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US, Israel Working Together to Pressure Iran; American Sanctions Target Iranian Use of Child Soldiers

October 21, 2018 News

PM Netanyahu & US Secy. of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Photo Courtesy of Kobi Gideon (GPO).

The top United States financial official visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, and in a sign of the times, their first topic named by Netanyahu to the press was not economics; it was Iran. “This is what is going to occupy a great deal of our discussions today—how to stop Iran’s dual aggression: Its quest for a nuclear arsenal and its quest for a conventional arsenal and its plans of conquest in the Middle East,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office during a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

As head of the US Treasury, Mnuchin is key to enforcing US sanctions on Iran, which are ramping up even more in November when oil restrictions go back into effect. And those aren’t the only increase in sanctions. Additional moves were announced last week by the US after they discovered who is paying for an Iranian militia to use child soldiers.

The major US sanctions on oil follow the decision by US President Donald Trump to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Netanyahu noted that the sanctions relief and economic benefits from the JCPOA—totaling hundreds of billions of dollars—only fueled Iran’s aggression in the region to “unbelievable heights.” … Continue Reading

Australian PM Morrison Considering Moving Embassy to Jerusalem

October 15, 2018 News

PM Netanyahu addresses ceremony marking opening of US Embassy in Jerusalem. Illustrative.
Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon / GPO

Another nation a world away from Israel is contemplating moving their embassy to Jerusalem. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday was quoted by The Guardian as saying that he and his government are “open-minded” to the move and referenced the idea as a “sensible suggestion.” The same day Morrison made the comments, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with his Aussie counterpart about the idea of transferring of their embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to the Jewish capital.

Morrison told Netanyahu “that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem,” said a press release from Netanyahu’s office, adding, that the Israeli leader thanked him for the comments. The press release went on to say the two leaders also “discussed steps to continue strengthening bilateral relations.”

The United States officially made their embassy move to Jerusalem earlier this year, after announcing it in 2017. The decision was controversial, but the Americans were quickly joined by Guatemala and Paraguay. Others have discussed the idea. … Continue Reading

Step toward ‘Normal’? Key Israel-Syria Crossing for UN Peacekeepers to Re-open

October 14, 2018 News

Will peace return to the Israel-Syria border region?
Golan Heights UN Peacekeepers. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Wolfgang Grebien.

The Syrian civil war rages on and Israel continues to be concerned by Iran’s presence in their northern neighbor, but nonetheless this week a small step towards normal will be achieved when the Quneitra Crossing between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights will be re-opened. While this doesn’t signal any type of normalization of relations between Israel and Syria­—rather it is a reminder of their unresolved war—it at least enhances the United Nations peacekeeping between the sides.

A press release last week from the United States Mission to the UN notes that re-opening the border crossing “is part of an ongoing effort” by UN peacekeepers in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), whose mandate includes maintaining the Israel-Syria ceasefire.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley applauded the move, but noted that keeping the border peaceful is a broader effort than just enabling the peacekeepers to do their work. In her comments, which were included in the US Mission press release, she pointed to the importance of upholding 1974 ceasefire agreement that establishes a de-militarized zone between the sides. Israel has highlighted this requirement in the past as well in complaining about Syrian actions around the border, so the Quenitra Crossing re-opening would appear to signal quieter times—at least near the border. … Continue Reading

Israelis Allow Fuel into Gaza as Palestinian Authority Opposes Plan

October 10, 2018 News

Illustrative example of goods shipped to Gaza. Photo courtesy of the Israel Tax Authority.

Israel and an Arab state are coordinating to help Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not happy about it. Qatar has provided funding for multiple truckloads of fuel for the power plant in the Gaza Strip, and the first of the trucks entered the coastal enclave on Tuesday via Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, according to the Ma’an News Agency. The report by Ma’an, a Palestinian agency, said that because the Qatari support was not done in conjunction with the PA, the Palestinian governmental body led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas was opposed to the assistance. The Palestinian Authority is run by Fatah, the political rival of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

The PA’s objecting to providing their own people in Gaza with assistance is not new. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lamented it last week and his Arabic-language spokesman Ofir Gendelman leveled his own criticism of Abbas in an Arabic Twitter post on Tuesday, the same day the Qatari-funded fuel was delivered to Gaza.

“The end of hypocrisy and neglect: Palestinian President Abbas has instructed to send immediate humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims in indonesia, but it is forbidden to send even one bottle of water or one litre of fuel to the Gaza Strip to help the people of his people who suffer the oppression of Hamas terrorist and the stranglehold imposed on them himself!” said the post, which was translated by the Microsoft tool on Twitter. … Continue Reading

US Marks New Military Aid Package for Israel with Iranian Foe in Mind

October 2, 2018 News

PM Netanyahu and US President Trump. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Avi Ohayon (GPO)

The United States’ ten-year, $38 billion military financing package for Israel officially started yesterday, and the Americans weren’t coy about one of their main concerns for Israel: threats from Iran. “Israel is a valuable and capable ally to the United States that today faces dangerously escalating regional threats, first and foremost from the Iranian regime’s sponsorship of terrorist groups seeking to attack not only Israel but also American interests,” said a statement from US spokesperson Heather Nauert in a State Department press release.

The Israelis also had Iran on the mind when thanking the US for the sizable Memorandum of Understating (MOU) agreement, which was signed in 2016. “Israel and the world face complex security challenges, especially Iranian aggression,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in comments released by his office on Tuesday. “The unreserved US support for Israel’s right to defend itself is among the pillars of the strong bond between the two countries.” … Continue Reading

Palestinians Take US to Int’l Court over Jerusalem Embassy

September 30, 2018 News

PM Netanyahu addresses ceremony marking opening of US Embassy in Jerusalem. Illustrative.
Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon / GPO

The Palestinians’ political battle with the United States has officially gone past rhetoric to legal action: Last week, the Palestinians brought charges to the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICC) that the US Embassy in Jerusalem is a violation of the Vienna Convention, the primary treaty between world nations. A press release from the ICC on their website summarizing the Palestinian claim argued that the Vienna Convention only allows for a diplomatic mission to be “established on the territory of the receiving State” and is therefore “a breach” of the treaty due to Jerusalem’s “special status.”

The Palestinians ask that the Court order the US to move the embassy from Israel’s capital city, despite the fact that neither Israel nor the US have accepted the Court’s jurisdiction.  Not mentioned in the Palestinian claim is that multiple diplomatic missions are located in territory claimed by the Palestinians, despite that territory still being under dispute and no official state of Palestine being established by international law. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly argued that the embassy in Jerusalem recognizes the “obvious” reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. … Continue Reading

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