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IDF Warily Watching Northern Border Amidst Instability

Israeli troops were keeping a wary eye on the northern border Wednesday amidst political unrest in Lebanon and intensifying violence in Syria. Security forces have used tear gas and water cannon to drive back attempts by protesters to storm the parliament building in Beirut in recent days while smaller but occasionally violent protests have also been held in several other Lebanese cities. Meanwhile, Turkish forces deployed in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province shot down a military helicopter flown by forces loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, marking a major escalation in hostilities between the two sides.

“Security forces were throwing tear gas and beating people up” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “I’m here to say ‘no confidence’ in the government because the way it was formed shows that it cannot be trusted,” one protester told an AFP journalist.  “We are here to reject Diab’s government and to say that the Lebanese people have no confidence in it — even if lawmakers vote to support it,” said another.

International economists have warned that Lebanon is on the verge of a complete meltdown which could render it a de facto ungoverned space similar to Afghsnistan.

Meanwhile, the flare up in violence between Assad regime loyalists and Turkish troops is sure to complicate an already deeply fraught situation in Syria, as Russia, which has relationships it values with all sides in the fighting, struggles to balance its interests. Also concerning officials on all sides of the conflict as well as European governments is a fresh wave of refugees fleeing the fighting in Idlib.

“In just 10 weeks, since 1 December, some 690,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Idlib and surrounding areas,” a spokesman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. “This is, from our initial analysis, the largest number of people displaced in a single period since the Syrian crisis began almost nine years ago.”

Tourism Numbers for January Offer Hope
Amidst fears of a global slowdown in tourism due to the coronavirus crisis in China, Israel’s tourism industry got some good news this week as numbers were published showing that there was an 8% increase in incoming visitors to the Jewish State in January 2020 over the same month in 2019. “Tourism records continue to shatter, and we end January 2020 with an 8% increase in incoming tourism on January 2019 and 20% more than in January 2018,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said. “Incoming tourism contributes to the development of the periphery and the economy, and I am proud to lead this.”

Here is a video about Tourism options in Israel



BDS Movement Suffers Another Defeat
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat this week as over 300 diamond dealers, purchasing agents and executives from around the world came to the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan to participate in International Diamond Week. “We are at the beginning of 2020, and we very much hope that this year will be a year of turnaround - a year of stabilization and recovery in the markets,” said Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange president Yoram Dvash. “In light of the reduction in raw material allowances by rough diamond producers, shortages have been created, and there is a large demand.”

Proposed US Budget Cuts Security Assistance to PA
An item in US President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget for the 2021 fiscal year included the elimination of funding for the Palestinian Authority security forces. Israeli officials are expected to request that the funding be restored as it has long been considered in Israel’s interest.

Today's video offers an in-depth look at Israel's regional strategic situation

Iran Celebrates Anniversary of Islamic Revolution

Iranian officials addressed large crowds in Teheran and other cities on Tuesday morning to mark the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Speeches by regime figures often included thundering threats against Israel, the US and various other countries as well as complaints that their peace-loving regime is always being harassed and terrorized even as it insists on seeking nothing but to live in harmony with all its neighbors. Meanwhile, a satellite Iran’s space program failed to launch into orbit on Sunday crashed in a sparsely inhabited area of Iran’s southeast, causing multiple explosions according to news agencies.

Iran's Information and Communications Technology Minister, Azari Jahromi issued a statement that another attempt would be made to launch a satellite into orbit later this summer. A spokesman for the Iranian Defense Ministry added that Sunday’s attempt had been merely a “research launch” that was “not aimed at the injection phase” and therefore the Ministry was “satisfied” with what had occurred.

Here is a video which gives a closer look at some of these issues



Palestinian Leaders Warned by Sunni Arab Governments
Calls by Palestinian leaders to launch large-scale protests against US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” have been met with some alarm in Sunni Arab states, leading them to “advise” the Palestinian Authority to “turn down the volume” on the effort, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post which quoted a senior PA official. “Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have advised President to start calming things down,” the official said. “They are worried that the strong criticism and calls for demonstrations against the Trump plan would cause instability in the region. The president has assured them that he does not support violent protest or terrorism as a way of protesting the Trump plan.”

Here is a video in which US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks to these issues



Israel Blesses the World
Researchers at Tel Aviv University recently published the results of their efforts to find new treatments for cancer based on their study of a benign tumor found in the fossilized remains of a dinosaur which were uncovered in Canada several years ago. The article, published Monday in Scientific Reports, will be added to a growing body of literature aiding medical science in treating various forms of cancer. Elsewhere, researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheeba announced recently that they’ve made progress in finding solutions to the problem of antibiotic-resistant infections.

Here is a video about other ways Israel is blessing the world



Turkey Increasingly at Odds with Russia in Syria
The fighting in Syria’s Idlib Province took another dramatic turn on Monday when artillery fired by forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar Assad killed five Turkish soldiers, even as massive numbers of refugees from Idlib continued to move towards the Turkish border, threatening a new crisis with potential ramifications for Europe. David Swanson, spokesman for the United Nation's humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, told AFP on Monday that "The number of people being displaced in this crisis is now spiralling out of control."

Israel Hit by Severe Winter Storms

Snow was falling on the Golan Heights Monday morning while much of the rest of the country was hit by rain, wind and freezing temperatures. School was delayed or cancelled in many communities while many private businesses and a handful of government offices also shut for the day. Children in Jerusalem eagerly asked their parents about the possibility of snow, but by early afternoon there was no sign of it and forecasters were projecting a rise in temperatures as the week continues.

Tensions High Between Israel and the Palestinians
Rockets were fired into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip over the weekend amidst riots and unrest in the West Bank and in neighbourhoods of eastern Jerusalem. One Palestinian rioter was shot dead by Israeli soldiers during a confrontation in the town of Qaffin near Tulkarm, north of Jerusalem. Clashes also took place in Jericho and in several smaller villages.

“The lawless conduct of Hamas leadership is bringing us closer to fatal action against them. We will not announce when or where, but no one will be immune,” Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said following a situation assessment in the Gaza Division on Sunday afternoon. “The State of Israel does not want a war with Hamas in Gaza, but we have a commitment to the security of southern residents. Hamas faces the choice: to choose life and economic prosperity or to choose terror and pay an unbearable price.”

Here is a video giving some analysis of this situation



Iran Fails to Place Satellite in Orbit
On Sunday, reports indicated that Iran’s latest attempt to launch a satellite into orbit around the earth was another failure. Although the rocket booster managed to reach outer space without exploding on this, Iran’s fourth attempt, the satellite did not reach sufficient speed to enter into a stable orbit. Israel and many Western governments have accused Iran of using its space program as a cover for the development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles for the purpose of delivering nuclear warheads, a charge the clerical regime in Teheran vehemently denies.

Arab Media Blames Israel and the US for Coronavirus
A review of coverage of the coronavirus outbreak by some of the largest Arab-language media outlets in the Middle East shows that many of these media outlets point an accusing finger at Israel and the US for deliberately planting the virus in China as part of an asymmetric campaign of economic and psychological warfare. Some of the reports even allege that Israel and the US have long used manufactured diseases as part of an evil plot to spread fear among the world population and reap profits from selling medical equipment to desperate governments.

Israel Blesses the World
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) announced recently that they have developed a new technological innovation in the field of renewable energy. The machine turns carbon-containing waste products such as banana peels and egg shells, as well as inorganic materials such as used tires and light plastics, into gases which can be used in the production of electricity. The research was funded by government agencies and private donars.

FRIDAY FEATURE - Sudan and the ‘Sons of Thunder’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been dashing around the world over recent weeks in another blitz of high-powered statesmanship intended to demonstrate to Israeli voters once again that “only Bibi” can deliver amazing diplomatic achievements for Israel. After shuttling to Washington to unveil the “Deal of the Century” alongside US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu paid a quick visit to Moscow to bring home an Israeli backpacker basically being held hostage by Vladimir Putin. Then he flew off on a hush-hush mission to Uganda which many expected would produce another embassy move to Jerusalem but turned out to be a face-to-face encounter with the new president of one of Israel’s staunch enemies – Sudan.

The meeting with the Sudanese leader was kept so under wraps that even his own government was surprised by the news!

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is heading Sudan’s interim ruling council overseeing the struggling African nation’s transition from an Islamist regime to a more democratic, civilian-ruled system. They apparently also want to shift towards a more Western orientation, after decades of being an ally of Iran. They especially want to get off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, thereby lifting international sanctions and hopefully fostering development.

Al-Burhan, like many Arab leaders in the region, realizes that the road to Washington often leads through Jerusalem, so he was trying to curry favor with the Trump administration by first holding a friendly meeting with Netanyahu. However, the nation’s interim cabinet is claiming they knew nothing of this mission and had never approved the meeting’s announced outcome of Sudan moving towards “normalizing relations” with Israel. And while they are tapping the brakes on al-Burhan’s initiative, it does appear that Sudan is undergoing an historic shift away from the Iranian orbit which will entail some measure of rapprochement with Jerusalem.

Sudan has a long history of hostility towards Israel. After the 1967 Six-Day War, Sudan hosted an emergency meeting of the Arab League which issued its infamous “three no’s” of the Khartoum Declaration – no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel, and no peace with Israel.

Since then, Sudan allowed Palestinian militias to train and operate in the country. Radical Islamic terror militias also found sanctuary there, including the up-and-coming al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. This landed Sudan on the US list of terror sponsors in the 1990s.

In addition, under military dictator Omar al-Bashir and firebrand cleric Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan also began to align heavily with Iran. Of particular note, Sudan served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Thus, Israel was believed to be behind airstrikes in Sudan which destroyed a weapons convoy in 2009 and an arms factory in 2012.

But this all changed after al-Bashir was deposed by the military amid popular protests last April. Now Sudan is a country looking to modernize and attract Western investment, and thus the outreach to Washington via Jerusalem.

The fact that the secret meeting between al-Burhan and Netanyahu took place in Kampala is also quite remarkable. Just a few short decades ago, Uganda was ruled by a brutal dictator, Idi Amin, who was forcing the nation to officially adopt Islam and had millions of African children afraid he would eat them alive. He was also very anti-Israel and hosted PLO training bases in Uganda. Amin’s total embrace of the Palestinian cause peaked with the PLO’s hijacking of an Air France jetliner to the Entebbe airfield, forcing Israel to undertake its daring commando rescue raid of July 4th, 1976.

Yet today, Uganda is largely a Christian nation which loves Israel and whose Evangelical president is reportedly preparing to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

The stories of Uganda and Sudan turning towards Israel are not isolated, but part of the larger seismic shift in the region among Arab/Muslim nations finally starting to reconcile with the Jewish state. These are exciting and historic times, to say the least.

SUDAN’s sudden turn to Israel and the West is significant in another respect. In recent years, many teachers on Bible prophecy – both Jewish and Christian – have been pointing to developments in the Middle East as signaling that the so-called “Gog and Magog War” of Ezekiel chapters 38-39 are now upon us. This prophetic speculation has reached fever pitch in some circles over recent months, but Sudan’s actions now indicate otherwise.

These prophetic passages from Ezekiel 38-39 suggest that a unique alignment of nations – including Russia, Iran (Persia), Turkey, Libya (Put) and Sudan (Cush) – will suddenly descend on an Israel living complacently at peace to wipe her out in one massive military blow, only to be destroyed by the divine intervention of the God of Israel.

The current alignment of nations in the region who are unfriendly to Israel has certainly fueled this prophetic speculation. But it appears Sudan is moving away from its hostility to Israel, even while Russia has a mixed record under Putin as both a friend of Israel and a patron of its most bitter foe, Iran. And today, Israel is anything but a nation with its guard down; rather, it is maintaining a constant vigil of defense every second of the day on all fronts, and it is (thankfully) armed with the strongest military in the region.

The Apostle John, in Revelation 20:7-10, actually places the ‘Gog and Magog’ conflict at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ, when Satan is released for a short season to lead a coalition of nations against Jerusalem, only to be destroyed by fire from heaven – exactly as Ezekiel also described it. So it is hard to ignore that clear Apostolic message in Scripture from John the great Revelator.

In Luke 9:51-56, we find James and John, the sons of Zebedee, wanting to call down fire from heaven on a village of Samaritans, the rivals of the Jewish people, for refusing to welcome them. But Jesus rebuked his two disciples, saying: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

And in Mark 3:17, we learn that it was Jesus himself who nicknamed them the “Sons of Thunder” – and this was likely not meant as a compliment.

So perhaps we should not be so eager to see the fireworks of Gog and Magog. Is it because we want the Lord God to move mightily in our day and show everyone that we are on the right side as supporters of Israel? That great battle and victory for God’s people indeed will come one day, but until then we need to work and plead with the Lord to save and not destroy men’s lives.

Meanwhile, Israel can expect more wars and terror attacks from its adversaries in the days and years ahead. But we are also seeing incredible changes in the region, as sworn enemies turn and seek friendly relations with Israel, seeing it as a path to progress and blessing for their nations.

David R. Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist and ordained minister who serves as Vice President & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Earthquake Strikes Near Haifa

An earthquake measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale was reported by the Energy Ministry Thursday morning. The report put the epicenter of the tremor approximately nine kilometers southwest of the Carmel region. "The whole building moved," a Haifa resident told Walla. "All the residents evacuated the building. It was scary. It doesn't matter how much they tell you it might happen, it catches you by surprise when it does." No serious damage or injuries were reported at press time.

Reports Emerge of Israeli Air Strikes on Iran in Syria
Unconfirmed reports in Arab media outlets Thursday said that overnight Israeli air strikes on positions held by Iranian-backed militias in Syria had resulted in 14 deaths and an unknown amount of physical damage to those sites. In related news, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued a statement Wednesday demanding an immediate end to Russia’s air strikes on rebel forces in the Syrian province of Idlib, following artillery strikes by Assad-regime loyalists on Turkish forces which killed 8 Turkish soldiers in recent days.

EU Effort to Sanction Israel Blocked by Members
Reports emerged Wednesday that a recent move by the European Union to threaten Israel with harsh economic sanctions in response to Israeli moves to annex West Bank settlement communities was blocked by Hungary and Austria. Several other EU member states have issued nuanced statements in response to the Trump Administration’s so-called “Deal of the Century” while the EU has issued harsh statements of condemnation and dire warnings of harsh pushback should the plan be implemented.

Today's media give insights into the role of China in the Middle East and show yet another way Israel is blessing the world



Iranian Leader Calls for a Jihad by Palestinians

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted on Wednesday that the proper response to the Trump Administration’s “Deal of the Century” plan was "bold resistance by the Palestinian nation and groups in order to force out the Zionist enemy and the US through jihad." Within hours of the tweet, violent riots and confrontations broke out in Jerusalem and several West Bank cities between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.



Here is a video giving further insight into the Iranian practice of exporting terrorism



In the city of Jenin, rioting erupted following the demolition by Israeli troops of the home of a Palestinian terrorist responsible for the death of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in September 2018. Two Palestinian men were killed while participating in those riots, including a PA police officer. Seven other people were wounded in the melee. The deadly riots occurred just hours after a 17-year old Palestinian youth was shot dead by IDF troops as he threw a gasoline bomb at them during a riot in Hebron. Riots also occurred in the village of al-Bireh near Ramallah.

Wednesday’s events followed violent riots in Hebron, which included IDF troops coming under attack from rioters armed with gasoline bombs and other crude weapons.

“We are experiencing a fairly violent week,” an IDF spokesman said. “There is a lot of friction and unavoidable losses. Both sides are working towards containing and calming the situation.”

However, a possible escalation took place around 2 AM in Jerusalem when a suspected ramming attack on IDF soldiers wounded 12.

"It's only a matter of time - and not much time - until we get our hands on the perpetrator," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "Terror will not overwhelm us, we will win."

A few hours later, an Israeli Border Police officer was lightly wounded when an Arab man from a village in northern Israel opened fire on him and his comrades with a 9mm pistol on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. The attacker was shot dead almost immediately by other police officers on the scene.

Here is a video of a recent think tank event giving some insights into the Israel-Palestinian conflict

Netanyahu Promises to Annex Settlements After Election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a Likud rally in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday night, saying that his earlier statements in favor of annexing the settlement communities in the West Bank were still in effect but implementation of any plan would need to wait, at least, until after the elections scheduled for 2 March. “When we win, we will continue making history,” Netanyahu said. “When we win, we will extend sovereignty over all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.”

In other political news, the Knesset House Committee voted on Tuesday to grant immunity from prosecution to Likud MK Haim Katz, making him the first MK to be granted immunity since the law making it a theoretical possibility was passed 15 years ago. The motion must still pass the Knesset plenum and if it does it is certain to be challenged by Katz’ pollical opponents in Israel’s Supreme Court. Katz was indicted late last year on charges of 

Iran Convicts Journalists for ‘Spreading False News’
The clerical regime which rules Iran has convicted editors of three news outlets, including the semi-official ISNA, of “defamation and spreading false news”. Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for NGO The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement saying "If the Iranian government has a credible case against the editors of ISNA, NeftEMA, and Bultannews, they should try them openly and publicly. Closed-door trials of journalists cannot be considered fair or impartial." He added that the Iranian judiciary had "a history of holding opaque judicial proceedings that lack credibility."

Here is a video giving further insight into the current situation in Iran



Israel and the US Improve Military Ties
Israeli Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennet was at the Pentagon Tuesday to meet with his US counterpart, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark Esper. The meetings reportedly focused on continued cooperation between the two countries as well as the threat from Iran. Also on Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin received officers from the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines who are visiting Israel with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

“Israel has no better friend and ally than the United States," Rivlin said. "The unbreakable bond between us is based on our shared democratic values and our shared security interests. Our military cooperation is important not only for the security of Israel and the United States, but for the entire Middle East." He added that this cooperation is "especially important as Iran continues to spread terror throughout the region, and to take steps to advance its nuclear program. As we continue to face the threats from Iran and its proxies today, including the terrorist organizations in Gaza, we also look to the opportunities and challenges of the future.”

Finally, Israel-based defense industrial conglomerate D-Fend Solutions was selected this week by the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to provide the EnforceAir c-UAS (counter unmanned aerial system) to defend US forces against the threat of attacks by cheap, commercially available drones carrying explosives or other weapons.

IDF Strikes Terror Targets in Gaza
Israel’s Air Force struck several targets in the Gaza Strip affiliated with the Islamist terror militia Hamas Tuesday evening. The strikes were in retaliation for a barrage of rockets fired into Israel earlier in the evening as well as a large increase in the number of balloon-born explosive and/or incendiary devices sent over the border into Israel from the Strip in recent weeks.

Israel Among World’s Most Expensive Countries
CEOWORLD magazine published a list ranking countries around the world on cost of living, with Israel ranking a worrying 8th place. Countries where it is less expensive for citizens to pay their bills include Singapore, Hong Kong, France and the US. The rankings are based on five major metrics: cost of living, rent, groceries, eating out and purchasing power.

Today's video gives some insight into rising tensions in the Mediterranean Sea region

Netanyahu Trip to Africa Bearing Fruit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Uganda this week is bearing diplomatic fruit, including a public pledge by Sudan’s leader, Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to work towards the normalization of relations. The announcement was made following a meeting between the two leaders in Entebbe, Uganda, under the auspices of Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The move comes less than a year after Sudan’s military overthrew longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, under whose leadership Sudan had maintained close ties to Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran. Fattah al-Burhan said he hoped that by working with Israel and, by extension, the US, he could bring his country out of its historic isolation which has created very difficult conditions for the country’s citizens and led to the export of various problems all over northeastern Africa and beyond.

Here is a video of Netanyahu’s press conference in Entebbe



Iran Warns EU to Fall in Line or Face Consequences
The European Union’s senior diplomat Josep Borrell was in Teheran on Monday for talks with senior officials of the clerical regime which rules Iran aimed at lowering tensions regarding the Islamic Republics renegade nuclear program. According to an EU statement, the Borrell is scheduled to hold more meetings on a variety of related topics, while an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed hope that the meetings would produce an understanding among EU officials of their need to remove obstacles to Iran’s agenda if they wished to avoid further unpleasantness in the Middle East.

Here is a video explaining a recent Iranian missile attack on US forces deployed in Iraq



Ariel Mayor Endorses Trump Plan 
Eli Shviro, mayor of the West Bank community of Ariel, resigned from the Yesha Council on Tuesday in protest against the stance it has taken against the so-called “Deal of the Century” plan recently announced by the Trump Administration in the US. “This is the best plan that Israel has ever received – and the best plan that it could receive in this period,” Shivro told The Jerusalem Post. “This is the first time in history that the US recognizes that the communities in Judea and Samaria should be part of Israel, not for security reason but because we are Jews living on our land.”

Tensions High on Gaza Border Region
Tensions between Israel and the Islamist terror militias in the Gaza Strip remained high on Tuesday following an interception by Israeli Border Control agents and the Coordination and Liason Administration (CLA) for Gaza of a shipment of tactical flashlights through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip on Monday. The interception came on the same day as the Islamic State (IS) terror militia claimed responsibility for an attack on a pipeline carrying natural gas from Israel into Egypt. Officials in Israel said the flow of gas was not affected but the incident raised concerns that IS was making good on recent threats to attack Israel.

Today's video shows some things that are special about Israel

IDF on High Alert on Gaza Border

Following a barrage of rockets fired into Israel over the weekend from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the IDF reinforced air defense units deployed in the south, even as intelligence agencies spoke of increasing disarray amongst the terrorist groups in the Strip and increased pressure on those groups from Iran, which is believed to be pushing attacks on Israel to avenge the US assassination of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani and also to sew discord ahead of Israel’s upcoming elections. At the same time, reports have emerged that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror militia, second in power only to Hamas within the Strip, has increased its internal security measures following the assassination by Israel of PIJ official Baha Abu al-Ata in November. There are also reports that an outbreak of hostilities could commence this week because of the increased pressure from Iran.

Iranian Protesters Freshly Outraged by Majles Disqualifications
Iran was shaken by more internal turmoil over the weekend as news broke that thousands of candidates for the Majles Council, which serves the regime in an advisory role, were disqualified from running by the clerical “Guardian Council”, prompting a rare rebuke of the regime from President Hassan Rouhani. Further stoking popular anger against the regime was an announcement that information regarding the shootdown of a Ukrainian airliner by air defense elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) earlier this month will no longer be shared with Ukrainian authorities following media leaks.

In related news, Saudi Arabia refused to issue entry visas for Iranian diplomats wishing to attend a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) scheduled for Monday in Jeddah. The news of this broke even as reports were emerging of deepening efforts by the US to build ties between its Sunni Arab allies and Israel.

Here is a video about with some analysis regarding Iran



Syrian War Heating Up Once Again
Monday morning saw a sharp escalation in the Syrian theater as forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar Assad fired artillery at a units of the invading Turkish forces in the northwestern Idlib region, killing four Turkish soldiers and wounding several others. Turkish units immediately launched retaliatory raids, leading to concerns of accidental clashes between NATO ally Turkey and Russia, which backs the Assad regime and has air units in the region where the clashes took place.

Abundant Winter Rains Allow for Kinneret Pumping
Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, announced over the weekend that the abundant rains the country has received this winter has allowed it to resume pumping out of the Sea of Galilee’s main water reservoir. "Increasing water pumping from the Sea of Galilee will allow us to use the natural water resources more optimally" Said the deputy head of engineering in Mekorot, Yossi Yakovi. "[It will allow us to] decrease our reliance of underground water reservoirs, which have been carrying the 'burden' of supplying water to Israel, and will allow us to manage them properly [back] to their former level"

Israel Responding to Coronavirus Threat
An emergency cabinet meeting was held over the weekend to asses Israel’s response to the dangerous coronavirus outbreak in China. "Our preparations [for the virus] will include all branches of the Israeli government," said Prime Minister Netanyahu. "Our goal is first to delay the arrival of the virus to Israel – I say 'delay' because it is inevitable that it will arrive here – and then to treat, to identify those infected, to isolate them and treat them."

Haredi Men Increasingly Seeking Work
The Central Bureau of Statistics issued a report over the weekend showing that employment rates of Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men made a dramatic comeback in 2019 from 50.2% to 51.5%. The new numbers follow intense efforts by the government and private groups over many years to encourage haredi men to seek gainful employment.

Today’s video gives a briefing on the Middle East by a former US CENTCOM Commander

FRIDAY FEATURE - First Take on the Trump Plan

Israel’s third election season in the past year started out fairly blasé in early January, but it was jolted awake this week by two major developments. First, caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped his petition in the Knesset for parliamentary immunity from criminal prosecution, which means the high-profile trial of the three cases against him could start even before the election takes place. Second, US President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited peace plan to forge a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump has been teasing us with the “Deal of the Century” for over two years now, and its release at this time sure smells like election interference, but you don’t hear many Israelis complaining. By inviting both Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz to Washington to discuss the plan, it appears Trump is trying to give Likud and Blue & White something they can coalesce around in a unity government after the elections – finally delivering Israel from its current political impasse. Netanyahu’s legal troubles will still be a major obstacle to that end, but the national ballot on March 2nd is now all about the Trump plan.

Trump’s plan is quite lengthy and complex, and thus requires much study to truly understand its contents and ramifications. Even over recent days, it has quickly emerged that Washington and Jerusalem have different understandings on its annexation provisions and other aspects, in part due to internal contradictions within the plan’s many sections.

As a former practicing attorney, I am still trying to figure out the legal nature of the plan. Most Mideast peace plans to date were proposed outlines which suggested the starting point for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. But this appears to be more an adhesion contract – meaning “take it or leave it.” For instance, plan architects Jared Kushner and David Friedman have already chastened both sides for overstepping the plan, which seems to suggest they consider it a deal set in stone and they are already installed as the judges of compliance.

Nevertheless, based on initial media reports and a cursory review of its contents, my initial reaction to the plan is one of cautious receptiveness. This is especially so as the plan continues to demonstrate that Trump is a great friend of Israel, in line with his landmark decisions on Jerusalem, the Golan, and the legality of the settlements.

The plan contains numerous elements which would be very beneficial to Israel, such as full sovereignty over Jerusalem and full security control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea plus all air space above. It also dramatically reverses the trend of recent decades whereby the international community has slowly eroded away at Israel’s rights and positions without requiring any Palestinian concessions. It also truly tests, for the first time in the history of the Mideast peace process, the real intentions of the Palestinian leadership, and appears to penalize them for rejecting peace with Israel.

However, if the Trump plan plays out as currently written, it would require Israel to permanently cede its claim to certain God-given territories for a Palestinian state, essentially dividing the Land contrary to Scripture. It also holds out the possibility of statehood to a corrupt Palestinian leadership which remains firmly entrenched in its rejection of Israel and continues to squander the hopes and future of the Palestinian people.

Still, the plan has its merits.

Reversing the Trend

Ever since the Madrid peace conference in October 1991, the international community has been slowly and steadily trying to force Israel back to the pre-1967 lines in order to create a Palestinian state. The Oslo process culminated at Camp David in July 2000 with Ehud Barak’s offer to cede 92% of the West Bank to the Palestinians. After his talks with PLO chief Yasser Arafat collapsed, some of Barak’s peace team continued the talks at Taba in early 2001 and sweetened the offer to 95% of the West Bank. Around the same time, outgoing US president Bill Clinton set forth his suggested parameters for peace which called for negotiations based on the pre-67 lines with minor land swaps so Israel could retain the “consensus” settlement blocs. Eventually, Ehud Olmert upped the Israeli offer to 97% of the West Bank.

Every time, the Palestinians rejected these generous offers and refused to even table a counteroffer, believing all the time that the international community would eventually deliver them 100% of the territory without having to formally end the conflict with Israel. This slow march back to what Abba Eban described as the “borders of Auschwitz” peaked with UN Security Council resolution 2334, which declared that all the West Bank and East Jerusalem were “occupied Palestinian territory.”

But that unproductive trend is now reversed, as Trump’s plan would only give the Palestinians up to 80% of the West Bank, and outlying slivers of eastern Jerusalem, for a Palestinian state. So in that sense, it is a welcome change from what Israelis like to call the “salami process” of the world powers slowly slicing away at their rights and positions.

Humane Approach

The Trump plan also would essentially freeze the status quo in many ways, most importantly by not forcing anyone from their homes, Israelis or Palestinians. No Israeli settlements would be uprooted, and the entire Jordan Valley could be annexed by Israel. There would be 15 isolated Jewish communities in the Shomron and Judean hills, but if the Palestinians fully follow the plan these communities would have a greater peace of mind about their situation than they have now.

Testing Palestinian Intentions

The Palestinians would have a long list of limitations, requirements and conditions in order to receive American recognition of their statehood several years down the road. The Palestinian state would have no army, no security control of their borders or air space, and no right to form mutual defense pacts with Iran or other enemies of Israel. They also would have to end incitement against Israel, as well as pay-for-slay benefits to terrorists in jail and families of terrorist martyrs.

Perhaps the biggest test of whether the Palestinians truly want peace is the requirement that the Palestinian Authority disarm Hamas. Given that Hamas will never voluntarily lay down their arms, this would require a brutal civil war among the Palestinians to meet the Trump requirements for statehood. That is an enormously high, if not unrealistic, threshold for the Palestinians to achieve.

There are other problems with the Trump plan. For instance, Trump seems to have limited coattails when it comes to other nations following his lead. Only a handful of nations are ascending to Jerusalem like the US with their embassies, and no one has endorsed his recognition of the Golan as sovereign Israeli territory. I believe more countries will follow Trump’s lead on these issues if he gets re-elected, but he first needs to win a second term. Otherwise, the plan is dead in the water.

I do not expect the Palestinians to buy into this plan, but will rather wait out Trump’s fate come November. Yet the plan’s architects already have built into its terms some very clever mechanisms to penalize the Palestinians for continuing to reject peace with Israel. But we can also anticipate a number of world leaders coming to their rescue – starting with the European Union and Russia.

Meanwhile, Israeli leaders will need to utilize the Trump plan to solidify their hold on as much of the disputed territories as possible, even if it never gets fully implemented. Trump’s team anticipated as much and thus it is the most pro-Israel peace plan ever offered since UN Security Council resolution 242 was passed in the wake of Israel’s capture of these areas in June 1967.

David R. Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist and ordained minister who serves as Vice President & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

 

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