at a U.S.-led conference in Warsaw, according to officials involved.
That February 2019 meeting, originally conceived as an anti-Iran gathering, morphed into a broader Mideast security endeavor after European objections to its agenda. Many countries opted not to send their top diplomats, and Russia, China and the Palestinians skipped it entirely. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended, however, as did the foreign ministers of key Arab states.
At the summit, diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain spoke of the threat Iran posed to their security and its use of Shiite proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. They stressed that confronting Iran had become the top priority — ahead of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — in comments appearing in leaked video, whose authenticity was confirmed by a U.S. official who attended the gathering.
Netanyahu followed, echoing similar concerns.“Iran was very high on the agenda because Iran’s foreign policy is the biggest driver of instability in today’s Middle East,” the U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, told The Associated Press.
Four months after the summit, a secret meeting between the UAE and Israel took place on June 17, 2019, in Washington.
The trilateral focused on regional, cyber and maritime security, as well as diplomatic coordination and disrupting terror finance, according to a U.S. official who participated but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
More meetings followed in the U.S., Israel and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, culminating in Thursday’s Trump announcement that his administration had brokered a deal between Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations and exchange embassies. The UAE said Israel also agreed to halt its controversial plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank sought by the Palestinians.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told White House reporters that discussions for the deal took place over the past year and a half.
“Look, at the end of the day, it’s an inevitability, right?” Kushner said, adding later: “No Israeli has ever killed an Emirati, right? There’s not that hatred between the people.”
To be sure, Israel and the UAE have never fought each other in war and do not share borders. Still, the agreement was far more warmly welcomed in Israel than the UAE, where the public has long viewed Israel with suspicion. But criticism has been muted, in part because of government suppression of free speech.
The UAE, composed of seven emirates run by hereditary rulers led by Abu Dhabi, will be only the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full ties with Israel. By doing so, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed laid a path for countries like Morocco, Bahrain, Oman or Sudan to potentially follow.
There are many, though, who shun any Arab embrace of Israel. To the Palestinians, who say they had no prior notice of the deal, the UAE turned its back on the longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel can only come after Israeli concessions in peace talks lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I think the UAE is least beholden to these old formulas of solidarity … which gives them more strategic flexibility,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“There’s no question that among the broader Arab and Gulf public, this will be a very unpopular move,” she said, adding that the agreement also leaves the UAE vulnerable to whatever decisions Israel makes in the future.
For the UAE, however, the calculus to build relations with Israel carries a number of strategic advantages beyond countering Iran and suspending West Bank annexation.
Through Israel, the UAE can build stronger ties with both Republicans and Democrats — a crucial hedge considering the uncertainty of Trump’s reelection chances against former Vice President Joe Biden in November’s U.S. presidential elections.
Another impetus was the perception among Arab Gulf states that U.S. dependability had waned, from the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, to Trump’s unpredictability in foreign policy. Their views on the matter have been reflected in state-linked newspaper columns and in quiet grumbling at private gatherings.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE were also barred by Congress from purchasing billions of dollars in U.S. weapons due to the humanitarian toll of their war in Yemen, before Trump vetoed the measures.
“Their first preference is to have the United States heavily involved in the Middle East as their primary ally. If they can’t get that, which … under Trump they absolutely cannot, then they’re going for second best, and Israel is second best,” said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and now Mideast expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Saudis and Emiratis want to build up military strength and want the U.S. to give them more freedom of maneuver in places like Libya, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. With a stronger Emirati-Israeli alliance, “they can count on the Israelis to also make that case in Washington,” Pollack said.
Hook argues it was the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy and decision to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear accord that helped seal the latest deal.
“Israel and UAE felt betrayed by Obama’s Iran strategy. With us, they knew we stood with our allies and partners, and that trust was a critical factor in getting this peace agreement done,” said Hook, who was involved in the trilateral talks.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has eroded vital oil and tourism revenue, the UAE will look to its ties with Israel to deepen trade links, security cooperation and technology sharing. Already, the UAE has deployed Israeli spyware against dissidents, according to a lawsuit brought against the company in Israel.
UAE efforts to seek better ties with Israel as a means of improving its standing in Washington dates back to 2006, according to Sigurd Neubauer, author of the book “The Gulf Region and Israel: Old Struggles, New Alliances.”
It began with a public-relations crisis over Dubai port operator DP World’s failed bid to manage major ports in the U.S. The longtime UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al-Otaiba, held his first meeting with an Israeli official in 2008 and a diplomatic channel was established to focus on Iran, Neubauer said.
The relationship hit a snag in 2010 when the UAE accused Israeli Mossad operatives of assassinating Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.
Nearly a decade later, then-Culture Minister Miri Regev stood in Abu Dhabi and sang her country’s national anthem at a judo competition, shook hands warmly with Emirati officials and toured the emirate’s grand mosque in a public spectacle of warming ties.
In January, when Trump unveiled his Mideast plan — it was rejected by the Palestinians — the ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman attended the White House ceremony, which featured Netanyahu.
Senior Emirati diplomat Anwar Gargash said the relationship with Israel grew “organically” over the last 15 years or so.
“Through engagement with the Trump administration, the idea … developed and percolated, and it was right to do it,” he said.
The article was published on Ynet

Peter and Paul

Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Many of us know this expression, but not its origin from 16th-century England, when part of the estate of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Westminster was appropriated to pay for repairs to Saint Paul’s in London. That brief trivia titbit aside, the expression fits very well when it comes to EU funding of the Palestinians.

On Thursday afternoon, after much advocacy work from us at EIPA, and other groups such as the excellent Impact SE, the European Parliament budgets committee recommended a 15 Million Euro freeze in funding to the Palestinian Authority until it changes its school textbooks. Regular readers of mine will know that we at EIPA have done a lot of raising on this issue. It’s bad enough that many schools under Palestinian Authority control are named after terrorists who committed terrible atrocities, and that encourage pupils to emulate their life, but textbooks, funded in part by EU taxpayers, refer to Jews as liars, sinful, apes and pigs and utterly refuse to countenance the existence of the State of Israel. It doesn’t take much head scratching to figure out why the Palestinian population is completely unprepared for peace. How can they be when they teach their children, as part of the school curriculum to hate, and to believe in the falsehood that Israel is a fabrication, it doesn’t exist, and that martyrdom and resistance to the ‘occupation’ is the way forward?

So, when the news came out yesterday, our phones at EIPA HQ and whatsapp were running red. Is this true? Will the Commission accept the parliament’s recommendations? Finally, is the EU is starting to wake up?

Yes. Most likely (as under the co-decision procedure on budgets it can’t ignore parliament) And lastly, sadly no.

Sadly no? that’s a bit defeatist isn’t it? You and others actually got one of the EU institutions to put pressure on the PA and introduced conditionality on Aid, something that you have been banging on about for years now? Where’s the beef, Benjamin?

All fair questions dear reader. By the time you read this, it will be Strasbourg week (when the European Parliament decamps beside the Rhine to vote in plenary). On the agenda is UNWRA. As most of you know, the American administration cut its funding to the UN agency, which is unique as a refugee agency for exacerbating the very problem it is tasked to solve. Under its tenure UNWRA has seen refugee numbers rise from some half a million at its inception, to roughly 5 Million today. Think about it. That’s a bit like having a food aid programme that actually contributes to famine isn’t it?

Anyway, long story short, we knew what was coming. Late on Thursday, once the 15 Million had had its few hours in the news cycle, the office of Federica Mogherini announced that it was giving UNWRA 40 Million Euro to help bridge the gap in US funding to UNWRA.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. We might be stretching the analogy a bit here equating ourselves to the parishioners of St. Peters (and our Rabbis would probably have something to say about it too), but what sense does it make to cut PA funding in half on textbooks (good by the way, and long, long overdue), whilst simultaneously funding a UN body that keeps Palestinians trapped in a spiral of permanent refugee status, with little prospect of quality of life, under a terrorist dictatorship and which only underlines and compliments the very narratives that are expressed in the textbooks, and lead year after year to needless deaths, more hatred and more entrenchment?

Answers on a postcard please to EEAS HQ at Schuman Roundabout in Brussels if you figure that one out. Oh and post your answer in comments below please and spare my already raw scalp from further self-inflicted scratching abuse.

The Op-Ed was written by our director, Alex Benjamin and was also published in The Times of Israel


INSIDE LOOK: HOW GAZA PROTESTERS ATTEMPTED TO BREACH THE BORDER FENCE

Over the past eight weeks, protesters in Gaza have altered their strategy as Israel has warned them to refrain from approaching the border fence.

Many questions remain about what led to the deaths of up to 58 Palestinians on Monday. One of the key issues surrounds how the protests are organized. Based on observation and discussions with sources close to the protests, the following presents a clearer picture of what has occurred over the last weeks, and attempts to paint a picture of how the May 14 protests unfolded.

Since the end of March, there have been mass protests along the Gaza border. These protests have been well organized and planned as part of an eight week “Great March of Return,” from the Palestinian Land Day on March 30, to the “Nakba Day” on May 15.

On May 14, the mass protests, which coincided with the US opening its embassy in Jerusalem and came a day before what was supposed to be the last day of the protests, resulted in 58 Palestinians killed and up to 2,700 wounded, according to Gaza-based Palestinian reports.

The protests have been organized around five locations next to Israel’s security fence. Over the eight weeks of demonstrations, protesters used a variety of different tactics and methods. For instance, protesters began lighting massive fires and burning tires during the second Friday, in early April.  Then they began launching burning kites to ignite Israeli farmland. They also tore down a section of barbed wire of one of the fences between Israel and Gaza on April 27. It was during this protest that a reliable source provided some insight into the methods employed by Hamas and the protesters.

The protesters have gathered every Friday with tens of thousands participating. At the very back of the protest, hundreds of meters from the fence, are tents and field hospitals, prayer areas and families. This is where some of the Hamas officials will show up in the morning or early afternoon to rouse the people and encourage them in their protest. Speeches will be made and prayers offered. It is well organized. Buses bring people to the protests. There are people selling food. There is even a macabre element of this, with protesters saying they’ll have a meal before they become “shahid” or a martyr at the front.

The masses of protesters who approach the actual fence are generally made up of young men and teenagers, including youth and children. There are very few women in the area closest to the fence. The protesters know how the Israeli security forces have been operating; they expect to be shot or are cognizant that this is a distinct possibility. There are ambulance teams and medics, as well as numerous spontaneous volunteers, ready to take away the injured, many of them shot in the legs.

As the young men burn tires, and others prepare Molotov cocktails or slingshots, some prepare kites to fly. The goal of the protesters is to get to the fence and, with select groups of young men who have brought wire cutters, to cut through. Most of them don’t make it this far, but some of them do.

Gazans who attempt to reach the main security fence first have to deal with other obstacles. There is a barbed-wire fence in sections to deter protesters from reaching the main fence. Israel has continuously warned since March that anyone approaching this kind of buffer zone would be shot. A section of barbed wire fence was torn down and dragged away in late April. The Palestinians cheered as they brought it back to the protest camp. A sign of victory.

According to reports, it takes about thirty seconds running between the barbed-wire fence and the main security fence.

But what happened in late April was not just the spontaneous chaos of rioters at the fence. Some of those wounded and killed by live fire, as shown on videos, have not been directly threatening the fence, but there are others groups whose sole purpose is to penetrate the fence.

The actual attempt to get closest to the fence and break through it has involved planning and coordination on the Palestinian side. Hamas members, unarmed but clearly directing some of the young men, are in the crowd. They watch for an area of burning tires and people, where the protesters have managed to get close to the fence or breach the first line of barbed wire.

Some of these professional activists are on motorcycles and they may come and go or drive along the line of protests or observe them from a high point. When they sense that a breach can be made, they gather together groups of young men, men who have prepared beforehand for the assault.

Like some kind of First World War charge of death, the young men then rush as a group toward the fence.

During the April 27 events, up to 700 men were reported by IDF spokesman Col. Jonathan Conricus to have assaulted the fence “in a way that we have not seen them assault it before,” according to a New York Times report.

An earlier Times report titled “300 Meters in Gaza: Snipers, Burning Tires and a Contested Fence,” summarized well the planning and details of the protests and confirmed later accounts.

Planning began ahead of the May 14 protests. Joe Dyke, the AFP correspondent in Gaza, wrote on May 10 that, at a “briefing to foreign media, Gaza head of Hamas told journalists today he would support thousands of Palestinians breaking through the border fence next week.”

On Sunday the IDF dropped leaflets on Gaza warning protesters to stay away from the fence. On May 14 Dyke, in Gaza, tweeted: “literally as the US embassy inauguration is beginning, loud speakers east of Gaza City are calling on protesters to prepare to seek to breach the border fence.”

By the end of the day, 58 had been killed.

The article was published in The JPost


EIPA welcomes US withdrawal from Iran Deal

EIPA welcomes US withdrawal from Iran accord as Sober, rational and game changing.

The decision this evening by President Trump to withdraw from the Iran deal is a courageous one. It takes maturity and sobriety to acknowledge that something is fundamentally flawed and beyond repair.

Tonight President Trump hit the reset button.

This withdrawal offers a game changing opportunity for a frank and rational re-assessment from all signatories of relations with Iran. As a starting point European leaders can and should impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that ‘sunset’ under the agreement and tackle the Iranian ballistic missile program.

As an agitator, instigator and supporter of terror and violence across the Middle East, the Iranian regime has undoubtedly been emboldened by the deal. It has not been reined it – as the deal envisaged – but instead has expanded its influence, most notably in Syria, in its support of Hezbollah and as a key supporter of Hamas.

EIPA encourages the EU to face facts, put pride to one side and urgently and earnestly re-assess their commitment to what is, in essence, in practice, on the ground and on paper, a bad deal.


NETANYAHU UNVEILS SECRET IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM

“Iran’s leaders repeatedly deny ever pursuing nuclear weapons,” said Netanyahu. “Tonight I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied.”

rime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a massive cache of secret documents, obtained in an exceptional Israeli intelligence operation this year, showing that Iran had developed a secret nuclear weapons program and that it lied when it claimed otherwise.

“Iran lied big time,” Netanyahu said at a dramatic press conference on Monday night in Tel Aviv that involved props and a slide show.

Netanyahu held a microphone and walked back and forth on the stage as if conducting a class.

To catch international attention, Netanyahu spoke in English as he described a massive Israeli intelligence coup by which some 100,000 documents – weighing around half a ton – were brought from Tehran to the Jewish state.

“In 2017, Iran moved its nuclear-weapons files to the Shorabad district in southern Tehran. Few Iranians knew where it was, very few, and also a few Israelis,” Netanyahu said. “From the outside the vault looked like a dilapidated warehouse. It contained Iran’s secret atomic archives locked in massive files.”

“A few weeks ago, in a great intelligence achievement, Israel obtained half a ton of the material inside these vaults,” Netanyahu said.

He explained that these included 55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files on 183 CDs.

The documents focused on the secret Iranian nuclear program that was developed from 1999 to 2003 called Project Amad. When Iran entered the 2015 nuclear deal, it denied that such a program existed.

Netanyahu made the presentation as part of his continued campaign against the deal. He said the documents proved that the deal itself was based on falsehoods and that Iran continued with its nuclear program after the deal was signed.

He spoke less than two weeks before the May 12 deadline that US President Donald Trump had set to decide whether or not to scrap the deal, which the US signed along with five other world powers: Russia, Germany, China, the UK and France.

Meanwhile, the Knesset gave the power to declare war to the security cabinet, instead of the wider cabinet. Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have been pushing for the passage of the bill.

IN WASHINGTON, Trump lauded Netanyahu’s presentation.

“I don’t know if everybody has seen it, but I got to see a little bit of it, and that is just not an acceptable situation,” he said, referring to the nuclear deal.

“So we’ll see what happens, Trump said. “I’m not telling you what I’m doing. But a lot of people think they know, and on or before the 12th we’ll make a decision. That doesn’t mean we won’t negotiate a real agreement. It’s a horrible agreement for the US.”

Israel had known for years that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program from 1999 to 2003 called Project Amad, Netanyahu said.

“We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.

“Iran is secretly storing Project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.”

The project’s mission statement was to “design, product and test five warheads, each with 10-kiloton TNT yield for integration on a missile. You do not have to read Farsi to see ‘10 kiloton’ here,” he said.

“That is like five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles,” Netanyahu said.

He showed a spread sheet that spoke of yellowcake production, centrifuge enrichment process, warhead project, simulation project and tests.

“Project Amad had the five key elements of a nuclear weapons program,” said Netanyahu.

This included designs for enriched uranium as well as the development of nuclear cores and photographs of a secret underground facility to produce these cores.

Israel found photographs of a system to build a nuclear implosion system and a map with five key testing sites in eastern Iran, Netanyahu said.

“We have many more such documents,” said Netanyahu.

There were also documents that showed how to integrate nuclear warheads on missiles, including for Shahab-3 missiles.

“Here is the warhead, here is the bomb,” said Netanyahu, pointing to different points on a diagram.

Iran is continually expanding the range of its nuclear-capable missiles and can reach Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Moscow.

“But they are working on far greater ranges,” he said.

“These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it said it never had a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said.

In 2003, Iran was forced to shelve Project Amad, but not its nuclear ambitions. It split its program into an overt program and a covert one that continued the nuclear work under the title of scientific knowhow development, Netanyahu said.

It continued this work in a series of organizations and in 2018 it is carried out by SPND, an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry led by the same person who led Project Amad – Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Netanyahu said.

Many of SPND’s key personnel worked with Fakhrizadeh on Project Amad, Netanyahu said.

The files Israel uncovered also dealt with the Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which Netanyahu said was designed from the start to be part of Project Amad.

“You will not be surprised that Iran insisted on keeping Fordow and the nuclear deal enabled it to do it. But Iran was required by the International Atomic Energy Agency to come clean about its nuclear program.

“This was an explicit condition for implementing the nuclear deal. In December 2015 the IAEA published its final assessment of the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. This was Iran’s chance to fully come clean to the IAEA. They could tell the truth,” Netanyahu said.
But instead, Iran denied the existence of a coordinated program and specifically denied the existence of the Amad plan, Netanyahu said.

He also showed photographic evidence that Iran conducted metallurgical work specifically designed for a nuclear device.

“This is just a fraction of the total material that we have,” Netanyahu said.

One has to ask, he said, “Why would a terrorist regime hide and meticulously catalogue its secret files if not to use it at a later date?”

“Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program, it continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons knowhow for future use,” Netanyahu said.

He played a tape of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad

Javad Zarif stating that Iran had never had a nuclear weapons program.

“Yes you did,” Netanyahu said. “And the atomic archive proves it.”

“In a few days’ time, Trump will make a decision of what to do with the nuclear deal. I am sure he will do the right thing for the US, for Israel and for the peace of the world,” he said.

FOR HIS PART, the US president acknowledged growing expectations that he will pull out of the accord by May 12. If the European powers fail to come up with “substantial” fixes to some of the agreement’s most controversial provisions, Trump says he will allow for nuclear sanctions to snap back into place, effectively withdrawing the US from the 2015 agreement by default.

Trump said scrapping the non-proliferation agreement would send “the right message” to North Korea in upcoming negotiations over its own nuclear work, given “new information” that had

 

come to light on Monday.

But if Trump is indeed preparing for a withdrawal next month, not all of his cabinet members are yet on board. Asked on Monday after Netanyahu’s speech whether he is satisfied the JCPOA can handle incidents of Iranian cheating, James Mattis, the US defense secretary, said “yes.”

Mattis met with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, last week in Washington, primarily on Iran policy, the two departments said.

The president also claimed the current deal “frees” Iran to develop nuclear weapons in seven years. The letter of the agreement commits Iran never to construct nuclear weapons – a pledge it originally made in joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in the 1970s. But Netanyahu’s point was that Iran’s commitments were based on lies, raising questions over whether their weapons program had ever ceased and over what sort of agreement with Iran would ever be considered of good faith.

The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehen

sive Plan of Action, put caps on Tehran’s enrichment of uranium that phase out between 10 and 15 years. As those “sunset clauses” are reached, Iran will be allowed to grow the size and efficiency of its program, installing advanced models of uranium-enriching centrifuges in place of decades-old technology, in greater numbers and at more facilities.

That will shrink the “breakout time” Iran would need to develop fissile material for nuclear bombs, should it make the political decision to proceed.

Trump wants a deal that will grant UN inspectors snap access to Iran’s military facilities, where much of their past nuclear weapons work took place; an end to their program

 on ballistic missiles, designed to deliver nuclear warheads; a permanent extension of the “sunset clauses”; and commitments from world powers to thwart Iran’s military ambitions across the Middle East.

NETANYAHU RECEIVED praise from coalition and opposition politicians after his presentation of Iran’s nuclear violations.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren (Kulanu) said Netanyahu presented impressive intelligence accomplishments for Israel. He said the international community must demand unlimited oversight over Iran’s nuclear program, including in closed military sites and prevent the development of Iranian ballistic missiles.

Former defense minister Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) said the evidence Netanyahu presented proved that Iran is obsessively seeking nuclear weapons. He said Israel must demand more inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites, the maintenance of Israel’s qualitative military edge, and immediately work to fix security flaws in the Israeli home front.

But Joint List MK Dov Henin called Netanyahu’s presentation an election speech.

“What were all of those empty binders, disks and English for?” Henin asked. “He merely warmed old noodles that were cooked years before the nuclear deal was signed.

 

A leader facing corruption charges was trying to persuade another leader facing corruption charges to inflame a conflagration whose price would be paid by the people who live here.”

Iran’s foreign minister said Israel’s accusations were “old allegations” that had been dealt with by the United Nations nuclear watchdog in the past.

“Pres. Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to “nix” the deal. How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover,” Zarif tweeted.

Iranian state TV said Netanyahu’s

 accusations were propaganda.

“His remarks were not new… full of baseless accusations… and propaganda against Iran’s nuclear work,” state TV said.
Netanyahu spoke to Trump by telephone on Sunday and met in Tel Aviv with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Prior to the presentation, the security cabinet met.

On Monday, he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the cache of docume

nts and promised to send professional teams to their countries to explain the material. Netanyahu also held a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and he plans to update the British and Chinese leaders as soon as possible.

Over on Capitol Hill, response to the presentation was muted. Senator Bob Corker, the Republican from Tennessee who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who drafted the 2015 law that provides Congress with review powers over the nuclear deal, said Netanyahu revealed “nothing new” that was not known prior to the conclusion of the agreement.

The article was published on The JPost


EIPA applauds Trump decision on Jerusalem

Europe Israel Public Affairs applauds the decision of US President Donald Trump to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

The move comes after more than two decades after the adoption by the US Congress of Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Every 6 months the sitting American President would sign a waiver from that bill.

President Trump opened his historical address stating “It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done”

Czech Republic followed suit becoming the first EU country to break the bloc of Member States and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

EIPA Director Alex Benjamin observed that despite differences between EU and Israel over the 1967 imposed borders, and most vehemently over the settlements issue, more EU countries should consider acknowledging the de facto status of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. “We fail to see the reasons for High Representative Federica Mogherini ‘serious concerns’. The US announcement does not prejudge nor impose borders for Jerusalem, which are still subject to final status talks. It merely reflects the historical accuracy of the last five decades, during which Jerusalem functioned as Israel’s capital.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, EIPA Founder added “Historical evidence attests our Jewish presence in Jerusalem dating way back to 3000 years ago. Jerusalem has always been our home. It is about time state leaders catch up with history and acknowledge this indisputable fact.”