Today’s Top Stories
1. Democrats and Republicans have introduced a bipartisan bill, the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017,” with seven co-sponsors from each party. The act establishes new sanctions targeting Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles and its backing for terrorism, and also seeks to block the property of any entity involved in the sale of arms to or from Iran. It does not reintroduce sanctions lifted from Iran as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. The underlying philosophy seems to be that the JCPOA (often known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal”) is not going away but the United States needs to confront Iran in other arenas.
2. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed it to slash Two Million Dollars from its budget to the United Nations as a result of the anti-Israel resolutions passed last week, and instead to spend the funds on aid programs to friendly nations.
3. The Israeli cabinet is set to approve a new settlement for evacuees of Amona. The move would appear to fly in the face of US President Donald Trump’s demand of Netanyahu, at their joint press conference last month, that Israel “hold back” on West Bank settlement construction, and despite the failure of several efforts since then to formulate a coordinated Israeli-US position on settlements but Netanyahu said, “I promised from the beginning that we would build a new settlement…I think I first made that commitment in December, and today we’re fulfilling it.”
Israel and the Palestinians
• Last August, a worker for the World Vision aid organization Mohammad El Halabi, was arrested and charged with passing millions of dollars to the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Judge Nasser Abu Taha held a mediation session on Tuesday between El Halabi’s lawyers and the Israeli prosecution, and apparently the judge told El Halabi that he has “little chance” of being found not guilty. As Australia is a significant contributor, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said an internal review into World Vision funding in Gaza has uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government aid funding to Hamas. However, Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma said on Twitter that Australia would defer to the Israeli legal process
Statement from me regarding allegations against World Vision employee, in response to recent media reporting. pic.twitter.com/mgzwMGEnyc
— Dave Sharma ?? (@AusAmbIsrael) March 29, 2017
• A Hamas-linked video threatens to kill Israeli security leaders. Times of Israel reports that the video published Wednesday by a Hamas-affiliated news site, threatens to kill senior Israeli defense officials in revenge for the killing of a senior Hamas terrorist last week. Available on the Shehab News Agency’s official YouTube page, it has only about 10,000 views as of the writing of this IDNS, but it may have received a wider audience on television.
Around the World
• British MP Ken Livingstone is at it again: last year he claimed Nazi policy had the ‘effect of supporting Zionism.’ Livingstone is now doubling down on his prior claim, referring to Jews as “SS trained.” Livingstone is attempting to defend himself against accusations of anti-Semitism before Britain’s National Constitutional Committee this week. His 17 page defense raised questions due to dubious sourcing, including a Wikipedia page entitled “Israel and the Apartheid analogy.” Livingstone’s claims ring especially ironic at this particular moment given the recent re-discovery of a World War II era telegram from Hitler’s deputy Heinrich Himmler to the grand mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, in which Himmler promises that the German Reich will stand behind the Arabs of Palestine and support their struggle against “Jewish intruders.”
• The Ambassadors Against BDS group held a series of presentations at the United Nations this week, including at the General Assembly. As most participants are not professional diplomats or politicians, the effort is a special event and a point of personal pride for participants and their supporters. Among, them was Mark Halawa, who will be speaking to the HonestReporting Mission in May 2017 about his experience growing up as an Arab Muslim in Kuwait before becoming Jewish and moving to live in Israel.
• In a message to Trump, Arab leaders renew calls for a Palestinian state. At their annual meeting the Arab League issued a communique, calling for a fresh series of peace talks and renewed an offer of “reconciliation” with the Jewish state, if Israel returns Arab lands it has occupied. According to the communique, that would pave the way for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel. It is a bit tricky to understand exactly what this sentiment really means, given that many in the Arab world see all of Israel as “occupied Arab lands.” However, the communique is vague on the definition of “occupied Arab lands,” and it may be a sign that the Arab world is willing to play a constructive role in an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
• The top US military official in the Middle East Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command, calls Iran a ‘destabilizing’ force,’ and suggests US ‘disrupt’ regime by military means. Votel explains, “I believe that Iran is operating in what I call a gray zone…and it’s an area between normal competition between states — and it’s just short of open conflict.” This is a departure from the thinking surrounding the JCPOA (the “Iran Nuclear Deal”) and it is unclear how much weight this sentiment will carry among decision makers in Washington.
• In the complete remarks by Nikki Haley to a meeting at the UN opposing the Palestinian-led “Boycott, Divest and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, the US Ambassador to the UN says, “How tragic is it that, of all countries in the world to condemn for human rights violations, these voices choose to single out Israel. We should boycott North Korea. We should sanction Iran. We should divest from Syria, not Israel. It makes absolutely no sense. And it has no connection to any reasonable definition of justice.”
• Here’s what else I’m reading today . . .
– Luke Tress: Ahead of Passover, Western Wall cleared of all notes.
– Dr. Emily B. Landau: Lessons on Iran from North Korea’s Nuclear Threat
– Michael Knights: The Role of Iraqi Security Forces in Defeating the Islamic State
Featured image: CC0 bykst;
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