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Political Maneuvering Continues Despite Conflict

Incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a conference Monday evening, saying among other things that if his opponent, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, forms a minority government with the assistance of the Joint (Arab) List faction, it would be a “slap in the face of the IDF soldiers who we sent into battle together.” The speech came amidst hints from Gantz that he is ready to compromise to form a unity government with Likud and a challenge by Yisrael Beytanu leader Avigdor Lieberman to both Netanyahu and Gantz to either cooperate with each other or he would support the faction of his choice over the other.

“Benny, you were the [IDF] chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge,” Netanyahu said during his speech. “Do you remember what [Joint List MK Ahmad] Tibi did during the operation? He read the names of terrorists killed in Gaza from the stage of the Knesset. He said that the IDF is committing war crimes…In a campaign video, they said ‘Gantz, there is blood on your hands’…those are the people with whom you want to form a government?... It’s unbelievable.”
Responding to Lieberman’s challenge, he added that a third election in less than a year is not the worst thing that could happen, as “There is a greater disaster, and it is a minority government that is dependent on the Arab parties.”

Blue and White’s spokesman responded: “Netanyahu, we don’t need lessons from you in patriotism and loving the nation and the people. The citizens of Israel will not forgive you if you drag us to another expensive and unnecessary election because of your legal situation.”

However, earlier on Monday Gantz said publicly that he is willing to meet with Netanyahu and Lieberman on Tuesday to hammer out an agreement and is willing to compromise on his previously held positions in order to achieve that objective, adding that Blue and White is “prepared to consider certain compromises provided they are in line with our perspectives of our world and are in service to the State of Israel.”

This led to speculation that he might agree to Lieberman’s demand that Blue and White agree to a proposal by President Reuven Rivlin for a unity government to be formed with the understanding that there will be a rotation for Prime Minister with Netanyahu going first and having the option of taking a leave of absence in order to face his legal problems should that become necessary.

Lieberman’s demand of Likud is that it drop its allies in the religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, as well as the Yamina faction led by incoming Defense Minister Naftali Bennet.

“There is no connection between the messianic haredim [ultra-Orthodox] and the Right,” Liberman said in a faction meeting on Monday. “Shas and [its leader Arye] Deri abstained in the vote on the Oslo Accords... Netanyahu gave Hebron to [PLO leader Yasser] Arafat... he apologized to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, he opposed the death penalty for terrorists, he voted in favor of evacuating Jews from Gaza.”

United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman wrote a letter to Rivlin in response to Lieberman’s comments, complaining that "The recent elections...have unfortunately led to divisions and polarization and the spread of hatred. We are one nation and we must respect one another...Even if there are disputes, we cannot disqualify whole populations and try to exclude them from Israeli public affairs....Haredi and religious parties make up almost a million and a half people who are being disqualified and insulted by politicians for no reason."

Israel Beset by Bitter Internal Disputes

Amidst the ongoing uncertainty over the formation of a unity governing coalition in the Knesset, ceremonies were held Sunday to commemorate the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Members of Rabin’s family, as well as Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and other leaders of Leftist parties, used part of the time given to their remarks at these ceremonies to accuse incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of fueling the kind of incitement which led to Rabin’s assassination, prompting Netanyahu to use his own remarks to defend himself. The exchanges at the Knesset ceremony came despite a clear warning at the outset from Speaker Yuli Edelstein to desist from such expressions as well as similar pleas from President Reuven Rivlin in recent days.

In related news, a clash broke out on Sunday evening between police and demonstrators at the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, prompted by the police arresting a resident who had violated an administrative order issued to him earlier by the security forces. The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement regarding the incident, calling for “the law to be respected and for an immediate halt to violence against the security forces. IDF soldiers and Border Police forces, which guard us all, must be allowed to carry out their work. Violations of the law will not be tolerated.”

Government Deadlock Continues in Lebanon
Israel’s northern neighbor of Lebanon appeared to be teetering on the brink of economic, political and social collapse on Sunday, with some analysts warning that the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah was poised to become the de facto ruler of the country owing to its being the most organized player left in the arena. Efforts at political stabilization have failed, even as street protests against the nascent status quo have continued in many cities and the banks have struggled to manage amidst a virtual standstill in almost all sectors of the economy. "The country's situation cannot withstand another day of delays," Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said.

Here is a video giving some expert analysis of the situation in Lebanon

Case Against Netanyahu Takes Dramatic Turn
There was a dramatic development in the ongoing case against incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, with Nir Hefetz, a former close aide who has turned State’s Witness against Netanyahu in “Case 4000” yelling at the judges hearing arguments over the advisability of lifting a gag order on his involvement in the case “you can just kill me” before storming out. The hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court attracted a great deal of media attention following recently leaked allegations that the police used improper interrogation techniques to compel Hefetz to cooperate in the case against Netanyahu.

Bennet Set to Become New Defense Minister
Former Education Minister Naftali Bennet accepted an appointment as Defense Minister in the caretaker government over the weekend and is set to assume his new responsibilities on Tuesday. Starting Sunday morning he began holding meetings with advisors in order to prepare for his new job.

Regional Arms Race Heating Up
Long one of the world’s most heavily armed regions, the Middle East is experiencing yet another ramp up in arms purchases. In a recent example, the U.S. State Department gave its approval last Thursday to a request by the United Arab Emirates to purchase 10 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters and related equipment from Boeing, bringing the total value of such requests by the UAE since the start of fiscal 2017 to nearly $10.5 billion. Other US and European defense companies have also announced large orders from Middle Eastern countries in recent weeks.

Today’s video gives a short tour of modern Nazareth

FRIDAY FEATURE-A Ring of Fire – Israel’s Neighbors in Crisis

Nearly every one of Israel’s neighbors are facing serious internal problems. The situation has become so alarming that some analysts have begun to raise the question of whether political, social, economic and sectarian instability in the countries surrounding Israel might prove an even greater danger to the Jewish State then the hostile military and terrorist threat it faced in previous decades.

Israel’s military leaders have been candid in their assessments of the situation, including when speaking publicly. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Aviv Kochavi recently said that all of Israel’s fronts are “fragile and could deteriorate.” This week, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva, chief of the IDF’s Operations Directorate, told a meeting of the Treasury Ministry in Jerusalem that “All signs indicate that the next year has the potential to be negative from a security perspective.”

A glance at the map can flesh out the deeper meaning behind these words.

To the south, the regime of Egyptian President al-Sissi has faced street protests in Cairo and Alexandria even as his military and security forces have continued to battle insurgent groups linked to the Islamic State (IS) terror militia in the Sinai. Israel is assisting Egyptian forces in the fight against the insurgency in Sinai and is also in an ongoing dialogue with Egyptian diplomats regarding the situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

There, the ruling Hamas administration is facing a chronic shortage of funds, despite regular infusions of cash from Qatar and daily deliveries of humanitarian aid to the general population, facilitated by Israel and donated by the United Nations and other agencies and governments. Although open demonstrations against Hamas by Palestinian residents of the Strip are rare, there is a general feeling of discontent against it which is believed by some analysts to be fueling the growing popularity of Salafi jihadist ideology. Also worrying is the growing boldness and popularity of the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia in the Strip.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is led by its 84-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas, who recently declared that he would not stand for re-election to the post which he has been in since 2005 when he won the first and so far only election the PA ever held for President. Regardless of this glaring irregularity, most analysts agree that one way or another, Abbas will likely not be in the picture for much longer, raising the question of who will succeed him and what the consequences of his departure might be. Polls taken among Palestinians who are theoretically eligible to vote in future elections indicate that the most popular candidate to take over the role of leading the PA is Marwan Barghouti, who was imprisoned by Israel in 2002 for his role in carrying out several lethal terror attacks against Israeli civilians during the First and Second Intifadas.

Other polls indicate that the estimated 2 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank (including the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem) hold the PA in low esteem, but analysts are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean they’d rather be ruled by Hamas or any of the other Palestinian armed factions, much less Israel. In general however, the polls indicate that this population is unhappy with the status quo but also keenly aware of how much worse things could always get, ironically making them perhaps the least concerning of Israel’s neighbors.

A bit further to the east is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Israel recently marked the 25-year anniversary of the 1994 Peace Treaty with Jordan and the armed forces of the two countries have not engaged in kinetic battle since the 1967 Six Day War. However, the peace between the governments of Israel and Jordan and the cooperation between the military, intelligence and security establishments in both countries does not extend to the general population, which remains deeply hostile to Israel. Beyond that, Jordan’s internal problems are huge, with periodic street demonstrations against the King and a chronically weak economy which has been exacerbated in the last few years by the need to care for over 1.3 million refugees from the war in Syria.

To Israel’s north, Syria’s endless conflict is “the gift that keeps on giving” in terms of the problems it creates for all its neighbors, including Israel. The flood of jihadists and weapons from all over the world who came to Syria for different reasons in Syria’s civil wars, which began in 2011 and have ebbed and flowed ever since, present a direct threat to Israel’s security, even as the threat from the armed forces of the Assad regime have been reduced.

However, another threat to Israel from the conflict in Syria comes from the destabilization of its other neighbors, especially Lebanon, which suffered its own devastating civil war from 1975 to 1990 and which was always one of the most fragile nation-states in the region. The economic, social, cultural and physical burden of carrying for 1 million Syrian refugees put a tremendous strain on Lebanon’s already weak infrastructure. In October of 2019, massive fires burned thousands of dunams of Lebanon’s forests, while government efforts to fight the fires was disorganized and largely ineffective. This coupled with a proposal to tax Whatsapp and other free online messaging services proved too much for Lebanon’s beleaguered citizens, who took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to demand a complete overhaul of the system which had governed their country for generations.

The demand to “throw the bums out” extended to the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, which has a political wing that has been part of the government for over a decade. Although Hezbollah has threatened a harsh response to further challenges, the street protests have continued and even intensified in recent days. A bit further to the east, a similar situation has developed in Iraq.

Although the destabilizing effect of these protests in Lebanon and Iraq are a cause for concern in Israel, they also provide hope that the plans by Iran to build up its proxy militias and other mechanisms to threaten Israel may be dealt a setback. However, analysts have expressed different assessments of how much of a setback Iran might suffer by these popular uprisings.

A report released this week by the highly respected International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London posits that Iran has “tipped the balance of effective forces in the Middle East in its favor by countering superior conventional forces with influence operations and use of third-party forces.”

This Iranian strategy is most visibly manifested in Hezbollah, which possesses an estimated 120,000 rockets which it can fire into Israel whenever the clerical regime in Teheran gives them the order to do so. But Iran has also attempted to build up proxy military forces in Syria amidst the chaos there and it also has influence in several other countries in the region. This includes Yemen, where an ongoing, multi-dimensional civil war, coupled with one of the world’s most horrible humanitarian crises, has rendered it one of the largest ungoverned spaces in the world. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned that the IRGC might try to use bases it has in Yemen to launch cruise missile and/or drone attacks against Israel similar to its attacks against Saudi Arabian oil installations in early October.

Further afield, the ongoing instability in Algeria, Libya and Sudan, coupled with hostility from its once-close ally Turkey and even the escalating dispute between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus regarding the exploration of natural gas resources in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean mean Israel finds itself in the middle of an increasingly intense “Ring of Fire” converging on it from all sides.

Israel’s military, intelligence, civil defense and security establishments are reportedly working around the clock to prepare for the day, perhaps not far off, when they will find themselves directly dealing with these issues. Their work, however, is hampered by the ongoing political impasse which is preventing the formation of a governing coalition in Israel’s Knesset.

In any case, Israel’s supporters around the world will be closely watching and praying as the “Ring of Fire” surrounding the Jewish State heats up and contracts.

Iran to Top Agenda at IAEA Emergency Meeting

The crisis over Iran’s renegade nuclear program intensified this week with a meeting scheduled for Thursday of officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to address the Islamic Republic’s latest violations of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement. The meeting will also discuss Iranian accusations that three of its oil tankers were attacked recently in the Red Sea, which include broad hints that it holds the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia responsible for those alleged strikes. Also set to be discussed in the meeting is a recent incident in which a female IAEA official was detained by Iranian security officers while attempting to carry out an inspection of an Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz.

"There is a real concern that it will harm how (the IAEA) carry out their inspections in the future," a European diplomat said. "The agency wants to show how seriously they are taking this. It is a potentially damaging precedent," added another Western official.

There is speculation that the meeting might also include discussions of a failure by Iran to explain the discovery of nuclear materials at the Turquzabad site, which was exposed by Israel in 2018 and confirmed by the IAEA in February of 2019.

Here is a video with some analysis of the situation

Jordanian Official Warns of Economic Collapse
A senior Jordanian official warned this week that the 1.3 million refugees currently living in Jordan after fleeing the civil war in Syria are straining the government’s budget to the breaking point. Issam Al-Majali, spokesperson for Jordan’s Planning Ministry, told The Media Line that the situation “caused a huge increase in governmental expenses between the years 2011 and 2018 due to the costs involved in responding to the refugees’ needs.”

“Unemployment among Jordanians increased from 12% in 2012 to 19% in the first quarter of 2019, while the poverty level rose from 14.4% in 2010 to 20% by the end of 2016,” he added. “Despite support for the Jordanian government from the international community in response to the refugees, their presence has cost Jordan about $1.4 billion.”

Demonstrations Continue in Lebanon and Iraq
Street demonstrations against the ruling establishment in Lebanon continued on Wednesday, with school children leading some of the demonstrations in Beirut, Tyre, Sidon and other major cities. In neighboring Iraq, security forces again used live ammunition against demonstrators in Baghdad on Wednesday, adding to a death toll from nearly three weeks of protests which currently stands at 280. Despite the violence, protests in both countries show no signs of abating, with protesters telling Western media outlets covering the demonstrations that they’re unable to continue living as they have and they don’t feel like they’ve got anything lest to lose.

Here's a video giving some further context to this story

UNRWA Leader Resigns Amidst Scandal
Following the resignation of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl on Wednesday amidst allegations of ethical misconduct, Israeli officials called for the organization to be disbanded. This “is a victory in the campaign against the politicization and incitement against Israel that is at the root of the agency [UNRWA],” Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said. “Compounding this, numerous accusations regarding the agency’s conduct signals to the international community that there is no other solution for UNRWA besides its total closure, and it is time to consider alternative models for the refugee issue.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said, “UNRWA’s conduct illustrates that the agency is part of the problem and not part of the solution. The agency perpetuates the refugee issue in a political manner, and in doing so distances any possibility for a future resolution. The international community needs to find a new model that will provide humanitarian assistance to those who truly need it, and must remove from the agenda the futile idea of the return of the refugees.”

Today's video shows how one Israeli soldier spends his free time

Iran’s Move to Enrich Uranium Closely Monitored by Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday evening, highlighting the dangers from Iran’s renegade nuclear program. “Iran expands its aggression everywhere. It seeks to envelope Israel. It seeks to threaten Israel. It seeks to destroy Israel. We fight back. I also want to say, given Iran’s efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program, expand its enrichment of uranium for making atomic bombs, I repeat here once again: We will never let Iran develop nuclear weapons. This is not only for our security and our future; it’s for the future of the Middle East and the world.”

His remarks came hours after Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi announced plans to violate yet another stipulation of the 2015 JCPOA Nuclear agreement by restarting activities at the underground and heavily fortified Fordow facility, which Iran did not report to the International Atomic Energy Agency in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it is a signatory.

Western governments were quick to condemn the move, but Iranian officials replied that they can’t be expected to comply with a deal which they only entered into because they believed they would receive financial benefits from when those financial benefits have not materialized.

“All signs indicate that the next year has the potential to be a negative year from a security perspective,” IDF’s Operations Directorate Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva told a meeting Tuesday evening of the Knesset Finance Ministry’s Budget Department. He went on to explain that Israel has been engaged in a low-intensity shadow war against Iranian proxy groups in the region for several years but that in 2020 there is a possibility that it might flare up into a higher-intensity and very high visibility conflict.

Last week Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin said that the “challenge of air defense has become more complicated. Joining the threat of missiles and rockets are now attack drones and cruise missiles.” He added that all of Israel’s air defense units are on high alert due to the rising threat from drones and cruise missiles such as Iran used to launch precision strikes against Saudi Arabian oil facilities in early October.

Here is a podcast shedding some light on regional developments in the Middle East

Cracks Appear in Legal Case Against Netanyahu

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit responded to press reports about irregularities in the investigation into “Case 4000” against incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by saying that he is taking the allegations seriously and will thoroughly investigate them. However, many analysts opined that the damage done to the credibility of the police by the allegations in the minds of the general public might be difficult to repair, leaving open the possibility that Mandelbilt might be left with little choice but to dismiss Case 4000 and possibly other pending cases against Netanyahu as well.

Israel’s Channel 12 news program and the Israel Hayom newspaper reported in recent days on leaks coming out of the investigation to the effect that the questioning of star witness Nir Hefetz, a former senior aide to Netanyahu, was conducted in an unlawful manner.

Responding to the reports, President of the Israel Bar Association Avi Himi said, “An enforcement agency cannot impose a publishing ban on suspicions without giving the public an explanation of what it is and why it is hidden. Such conduct could seriously damage public confidence in the justice system.”

Case 4000 revolves around allegations that Netanyahu took actions in his capacity as Communications Minister to assist the Bezeq telecommunications company in exchange for positive coverage in the Walla news portal, both of which are owned by business tycoon Shaul Elovitch, a close personal friend and political ally of Netanyahu.

Russian Media Report Kremlin Recovered Israeli Missile
Reports surfaced in the Russian media Tuesday that an air-defense missile fired by Israel’s David’s Sling system at incoming projectiles from Syria on 23 July, 2018, but which landed in Syrian territory without exploding has made its way into Russian custody. The reports said Russian engineers were working on “reverse engineering” the missile, which is the result of several years of joint US-Israeli research and development.

Here is a podcast shedding some more light on this story

Israel Blesses the World
Compugen, an Israeli cancer immunotherapy company based near Tel Aviv, announced on Tuesday that it has conducted promising Phase 1 clinical trials into a new treatment program for people with advanced solid tumors. “We are encouraged by the emerging safety profile and initial signals of anti-tumor activity of COM701,” Compugen president and CEO Dr. Anat Cohen-Dayan told the Jerusalem Post. “Our hypothesis, based on the science of Com701 and PVRIG, is that the patients who are most likely to benefit will be those with breast, ovarian, endometrial and non-small-cell lung cancer.”

“That’s not to say that it won’t work in other cancer indications, but we prioritized these four to be where there is the greatest likelihood that it will work,” she added. “We plan to check this assumption in the next stage of the trial.”

Israel Heading for Another Record Year in Tourism
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics posted a report this week indicating that approximately 447,100 tourists entered the Jewish State in October 2019, bringing the total entries to 3.7 million since the start of the calendar year, up 10% over the number at the end of October 2018. “Tourism makes a huge contribution both in terms of the economy and in terms of Israel’s image around the world, and I am proud of that,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

Today's video shows highlights from this week's Christian Media Summit

Iranian Leaders React with Fury to New US Sanctions

Iranian leaders have reacted with fury to a new package of economic and political sanctions imposed by the US Treasury Monday on 9 individuals closely tied to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Earlier on Monday, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi had announced that the Islamic Republic is taking further steps to violate the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. His statement was made in the context of ongoing celebrations in Iran to mark the takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran in November of 1979 and the subsequent taking of American staff as hostages. "Our fight with America is over our independence, over not submitting to bullying, over values, beliefs, and our religion," army chief Major General Abdolrahim Musavi said in a speech at one such rally.

Increasingly Violent Protests Rock Lebanon and Iraq
Israel’s northern neighbor Lebanon continued its descent into turmoil on Monday, with street demonstrations, including increasingly violent clashes with security forces, continuing despite desperate promises of reforms and pleas for patience from establishment figures and dark threats of a violent crackdown by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah. In Iraq, security forces once again fired live ammunition into crowds of protesters in Baghdad on Monday, shortly after four protesters were shot dead at a demonstration in Karbala, brining the death toll since protests started in Iraq on 1 October to 270.

Here is a podcast giving some further insights into this issue

Large Volumes of Natural Gas Found in Israel’s EEZ
Multi-national energy company Energean announced this week that it can confirm an additional 25 billion cubic meters (BCM) of recoverable natural gas from its Karish North field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast, along with 34 million barrels of light oil or condensate. The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by analysts in Israel as another sign of the country’s improving economic outlook.

Contentious Decisions Announced In Jerusalem
There were some contentious developments in Jerusalem this week, as the Housing Cabinet approved a plan on Monday to build a 1.4 km.-long cable car project for Jerusalem’s Old City meant to ease access to the Western Wall and residents of the Har Nof neighborhood reacted with outrage to an unexpected announcement that the neighborhood will soon have a new name. The cable car plan has been ridiculed and maligned for a variety of reasons while the changing of Har Nof’s name to “Neot Yosef” in honor of two prominent Orthodox Rabbis is being challenged because the decision to do so was made by the Mayor’s Office without consulting residents.

Hamas Leader Boasts of Military Power
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar gave a fiery speech Monday in which he warned that Hamas has “hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, hundreds of control rooms above and below the ground, thousands of anti-tank missiles and thousands of mortar shells…we can turn the enemy cities into ghost towns if they decide to attack us. The whole world must know that in Gaza there are about 70,000 armed young men from all the Palestinian factions, and we have young people who believe in the Palestinian cause and [will] achieve the purpose of the people."

He added that "had it not been for Iran's financial support, weapons and the transfer of expertise to the resistance in Gaza and Palestine, we would not have reached where we are." He concluded by admitting that "We have built this power and will continue to build it – not to protect the Strip, not to protect ourselves, but to achieve our people's dream of freedom and return."

Today's video shows how Israel is leading the way in sustainable development

Netanyahu Addresses Christian Media Summit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Third Annual Christian Media Summit Sunday evening, devoting part of his address to praising the longstanding support for Israel by its Evangelical Christian friends while also issuing familiar warnings about the threats to Israel from Iran. “We have one main goal and that is to make sure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and that its march toward an empire and conquest has stopped,” he said. "If it wasn't for Israel, Iran would already have nuclear weapons."

Here is the video of Netanyahu's full address to the Summit

Meanwhile, in Teheran, officials with the clerical regime which rules Iran were holding celebrations to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1979 student takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the subsequent 444-day hostage crisis.

"Our fight with America is over our independence, over not submitting to bullying, over values, beliefs, and our religion," army chief Major General Abdolrahim Musavi said in a speech at a large street demonstration near the site of the former US Embassy. He added that he believed the US "will continue its hostilities...unless it is crushed."

"Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100 percent wrong," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by domestic media at an event on Sunday.

In related news, the US State Department’s new report on terrorism lists Iran as the top international state-sponsor of terrorism and specifically details the aid its given to the Sunni terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

“Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” saidd the “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018” which was released on Friday. “The regime has spent nearly one billion dollars per year to support terrorist groups that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe. Tehran has funded international terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad…Tehran continued to allow an AQ [al-Qaeda] facilitation network to operate in Iran, which sends fighters and money to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it has extended sanctuary to AQ members residing in the country.”

“Hezbollah remained Iran’s most powerful terrorist partner and the most capable terrorist organization in Lebanon, controlling areas across the country. Iran’s annual financial backing to Hezbollah – an estimated US $700 million per year – accounts for the overwhelming majority of the group’s annual budget. Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon and Syria continued to pose a threat to Israel.”

Here is a podcast in which one of the world's foremost experts gives some analysis of current events in the Middle East

Southern Israel On Alert Following Rocket Barrage

Residents of southern Israeli communities were hit last Friday by a massive riot along the Gaza border fence followed hours later by a barrage of rockets from inside the Hamas-ruled territory. Air defense units intercepted most of the incoming rockets but one hit a house in the long-suffering border community of Sderot, causing nearly destroying the structure but causing no casualties as the family who lived in the house managed to get to their bomb shelter in time. The Air Force launched strikes on Hamas positions inside the Strip in retaliation and by Monday morning a tense calm had returned to the border area. However, security forces remained on high alert as the funeral for a Palestinian man killed in the retaliatory strikes included chants calling for “revenge” against Israel.
For its part, Hamas denied a report that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group had launched the rockets at Israel without clearing the plan with Hamas leadership, saying they are in full control of the situation inside the Strip. PIJ sources said that “rogue elements” had fired the rockets, but statements by other sources in the Strip contradicted this. Elsewhere, a Hamas official boasted that Israel was unable to cope with the situation in the Strip because of its lack of a governing coalition.

Police Arrest Ten in Corruption Investigation
The National Financial Investigations Unit of the Lahav 433 special police battalion in conjunction with the Central District Attorney's criminal department moved Monday morning to arrest 10 suspects and detain nine others for questioning following a months-long undercover investigation into allegations of financial corruption. The individuals arrested included the mayor of a city in northern Israel, the CEO of a large contracting firm, a Regional council chief and lower level officials in different municipalities.

Israeli Officials Tweets Sympathy for Iraqi Protesters
Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted a sympathetic message to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the mismanagement of the country by the Baghdad regime, saying "We sympathize with the Iraqi people's struggle for freedom and a good life and strongly condemn the acts of repression and murder against the protesters, led by Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Iraqi people have a tradition and ancient and magnificent history, and many Iraqi immigrants in Israel for the better remember many years of living together."

Demonstrations in Iraq over the weekend included extreme acts of violence including the torching of the Iranian consulate in Karbala, while dozens of protesters were reportedly killed and wounded in clashes with security forces in different parts of the country. Still, protests were expected to continue through the week, with protesters telling Western journalists they’ve got nothing left to lose.

In Lebanon, a similar dynamic was playing out, as demonstrations have continued despite the resignation of the Prime Minister and pleas for unity by 84-year old President Michel Aoun.

Today's videos and podcasts give some further analysis of the tumultuous events in the Middle East

Israel and US Blamed for Crisis in Lebanon and Iraq

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke at graduation ceremonies for military officer cadets Wednesday, saying among other things that America and Israel are responsible for the street protests which have rocked Lebanon and Iraq in recent days. Iranian IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani reportedly led an emergency meeting of security officials in Baghdad, where he described the crackdown by Iranian forces which quelled popular protests in 2009, saying “We in Iran know how to deal with protests. This happened in Iran, and we got it under control.”

Israeli officials have also reacted to the crisis in its northern border, asking international donors to make sure the money they give for humanitarian aid does not benefit the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah and that it even be conditioned on the authorities in Beirut acting to reign in Hezbollah, something many analysts agree is an unrealistic expectation.

Jordan-Israel Ties Strained by Crisis Over Prisoners
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi announced on Tuesday that the Hashemite Kingdom is recalling its ambassador to Israel to protest against the detention of two Jordanian citizens by Israeli security services. “The king is in a difficult position,” said a Jordanian professional with close ties to the palace in Amman. “On the one hand, he’s facing pressure and criticism for failing to release (the prisoners). On the other hand, he’s trying to avert a further deterioration in relations between Jordan and Israel.”

“It would have been easier for all had Israel banned them from entering the West Bank or deported them shortly after interrogating them,” said a government official in Amman. “Holding them under administrative detention was a bad idea. In addition, Labadi’s hunger strike and reports about her deteriorating health condition are adding fuel to the fire. The only people who benefit from this crisis are the enemies of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.”

US-Turkey Ties Under Severe Pressure
The decades-long strategic ties between the US and Turkey frayed considerably this week as the US House overwhelmingly passed two bills which, respectively, recognized the massacre of Armenians in 1915 by the Ottoman regime as a “genocide” and sanctioned senior Turkish military officers and defense officials. Turkey’s parliament angrily denounced the bills, which most analysts agree would have been unthinkable not long ago but which are largely the result of Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish regions in northeast Turkey and its increasingly cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Here is a video of a recent think tank panel focusing on US-Turkey relations

Gulf Arabs Join US-led Iran Sanctions Regime
The U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement on Wednesday announcing that six US allies in the Middle East region have added their names to the list of countries sanctioning Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and it’s Lebanese Shi’ite proxy Hezbollah. The sanctions were declared to be “a powerful demonstration of Gulf unity," by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who added "This action demonstrates the unified position of the Gulf nations and the United States that Iran will not be allowed to escalate its malign activity in the region."

Brazilian-Israel Soccer Veterans Play Friendly Match
In yet another defeat for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel, a friendly football (soccer) match was played in Haifa on Tuesday between two squads of all-stars from Brazil and Israel. The game ended with the Brazilian veterans on top 4-2 but the real winners were the fans and players who got to enjoy the game and the Holy Land. “Bringing together such influential global figures of the past and present proves that Israel is part of the world map,” Brazilian-born Mauro Rozenszajn, CEO of the Israeli company organizing the event, MTR7, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Here is a video about the visit to Jerusalem by the Brazilian players


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