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Latest News in Israel – 24th June

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Israel says it nabbed Iranian spy in West Bank trying to build espionage network

Israeli forces arrested a Jordanian national acting on behalf of Iranian intelligence to establish a spy network in Israel and the West Bank earlier this year, the Shin Bet security service revealed Thursday.

Jordanian businessman Thaer Shafut, 32, was sent into the West Bank last year “on behalf of Iranian intelligence to carry out missions that were meant to establish a network in Israel and the West Bank, which would be used for covert operations for the Iranians,” the Shin Bet said

According to the security service, Shafut entered Israeli territory in July-August 2018 after receiving instructions from two Arabic-speaking Iranian operatives in Lebanon and Syria, who identified themselves as Abu Sadek and Abu Jaffar. These meetings allegedly continued through 2018 and 2019.

Shafut was told to establish business ties in Israel and the West Bank in order to form a base of operations for Iranian intelligence’s future actions, the Shin Bet said.

He was instructed to “recruit spies who would help collect intelligence for Iranian interests,” the security service said.

According to the Shin Bet, Shafut was also seen by the Iranians as a means to funnel money to terrorist operatives in the West Bank and Israel. Iran helps fund the operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, as well as Hamas.

Shafut was arrested in the city of Hebron in April, though this was kept gagged under the military censor until Thursday.

He was indicted on June 10 in a West Bank military court on charges of contacting a foreign agent, contacting an enemy organization and attempting to bring enemy funds into the region.

According to the Shin Bet, Shafut maintained contact with his Iranian operatives using an encrypted communication device.

Upon establishing the basis for the spy network in the West Bank and Israel, the Jordanian national was “expected to travel to Iran in order to complete his training as an agent and to undergo advanced training in spycraft and intelligence,” the security service said.

As part of his efforts to establish business ties with Israelis and Palestinians, Shafut planned to open a factory in Jordan that would employ Shiite Muslims to act as “an anchor for future Iranian activities in Israel and the West Bank,” according to the Shin Bet.

The security service said Shafut’s Iranian operators, Abu Sadek and Abu Jaffar, told him they were prepared to invest up to half a million dollars in these businesses for a start “and with lots more money in the future as necessary in order to establish this base of operations.”

Just before his arrest, Shafut began making contact with people inside the West Bank with the goal of establishing this spy network, the Shin Bet said.

The end of the gag order came hours after an advanced American drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile in what the US military says was “an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace.”

The downing of the drone on Thursday was the latest in a series of escalations between the US and Iran in recent weeks, following US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal last year and more recent actions by the Islamic Republic, including stepping up its enrichment of nuclear materials, as well as attacks on oil facilities and tankers in the Middle East, which the US blames on Iran but which Tehran denies.

All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the US and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran’s Islamic Revolution. (The Times of Israel) Judah Ari Gross

Abbas: we are ready to return to the negotiating table

Palestinians are ready to return to the negotiating table with Israel, but with two preconditions: the recognition of Israeli occupation of east Jerusalem and the “vision” of a two-state solution, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told foreign reporters in Ramallah on Sunday.

The Palestinian president said that he would not ask for anything outside of what is already prescribed by the international community as legitimate, including the most recent United Nations Resolution 2334.

“I will go to the White House and continue what I started with [US President] Donald Trump,” Abbas said.

The Palestinian president explained that in his first meeting with Trump, the US president spoke about a vision for a two-state solution, telling Abbas that, “I will not accept a one-state solution because one state will be an apartheid state.”

A few weeks later, Abbas continued, Trump surprised him when he notified the PA that Washington would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Soon after, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman made statements that “there is no occupied territory and Israel has the right to build settlements all over Palestinian land,” in Abbas’s words.

“I then understood that Trump diverted,” Abbas said, adding that “there is no potential for a political solution” with Trump. He said that the Trump administration talks of a “Deal of the Century,” but that “we will not deal with this administration on this basis.”

Nonetheless, Abbas made it clear that despite his estranged relationship with the current US administration, the PA continues to coordinate with Washington on issues of security.

“The security coordination to date between us and the US administration – us and the CIA – remains, and we are not ashamed to say that,” Abbas told the foreign press. “The security coordination is to combat terrorism in the world. And we are the first people who wish to fight terrorism in the world, and therefore we have concluded agreements not only with the US administration but with 83 states in the world.

“We preserved this agreement because terrorism is an enemy of humanity,” he said.

Abbas concluded that the security coordination between Israel and the PA remains intact as well. (The Jerusalem Post) Maayan Jaffe Hoffman

White House finally unveils ‘Peace to Prosperity’ economic plan for Palestinians

Days before the US-sponsored Bahrain conference, the White House released its proposal to boost the Palestinian economy by offering a $50 billion aid package that can only be implemented through an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The 40-page plan, which Senior Adviser Jared Kushner will push in Manama next week, rests on three initiatives, according to the document — to “unleash the economic potential” of the Palestinians, “empower the Palestinians to realize their ambitions,” and “enhance Palestinian governance.”

Neither Israeli officials nor Palestinians will be attending the confab. Palestinians have refused to participate, or engage at all with the Trump administration since it moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. Israeli officials and ministers were not invited, though a business delegation will be attending.

A senior administration official told The Times of Israel that they wanted the focus of the gathering to be “on the economic aspect, not the political.”

Arab nations such as Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all said they would participate in the conference.

The plan — formally dubbed “Peace to Prosperity” — said that the economic package, if implemented, would double the Palestinians’ gross domestic product, create more than one million jobs in the territories, reduce Palestinian unemployment to single digits (it was 31 percent in 2018, according to the World Bank), and cut the Palestinian poverty rate by 50%.

But while the proposal calls for a confluence of grants, low-interest loans and private investments over a span of 10 years, it does not promise any specific monies to be allocated from the US government or any specific corporations.

The White House envisions the plan being funded mostly by Arab states and wealthy private investors. Most of that money would go directly to the West Bank and Gaza, but some, according to the plan, would be funneled to neighboring countries like Jordan and Egypt.

The $50 billion would be divided through $26 billion in loans, $13.5 billion in grants and $11 billion in private investment.

The proposal does include a number of specific projects, including border crossing updates, power plant upgrades, infrastructure improvements to boost tourism, career counseling and job placement service, and re-building and modernizing Palestinian hospitals and health clinics.

It also calls for linking the West Bank and Gaza, which is currently ruled by the Hamas terror group,  with a modern transportation network, including high-speed rail service. Such ideas have been floated in the past in previous peace proposals but have run into Israeli security concerns.

Trump administration officials have suggested in the past that the economic component of the deal would be tantalizing enough to Palestinian people that they would pressure their political leaders to engage with Washington.

After US President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the administration as an honest mediator in negotiations.

Since Trump took office, he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, downgraded the consulate devoted to Palestinian issues, shut down the Palestinians’ diplomatic office in Washington and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.

The White House has come under criticism for emphasizing the economic aspects of its peace plan over the political issues that need to be resolved.

Kushner has sought to assuage those concerns by saying that economic gains can only be realized through a political solution to the conflict.

“If you can also get that whole region starting to lift, and if you can get a quicker flow of goods and people in all the different areas that are necessary in industry instead of bullets and munitions and war, then I think that will really lead to a big increase in investment in the area and more jobs and better quality of life and hopefully more peace along with it,” Kushner said in an interview with the Reuters news agency on Saturday.

The proposal unveiled Saturday also said as much.

“With the support of the international community, this vision is within reach,” the document says. “Ultimately, however, the power to unlock it lies in the hands of the Palestinian people. Only through peace can the Palestinians achieve prosperity.” (the Times of Israel) Eric Cortellessa

In West Bank, Netanyahu tells Trump officials he’ll give peace plan a fair shake

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he would hear out the Trump administration’s peace plan “fairly” and with “openness,” as he stressed that Israel would never relinquish its security presence in the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu also chided the Palestinians for preemptively rejecting the US proposal before its rollout, in his first comments since the US revealed the economic part of its plan a day earlier.

“Under any peace agreement, our position will be that Israel’s presence should continue here for Israel’s security and for the security of all,” Netanyahu said, while touring the West Bank alongside US National Security Adviser John Bolton and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. “And in general, I would say that we’ll hear the American proposition, hear it fairly, and with openness.”

His remarks came two days before the US-led economic conference in Bahrain, which Israeli business leaders, but not government representatives, were invited to attend. Palestinians have refused to attend the conference and urged other Arab countries to boycott it as well.

“I cannot understand how the Palestinians, before they even heard the plan, reject it outright,”Netanyahu said. “That’s not the way to proceed.”

“We believe that peace is coupled and dependent on security. Our presence here guarantees security and therefore guarantees peace,” he added.

The comments came as the trio were touring the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, which Israel insists on maintaining security control over in any future peace agreement.

Bolton — in Israel to attend a tripartite meeting Tuesday of the national security advisers of the US, Israel and Russia — reassured Netanyahu that Israel’s security would be safeguarded under the Trump peace plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), US National Security Advisor John Bolton (C) and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tour the Jordan Valley

“I’ll just say that without security, there is no peace, there is no long-lasting peace. And I just think it’s too bad, Prime Minister, that more Americans can’t come to locations like this, see the geography, understand its significance, understand how it affects Israel’s critical security position, and explain why Israel has taken the view that it has,” said Bolton.

“I can assure you that President Trump will take the concerns that you have voiced so clearly over the years very much into account as we go forward on this.”

On Saturday, the White House released its proposal to boost the Palestinian economy by offering a $50 billion aid package that can only be implemented through an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The 40-page plan, which Senior Adviser Jared Kushner will push in Manama next week, rests on three initiatives, according to the document — to “unleash the economic potential” of the Palestinians, “empower the Palestinians to realize their ambitions,” and “enhance Palestinian governance.”

Neither Israeli officials nor Palestinians will be attending the confab. Palestinians have refused to participate, or engage at all with the Trump administration since it moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. Israeli officials and ministers were not invited, though a business delegation will be attending.

A senior administration official told The Times of Israel that they wanted the focus of the gathering to be “on the economic aspect, not the political.”

Arab nations such as Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all said they would participate in the conference.

The plan — formally dubbed Peace to Prosperity — said that the economic package, if implemented, would double the Palestinians’ gross domestic product, create more than one million jobs in the territories, reduce Palestinian unemployment to single digits (it was 31 percent in 2018, according to the World Bank), and cut the Palestinian poverty rate by 50%.

The proposal includes a number of specific projects, including border crossing updates, power plant upgrades, infrastructure improvements to boost tourism, career counseling and job placement service, and re-building and modernizing Palestinian hospitals and health clinics.

It also calls for linking the West Bank and Gaza, which is currently ruled by the Hamas terror group, with a modern transportation network, including high-speed rail service. Such ideas have been floated in the past in previous peace proposals, but have run into Israeli security concerns.

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu ally Tzachi Hanegbi, minister for regional cooperation, that the US proposal for a land link between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is “irrelevant” as long as the Hamas terror group controls Gaza.

“It will be relevant when Gaza stops being a pro-Iranian terror kingdom, meaning it’s irrelevant today and in the foreseeable future,” Hanegbi told Israel Radio.

The plan deliberately does not address a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, an outcome that has eluded diplomats for decades.

The Trump administration says the political component will be unveiled later this year, potentially in November, after Israel holds elections and forms a government. (the Times of Israel) Marissa Newman

Israeli police getting ready to indict Yaacov Litzman suspected of shielding alleged pedophile, Malka Leifer

The Israeli Police are preparing to indict Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman in two cases where the politician allegedly used his position to protect suspects who allegedly sexually abused children, public broadcaster Kan reported on Friday.

Litzman reportedly set up a panel of experts in order to issue a psychiatric opinion that would enable Malka Leifer, an ultra-Orthodox woman facing numerous charges of sexual abuse, to be declared unfit for a trial, i24 news reported.

According to the reports, the head of United Torah Judaism threatened the state psychiatrists that would be dismissed if they did not rule in favor of Leifer.

Leifer fled Australia to Israel after being accused of over 70 cases of child sexual abuse charges. For the past five year, her court hearings in Jerusalem have been delayed.

According to Arutz 7, sources close to Litzman said he was “under heavy pressure from rabbis to help Leifer.” (Jerusalem Post) Staff

Protests along Gaza border leave 39 injured

Protests broke out, as on every Friday, along the Gaza border, with some 6,000 protesters in attendance.

Three explosive devices were thrown over the fence into Israeli territory, and one person attempted to climb over the fence. Soon after crossing over, the IDF sent the Palestinian back into Gazan territory.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 39 people were injured during the protests, including a Palestinian paramedic.

The weekly protests continue on the eve of the US-sponsored “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in Bahrain. It was met with wide-spread objection, with even the Palestinian Authority’s rivals Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups coming out in support of the its strong rejection of the conference.  (Jerusalem Post) Staff

Hoenlein: UNESCO has distorted the history of the Jewish people

Over the past two years, UNESCO has been washing away evidence of Jewish history in Israel, according to Malcolm Hoenlein, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“Why would UNESCO devote their energy, time and resources to rewrite and distort the history of the Jewish people?” Hoenlein asked the crowd at the Global Coalition 4 Israel conference in Jerusalem on Thursday.

“Why would they engage in a counterproductive and deceptive process over two years to deny 3,800 years of Jewish history and 2,000 years of Christian history?” he continued, referring to the UNESCO resolution that only used the Arabic name Haram al-Sharif to refer to the Temple Mount.

First, Hoenlein said, “they hyphenated traditional names with Arabic words, then within two years the Jewish names were removed… Did they not have more important things to do?”

Hoenlein called this the ultimate act of antisemitism.

“Today, they understand that if you take away our past, you take away our future,” he continued. “If you cut us off from our roots, if we have no attachment to this sacred land, then what right do we or our children have to be here in the future?”

But he said the Jewish people should take solace in concrete archaeological evidence that is unquestionable.

“Every excavation, every archaeological site, yielded tens of thousands of artifacts and discoveries, every one consistent with Tanach, every one attesting to the thousands of years of undeniable, irrefutable evidence of our past,” Hoenlein said.

Robert Kraft, prominent Jewish-American businessman and philanthropist who owns the New England Patriots, said he has used his influence in the world of sports and entertainment to counteract antisemitism and BDS.

“We have used the power of sport and entertainers who have a tremendous following to get our message out” regarding antisemitism and BDS, he said, adding that he acknowledges the impact of social media and believes it should be used as a tool to spread awareness and combat hate.

“In America, you were always free to do as you wish as long as you weren’t breaking a law,” he noted. “For people to be killed because they were worshiping in a synagogue in the United States of America, we have to do something about that.”

Kraft, who will be receiving the 2019 Genesis Prize on Thursday night, will direct the $1 million prize towards organizations and initiatives aimed at combating the rise of antisemitism around the world. (Jerusalem Post) Shaked Karabelnicoff

Israeli startup Eviation wheels out new electric airplane in Paris

Israeli Eviation Alice electric aircraft is seen on static display, at the eve of the opening of the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France

An all-electric commuter plane and a small Airbus-backed hybrid are among aircraft programs being touted at the Paris Airshow, as the industry tries to convince a skeptical public it can deliver on a pledge to halve carbon emissions by 2050.

Israeli startup Eviation has wheeled out Alice, a battery-powered nine-seater due for its maiden flight later this year, while Airbus and suppliers Safran and Daher are showing a scale model of their planned EcoPulse, a similarly sized short-hopper that packs a fuel tank as well as batteries.

The electric debuts come as European finance ministers are expected later this week to discuss ending aviation fuel tax exemptions in order to curb greenhouse emissions.

The spread of social media posts “flight-shaming” air travel has also jangled executives’ nerves and added pressure to electrify, following the auto industry’s lead.

Unlike cars, however, electric planes must heft their power packs aloft – a reality that limits them to small aircraft on the shortest routes, as even their proponents concede.

“The impact of battery weight is an order of magnitude more severe for us,” said Stephane Cueille, Safran’s head of research, technology and innovation.

The EcoPulse’s engine drives a central propeller and a generator to recharge its batteries and power additional electric props spread along the wingspan, delivering 20-40% fuel savings on trips up to several hundred kilometers.

Whereas the French plane is still on the drawing board, Alice’s smooth contours can be seen on the tarmac at Le Bourget, north of Paris. Eviation is aiming for a first test-flight later this year and U.S. certification by 2022.

On a single charge, Alice can fly 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) at 10,000 feet with a cruising speed of 276 miles per hour. Cape Air, a Massachusetts-based regional carrier, has taken an option to add a double-digit number of the $4 million planes to its fleet, Eviation disclosed at the show.

The aircraft, with a flattened profile and propellers at its wing tips, was designed as an electric plane from the ground up, said Omer Bar-Yohay, Eviation’s founder and CEO.

“It’s basically a huge battery with some plane painted on it,” he told reporters.

Among signs of growing interest from traditional players, engine maker Rolls-Royce said on Tuesday it had bought the electric aerospace division of Germany’s Siemens – which is also one of the suppliers of motors to Alice.

Engineers see a bigger future for hybrids, which can combine lighter, downsized jet engines with an electric boost during take-off and climb, for a 30% fuel saving. The additional thrusters or e-propellers also help stability, allowing a more streamlined airframe to reduce drag and consumption further.

“Then you’re starting to get to the kind of economics and sustainability that’s closer to a bus than it is to aviation historically,” United Technologies Chief Technology Officer Paul Eremenko said during a panel discussion.

UBS predicts demand for $178 billion in green aviation technologies by 2040 as they become more mainstream.

“The consumer is probably going to demand an acceleration in this space,” said Celine Fornaro, the Swiss bank’s head of industrials research. “It’s starting to be more present in everyone’s conscience.”

Airbus is also looking at hybrid-electric technology for future passenger aircraft generations, but few would bet on its readiness to power the 200-seaters expected to replace the workhorse A320 jet family in the 2030s.

Carbon emissions from commercial aviation account for about 2.5% of the global total but are set to expand in step with emerging middle classes, especially in Asia.

To counter their impact, the industry is introducing the CORSIA program, which requires airlines to fund cuts to atmospheric carbon dioxide elsewhere, offsetting their emissions growth while awaiting hybrid planes and alternative fuels.

Reconciling airlines’ growth ambitions with their promised 50% carbon emissions cut from 2005 levels will be no easy task.

“We don’t know how that’s going to happen yet,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s technology chief.

But aerospace leaders are adamant that the answer cannot be fewer flights.

“We’ve got to make aviation grow and be sustainable,” Rolls-Royce CTO Paul Stein said during the same panel. “Those who propose traveling less are heading for a darker place.”

Brussels-based lobby group Airlines for Europe said “taxing aviation is not a solution”, in a statement ahead of the EU ministerial meetings starting on Thursday in the Netherlands.

But campaigners like Greenpeace transport specialist Sarah Fayolle say taxation and other regulation is warranted by the urgent need to slash emissions.

“We’re facing a climate emergency that cannot wait for uncertain technological solutions that are decades away,” she said.  (Jerusalem Post) Reuters

Israeli Laser Defense System to Protect NATO Tanker Transport Aircraft

A laser system designed by Israel’s Elbit Systems to protect aircraft against infrared (IR) homing missiles will be used by NATO’s Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) starting in 2020, the company announced this week.

In a three-day series of flight tests for the new directed IR countermeasures (DIRCM) system, called “J-Music,” at the end of May, it was integrated into Airbus-manufactured A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft. J-Music functioned flawlessly throughout the tests, proving itself capable of defeating multiple threat types.

It successfully handled simultaneous threat scenarios and overcame head-on, tail-on and side-on threats from a number of ranges and at various altitudes.

Elbit Systems engineers supported the tests and NATO officials monitored the process

Elbit Systems’ DIRCM systems integrate the latest laser technology with a high frame-rate thermal cameras and a small, high-speed sealed-mirror turret.

Peter Dohmen, general manager of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, said: “The MMF program is a clear example of nations recognizing the need to generate modern defense capabilities in a cooperative, cost-efficient and effective way.”

Dohmen said that the J-Music system provided added security and operational flexibility to the NATO fleet.

Elad Aharonson, general manager of Elbit Systems’ ISTAR Division, said that Elbit was “proud to take part in the MMF program and to deliver J-Music … to protect the entire fleet. I believe that the effective cooperation with our partners on the MMF program will be a blueprint for additional projects.”

Word of the success of Elbit’s J-Music system spread quickly. On Wednesday, the company announced it had been awarded a contract worth some $73 million to provide J-Music DIRCM systems to the German Air Force. The contract will be performed over a four-year period.

Elbit Systems will work closely with DIEHL Defence and Airbus Defence and Space to outfit the air force’s A400M aircraft with the protection suite. (the Algemeiner) Israel Hayom

Palestinian ‘Moderates:’ Rifles, Hand Grenades and Terrorism

by Bassam Tawil     The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14410/palestinian-moderates-terrorism

  • How does Abbas explain his opposition to the use of weapons and terrorism against Israel while his own faction displays rifles and a hand grenade and a map where Israel is completely ignored?
  • Fatah is, in other words, calling for a new Intifada [uprising] against Israel because the US is seeking ways to help the Palestinians. This is nothing less than loony.
  • In several interviews over the past few years, Zakariya Zubeidi made it clear that he never had any intention of renouncing terrorism. In one interview, he said that the Palestinian “resistance” could coexist alongside negotiating with Israel…. Recently, Zubeidi told an Israeli TV correspondent that he “misses the intifada and the revolution.”
  • By its very own words and actions, Fatah makes it plainly clear that it is anything but moderate and pragmatic. This is the same faction that is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner and whose leaders are welcomed around the world as advocates of peace and coexistence. If this is moderation, one wonders: how do Palestinians define extremism? The international community might check Fatah’s communications in Arabic before answering that question for themselves.

The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, headed by Palestinian Authority President and PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, is often described as a “moderate” and “pragmatic” group. There are many reasons and sufficient evidence to believe, however, that this assumption is unrealistic, if not totally false.

Before examining the rhetoric and actions of Fatah, one might do well to consider the group’s emblem, which depicts two fists holding rifles, and a hand grenade in the middle. In the background is a map of Israel (with no mention of Israel); the emblem is accompanied by a caption reading: “Revolution until victory.”

Why any group that proudly uses rifles and a hand grenade as its symbol is described as “moderate” and “pragmatic” remains a mystery. Could it be because it is an anti-Israel group that calls itself the Palestinian National Liberation Movement and was established with the declared goal of “liberating Palestine” — specifically meaning, destroying Israel?

The rifles and hand grenade are a blunt sign of Fatah’s true message to the Palestinians — that the armed struggle against Israel should continue until the “liberation of Palestine,” just as its name suggests.

Why does Fatah continue to use rifles and a hand grenade after its leaders signed the Oslo Accord with Israel in 1993 and Abbas continues to claim that he supportsa two-state solution?

How does Abbas explain his opposition to the use of weapons and terrorism against Israel while his own faction displays rifles and a hand grenade and a map where Israel is completely ignored?

Fatah is now spearheading the Palestinian campaign to thwart US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”

Fatah leaders, who admit they know nothing about the upcoming peace plan, have been devoting most of their time and energy to inciting Palestinians against Trump’s plan and the US-led economic conference scheduled to take place next week in Bahrain. At the conference, the US administration is expected to unveil the economic portion of the Deal of the Century. Abbas and his Fatah officials, however, are already doing their utmost to foil the conference, including threatening Palestinian business leaders that anyone who attends the economic “workshop” will be accused of treason.

As part of their effort to derail the Trump plan, Fatah leaders have called for mass protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on June 25 and 26 — when the Bahrain conference is scheduled to take place.

Jamal Muheissen, a senior Fatah official, said that the two days will be marked as “days of rage” by Palestinians to voice their rejection of both the Deal of the Century and the Bahrain conference. He urged Palestinians to rally behind Abbas and the Fatah leadership and express their support for efforts to thwart the unseen peace plan.

A Fatah poster calling for mass protests against the Bahrain “workshop” features a masked Palestinians throwing a rock (at Israelis).

The message Fatah is sending to its people is: Go out and throw stones at Israelis during the Bahrain conference, whose chief goal is to discuss ways of boosting the Palestinian economy and improving living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fatah is, in other words, calling for a new Intifada [uprising] against Israel because the US is seeking ways to help the Palestinians. This is nothing less than loony.

Further evidence of Fatah’s alleged “moderation” and “pragmatism” emerged last week, when the ruling faction expelled from its ranks a Palestinian mayor for hosting Jewish settlers at his son’s wedding.

Pictures of settlers attending the wedding in the West Bank town of Deir Qaddis have enraged Fatah leaders, who said they formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the mayor and his family. The mayor, Radi Nasser, has also lost his job with the Palestinian Ministry of Education for hosting the settlers at the wedding. Fatah is now also demanding that the mayor be removed from his job.

The mayor has since been forced publicly to apologize to Fatah and the Palestinians for inviting Jews to his son’s wedding.

Last month, Fatah strongly condemned a Palestinian businessman from the West Bank city of Hebron for inviting Jewish settlers to a Ramadan iftar dinner after sundown. Fatah accused the businessman, Ashraf Jabari, of promoting “normalization” with Israel and being part of “suspicious American-Israeli schemes against the Palestinians.”

Earlier this year, Fatah expressed outrage because Israel arrested one of its senior terrorists in the West Bank — Zakariya Zubeidi.

Zubeidi, former commander of Fatah’s armed wing, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was arrested for carrying out several shooting attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.

Zubeidi was one of the leaders of Fatah’s terrorist group in the northern West Bank during the Second Intifada (2000-2005). In 2007, he was pardoned by Israel as part of a deal signed with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Because of his affiliation with Fatah, Zubeidi was appointed member of the faction’s Revolutionary Council, a key decision-making body dominated by Abbas loyalists. In addition to this position, he was also given a senior job with the PA’s Commission for Palestinian Prisoners, a group that provides financial and legal assistance to terrorists imprisoned by Israel.

Earlier this week, Zubeidi and Tarek Bargut were  indicted for carrying out shooting attacks between 2016 and 2019. According to the charge sheet, the two terrorists used a car issued to Zubeidi by the Palestinian Authority in his capacity as a senior official of Fatah and the Commission for Palestinian Prisoners.

Instead of distancing itself from Zubeidi and his accomplice for their involvement in terrorism, Abbas’s Fatah rushed to condemn Israel for arresting the terrorist leader and his friend. This is the same Fatah whose leader, Abbas, says he is committed to non-violence and is opposed to all forms of terrorism.

“The arrest of Zubeidi will lead to an open confrontation [with Israel],” said Munir Jaghoub, a senior Fatah official. “The arrest shows that Israel is headed toward an all-out escalation against the Palestinians and their leaders. Israeli leaders would be foolish to believe that the Palestinians will remain silent toward their practices and crimes.”

Fatah’s Revolutionary Council also condemned Israel for preventing Zubeidi from pursuing his plan to murder Jews. In a statement, the council said that the arrest of its member (Zubeidi) was an Israeli “violation of agreements and understandings” with the Palestinian Authority.

The Fatah council claimed that Israel was preparing to bring Zubeidi to trial for political reasons. “Israel wants to bring the Palestinian struggle to trial,” it said in its statement.

According to the logic of Fatah, it was Israel, and not the terrorist, who “violated” the agreements and understandings signed with the Palestinian Authority. In fact, Zubeidi is the one who violated the agreements and understandings by continuing his terrorist activities.

As a gesture of goodwill, in 2008 Israel had informed the Palestinians of its decision to stop pursuing dozens of Fatah terrorists in the West Bank. A senior Palestinian official said at the time that the Israeli decision to pardon the terrorists belonging to Fatah’s armed wing, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, had arrived after a three-month “trial period” during which they refrained from launching attacks against Israel.

Under the terms of the “pardon,” the terrorists, including Zubeidi, were required to stay inside Palestinian security installations after surrendering their weapons and signing a pledge to refrain from terror activities.

Zubeidi’s decision to continue his terror activities against Israel did not come as a surprise to Palestinians. The man who grew up in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank had spent most of his life carrying weapons and launching terror attacks against Israel. The group he headed in his camp, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was established during the Second Intifada on orders from Yasser Arafat.

In several interviews over the past few years, Zubeidi made it clear that he never had any intention of renouncing terrorism. In one interview, he said that the Palestinian “resistance” could coexist alongside negotiating with Israel. “Resistance is not defined yet,” he explained. “It could be armed resistance and it could be peaceful resistance.”

Recently, Zubeidi told an Israeli TV correspondent that he “misses the intifada and the revolution.”

By its very own words and actions, Fatah makes it plainly clear that it is anything but moderate and pragmatic. This is the same faction that is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner and whose leaders are welcomed around the world as advocates of peace and coexistence. If this is moderation, one wonders how do Palestinians define extremism? The international community might check Fatah’s communications in Arabic before answering that question for themselves.

The Palestinian Refusal to Attend the Bahrain Economic Workshop Is Irresponsible and Self-Defeating – Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The Palestinian leadership took upon themselves the political responsibility to negotiate peace when accepting the reins of governance and the representation of the Palestinian people under the Oslo Accords.

Thus, one may well ask whether their negative and obstructive position regarding the economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain, and their concerted attempt to politicize what is intended to be a non-political meeting is not, in effect, a serious violation of their international responsibilities and obligations.

Moreover, Palestinian insistence on paying significant portions of their budget as salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families, as a sign of their institutional support, glorification, and encouragement of terror, is the antithesis of any concept of prudent economic governance.

But more notably, it is also a serious violation of accepted international norms encapsulated in counter-terror conventions prohibiting the transfer of finances to terrorists and for use by terror organizations, as well as UN resolutions and declarations calling upon states to refrain from financing terror activities.

It is a sad reflection on a misguided and irresponsible leadership that prefers conflict, incitement, and hostility, rather than the hope for peace and economic improvement for the Palestinian people.

The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.