Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his invitation to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday for a meeting, after Abbas stated last week that he would be willing to meet. Before reporters, the prime minister declared, “I’ve cleared my schedule this week. Any day he can come, I’ll be here.” Abbas, however, has had a long history of refusing to meet with Israeli leaders. In 2009, he refused to meet with Netanyahu even after the Israeli prime minister implemented a 10-month settlement freeze. The Palestinian president has instead opted for unilateral attempts to gain statehood. In April 2015, the Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court, and in April 2014, Abbas signed more than 12 international conventions.
Netanyahu also said that he and Abbas have many things to discuss “but the first item is ending the Palestinian campaign of incitement to murder Israelis.” Since the current wave of terror began in the fall of 2015, the Palestinian Authority, led by President Abbas, has refused to condemn the violence perpetrated against Israelis. Furthermore, the violence has been triggered by incitement from the Palestinian Authority, Abbas’s Fatah Party, and leaders across Palestinian society. The spate of terror has resulted in the deaths of 34 people and injured over 400. One of the victims was the American military veteran Taylor Force, who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and died when he was stabbed in Jaffa by a Palestinian. In response, the PA’s official TV news station called the terrorist responsible for the stabbing attack a “martyr.” On Twitter, Abbas’s Fatah Party hailed him as a “martyr” and a “hero.” Palestinian leadership has propagated the false rumor that Israel seeks to undermine the status quo at the Temple Mount. Palestinian attackers have indicated they were inspired to act after hearing these lies. In November, a Palestinian attacker recorded a video before stabbing an Israeli, stating: “On behalf of myself and the Palestinian people, I, Bara'a Issa, a son of Jerusalem, set out to defend the al-Aksa mosque and our holy land." Abbas declared in September that Jews “have no right to desecrate” the Al Aqsa Mosque with their “filthy feet,” and that “each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood.”
While in Israel in early March, Vice President Joe Biden issued a condemnation of the Palestinian Authority for failing to denounce the terror. Two weeks later, at AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference, Biden reiterated that in Israel, he condemned the attacks, adding “I condemned the failure to condemn those atrocious attacks of violence.”
One year after Iran and world powers announced the framework for the nuclear deal, “the Iran we have long known—hostile, expansionist, violent—is alive and well, and as dangerous as ever,” Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, wrote in an op-ed published Monday in The Wall Street Journal.
The UAE would have much to gain from peaceful relations with Iran, including “[restoration] of full trade ties, energy cooperation and cultural exchanges, and [starting] a process to resolve a 45-year territorial dispute,” wrote al-Otaiba.
However, since the nuclear deal, “Iran has only doubled down on its posturing and provocations,” the ambassador argued.
Al-Otaiba cataloged many of Iran’s recent destabilizing actions in the Middle East, including its ballistic missile tests in October, November, and March; its capture of American sailors in January; its proposal to buy $8 billion worth of arms from Russia; its weapons shipments to Houthi rebels in Yemen; and its arming of terrorist cells in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
He observed that all of these activities are “clear reminders that Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” Yet Iran isn’t just a threat to its neighbors, al-Otaiba noted, but also a threat to the United States:
“Death to America” has always been more than an ugly catchphrase; it has been Iranian policy. Iran has orchestrated countless terrorist attacks against Americans: from the Marine barracks in Beirut to Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. During the Afghanistan war, Iran paid Taliban fighters $1,000 for each American they killed.
In Iraq, Iran supplied the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that killed or maimed thousands of U.S. soldiers. And in recent weeks seven Iranian hackers were indicted in a U.S. federal court for a cyberattack against U.S. banks and critical infrastructure.
Observing that Iran sees the nuclear deal “as an opportunity to increase hostilities in the region,” al-Otaiba called on the international community to “shine a bright light on Iran’s hostile acts across the region.” The ambassador specifically called on the U.S., U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman to establish a mechanism “to monitor, expose and curb Iran’s aggression” at a planned Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit later this month. He added that if incentives fail to curb Iran’s ambitions, “the U.S. and the global community should make clear that Iran will face the full range of sanctions and other steps still available under U.N. resolutions and in the nuclear deal itself.”
The GCC designated the Iranian proxy Hezbollah a terrorist group last month.
Numerous experts — including Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf, former State Department official Aaron David Miller, Washington Institute of Near East Policy fellows Mehdi Khalaji, Soner Cagaptay and James Jeffrey, and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz — warned last year that the nuclear deal would stoke Iran’s regional ambitions rather than moderate its behavior. (via TheTower.org)
Israel’s Paulee Cleantec, which creates sustainable solutions for the management of human and animal waste, was chosen as one of four winners of the Nutrient Recycling Challenge – Phase I organized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Ramat Gan-based company was honored with the top prize of $6,000 for its Manure Convertor, which uses chemical processes to turn manure rapidly into a non-toxic, rich ash fertilizer. Every year, livestock excrete more than a billion tons of manure (in the US alone), which contains valuable nutrients—nitrogen and phosphorus—that plants need to grow. But in order to minimize water pollution and build healthy soil, manure as a renewable fertilizer must be managed properly. The EPA partnered with pork and dairy producers, the US Department of Agriculture and environmental and scientific experts to host this competition to seek ideas for cost-effective technologies that extract nitrogen and/or phosphorus from cow or hog manure and concentrate them into a usable and potentially marketable form while protecting the environment. “It’s an old industry that needs new solutions,” Dr. Ilan Levy, Paulee Cleantec CEO, tells ISRAEL21c. “The most important aspect of this challenge is that the dairy and livestock producers as well as councils, producers, cooperatives and experts support this competition. And we won recognition from them that they believe our technology can be a solution for their needs,” Levy notes. (via Israel21c)
On January 31, the Israeli government decided to create a permanent section for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This elicited much jubilation from Conservative and Reform Jews, especially in the United States, where the two denominations are far more popular than they are in Israel: their traditions would finally be given “dramatic, unprecedented and critical acknowledgement,” as a joint statement by the two movements and the Jewish Federations of North America said. The plan indeed marks a historic watershed in relations between Israel and the Diaspora. Whether it will be easy to implement, however, is another question. There are already ominous indications that it might not—not because of any lack of will on the part of the Israeli government or global Jewry, but because of the explosive tendency of Palestinian nationalism to seize on any changes at the holiest site in Judaism as an assault on Muslim holy sites, and to use them as an excuse to foment violence.How progressive Jewry chooses to engage in the coming struggle could have a profound impact on its relationship with the Jewish state.
Under the proposal, a permanent 9,700-square-foot mixed-gender section will be established at the archaeological park on the southern end of the Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch. The entrance to the area will be revamped, creating a single, unified entrance for the three sections: Men’s, women’s, and mixed. The decision comes after a decades-long campaign by the feminist organization Women of the Wall, which advocates for women’s rights to read from the Torah, sing out loud, and wear a tallit and phylacteries in the women’s section. As such, the new plan constitutes a compromise between the existing ultra-Orthodox monopoly over the site and the aspirations of progressive streams of Judaism, providing them official recognition at the holy site.
Supporters of the plan, however, should not let their optimism temper their realism. To bring the plan to fruition, the Israeli government may be able to overcome opposition within Israel, whether from Haredim or archaeologists. But the broader geopolitical context surrounding the Wall and the Old City of Jerusalem is a much bigger problem. This aspect to the story is currently at most on the margins of progressive Jewry’s discussion of the project, but it is unlikely to remain there for long.
This is because Israel is presently enduring another wave of Palestinian violence, this time in the form of daily, uncoordinated stabbing attacks. And this wave of terrorism was ignited in large part by propaganda that claimed Israel is forcibly changing the status quo on the Mount, permitting Jews to pray there and thus endangering the al-Aqsa Mosque—a potent symbol in the Arab and Muslim worlds. There is no basis to the pretext that Israel plans to change the status quo on the Mount. But what will happen if Israel goes ahead with plans to change the status quo next to the Temple Mount, through a large-scale infrastructure project at its foothills?
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