From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved

    This file is attached to from "Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D." - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright @ 1995, all rights reserved.



1/3/2022 Israel’s Jerusalem Post Website Hacked On Soleimani Assassination Anniversary
A view of the Jerusalem Post website after it was hacked is shown in this
screen grab obtained January 3, 2022. The Jerusalem Post Website/via REUTERS
(Corrects site of Soleimani’s killing, paragraph 2)
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper said on Monday its website had been hacked, in what it said was an apparent threat to the country.
    Instead of displaying a main news page, the website showed an illustration that appeared to recall top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq on this day in 2020.
    The illustration showed a bullet-shaped object shooting out of a red ring worn on a finger, an apparent reference to a distinctive ring Soleimani used to wear.
    The Jerusalem Post, an English-language daily, tweeted that it was working to resolve the issue.
    “We are aware of the apparent hacking of our website, alongside a direct threat (to) Israel,” it said.
    Its mobile app did not appear to be affected, and other major Israeli news websites were working normally.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

1/3/2022 Hezbollah’s Criticism Of Saudi Not In Lebanon’s Interest – PM by Timour Azhari
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati gestures during a news conference on the latest developments in
the country, at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon December 28, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati Monday said criticism of Saudi Arabia by the leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group did not serve the national interest or represent the country’s official stance.
    Saudi Arabia and a number of other Gulf Arab states withdrew ambassadors and expelled Lebanese envoys in October and November over what the kingdom later said was arch-foe Hezbollah’s dominance of the Lebanese state.
    In a speech, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia’s king of terrorism on Monday.
    “King, the terrorist is the one who has exported … Daeshi ideology to the world, and it is you,” Nasrallah said, using an acronym for Islamic State, the hardline Islamist group that declared a caliphate straddling parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.
    Mikati responded in a statement, distancing himself from the Hezbollah leader.
    “What … Nasrallah said about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia this evening does not represent the position of the Lebanese government and most Lebanese.    It is not in Lebanon’s interest to offend any Arab country, especially the Gulf states."
    “For God’s sake, have mercy on Lebanon and the Lebanese people and stop the hateful sectarian and political rhetoric.”

    Lebanese officials including President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, and Mikati have called for dialogue with Saudi Arabia to resolve the diplomatic crisis, which has piled onto an economic meltdown now in its third year.
    Saudi Arabia has called on Lebanon to end “terrorist Hebzollah’s” influence over the state.
    Mikati’s government contains several ministers backed by Hezbollah and its ally the Amal movement.
    Mikati formed a government in September with the aim of negotiating an International Monetary Fund (IMF) support programme and kickstarting economic recovery.
    But he has been unable to convene Cabinet since Oct. 12 amid demands by Hezbollah and Amal to limit the probe into the deadly August 2020 Beirut blast.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

1/6/2022 Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Gunman In West Bank Clash – Military
Mourners react as they attend the funeral of Palestinian gunman Baker Hashash, who was killed by Israeli forces
during a clash, in Nablus in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian gunman on Thursday during a clash in the occupied West Bank, the military and Palestinian officials said.
    The incident occurred in the Palestinian city of Nablus, which the military said soldiers had entered to detain a Palestinian, whom it did not identify.
    “Some Palestinian gunmen began firing at the soldiers, prompting them to respond and kill one of them,” a military spokesman wrote on Twitter.    “The wanted man was arrested.    There were no casualties among our forces.”
    The gunman was identified as Bakeer Hashash, a member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, the group said.    Activists distributed posters of Hashash clutching an M16 assault rifle.
    Abbas blamed Israel for the death.    “All sides must bear responsibility before the situation spirals out of control,” he said.
    Abbas’s security forces organised a military funeral march for Hashash in Nablus, attended by hundreds of Palestinians.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Kim Coghill, William Maclean)

1/18/2022 Israel Offers UAE Security, Intelligence Support After Deadly Houthi Attack
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs the weekly cabinet meeting
in Jerusalem, Israel December 12, 2021. Tsafrir Abayov/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has offered security and intelligence support to the United Arab Emirates against further drone attacks after a deadly strike by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, according to a letter released on Tuesday by Israel’s leader.
    Three people were killed and six wounded on Monday when three tanker trucks exploded in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.    A Houthi military spokesman said the group fired “a large number” of drones and five ballistic missiles in the attack.
    On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned what he described as a “terrorist drone attack
    His spokesman attached a copy of a condolence letter he sent on Monday to the UAE’s de facto leader, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
    “We stand ready to offer you security and intelligence support in order to help you protect your citizens from similar attacks,” Bennett wrote.    “I have ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any assistance, should you be interested.”
    The UAE, along with Bahrain, signed U.S.-brokered normalisation agreements with Israel at the White House in 2020.    The two Gulf nations and Israel share common concerns about Iran and its allied forces in the region.
    “Israel is committed to working closely with you in the ongoing battle against extremist forces in the region, and we will continue to partner with you to defeat our common enemies,” Bennett said in his message to Sheikh Mohammed.
    Bennett and Sheikh Mohammed held talks in Abu Dhabi in December last year, the first ever public meeting between the two men.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/30/2022 Israeli President Herzog Visits The UAE For The First Time
FILE PHOTO: Israeli President Isaac Herzog arrives outside Downing Street to meet Britain's
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in London, Britain, November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
(Refiles with dropped letter in paragraph 3)
    DUBAI (Reuters) - Israeli President Isaac Herzog arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday on the first such visit, his office said, seeking to strengthen Gulf ties at a time of heightened regional tension as world powers try to revive a nuclear deal with Iran.
    The UAE, along with Bahrain, signed U.S.-brokered normalisation agreements with Israel, dubbed the “Abraham Accords,” in 2020.    The two Gulf states and Israel share common concerns about Iran and its allied forces in the region.
    En route to the UAE President Herzog’s plane flew over Saudi Arabia, which he said was “truly a very moving moment.”    Riyadh and Israel do not have diplomatic ties, but Israel has said it would like to establish a relationship with the kingdom which is home to Islam’s two holiest sites.
    The presidency in Israel is a largely ceremonial post. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited the UAE in December.
    The president was greeted on arrival in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi by Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
    “I will be meeting the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, at the personal invitation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince,” Herzog said earlier.
    “I wish him well and I am grateful for his courage and bold leadership, carving out a peace agreement with Israel and sending a message to the entire region that peace is the only alternative for the peoples of the region.”
    President Herzog will also be meeting Jewish communities in the UAE, which is the region’s commercial and tourism hub.
    Israel on Jan. 18 offered security and intelligence support to the UAE against further drone attacks after a deadly strike by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, according to a letter released on Tuesday by Israel’s leader.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Lisa Barrington; Editing by William Mallard and Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/31/2022 Israeli President Presses On With Dubai Visit After UAE Intercepts Missile by Alexander Cornwell
FILE PHOTO: Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates,
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, talk as they walk through an airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab
Emirates January 30, 2022. Amos Ben-Gershom/Government Press Office (GPO)/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Israel’s president spoke at Dubai’s Expo 2020 world fair on Monday on the first presidential visit to the United Arab Emirates, despite the Gulf state overnight saying it had intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthis.
    The UAE became the first Gulf state to normalise relations with Israel under a U.S.-brokered normalisation agreement, dubbed the “Abraham Accords,” in 2020.    Gulf neighbour Bahrain then followed.
    “I hope and I believe that more and more nations will soon follow the UAE lead and join the Abraham Accords,” Isaac Herzog said at an event amid tighter than usual security at the Expo site.
    The presidency in Israel is a largely ceremonial post.    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited the UAE in December.
    The UAE and Israel share concerns about Iran and its regional allies, and also see the agreements as a way to boost their economies.
    “Already our trade has exceeded over $1 billion, more than 120 agreements were signed and a $100 million (research and development) fund was established recently,” Herzog said in a speech at the six-month long world fair in Dubai emirate where UAE and Israeli flags were raised and both countries’ national anthems were played.
    He said 250,000 Israelis had so far visited the UAE and he hoped Emiratis would reciprocate once COVID-19 restrictions eased.
    Herzog landed in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Sunday where he discussed security and bilateral relations with the UAE’s de facto leader.
    That night, at 20 minutes past midnight, the UAE said it intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group; the third such attack on U.S.-allied UAE in the past fortnight.
    UAE authorities did not say whether the missile was aimed at Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Kim Coghill and Mark Potter)

2/3/2022 UAE Says It Blocked Drone Attack, Little-Known Group Claims Responsibility
FILE PHOTO: UAE flag flies over a boat at Dubai Marina, Dubai,
United Arab Emirates May 22, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates said it intercepted three drones that entered its airspace over unpopulated areas early on Wednesday in the fourth such attack on the Gulf commercial and tourism hub in the past few weeks.
    The first three assaults, including a missile attack on Monday during a visit by Israel’s president, were launched by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis in an escalation with a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and which includes the UAE.
    The Houthis have not yet announced a new operation and Wednesday’s drones attack was claimed by a little-known group calling itself the “True Promise Brigades,” according to U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which follows jihadist websites.
    The group’s only other claim was in January 2021, when it said it launched a drone at Saudi Arabia, which is locked in several proxy conflicts with rival Iran, including in Yemen.
    The UAE defence ministry said it was “ready to deal with any threats” and was taking “all necessary measures” to protect the country which prizes its reputation as a safe business haven.
    On Tuesday, the United States said it was sending fighter jets to assist the UAE after the attacks, one of which was aimed at a base hosting U.S forces and followed a Jan. 17 strike that killed three people in Abu Dhabi.
    The unprecedented attacks on the U.S.-allied country are an escalation in the seven-year Yemen war.    The Houthis had focused cross-border assaults at Saudi Arabia but extended them to the UAE last month after Emirati-backed local forces joined fighting against the group in energy-producing regions.
    If confirmed, the claim by the “True Promise Brigade” could indicate an upswing in violence involving militias seeking to help ally Iran oppose Western and Gulf Arab adversaries, according to some analysts.
    “If Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq came out of hibernation and did launch drones at the UAE … then this was likely an Iran-directed or at very least Iran-tolerated operation,” Michael Knights at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said in a Twitter post, using the group’s Arabic name.
    Sunni Muslim Gulf powers have called on global powers trying to salvage a nuclear pact with Iran to also tackle Shi’ite Iran’s regional proxies and missiles programme.
    Tehran has not directly commented on the UAE attacks but has called for a political solution to the Yemen crisis.
    Iran’s foreign minister discussed Yemen with his Emirati counterpart by telephone on Wednesday.
    The UAE largely reduced its military presence in Yemen in 2019 and has been engaging with Tehran under de-escalation efforts largely driven by economic priorities.
(Reporting by Yasmin Hussein and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Saeed Azhar and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Clarence Fernandez and Lincoln Feast.)

2/3/2022 Israel Defence Minister Visits U.S. Navy Base In Bahrain
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz arrives during his visit to 5th Fleet Headquarters
Navy Base in Juffair, Bahrain, February 3, 2022. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
    MANAMA (Reuters) – Israel’s defence minister visited the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain on Thursday, part of an unannounced trip amid heightened Gulf tensions following drone and missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates.
    Israel’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday Benny Gantz would sign a security cooperation agreement with Bahrain, which along with the UAE normalised relations with Israel in 2020, partly out of shared concerns about Iran.
    Bahrain hosts the Fifth Fleet’s headquarters as well as some operations for CENTCOM, a U.S. military coordination umbrella organisation for the Middle East that Israel joined last year.
    “Against a backdrop of increasing maritime and aerial threats, our ironclad cooperation is more important than ever,” Gantz said on Twitter after the naval base visit.
    Israel this week is joining a 60-nation U.S.-led Middle East naval exercise alongside the UAE and Bahrain and, for the first time, publicly alongside Saudi Arabia and Oman, two counties it has no diplomatic relations with.
    Israel’s defence ministry gave no details of what a security accord with Bahrain would include. Bahrain’s government communications office did not respond to a request for comment.
    Gantz flew to Bahrain for the two-day trip on an Israeli air force transport plane.    It was the first time an Israeli defence chief had visited the Gulf nation or that an Israeli military aircraft had landed there.
    In September, Bahrain hosted Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for the highest-level visit since the normalisation deals.
    The UAE on Wednesday said it intercepted three drones that entered its airspace over unpopulated areas in the fourth such attack in the past few weeks.
(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller; editing by John Stonestreet)

2/8/2022 Negotiators propose two-state confederation - Suggested compromise for Israel, Palestine by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Former Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators have drawn up a new proposal for a two state confederation that they hope will offer a way forward after a decadelong stalemate in Mideast peace efforts.
    The plan includes several controversial proposals, and it’s unclear whether it has any support among leaders on either side.
    But it could help shape the debate over the conflict and will be presented to a senior U.S. official and the United Nations secretary-general this week.
    The plan calls for an independent state of Palestine in most of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war.    Israel and Palestine would have separate governments but coordinate at a very high level on security, infrastructure and other issues that affect both populations.
    The plan would allow the nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank to remain there, with large settlements near the border annexed to Israel in a one-to-one land swap.
    Settlers living deep inside the West Bank would be given the option of relocating or becoming permanent residents in the state of Palestine.    The same number of Palestinians – likely refugees from the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation – would be allowed to relocate to Israel as citizens of Palestine with permanent residency in Israel.
    The initiative is largely based on the Geneva Accord, a detailed, comprehensive peace plan drawn up in 2003 by prominent Israelis and Palestinians, including former officials.    Yossi Beilin, a former senior Israeli official and peace negotiator who cofounded the Geneva Initiative, said that by taking the mass evacuation of settlers off the table, the plan could be more amenable to them.
    The Palestinians view the settlements as the main obstacle to peace, and most of the international community considers them illegal.
    Numerous sticking points remain, including security, freedom of movement and – perhaps most critically, after years of violence and failed negotiations – lack of trust.
    The main Palestinian figure behind the initiative is Hiba Husseini, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team going back to 1994 who hails from a prominent Jerusalem family.    Other contributors include Israeli and Palestinian professors and two retired Israeli generals.
    Thorny issues such as the conflicting claims to Jerusalem, final borders and the fate of Palestinian refugees could be easier to address by two states in the context of a confederation, rather than the traditional approach of trying to work out all the details ahead of a final agreement.
    “We’re reversing the process and starting with recognition,” Husseini said.
    It’s been nearly three decades since Israeli and Palestinian leaders gathered on the White House lawn to sign the Oslo Accord, setting up the framework to launch the peace process.
Jewish settlers living deep inside the West Bank could either relocate
or become permanent residents in Palestine. ODED BALILTY/AP FILE

2/15/2022 Israeli Prime Minister Lands In Bahrain In First Visit by Dan Williams
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the
prime minister's office in Jerusalem February 13, 2022. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS
    MANAMA (Reuters) -Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Bahrain’s capital Manama on Monday in the highest-level visit since the countries established relations under a 2020 U.S.-sponsored deal based in part on shared worries about Iran.
    Bennett will meet with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, his office said.
    “The leaders will discuss additional ways to strengthen bilateral ties … especially the advancement of diplomatic and economic issues, with an emphasis on technology and innovation,” it said in a statement.
    The two-day trip to Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Gulf headquarters, comes amid heightened tensions after missile attacks on the neighbouring United Arab Emirates by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis.    Israel also normalised ties with the UAE in 2020.
    Speaking to reporters before take-off, Bennett said he hoped the visit would be a “message of goodwill … and a shared stance against common threats.”
    Israel has stepped up cooperation with the Gulf states.    Manama hosted Israel’s defence minister on Feb. 2 and has said an Israeli military officer will be posted in Bahrain as part of an international coalition.
    The outreach by Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim monarch has been criticised by an opposition led by the Shi’ite majority.    The country has seen protests in solidarity with the Palestinians.
    There were brief protests in several Shi’ite villages ahead of Bennett’s visit, activists told Reuters.
    Footage and photos posted on Bahrain’s dissolved opposition group al-Wefaq’s social media accounts showed dozens of protesters marching, chanting slogans and holding up Bahraini flags.
    Israel has offered to cooperate with its new Gulf partners on air defence, but has not specified whether this might include selling the short-range rocket interceptor Iron Dome.
    Such sales in the past have been subjected to questions of whether the systems would be secure and not be shared with Israel’s enemies.    There has also been concern it would pose a commercial challenge to U.S. defence exports.
    But a U.S. official saw no problem in Washington were Israel to go ahead with Iron Dome sales in the Gulf.
    “There’s a lot of interest in Iron Dome” in the region, said the official, who could not be identified by name.
(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Alison Williams)

2/23/2022 Demand For Hebrew Lessons Jumps In Gaza As Israel Eases Work Restrictions by Nidal al-Mughrabi
A Palestinian worker waits to leave Gaza Strip through Israeli Erez crossing
in the northern Gaza Strip February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – In a brightly lit classroom in Gaza, a teacher spells out Hebrew words on a whiteboard, followed attentively by Maher Al-Farra and dozens of other Palestinians hoping to take advantage of an opening up of employment opportunities in Israel.
    Increased demand for the classes at the Nafha languages centre follows a new offer of work permits by Israel as it has moved to calm border tensions following an 11-day war in May with Hamas, the Islamist group which rules the Gaza Strip.
    It now offers 10,000 permits allowing Gaza residents to cross the border to work in Israel – a new source of income to a region where 64% of the population is estimated to live in poverty and unemployment runs at 50%.
    Ahmed Al-Faleet, the centre’s owner, said the number of people enlisted to learn Hebrew has increased four-fold to reach 160 students per course since Israel began giving work permits in the last quarter of 2021.
    “These courses allow anyone who gets a permit to read signs, documents written in Hebrew, and communicate with (soldiers) on Israeli checkpoints.    If an employer speaks only Hebrew it enables the worker to deal with him,” he told Reuters.
    Some 2.3 million Gazans live in the narrow coastal strip, largely unable to leave to seek work abroad and squeezed by 15 years of restrictions imposed by Israel, which has fought four wars with Hamas and other armed groups since 2008.    Gaza also borders Egypt, which imposes its own restrictions on crossings.
    Before a Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000, some 130,000 Gazans worked in Israel.    Palestinians said Israel had in 2005 barred labourers after pulling troops and settlers from Gaza.
    No one expects the cautious increase in the number of work permits to end the long-running conflict between Israel and Hamas, who fought four wars since the Islamist faction seized control in Gaza in 2007.
    But for the dozens of workers and merchants enrolled in the class at Nafha, the change offers the prospect of earning, in Israel, the equivalent of a week’s wages in Gaza.
    “I came here today to learn Hebrew so I can handle things at my work inside (Israel) easily,” Farra told Reuters.
    Israeli liaison officer Colonel Moshe Tetro said the new jobs would improve Gaza’s economy and “would also serve calm and security stability
    Eassam Daalis, a senior Hamas official, said Israel was eventually expected to offer 30,000 work permits, which economists say could allow workers to earn an average of 500 shekels ($156) a day, equivalent to what some can earn a week working in Gaza.

    “Every week I go back home happy to my family with 2,000 shekels ($625).    I also give to my mother and my father,” said Jamil Abdallah, 31, from Jabalya in northern Gaza.
    Gaza economist Mohammad Abu Jayyab noted that the offer of permits was one of a series of economic steps agreed under a political settlement brokered by Egyptian, Qatari and United Nations negotiators following the May war.
    “These are not unilateral Israeli initiatives,” he said.
    With tensions brewing over clashes between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the eviction of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah the situation could change quickly.
    Israel has tied the offer of more openness to improved security following May’s war and has accused Hamas of investing in building its fighting capabilities rather than resolving the humanitarian problems facing Gaza.
    “If the security situation remains stable and calm the state of Israel would open up more and more,” said Tetro.
(Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by James Mackenzie and Alison Williams)

3/10/2022 Saudi Arabia, UAE Reportedly Snub Biden Over Oil, Ukraine Crisis by OAN Newsroom
President Joe Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia’s economy in retaliation for its
invasion of Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    The leaders of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are reportedly refusing to talk to Joe Biden amid the Ukraine crisis.    According to the Wall Street Journal, White House officials tried to arrange phone calls between Biden, Saudi and Emirati leaders.    However, those attempts were unsuccessful.
    Biden reportedly wanted to ask Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE to produce more oil and to join anti-Russian sanctions, which both those countries have refused to do.    Both Saudis and the UAE recently reasserted support for the OPEC-plus agreement with Russia and voiced opposition to Biden’s efforts to restore the nuclear deal with Iran.
    This comes as President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order banning Russian oil imports.    One America’s Chanel Rion has more on the ban.

3/16/2022 UK PM Johnson Defends Saudi Visit After Mass Execution
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson inspects the Guard of Honour as he arrives at Abu Dhabi Airport
at the start of his visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, amid the Russian invasionbr> of Ukraine, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 16, 2022. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended on Wednesday his decision to visit Saudi Arabia where he is seeking increased supplies of oil, saying ties with the country were very important and promising to raise human rights issues.
    Johnson arrived in the United Arab Emirates and will later visit Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to secure additional oil flows to replace Russian hydrocarbons and increase diplomatic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
    His visit has drawn criticism from lawmakers and campaigners, coming days after Saudi Arabia executed 81 men in its biggest mass execution in decades.
    Asked about criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, Johnson said:
    “I’ve raised all those issues many, many times over the past … and I’ll raise them all again today.
    “But we have long, long standing relationships with this part of the world and we need to recognise the very important relationship that we have … and not just in hydrocarbons.”
    He highlighted a new Saudi investment in a green aviation fuel project in Britain.
    “That is the kind of thing that we want to encourage.    (It)doesn’t in any way mean that we can’t stick to our principles and raise those issues that we all care about,” he said.
    Johnson said the West had made a mistake in allowing itself to become dependent on Russian oil and gas, and that had effectively allowed Putin to hold them to ransom.
    He promised to set out a new national energy strategy next week.
(Reporting by William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

3/16/2022 Israel, Egypt Agree To Expand Flights With New Direct Route
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a weekly
cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, March 14, 2022. Jack Guez/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel and Egypt have agreed to expand their aviation ties with a new direct route between Tel Aviv and the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh expected to launch in April, Israel’s prime minister said on Wednesday.
    “Cooperation between the two countries is expanding in many areas, and this contributes to both peoples and to the stability of the region,” the Israeli leader, Naftali Bennett, said in a statement.
    Israeli carrier Israir said once it receives necessary approvals, it plans to operate 15 weekly flights on the Tel Aviv-Sharm El-Sheikh route.
    Egyptair currently flies nonstop between Tel Aviv and Cairo.
    Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Steven ScheerEditing by Jeffrey Heller)

3/22/2022 Egypt, UAE, Israel Discuss Economic Challenges As Iran Looms by Maayan Lubell and Aidan Lewis
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Israeli
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, March 22, 2022 in this handout picture.
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Leaders of Egypt, Israel and the United Arab Emirates met in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday for talks on the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing influence of Iran in the region.
    Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hosted the meeting with UAE de facto leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – their first three-way summit since the UAE normalised relations with Israel.
    Egypt’s presidency said they discussed energy market stability and food security, two acute challenges for Cairo after Russia’s offensive in Ukraine sent wheat and crude oil prices soaring, as well as international and regional issues.
    The three countries – allies and partners of the United States – are part of an emerging Arab-Israeli axis seeking to counter-balance Iranian power at a time of uncertainty over Washington’s security commitment in the region.
    “We clearly see the strengthening of an axis that offers another narrative in the Middle East, that we can work together and cooperate on economic and defence matters,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll said.
    “Israel is committed to build a good partnership with anyone possible against the radical axis of Iran,” he told Kann radio.
    A statement from Bennett’s office later said simply that the three countries discussed strengthening ties on all levels in their talks, which began on Monday and stretched into Tuesday.
    Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel four decades ago, while the United Arab Emirates forged ties with Israel in 2020, driven partly by shared concerns over Iran.
    In particular, the three countries are worried about a deal taking shape to restore a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and major powers, which lifted sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.    Iran’s enemies fear it is seeking to build nuclear weapons, a charge it denies.
    Bennett says the expected deal is weaker than the original arrangement and would lead to a more violent Middle East, and has urged the United States not to remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from a foreign terrorist organisation blacklist in exchange for “empty promises.”
    Gulf states have criticised the nuclear talks for not addressing Iran’s missiles programme and proxy forces, including in Yemen where Houthi fighters have fired missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
    Disagreement with Washington on both those issues has increased tensions between the United States and the two oil- exporting Gulf powers, who fear a resurgent Iran if it is able to export oil again under a nuclear deal with Washington.
    “We have some of the top U.S. allies not happy with the Biden approach,” Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdullah said.    “For them to stand up together and for them to speak in one voice – that might resonate.”
    Khaled Okasha, head of the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies, said Sisi’s meeting with Bennett would have focused on the impact of the Ukraine conflict, while all three countries had overlapping views on Iran.
    “We are concerned with the Gulf being a secure aea that is not threatened in this consistent way from Iran,” he said.
    A Cairo-based source said that a separate meeting between Sheikh Mohammed and Sisi had also been expected to cover the reintegration of Syria into the Arab world after Abu Dhabi last week hosted President Bashar al-Assad’s first visit to an Arab country since Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011.
    Sisi and Sheikh Mohammed were also expected to cover Emirati investment or economic support for Egypt, the source said.
    The war in Ukraine has pressured emerging market economies and prompted Cairo on Monday to devalue its currency by 14%.
    Cairo is typically the world’s biggest wheat importer, sourcing most of those imports from Russia and Ukraine. While those costs are rising sharply, tourism receipts from Russian and Ukrainian visitors are expected to fall.
(Reporting by Maayan in Jerusalem, Aidan Lewis and Momen Atallah in Cairo, and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; writing by Maher Chmaytelli and Dominic Evans; editing by Gareth Jones and Jonathan Oatis)

3/28/2022 Israeli-Arab Summit Convenes, Blinken Seeks To Reassure Allies On Iran by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a European Union leaders summit amid Russia's
invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
    SDE BOKER, Israel (Reuters) -Israeli and Arab partners convened for a rare summit in Israel on Sunday attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who sought to reassure the U.S. allies over Washington’s diplomacy with Iran.
    The issue is likely to dominate the two-day gathering, which includes foreign ministers from three Arab states that normalised ties with Israel in 2020, even as peacemaking with the Palestinians remained stalled.
    Blinken’s visit comes as some U.S. allies in the region question President Joe Biden administration’s commitment and brace for fallout from an Iranian nuclear deal and the Ukrainian crisis.
    The nuclear talks had been close to an agreement several weeks ago until Russia made last-minute demands of the United States, insisting that sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine should not affect its trade with Iran.
    Restoring a 2015 nuclear deal “is the best way to put Iran’s nuclear programme back in to the box it was in,” Blinken said.
    But whether or not that happens, “our commitment to the core principle of Iran never acquiring a nuclear weapon is unwavering,” he said alongside Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid in Jerusalem, before the summit got under way.
    “The United States will continue to stand up to Iran when it threatens us or when it threatens our allies and partners,” Blinken said.
    In Israel, internal security concerns deepened when Arab assailants, identified by security officials as Israeli citizens and Islamic State sympathisers, shot and killed two border police officers in Hadera, a city 50 km (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv.     Police shot the two men dead.
    Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement posted on the group’s Telegram account.
    On Twitter, Blinken wrote: “We condemn today’s terrorist attack in Hadera, Israel. Such senseless acts of violence and murder have no place in society.”    At the summit, Blinken is also expected to press Arab allies to step up support for Ukraine to fend off Russia’s invasion as several Gulf nations have so far stopped short of providing meaningful assistance.
    After talks with Blinken, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has cautioned that a nuclear deal with Iran would not be binding on Israel, said he hoped Washington “will hear the concerned voices from the region, Israel’s and others'.”
    Attending the Lapid-hosted summit in a desert hotel will be the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, which were part of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration to normalise ties with Israel.
    Egypt’s foreign minister, whose country on Saturday marked 43 years of peace with Israel, will also join the summit.
    “Normalisation is becoming the new normal in the region,” Blinken said, adding that Washington hoped “to bring others in.”
    Before travelling to the summit venue, Blinken held talks in the occupied West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and voiced continued U.S. commitment to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    The venue for the foreign ministers’ meeting is Sde Boker, where Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, retired and is buried
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Raissa Kasolowsky, Jane Merriman and Daniel Wallis)

4/15/2022 Israel successfully tests new laser missile defense system
    JERUSALEM – Israel’s new laser missile defense system has successfully intercepted mortars, rockets and antitank missiles in recent tests, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Thursday.    The Israeli-made laser system, designed to complement a series of aerial defense systems such as the costly Iron Dome deployed by Israel, will be operational “as soon as possible,” Gantz said.    The goal is to deploy the laser systems around Israel’s borders over the next decade, Gantz added.    The tests took place last month in the Negev Desert.

4/19/2022 Israeli troops wound 2 Palestinians in West Bank raid
    JERUSALEM – Israeli troops shot and wounded two Palestinians on Monday during clashes that broke out during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank.    The men were hospitalized, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.    The Israeli military said it arrested 11 Palestinians in operations across the territory overnight.    In a raid in the village of Yamun, the army said Palestinians hurled rocks and explosives at troops.    Soldiers “responded with live ammunition” toward “suspects who hurled explosive devices,” the military said.

4/19/2022 Militants in Gaza fire a rocket into Israel - Tensions mount as violence escalates by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel for the first time in months on Monday, in another escalation after clashes at a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and military raids across the occupied West Bank.
    Israel said it intercepted the rocket, and there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.    Israel holds Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers responsible for all such projectiles and usually launches airstrikes in their wake.    It was the first such rocket fire since New Year’s Eve.
    Hours earlier, the leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which boasts an arsenal of rockets, had issued a brief, cryptic warning, condemning Israeli “violations” in Jerusalem.
    Ziad al-Nakhala, who is based outside the Palestinian territories, said threats to tighten an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza imposed after Hamas seized power 15 years ago “can’t silence us from what’s happening in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.”
    Palestinians and Israeli police clashed over the weekend in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, which has long been an epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian violence.    It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because the mosque stands on a hilltop where the Jewish temples were located in antiquity.
    Protests and clashes there this time last year helped trigger an 11-day Gaza war.
    Police said they were responding to Palestinian stone-throwing and that they were committed to ensuring that Jews, Christians and Muslims – whose major holidays are converging this year – could celebrate them safely in the Holy Land.    Palestinians view the presence of Israeli police at the site as a provocation and said they used excessive force.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday, ahead of the rocket fire, that Israel has been the target of a “Hamas-led incitement campaign.”
    The latest tensions come during the rare confluence of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover.    Christians are also celebrating their holy week leading up to Easter.    Tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City – home to major holy sites for all three faiths – for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Jordan and Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago and coordinate with it on security matters, have condemned its actions at the mosque.    Jordan – which serves as custodian of the site – summoned Israel’s charge d’affaires on Monday in protest.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah II discussed the violence with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, agreeing on “the need to stop all illegal and provocative Israeli measures” there, according to a statement.    Jordan planned to convene a meeting of other Arab states on the issue.
    Israel has been working to improve relations with Jordan over the past year and has recently normalized relations with other Arab states.    But the latest tensions have brought renewed attention to the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians, which Israel has sought to sideline in recent years.
    The U.S. State Department urged all sides to “exercise restraint, to avoid provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo” at the holy site.    Spokesman Ned Price said U.S. officials were in touch with counterparts across the region to try and calm tensions.
    U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed-door meeting on the tensions for Tuesday.
    In Israel, an Arab party that made history last year by joining the governing coalition suspended its participation on Sunday – a largely symbolic act that nevertheless reflected the sensitivity of the holy site, which is at the emotional heart of the century-old conflict.
    Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem – which includes the Old City – in the 1967 Mideast war.    The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.    Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and is building and expanding Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which it views as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.
    The last serious and substantive peace talks collapsed more than a decade ago.
    Israel allows Jews to visit the site but not to pray there.    In recent years large numbers of nationalist and religious Jews have regularly visited under police escort, angering the Palestinians and Jordan.
    Israel says police were forced to enter the compound early Friday after Palestinians stockpiled stones and hurled rocks at the gate through which Jewish visitors typically enter.    That gate also leads to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.
    Recent weeks have seen a series of Palestinian attacks inside Israel that killed 14 people.    Israel has launched near-daily arrest raids and other military operations in the occupied West Bank that it says are aimed at preventing more.
    At least 26 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in recent weeks, according to an Associated Press count.
Palestinians walk past a model of a Gaza Strip-made M75 rocket displayed at a square in Gaza City on Monday.
Gaza militants fired a rocket into Israel, the Israeli army said, the first such incident in months and a sign that a wave
of violence around a Jerusalem holy site could escalate further. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/20/2022 Mideast foes keep risky balance - Israel, Hamas both have incentives to avoid war by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Days of violence in Jerusalem and an exchange of fire in Gaza overnight Monday have raised the possibility that Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers will once again go to war, as they did less than a year ago under similar circumstances.
    This time around, both Israel and Hamas have strong incentives to avoid all-out war.    But neither wants to be seen as retreating from a Jerusalem holy site at the heart of the century-old Mideast conflict, so further violence cannot be ruled out.
    “At this stage it’s political theater in which everybody is playing his part,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a local think tank.    “But sometimes the gun that appears in the first scene will shoot at the end.”
    For Hamas, another war would devastate Gaza, which has hardly begun to rebuild after the last one.    And Israel would wield a potent new weapon – the ability to revoke thousands of work permits issued in recent months that provide an economic lifeline to Palestinians in the blockaded territory.
    For Israel, war could set back efforts to sideline the conflict and damage burgeoning ties with Arab states.    The broad-based governing coalition, which lost its majority this month, is at a small but growing risk of having a key Arab partner bolt, which would set the stage for new elections.
    All of those factors help explain the relative restraint up until now: Israel intercepted the Gaza rocket, its airstrikes caused little damage, and no one was hurt.    Neither Hamas nor any other group claimed the launch.
    At the same time, neither Israel nor Hamas can be seen as backing down over a major holy site in east Jerusalem that is sacred to Jews and Muslims, where Palestinians and Israeli police clashed over the weekend.
    The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.    Palestinians view it as the one tiny part of their homeland that has yet to be taken over by Israel, which seized east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war.
    Hamas’ popularity skyrocketed last year when it was seen as defending the shrine – even at a devastating cost to Palestinians in Gaza.    The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which cooperates with Israel on security, faced a massive backlash.
    “Hamas would like the pressure against Israel to continue from the West Bank, from east Jerusalem, without giving Israel an excuse to launch a major war against Hamas and the Palestinians in Gaza,” says Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University.
    The hilltop on which the mosque is built is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the Jewish temples in antiquity.
    Under longstanding arrangements, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there.    But in recent years, large numbers of nationalist and religious Jews have regularly toured the site and discreetly prayed there under the protection of Israeli police.
    The visits are seen as a provocation by both the Palestinians and neighboring Jordan, a close Western ally that serves as custodian of the site.    But any effort to limit them would expose the government to severe criticism from Israel’s dominant right-wing parties, which would portray it as a capitulation to the country’s enemies.
    Such a move would be even more fraught now, during the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, which this year coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.    Israeli authorities say they are committed to ensuring freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett blaming the recent violence on a “Hamas-led incitement campaign.”
    Israel hopes to prevent a repeat of last year, when weeks of protests and clashes in and around Al-Aqsa helped trigger an 11-day Gaza war.
    In recent months, Israel issued thousands of work permits to Palestinians in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces 15 years ago.    It also allows tens of thousands of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank to work in construction and other mostly menial jobs in Israel, where wages are far higher.
    Israeli leaders portray the permits as a goodwill measure, but they also help Israel maintain its military rule over millions of Palestinians, which is now well into its sixth decade.
    The permits can be canceled at any time, and Israel – citing security concerns – prohibits nearly all forms of Palestinian opposition to the occupation.
    For Hamas, the suspension or cancellation of the permits would push tens of thousands of Gaza residents back into severe poverty and halt the flow of millions of dollars into the economy.
    Abusada says that might deter Hamas, but not if they believe Israel is crossing a red line at Al-Aqsa.    “It’s a limited deterrence that cannot be taken for granted forever,” he said.
    The United States, Israel’s closest ally, is calling on all sides to show restraint.
    Within Israel, a small Arab party that made history last year by joining the governing coalition – giving it a razorthin majority after four gridlocked elections – suspended its participation on Sunday over the rising tensions.
    The move was largely symbolic, as parliament is currently in recess – one rival lawmaker compared it to dieting during the fasting month of Ramadan.
    The tensions are unlikely to bring down the government because a majority of lawmakers would have to vote for early elections.    That would likely require cooperation between the rightwing opposition, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Arab parties that despise him – an even heavier lift at a time of war.
    “If there will be a true conflict, I don’t think in the short term it will threaten the current government,” said Rahat, the Israeli political scientist.    “In the long run, it all depends on the framing or the interpretation of the result of such a conflict.”
An explosion is caused by Israeli airstrikes on a Hamas military base in the town of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip,
Tuesday. For Hamas, another war would devastate Gaza, which has hardly begun to rebuild after the last one. For Israel,
war could set back efforts to sideline the conflict and damage burgeoning ties with Arab states. YOUSEF MASOUD/AP FILE

4/20/2022 Israeli protesters march in West Bank amid unrest - Crowd wants dismantled settlement to be rebuilt by Nasser Nasser and Ilan Ben Zion, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BURQA, West Bank – Thousands of Israelis marched to a dismantled settlement deep in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday and called for it to be rebuilt in a show of strength amid a wave of Israeli-Palestinian unrest and fears of further escalation.
    The army blocked roads to facilitate the march led by hard-line Jewish settlers and prevent Palestinians from reaching the area.    Dozens of Palestinian residents protested the closures.    Clashes broke out, with Israeli soldiers firing rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinian youths hurling stones and burning tires.
    Palestinian medics said they treated at least eight Palestinians who were struck by rubber bullets or tear gas canisters fired by Israeli troops in the adjacent West Bank village of Burqa.
    Israelis have repeatedly returned to Homesh, a hilltop settlement that emerged as a symbol of settler defiance after the government dismantled it in 2005.
    Israeli-Palestinian tensions have surged in recent weeks after a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and and military operations in the West Bank. Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel for the first time in months, and Israel carried out airstrikes, after days of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem.
    The unrest has raised fears of a repeat of last year, when protests and clashes in Jerusalem helped ignite an 11-day Gaza war.
    The shrine, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the emotional epicenter of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Israel said its security forces entered the site in response to Palestinian rock throwing and that it is committed to ensuring that Jews, Christians and Muslims can worship freely in the Holy Land.    The Palestinians view the presence of Israeli security forces at Al-Aqsa and visits by nationalist and religious Jews as a provocation.
    Israel has faced intense criticism from Jordan, which serves as custodian of the site, as well as Egypt – Arab states that made peace with Israel decades ago.    The United Arab Emirates, which led the way in normalizing relations with Israel as part of the so-called Abraham Accords in 2020, summoned the recently appointed Israeli ambassador on Tuesday.
    The UAE said Israel needs to “fully protect worshippers, to respect the rights of Palestinians to practice their religious rites and to stop any practices that violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to a statement carried by the state-run WAM news agency.
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he discussed the violence in a telephone call with Israel’s largely ceremonial President Isaac Herzog.
    “During this sensitive period, I would like to emphasize, once again, the need not to allow provocations and threats against the status and spirituality of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Erdogan said.
    It was an unusually muted statement for Erdogan, who has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians in the past.    Turkey, whose economy is in crisis, has been trying to normalize its frayed ties with Israel and other regional countries.
    Herzog visited Turkey last month, becoming the first Israeli leader to visit in 14 years.
    The U.N. Security Council emerged from a closed-door session Tuesday with no unanimous message on the tensions, though envoys from Ireland, France, Estonia, Norway and Albania stood together to express concern.
    They called for respecting arrangements at holy sites and for restraint from both sides, while condemning rocket fire from Gaza and “all acts of terrorism.”
    The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has also called on all sides to exercise restraint.
    At the march in the occupied West Bank, several thousand Israelis, including young children, walked roughly two kilometers (one mile) to Homesh, where organizers staged festivities attended by religious nationalist politicians and rabbis.
    The Israeli military didn’t formally authorize the march but closed roads to separate the settlers and Palestinians, allowing it to be held.
    Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and in the decades since has built dozens of settlements that are now home to more than 500,000 Israelis.    The Palestinians seek the territory, which is home to nearly 3 million Palestinians, as the main part of a future independent state.
Israeli border police officers detain a protester during clashes April 4 between Israeli security forces and Palestinians
next to Damascus Gate, outside the Old City of Jerusalem, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP

4/20/2022 State Dept.: We’re Deeply Concerned With Rising Tensions Between Israel, Palestinian Authority, Arab Countries by OAN Newsroom
State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department,
Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool)
    Top US diplomats are scrambling to simmer tensions in the Middle East amid recent violent attacks in Jerusalem.    During a press conference Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said several officials contacted their counterparts in Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries to make sure there is no escalation.
    Over the weekend, more than 170 Palestinians were reportedly injured by Israeli police near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.    Police officers said they were provoked by protesters who were allegedly setting off fireworks toward the officers as well as throwing stones and other objects at them.
    In recent weeks, Israel has faced a slew of knife and gun attacks from Palestinian suspects, which have prompted a heavy-handed response from police.
    “We are deeply concerned by the recent violence in Jerusalem on the Haram al-Sharif Temple Mount and across the West Bank," Price stated.    “We also continue to urge Israeli and Palestinian officials to work cooperatively to lower tensions and ensure the safety of everyone.”
    Additionally, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett denounced the recent attacks on his people while asserting they are at the hands of Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas.    He said his military intercepted a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Monday and stressed it’s the first time Hamas launched a rocket from a Palestinian territory.
    “This is unacceptable to us,” Bennett stated.    “This is a reward for the inciters, especially Hamas, which are trying to ignite violence in Jerusalem. We will not allow this to happen.    The State of Israel will continue to provide for and safeguard the dignity of all of us to enable everyone to celebrate in Jerusalem, and – most of all – our forces will continue to provide security for the citizens of the State of Israel.”
    Meanwhile, adversaries to Israel are ramping up their incendiary rhetoric against the country.    After launching two deadly attacks in Israel last month, ISIS has called on supporters to carry out more attacks while also urging violent attacks in Europe.
    Additionally, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi threatened to strike the heart of Israel if the Jewish State makes the slightest move against it.    The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also vowed to protect Palestinians from alleged anti-Palestine attacks from Israel.
    “Our armed forces have today, after the imposed war, rebuilt themselves in a way that today our military might is not only noteworthy in the region, but in the world,” Raisi stated.
    In the meantime, spokesman Price is urging Israeli forces to use restraint when responding to attacks, ensuring diplomatic phone calls will de-escalate the situation. Experts are calling on Israel and the Arab world to continue to abide by the 2020 Abraham Accords to build off the historic meeting held late last month.

4/21/2022 Israeli-Palestinian tensions mounting by Ilan Ben Zion, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Palestinians fired several rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip early Thursday as Israeli aircraft hit Gaza militant sites soon after an earlier rocket strike that was the second such attack this week.
    The cross-border Gaza violence was an extension of Israeli-Palestinian tensions that have been boiling in Jerusalem.
    The Israeli military said four rockets were fired from Gaza early Thursday and were intercepted by air defenses. Late Wednesday, a rocket was fired from Gaza, triggering Israeli airstrikes.
    There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, and no one claimed the rocket strikes.    Israel holds the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza responsible for all rocket fire and typically responds with airstrikes within hours.
    Early Thursday, Israeli warplanes conducted a series of airstrikes at a Hamas military site in the central Gaza Strip, local media reported.    Social media posts by activists showed smoke billowing in the air.    The Israeli military said the airstrikes were aimed at a militant site and an entrance of a tunnel leading to an underground complex holding “raw chemicals” to make rockets.
    Hamas had earlier issued vague threats over a planned march through Jerusalem by Israeli ultra-nationalists.    But Israeli police blocked roads and prevented the marchers from reaching dense Palestinian neighborhoods in and around the Old City, after a similar event nearly a year ago helped trigger an Israel-Gaza war.    Police used parked trucks and barricades just outside the walls of the Old City to close the main road leading down to Damascus Gate, the epicenter of last year’s unrest.    After some pushing and shoving with police, the marchers rallied near the barricades, waving flags, singing and chanting.
    Israeli police deployed in large numbers around the historic Old City, home to major religious sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims, out of concern that confrontations could further inflame an already tense situation during the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Tensions have surged in recent weeks after a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, followed by military operations in the occupied West Bank. On Monday, Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into Israel for the first time in months, and Israel responded with airstrikes.    That rocket was intercepted and there were no casualties from the exchange.
    It came after repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
    The hilltop shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third holiest in Islam, while for Jews it is their holiest site, where two temples stood in antiquity.
    It is the emotional ground zero for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a flashpoint for previous rounds of violence.
    Earlier on Wednesday, a small group of Palestinian protesters threw rocks at police while hundreds of Jewish visitors entered the flashpoint holy site.
    Amateur video from the scene appeared to show police using sponge-tipped plastic projectiles intended to be non-lethal as the protesters barricaded themselves inside the mosque.    Police said a firebomb thrown by one of the protesters set a carpet outside the mosque on fire, but it was quickly extinguished.    No injuries were reported.
    Hamas said Wednesday ahead of the march that Israel would bear “full responsibility for the repercussions” if it allowed the marchers “to approach our holy sites,” without elaborating.
    Itamar Ben Gvir, an ultra-nationalist lawmaker who frequently stages provocative visits to Palestinian areas, attended the rally and was greeted with cheers.    He is a disciple of a radical rabbi whose violently anti-Arab ideology was once shunned in Israel but is now having a revival.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that he would bar Ben Gvir from going to Damascus Gate.    “I don’t intend to allow petty politics to endanger human lives,” he said.
    Last May, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets toward Jerusalem as a much larger group of thousands of Israelis held a flag march to the Old City following weeks of protests and clashes in and around Al-Aqsa.    Those events led to an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.
    Israeli nationalists stage such marches to try to assert sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza, and annexed in a move not recognized internationally.    The Palestinians seek an independent state in all three territories and consider east Jerusalem their capital.
    Organizer Noam Nisan defended the march in an interview with Kan public radio before it was held, saying: “A Jew with a flag in Jerusalem is not a provocation.”
Palestinians watch as Israeli security forces patrol near Damascus Gate, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Wednesday. Police prevented hundreds
of ultra-nationalist Israelis from marching around predominantly Palestinian areas of Jerusalem’s Old City. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP

4/23/2022 Israeli police storm holy site after rock-throwing - Clashes continue amid heightened tensions by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Israeli police enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where they clashed with
Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP
    JERUSALEM – Israeli police in full riot gear stormed a sensitive Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims on Friday after Palestinian youths hurled stones at a gate where they were stationed.
    The renewed violence at the site came despite Israel temporarily halting Jewish visits, which are seen by the Palestinians as a provocation.    Medics said more than two dozen Palestinians were wounded before the clashes subsided hours later.
    Tens of thousands of Muslims took part in the main Friday prayers at midday, which were held as planned.
    Palestinians and Israeli police have regularly clashed at the site over the last week at a time of heightened tensions following a string of deadly attacks inside Israel and arrest raids in the occupied West Bank.    Three rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
    The string of events has raised fears of a repeat of last year, when protests and violence in Jerusalem boiled over, helping to ignite an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, and communal violence in Israel’s mixed cities.
    Palestinian youths hurled stones toward police at a gate leading into the compound, according to two Palestinian witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.    The police, in full riot gear, then entered the compound, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.
    Israeli police said the Palestinians, some carrying Hamas flags, had begun stockpiling stones and erecting crude fortifications before dawn.    The police said that after the rock-throwing began, they waited until after early morning prayers had finished before entering the compound.
    Video footage showed police firing at a group of journalists holding cameras and loudly identifying themselves as members of the media.    At least three Palestinian reporters were wounded by rubber bullets fired by police.
    Some older Palestinians urged the youths to stop throwing rocks but were ignored, as dozens of young masked men hurled stones and fireworks at the police.    A tree caught fire near the gate where the clashes began.    Police said it was ignited by fireworks thrown by the Palestinians.
    The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said at least 31 Palestinians were wounded, including 14 who were taken to hospitals.    A policewoman was hit in the face by a rock and taken for medical treatment, the police said.
    The violence subsided later in the morning after another group of dozens of Palestinians said they wanted to clean the area ahead of the main weekly prayers at midday.
    Those went ahead, with some 150,000 worshippers attending, according to the Islamic endowment that administers the site.    After prayers, a small group of Palestinians waving Hamas flags marched in protest and tried to break into an empty police post inside the compound.    The police used a drone to drop tear gas on them, sending crowds of people scattering across the esplanade.

5/23/2022 Arab Israeli lawmaker rejoins ruling coalition - Resignation had come over hard-line policies by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – An Arab Israeli lawmaker who quit the ruling coalition said Sunday that she was returning to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s 60-member alliance, ending a crisis that lasted just a few days.
    Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi said Thursday that she was quitting Bennett’s coalition, leaving it with just 59 members in Israel’s 120-seat parliament.    She cited the government’s hard-line policies in Jerusalem and West Bank settlement construction that she said have alienated her constituents, fellow Palestinian citizens of Israel.
    Two other legislators from Bennett’s own party have already broken ranks and joined the opposition, headed by former leader Benjamin Netanyahu.    Rinawie Zoabi’s departure had raised the possibility of new parliamentary elections less than a year after Bennett’s broad coalition government took office.    But even with a 60-member coalition that’s deadlocked with the opposition, passing legislation will remain difficult.
    Recent Israeli-Palestinian tensions, set off by several deadly Palestinian attacks against Israel and Israeli arrest raids in the occupied West Bank, and fueled by repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, have shaken the coalition’s stability.
    But on Sunday Rinawie Zoabi reversed course, saying that her main concern was securing “achievements for the needs of Arab society” in Israel, and preventing an ultranationalist extremist in the opposition from becoming the next minister in charge of police.
    She made the announcement of her return to the coalition’s ranks after meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who wrote on Twitter that the two had “an open and reasonable conversation about the real needs of Arab society” and put aside their disagreements.
    As leader of a small nationalist party Bennett heads an unwieldy coalition of eight diverse parties – from dovish factions supporting Palestinian statehood to ultranationalists and, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Islamist Arab party.    They joined forces in June after four consecutive deadlocked elections with the aim of ousting longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.
    As part of their union, the parties agreed to set aside divisive issues, like Palestinian statehood, and focus instead on topics such as the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.    Despite its internal divisions, it has managed to pass a budget, navigate the pandemic and strengthen relations with both the Biden administration and Israel’s Arab allies.

5/30/2022 Israel, United Arab Emirates to sign free trade deal on Tuesday - Israel econ ministry by Reuters
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will sign a free trade agreement in Dubai on Tuesday in a move aimed at boosting trade between the two countries, Israel's Economy Ministry said on Monday.
    The ministry said customs duties will be eliminated on 96% of products, including food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicine, and includes regulation, customs, services and government procurement.
    The UAE and Israel formally established relations in 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords that also included Bahrain and Morocco. The trade deal is Israel's first with an Arab country.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Toby Chopra)

6/6/2022 Israel could lose legal control in West Bank if settlement bill falls by GIL HOFFMAN AND TOVAH LAZAROFF – The Jerusalem Post
    The fate of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition may hang in the balance on Monday over Knesset vote on a directive giving Israel legal jurisdiction over settlers living in the West Bank, which has been approved every five years since 1967.
    Right-wing members of the opposition have pledged to vote against the bill as part of a push to bring down Bennett’s government.
    Yesha Council head David Elhayani, of the coalition’s New Hope Party, has warned that failure to pass the bill will create “absolute chaos” for Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.
    If the first reading of the bill is not passed on Monday, it could still be passed the following Monday.    Failure to pass it by the end of June could bring civilian life in the settlements to a grinding halt.
    Israeli police would not be able to operate in Area C of the West Bank, where all the settlements are located and which is under Israeli military and civilian rule.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post NAFTALI BENNETT and Mansour Abbas in the Knesset.
Is a partnership like this lost for good? (credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)
    The more than 450,000 Israelis who live there would be stripped of rights that allow them to operate as if they live within the borders of sovereign Israel.    This could include access to state health insurance, the ability to be drafted into the army and the renewal of driver’s licenses.
    As of Sunday night, it was not clear that the bill had support even within the coalition.    Ra’am (United Arab List) and rebel MKs Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi and Idit Silman may end up deciding how to vote at the last minute, which will make it very hard to know if there is a majority to pass the bill.
Related video: Israel’s ruling coalition government on the brink of collapse
    Israel’s ruling coalition government on the brink of collapse Ra’am leaders met on Sunday night to consider how to vote.    Party leader Mansour Abbas is in favor of it and is trying to persuade other MKs in Ra’am and Rinawie Zoabi to vote for it in order to keep the coalition together.
    Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has warned of political consequences if the bill is not passed.    Sa’ar told confidants in the coalition that his threat would not apply if the bill is blocked by Silman.
    One possibility is to purposely bring the bill to a vote as a no-confidence motion and then have Silman declared a defector if she votes against it.    Silman told confidants that she was not deterred by such threats and could not be declared a defector for one vote against the coalition.
    If Silman would be declared a defector, she could not run for the next Knesset on the slate of either Likud or the Religious Zionist Party.
    Bennett’s associates said they would bring the bill to a vote repeatedly until it passes.    Unlike other bills, it would not have to wait six months to be brought to a vote again if it is defeated in the Knesset plenum.     But Elhayani said that the impact of the bill is so great, that no one should be playing politics with it.
    If this law fails there will be lawyers who can’t register to practice, young adults that can’t enter the army and people who arrive at the hospital that can’t receive treatment, said Elhayani, who is also the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council.
    “Every day there will be a new story of someone who was harmed,” he said, adding that “the impact is so dramatic that I can’t understand why people are playing politics with this,” the impact is so dramatic that I can’t understand why people are playing politics with this.
David Elhayani
    More than 70% of those living in Judea and Samaria voted for parties that now want to abandon them by voting against this directive, Elhayani said.
    “It’s a slap in the face to those voters.”
[On 10 September 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the government would annex the Jordan Valley by applying "Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea" should he continue being Prime Minister after the September 2019 Israeli legislative election.    The long-standing Palestinian view is and has been that the entire West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, should be Palestinian.].

6/6/2022 Iraq, Egypt and Jordan work on partnership by SETH J. FRANTZMAN – The Jerusalem Post
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post
    According to Al-Ain media in the UAE, Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry began a working visit to Iraq this week.    He is traveling with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.    Shoukry is supposed to meet a number of leaders and senior officials, in light of the permanent coordination between the three countries at all levels, the report says.    This is called a “tripartite” cooperation group, joining the three Middle Eastern nations.
    Egypt appears to be keen on increasingly coordinating policy with Iraq in the future.    Back in late May, Jordan said it was working with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Iraq to build foundations of political and economic cooperation according to Jordan’s King Abdullah II.    He held a meeting with a number of officials and former prime ministers at the Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman last Sunday.
    Egyptian support for Iraq is important and comes in the context of increasing cooperation among Arab states.    The UAE has done outreach to Syria and both the Emirates and Iraq want positive relations with Damascus.    Although Iran has deep influence in Iraq, there is interest in increasing cooperation.    Baghdad can also serve as a bridge between some of the Arab states and Tehran.    This could increase some reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran as well.
    Jordan, Egypt and Iraq are key countries because they form a kind of bloc across the center of the Middle East. They separate some of the chaos that continues in Syria – and the Iranian occupation of parts of Syria and Lebanon – from the more wealthy Gulf States.    As such, these three countries make up the heart of the Middle East.    They also include the two historical Arab capitals of Baghdad and Cairo, which are important historic centers of culture and religion.
    In the old days when Egypt was the most powerful state in the region in the 1950s, this partnership also mattered.    Later when Saddam Hussein tried to take on the mantle of Arab leadership, in a sense replacing the Nasser legacy from Egypt, he believed that Iraq could be a center.    Now things have changed slightly, but the overall concept of an Egypt-Jordan-Iraq partnership remains.
What does this mean for Israel?
    THERE ARE questions about what this might mean for Israel. Jerusalem has good relations with two Gulf states now and reports say the US wants to increase some security frameworks with Saudi Arabia and Israel.    President Joe Biden may have postponed a visit, but US Central Command and its naval component Navcent are working on security issues across the region.
    But while Egypt and Jordan have ties with Israel, Iraq does not.    In fact, it has pushed a new law slamming any normalization with the Jewish state and potentially giving the death penalty for Iraqis who want it.
    This means that Iraq is an outlier in the region.    It is a country influenced by Iran and it continues to oppose Israel.    Iran frequently accuses the Kurdish region of Iraq of being close to Israel and Baghdad, thus wanting to bash the Kurdistan autonomous region.
    Meanwhile, the Gulf states have good ties with Erbil and the US is building a new large consulate there.
    A source from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) confirmed today that on June 5, the court of criminal investigation in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, ruled that a number of civil complaints brought by the Minister of Oil in Baghdad against international oil and gas companies (“IOCs”) operating in the Kurdistan Region must be delayed.
    On or around May 19, a commercial court sitting in Al Karkh, Baghdad, acted at the request of the Minister of Oil and purported to issue summonses to IOCs operating within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including Addax, DNO, Genel, Gulf Keystone, HKN, Shamaran and WesternZagros.
    THE LAW of Iraq requires that civil proceedings cannot take place while a related criminal investigation is underway.    According to reports on June 4, the president of the Judicial Council in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq issued a statement upholding the validity of Kurdistan’s Oil and Gas Law.
    This matters because there are contexts of the gas dispute with Baghdad that impact Erbil and its close ties with Ankara.    In recent months, pro-Iran militias have targeted a Turkish base in the Kurdistan region as well as an energy facility near Kalak.
    Now the Kurdistan region has noted that a court in Baghdad attempted to invalidate the 2007 Oil and Gas Law.    “The President of the Judicial Council stated that the Baghdad court has no constitutional authority to do so, because that Baghdad court was not established in accordance with Article 92 of the federal constitution,” a report says.
    “The complaints filed by Baghdad’s Minister of Oil against the IOCs are based on that unconstitutional and illegitimate 15 February 2022 decision, and are therefore also unconstitutional and illegitimate.”
    Thus, the Kurdistan region asserts that the law remains in full force, and contracts entered into by the Kurdistan Regional Government in accordance with that law are valid.    “The courts of the Kurdistan Region have exclusive jurisdiction to interpret the 2007 Oil and Gas Law.    No court outside the Kurdistan Region has such jurisdiction.”
    This is important because Gulf countries and Turkey want a strong Erbil and want ties with the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
    Recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Masrour Barzani of the Kurdistan region spoke alongside the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait.    Rudaw says he warned of the "increasing influence" of foreign countries in Iraq and said that the attacks threaten to further destabilize the security of the region, “with neighboring states showing complete disregard for Iraq's sovereignty.”    This appeared to be a reference to Iran.
    So as the Egyptians work to grow ties with Iraq, these issues could be on the agenda. Fouad Hussein from Iraq is meeting the Egyptians; a statement from Al-Ain added that "the Iraqi foreign minister will hold talks with his Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts on many issues of common interest.”
    Energy issues are high on the agenda as well as food security.    This matters because of the Ukraine war, which has roiled energy and food markets.

6/6/2022 Why is Lebanon threatening Israel now? – analysis by SETH J. FRANTZMAN – The Jerusalem Post
    Lebanon’s political leadership is threatening Israel, claiming that any Israeli activity in disputed areas offshore could lead to some kind of “action.”    Lebanon has no conceivable way to really confront Israel, so the threats appear to be giving cover for Hezbollah to potentially attack Israel or attack an Israeli gas platform off the coast.
    Lebanon’s political leadership is threatening Israel, claiming that any Israeli activity in disputed areas offshore could lead to some kind of “action.”
    Lebanon has no conceivable way to really confront Israel, so the threats appear to be giving cover for Hezbollah to potentially attack Israel or attack an Israeli gas platform off the coast.
    The reports coincide with Al-Mayadeen News claiming that Israel fears the “possibility” of Hezbollah targeting gas operations linked to the Karish project.    Mayadeen is sympathetic to Iran and Hezbollah, claiming that Israel is preparing to secure the waters off the coast near Lebanon using ships and underwater defenses, as well as the naval version of Iron Dome.    KAN News also reported on the issue.
    Meanwhile, according to a story from Alliance News published at London South East, “Energean PLC on Monday confirmed its floating production storage and offloading unit has arrived on location in Israel for its Karish project.”
    The report said the London-based oil and gas company “said its FPSO unit was transported by two tugs from the Sembcorp Marine’s Admiralty Yard in Singapore in a 35-day long journey.”
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Floating gas production rig, Energean Power (credit: ENERGEAN)
    The company will “immediately” begin hook up and commissioning operations, the report said.    “This will include installing risers and jumpers and commissioning the sales gas pipeline.    Three to four months of commissioning is expected before the first gas, the firm said.”
    “This marks a major step forward in delivering first gas from Karish, which remains on track for the third quarter of 2022,” Energean CEO Mathios Rigas said.    “We look forward to continuing our progress through Karish first gas, the commercialization of the newly defined Olympus Area and contributing to energy security and competition of supply for the region,” the report said.
    This follows a report in May, also from Off Shore Energy, which said: “Hydrocarbon exploration and production company Energean has made a commercial gas discovery in Block 12 offshore Israel, bolstering its beliefs in the potential of the newly defined Olympus Area.”
    “Back in June 2021, Energean contracted a rig from Stena Drilling for its 2022-2023 growth drilling program offshore Israel,” the report said.    “The firm also booked Halliburton in September 2021 under an integrated services contract to execute the well drilling and completions.”    The Karish project was said to be almost complete in late May.
    Hezbollah increased threats in May against US mediation of the Israel-Lebanon water-boundary dispute.    The US has sought to help the countries, which have no relations, come to some kind of an agreement.
    But Hezbollah opposes this and slammed US envoy Amos Hochstein in May.    The terrorist group used antisemitic terms in its attack on Hochstein, asserting that Jewish envoys were not wanted because they are sympathetic to Israel.
    Lebanon now appears to be helping cover for Hezbollah’s threats.    Normally, any threats by Hezbollah would be an illegal terrorist act, but Lebanon helps give cover for the terrorist group in this case by enabling “aggressive action.”
    According to reports, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is a Hezbollah ally, has said any activity in the disputed area would amount to an act of aggression and a provocation.    Aoun knows that his Christian supporters performed badly in the last election.    By law, the president of Lebanon must be a Christian.
    Lebanon has a caretaker prime minister named Najib Mikati, who said Israel was “encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area,” calling this “extremely dangerous.”
    He made several comments that were printed in Mayadeen, including saying that any Israeli actions in the disputed areas obstruct the negotiation process that is being mediated by the United States under the auspices of the United Nations.
    Mikati also said exploration in the area was aggression that threatens peace and security.    It was decided to carry out a series of diplomatic contacts with the major countries and the UN to explain Lebanon’s position and to confirm its adherence to its maritime rights, he said.
    Lebanon has invited the US to mediate again.    “I discussed with President Aoun the steps that must be taken to confront Israel’s attempt to create tension near our southern maritime borders,” Mikati said.    “Any Israeli actions in the disputed areas obstruct the negotiation process that is being mediated by the United States and under the auspices of the United Nations.”
    Iran’s Tasnim News Agency has joined in the attacks on Israel.    Lebanese Defense Minister Maurice Sleem has slammed the Jewish state, claiming that it had enabled the “illegal entry of a ship belonging to the [Israel] regime into the disputed maritime zone with Lebanon,” Tasnim reported.
    Sleem has apparently said Israel is threatening the stability of the region.    He has also said Israel is ignoring international law and threatening talks on demarcating maritime boundaries.
    Lebanon claims it wants the UN to take notice.    Beirut has indicated that ships entering this disputed area are committing “aggression.”    The country seems to be threatening to dispute this gas field.
    Lebanon’s political leaders say they reject some of the discussions with Israel because they believe it is part of a conspiracy designed to show that Lebanon is “normalizing” relations.    Iran uses its allies in places such as Lebanon to fight “normalization.”    It has done the same thing in Iraq, getting Baghdad to pass a new law against such normalization.
    This is the context of the threats from Lebanon.    The real goal of its authorities, after seeing how Hezbollah’s allies performed badly in the last elections, is to cling to power through threats of conflict with Israel.
    This is part of their populist plot, and it is likely being encouraged by Iran to create a casus belli, meaning an excuse for conflict that will enable Hezbollah to claim it is “resisting” Israel.    This is part of the narrative that Iran has used for years: getting Hezbollah to create fake excuses for the need to keep stockpiling Iranian-supplied weapons.
    The terrorist group has now also infiltrated southern Syria, with Iran’s backing, to threaten Israel from near the Golan Heights.
    The goal of Lebanon’s failed leadership is to create tensions to pretend they are “defending” their country and thus justify increasing tensions with Israel.    This then hands Hezbollah an open-ended invitation to “retaliate” against the Jewish state.
    Hezbollah has created these kinds of excuses in the past – not only relating to Mount Dov, but also when it has claimed its members were killed or targeted in Syria.    It then says Hezbollah must “resist.”

6/7/2022 Israeli coalition suffers loss; prospects uncertain - Legal status of settlers in West Bank could change by Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lawmakers celebrate the defeat of a law on the legal status of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank during a session
of Israel’s parliament on Monday. The vote served as a key test of the government’s survival prospects. ALLERUZZO/AP
    JERUSALEM – Israel’s government on Monday failed to pass a bill extending legal protections for settlers in the occupied West Bank, marking a major setback for the fragile coalition that could hasten its demise and send the country to new elections.
    The failure to renew the bill also highlighted the separate legal systems in the West Bank, where nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship while some 3 million Palestinians live under military rule that is now well into its sixth decade.    Three major human rights groups have said the situation amounts to apartheid, an allegation Israel rejects as an assault on its legitimacy.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition remains in power.    But Monday’s vote underscored weaknesses and divisions in the fragile alliance and raised questions about how long it can survive.
    Emergency regulations in place for decades have created a separate legal system for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, applying parts of Israeli law to them – even though they live in occupied territory and not within sovereign Israeli land.
    These regulations expire at the end of the month and if they are not renewed, that legal system, which Israel has cultivated for its settlers in the West Bank since it captured the territory in 1967, will be thrown into question.    It could also change the legal status of the 500,000 settlers living there.
    Proponents of extending the law say they are merely seeking to maintain a status quo and preserve the government’s shelf life.    Opponents say extending the regulations would deepen an unfair system.
    However, Monday’s vote – defeated by a 58-52 margin – went far beyond the contours of the legal debate.
    Instead, it served as a key test of the government’s prospects for survival, creating a paradoxical situation where some of the settlements’ biggest opponents in the government voted for the bill, while hardline parties that support the settlements voted against it in order to weaken the government.
    The coalition, made up of eight ideologically distinct parties that include both supporters and opponents of the settlements, came together last year and pledged to sidestep divisive issues that could threaten its survival.    Monday’s vote showed just how difficult that mission has been.
    The vote did not immediately topple the government, and it is still possible for the coalition to present a modified version of the legislation.
    “As always after we lose, we will return stronger and win in the next round,” said Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the governing alliance, in a statement on Twitter.
    But the setback indicated the government’s days could be numbered.    One of the coalition’s members, the nationalist New Hope, threatened to bolt if the coalition cannot pass the measure.    If New Hope leaves, it could give the opposition the votes it needs to trigger new elections or form a new government.
    “Any coalition member who doesn’t vote for this law that is so central is an active participant in its demise,” Justice Minister Gideon Saar, leader of New Hope, said before the vote.
    He also warned that defeating the bill would create “legal chaos” in the West Bank and harm Israeli settlers.
    The votes of certain lawmakers, including renegade hard-liners in the coalition as well as Ra’am, an Arab Islamist group that made history as the first Arab party to join an Israeli coalition, were closely watched.    In many cases, these lawmakers did not attend.
    The opposition meanwhile, made up mainly of nationalist parties led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, showed its willingness to forsake its pro-settlement ideology in order to bring down the coalition.
    Bennett’s Yamina party accused Netanyahu and his Likud party of banding together with leftist settlement opponents to serve the former prime minister’s personal interests.    “The Likud will burn the state for Netanyahu’s needs,” it said.
    Bennett has faced hurdles before.    Idit Silman, the coalition whip from Bennett’s small, nationalist party, quit the coalition earlier this year, leaving the government with 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset – surviving defeat but struggling to govern.    Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, another legislator from Meretz also quit, but later rejoined after being promised a raft of benefits for her constituents, Palestinian citizens of Israel.
    In the end, Silman skipped Monday’s vote, while Zoabi bucked her coalition partners and voted against the bill, giving a thumbs-down as she cast her vote.
    Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war.    It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not recognized internationally and pulled out troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.    But thousands of Israelis reside in over 120 settlements dotting the West Bank.

6/7/2022 Israeli coalition fails to pass bill on upholding settler law by Al Jazeera
    The Israeli government has failed to pass a bill that would renew and uphold the legal status of illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, marking a significant setback for the fragile coalition that could hasten its demise.
    The failure to renew the bill on Monday highlighted the separate legal systems in the occupied West Bank, where nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship and law while some 3 million Palestinians live under military rule that is now well into its sixth decade.
    Three leading human rights groups have said the situation in the occupied territory amount to apartheid for Palestinians.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition remains in power, but the vote underscored the weaknesses and divisions in the fragile alliance and raises questions about how long it can survive.
© Provided by Al Jazeera INTERACTIVE Illegal Israeli settlements
    Monday’s vote – defeated by a 58-52 margin – went far beyond the contours of the legal debate.
    Israel’s ruling coalition shaken after Arab-Israel lawmaker quits
    Instead, it served as a key test of the government’s prospects for survival, creating a paradoxical situation where some of the illegal settlements’ biggest opponents in the government voted for the bill, while hardline parties that support the settlements voted against the bill in order to weaken the government.
    Bennett’s government came together last year after two years of political mayhem, with four elections producing no clear winner.
    The coalition, made up of eight ideologically distinct parties that include both supporters and opponents of the settlements, pledged to sidestep divisive issues that could threaten its survival.
    Monday’s vote showed just how difficult that mission has been.
    The vote did not immediately topple the government, and it is still possible for the coalition to present a modified version of the legislation.    But the setback indicated the government’s days could be numbered.
    “As always after we lose, we will return stronger and win in the next round,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the governing alliance, wrote in a statement on Twitter.
    Some 500,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 120 settlements and outposts across the occupied West Bank that are considered illegal under international law.
    The settlements, which are fortified, Jewish-only housing complexes, are continuing to expand in the occupied West Bank as well as occupied East Jerusalem.    They are seen as a major obstacle to any potential deal with Israel.
    Attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property are common.    Settlers are usually backed by armed Israeli forces when committing such attacks.

6/8/2022 Palestinians pay partial wages after Israel transfers tax revenue to PA by REUTERS – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: FLASH90)
    The Palestinian Authority announced on Tuesday it would pay partial salaries to most of its employees after Israel transferred some revenues it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, Palestinian officials said.
    A week into June, the Palestinian Finance Ministry said employees will receive 80% of their salaries on Tuesday.    It has been unable to pay full wages since November, blaming Israel's withholding of tax revenues and weaker international donations.
    The salary cut coincided with public discontent over an acute hike in prices of essential food items that prompted people in the southern city of Hebron, in the West Bank, to take to the streets in protest.
    "The Finance Ministry is making enormous efforts to compel the occupation authorities to transfer our money so we can make salaries available," Amjad Ghanim, Secretary-General of the Palestinian cabinet, told Reuters by phone from Ramallah.
    He said lower levels of international assistance had also reduced the funding available.
© Provided by The Jerusalem PostA PALESTINIAN girl takes part in a rally marking
the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, in Ramallah, May 15. (credit: REUTERS)
    Israel withholding revenue due to 'pay-for-slay' policy.
    Related video: Israeli forces, Palestinians clash at West Bank as thousands stage march to mark Jerusalem Day.
    Jewish is released paraded through the streets.    They entered the city.
    Israeli forces, Palestinians clash at West Bank as thousands stage march to mark Jerusalem Day
    Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara estimated that Israel has been withholding $500 million of tax revenues. He recently said Israel was deducting 100 million shekels ($30 million) every month.
    Under a 2018 law, Israel calculates each year how much it believes the Palestinian Authority has paid in stipends to militants and deducts that amount from the taxes it has collected on the Palestinians' behalf.
    Israel calls stipends for militants and their families a pay-for-slay policy that encourages violence.    Palestinians hail their jailed brethren as heroes in a struggle for an independent state and believe their families are deserving of support.
    Palestinian tax revenues, which Israel collects on the Palestinians' behalf each month, stand at around 900 million shekels ($271 million).
    The Palestinian Authority employs 150,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.    At the end of 2021, its budget stood at $330 million while spending was $300 million.
    On Monday, Human Rights advocates said police forces, deployed in large numbers a day ago, arrested 11 protesters for several hours before freeing them late last night.
    The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, already exempted wheat from tax rises introduced in February.    Protesters have demanded that tax exemptions be extended to other basic staples.
    As the war in Ukraine has sent commodity prices surging, the cost of basic food items like flour, sugar and cooking oil has gone up by as much as 30% since March, according to merchants and protesters.    Official figures put the increase at between 15-18%.

6/8/2022 ‘Perpetual’ Israeli occupation at the root of violence, report says by Jamey Keaten, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    GENEVA – Investigators commissioned by the U.N.’s top human rights body say tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are underpinned by Israel’s “perpetual occupation” of Palestinian areas with no apparent intention of ending it.
    The findings came Tuesday in the first report by a Commission of Inquiry, headed by a three-person team of human rights experts.    It was set up last year by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council following an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.    The U.N. human rights office says the war killed at least 261 people – including 67 children – in Gaza, and 14 people, including two children, in Israel.
    The commission, headed by former U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay, is the first to have an “ongoing” mandate from the U.N. rights body.    Critics allege that permanent scrutiny testifies to an anti-Israel bias in the 47-member-state council and other U.N. bodies.    Proponents say the commission is needed to keep tabs on persistent injustices faced by Palestinians under decades of Israeli rule.
    The report largely recaps efforts by U.N. investigators over the years to grapple with the causes of Mideast violence and the authors acknowledged it was in part a “review” of previous U.N. findings.
    “What has become a situation of perpetual occupation was cited by Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders to the commission as the one common issue” that amounts to the “underlying root cause” of recurrent tensions, instability and protracted conflict, the authors wrote.
    They said “impunity” for perpetrators of violence was feeding resentment among Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
    Israel’s government, which opposed the creation of the commission, refused to grant its members access to Israel or Palestinian territories, and testimonies from Palestinians and Israelis were collected from Geneva and Jordan.
    Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected the report as “part and parcel of the witch hunt carried out by the Human Rights Council against Israel.”
    It called the report biased and one-sided and accused the commission members of ignoring Palestinian violence, incitement and antisemitism.    “The Commission members, who claim to be objective, were only appointed to their roles because of their public and well-known anti-Israel stances, in direct opposition to the rules set out by the United Nations,” it said.
    The State Department reiterated its opposition to the “open-ended and vaguely defined nature” of the commission and said the report “does nothing to advance the prospects for peace” between Israelis and Palestinians.
    The report’s authors cited “credible” evidence that “convincingly indicates that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation” and has plans to ensure complete control of Palestinian areas.    Israel’s government, it added, has been “acting to alter the demography through the maintenance of a repressive environment for Palestinians and a favorable environment for Israeli settlers.”
    They also voiced criticism of Palestinian leaders, saying the Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous areas in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently refers to the occupation as a justification for its own human rights violations.    It also points to the occupation as the core reason for failure to hold legislative and presidential elections, the authors said.    The PA is widely criticized for corruption and intolerance for dissent.
    Despite the criticism, the Palestinian Authority welcomed the report.    The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the report found “beyond any doubt, that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and discrimination against Palestinians are the root causes behind the recurrent tensions, instability and prolongation of conflict in the region.”
    As for Hamas authorities in Gaza, the commission said they show little commitment toward upholding human rights and little adherence to international law.    Since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has shown little tolerance for political dissent and been accused of torturing opponents.
    Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the 1967 Mideast war.
    It has annexed east Jerusalem and claims the area – home to the city’s most important holy sites – as part of its capital.    It considers the West Bank to be “disputed” territory and has built scores of Jewish settlements there. Over 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the two areas.
    The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority seeks the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza for an independent state.    The international community overwhelmingly considers all three areas to be occupied by Israel.
    Rights groups have accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during last year’s fighting.    Israel vehemently denies the allegations, accusing Hamas of endangering civilians by using residential areas for cover during military operations.
A Palestinian home sits in a valley next to the east Jerusalem Jewish Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev on May 12.
Investigators commissioned by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council said this week that tensions between Palestinians
and Israelis are underpinned by a feeling that Israel has embarked on a “perpetual occupation” of Palestinian areas
with no intention of ending it. The findings came Tuesday in the first report by a Commission of Inquiry, set up
last year following an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. MAYA ALLERUZZO/AP FILE

6/8/2022 Khamenei: 'Zionist capitalists' plague for world even before Israel by TZVI JOFFRE – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: KHAMENEI.IR)
    Zionism is a plague for the world of Islam and "Zionist capitalists" were a plague for the whole world, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said during a speech on Wednesday.
"Zionist capitalists"
    "Today, Zionism is an obvious plague for the world of Islam," said Khamenei, according to a transcript on his English-language website.    "The Zionists have always been a plague, even before establishing the fraudulent Zionist regime.    Even then, Zionist capitalists were a plague for the whole world.    Now they’re a plague especially for the world of Islam."
    The Iranian supreme leader called for "the plague of Zionism" to be "exposed" in any way possible.
    "These Arab and non-Arab states that shook hands, kissed and held meetings with the Zionists won’t benefit from what they did at all, not at all.    This will only be to their loss."
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Normalization is exploitation
    "Muslim nations oppose the normalization of relations with the Zionists, clench their fists and shout slogans against states seeking normalization," added Khamenei.    "The Zionist regime exploits these states.    They don’t realize it, but we hope they realize it before it’s too late."
© Provided by The Jerusalem PostA protester punches his fist through an Israeli flag as
Iranians burn flags during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the
holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022 (credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
    Khamenei's statements were also posted on his English-language Twitter account.
Conducting the Hajj
    The supreme leader made the comments during a meeting with Iranian officials in charge of conducting Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.     Khamenei referenced the Iranian citizens and other Muslims embarking on the pilgrimage, demanding that Saudi Arabia assure the security of all pilgrims, especially those from Iran.    He warned against allowing "past tragedies" to be repeated.
    The supreme leader also asked that Saudi Arabia reconsider the financial costs of the pilgrimage, after a recent increase in costs.
    "What are mankind’s problems in the world now?    That they don’t know how to coexist, and they act aggressively toward each other.    Hajj teaches coexistence.    In Hajj people who don’t know each other and who are coming from different cultures coexist in peace."    Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Antisemitism on Twitter
    Khamenei and officials close with him have repeatedly used antisemitic tropes in anti-Zionist statements. The supreme leader of Iran has repeatedly called for the "elimination" and "annihilation" of Israel on his Twitter accounts, including by stating that he will "support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime."
    Twitter has categorized Khamenei's past statements as permissible political speech, calling it "foreign policy saber-rattling."
    In April, an article on the front page of the Iranian Kayhan newspaper, affiliated with Khamenei, stated that Hitler was "smarter and more courageous" than current European leaders because he "expelled" the Jews from Germany.
    The article referenced how the Quran refers to the Jews in the Exodus story, saying that the verses about them are "about a people who are known for their stubbornness, objections and excuses, who consider others as their property, and themselves as superior to others and God's permanent chosen people."

6/8/2022 Israeli occupation is 'biggest terror' in Middle East - Joint List MK by TOVAH LAZAROFF - The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
    Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinians is the “biggest terror” in the region, MK Ofer Cassif said on Wednesday at a Knesset conference hosted by the caucus to end the occupation.
    “There is a very simple reason.” why this is so, Cassif said.    He was speaking to left-wing parliamentarians and NGO representatives who gathered in a Knesset conference room to focus on the harm done to the Palestinians since the 1967 Six Day War, when it captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem from Jordan.
    “The accepted definition of terror is not a political one” such as occurs within the Israeli discourse and in its parliament, he said.    The globally recognized understanding is that “terror is a form of violence, including the threat of violence, against innocent civilians in order to achieve political aims.”
    “The occupation is exactly this.    It acts against civilians who are innocent [using] violence and oppression and the threat of it against millions of innocents when the objective is political” Cassif said.
    He provided this definition to back up his initial words that “the occupation is the biggest terror [that exists] in the entire region, certainly when it comes to Palestine/Israel.”
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post(L-R) Joint List MKs Aida Touma-Sliman, Ahmad Tibi and Ofer Cassif seen
at a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem August 22, 2019 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
    Those who want to ignore the fact that the “occupation is ‘the terror’ is either an ignoramus who doesn’t know what terror is or is a liar who knows what terror is and is trying to hide it,” Cassif said.
    Even former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a book he wrote, spoke of those who fight against a military force are guerrillas and not terrorists, Cassif explained.
    “When such a terror exists there is resistance,” he said, adding that there is no such thing as a benign occupation.    “No nation will live under a foreign government without resisting.”
    "No nation will live under a foreign government without resisting." Joint List MK Ofer Cassif
    The occupation itself also gives birth to other crimes such as acts of “apartheid” and the demonization and dehumanization of those who resist, Cassif added.
Suspected terror attack in Israel leaves three dead
    Rebel Yamina MK Amihai Chikli pushed back at the idea that Israel was an occupying force in its biblical heartland, noting that if one was talking about occupation, then the matter didn’t go back 55 years but 3,500 years.
    He read from the Bible about the start of King David’s reign, stating, “David captured Jerusalem.”    His words prompted conference chair MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) to ask, “So is that where the occupation started?
    Chikli said there was a claim that “we are not the natives here, but we are the natives of this area, of Judea and Samaria.”
NGO reps, left-wing lawmakers speak at conference
    Kholod Massalha of the NGO I’lam, the Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research, spoke of the danger to journalists from the IDF, noting that since 2005, some 22 journalists have been killed covering the conflict while in the field.
    In all cases, he said, they were wearing vests and helmets clearly marking them as press.    Almost all the deaths were Palestinian journalists.    Only a few of their deaths were investigated and, in all cases, no conclusions were reached.
    The problem of safety is so acute, said, that journalists feel it is safer to forgo the protective vest and helmet marked press lest they become a target Massalha.
    Yahel Gazit, from the NGO The Campaign to Save Masafer Yatta, spoke of the danger of eviction for more than 1,000 Palestinians living in Firing Zone 918 in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills.
    Attorney Michal Ziv of Yesh Din spoke of the Palestinian loss of farmland to settlers, who illegally expropriate it with the support of the IDF.    By creating illegal farms, Ziv said, the maximum amount of land is expropriated with the minimum amount of people.
    Uri Givati of Breaking the Silence spoke of an IDF operation called “blue wolf” by which, he alleged, the army is digitally recording the faces of Palestinians in the West Bank.
    HaMoked director-general Jessica Montel spoke of restrictive new IDF measures on entry permits for the Palestinian territories.
    Noa Galili, of Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, spoke of the difficulty in obtaining exit permits for Palestinians to leave Gaza to seek medical treatment in Israel, which in some cases leads to the patients’ death including that of infants.
    The event also included parliamentarians from the Meretz and Labor parties.     Touma-Sliman charged that the “occupation” and its “dispossession and oppression” of Palestinians was deepening.
    “It is the duty of every man and woman with integrity and moral backbone, to challenge this enterprise, and to act for its dissolution,” she said.    “It must be said in a sharp and clear voice, without compromise: enough with occupation, racism and apartheid.”

6/9/2022 Biden administration takes step to bolster Palestinian ties by Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
    JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States is restoring a line of communication for the Palestinians that had been canceled by the Trump administration.
    The move, announced Thursday before a possible visit by President Joe Biden to Israel and the occupied West Bank, is bureaucratic in nature.    But it means the Palestinians will deal directly with the U.S. State Department in Washington rather than first go through the American ambassador to Israel.
    The department has changed the name of the Palestinian Affairs Unit to the U.S. Office of Palestinian     Affairs.    In a statement, the newly renamed office said the move was meant to “strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement.”
    “We felt that it was important to reintroduce separate reporting lines to Washington on Israeli and Palestinian issues, by our respective teams on the ground that focus on these issues,” according to the statement, which also said the U.S. was reinstating a system in place for decades before President Donald Trump's decision.
    The move had been expected for months and the announcement had been postponed several times.
    But it falls short of Biden administration pledges — and Palestinian demands — for the U.S. to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, which for decades had functioned as a de facto U.S. Embassy to the Palestinians.
Related video: Israeli coalition suffers loss and face uncertainty
    Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel declined to comment.
    The Trump administration shuttered that consulate in one of a series of controversial moves that favored Israel over the Palestinians.    Those steps included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite Palestinian claims that east Jerusalem become the capital of an eventual state, and moving the U.S. Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
    Under Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly promised to reopen the Jerusalem consulate, which was established in 1844, well before the creation of the state of Israel.    But Israel says such a move would challenge its sovereignty over the city.
    It was thought that such a reopening could help mend U.S. ties with the Palestinians that were ruptured under Trump.    The U.S. has so far failed to reopen the consulate, apparently in fear of upsetting ties with Israel or destabilizing its fragile coalition government.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said there was no room in Jerusalem for another American mission.
    The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it views the reopening of the consulate as part of the international community’s commitments to ending Israel’s decades long occupation of territories the Palestinians seek for their future state.
    Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who is now a distinguished fellow with the Atlantic Council, called Thursday's move "an interim step by the Biden administration toward reestablishing a consulate in Jerusalem.”
    The Biden administration has already moved to improve ties with the Palestinians, in part by restoring U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority and funding to the U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees.    It has also looked into ways that the Palestinian mission to Washington, closed under Trump, could be reopened, although there are congressional hurdles to such a step.
    Lee reported from Washington.

9/10/2022 Biden administration overrules Trump policy on Palestinians by Benjamin Weinthal – Fox News
© AP
    The Biden administration announced a dramatic yet partial reversal of Donald Trump’s closure of the consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem by opening a "U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs" in the city.
    Biden’s move is viewed by some as rewarding the Palestinian leadership after a wave of terrorism during which two Palestinians wielding an ax and knife murdered three Israelis in the town of Elad in May.
    The previous month, Raad Hazem, a 28-year-old Palestinian gunman from Jenin, killed three people and wounded six others in a crowded bar in Tel Aviv.
    A prominent former Trump official sees the upgrade of the Palestinian Affairs Unit, until now part of the embassy to Israel, as a setback for the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
    "We had a consul-general in West Jerusalem for decades dedicated to Palestinian affairs, which meant Palestinians had to cross into West Jerusalem for any consular affairs related to the United States," Victoria Coates, a former deputy national security adviser for the Middle East and North Africa under Trump, told Fox News Digital.
    "Since 2018, their affairs have been handled by a proper U.S. Embassy, which also happens to be in West Jerusalem.    This unnecessary change with the Palestinians will only prolong the stalemate between them and Israel and will not bring us any closer to peace than the old ConGen [consulate-general] did [before Trump]."
    Israel’s former Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon also weighed in.
    "The Biden administration is reverting to past failed practices," Danon told Fox News Digital.    "Although the announced changes are essentially bureaucratic in nature, with amendments to names and reporting lines, it is the symbolism of the move which hits home for some.    It signals an upgrade in relations with the possibility of more fruitless promises to come."
    "The Abraham Accords moved beyond broken paradigms and looked for new solutions," added Danon, who is also chairman of World Likud.    "This new path has been astoundingly successful.    It is perhaps time for the current U.S. administration to cast aside past failed policies and look to set new, sound strategy."
    The Trump administration helped to negotiate groundbreaking agreements to normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
    The Israeli government vehemently opposes a reopening of the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem because it would undercut the holy city as the undivided capital of Israel.    Jerusalem proposes that the U.S. open its Palestinian consulate in Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestine Authority.
    Fox News Digital sent a press query to the U.S. State Department Thursday for comment but had not received a response before publication.
    "Having been unable to force upon Israel their plan to open a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, this is a transparent attempt by the Biden administration to go round the back door, with a de facto consulate in clear attempt to water down the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital," Arsen Ostrovsky, an Israeli human rights attorney and chairman and CEO of the International Legal Forum, told Fox News Digital.
    "The move, a direct challenge to Israel’s sovereignty, which potentially might also breach the Jerusalem Embassy Act, will only reward Palestinian intransigence and violence, as we have seen in the past months."
    The U.S. Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and calls for it to remain an undivided city.
    The diplomatic upgrade means Palestinians will deal directly with the State Department in Washington rather than first go through the American ambassador to Israel.
    The department has renamed the Palestinian Affairs Unit the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs.    In a statement, the office, now independent of the Jerusalem embassy, said the change was meant to "strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement," according to the Associated Press.
    "We felt that it was important to reintroduce separate reporting lines to Washington on Israeli and Palestinian issues by our respective teams on the ground that focus on these issues," according to the statement, which also said the U.S. was reinstating a system in place for decades before Trump’s decision.
    But it falls short of Biden administration pledges — and Palestinian demands — for the U.S. to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, which for decades functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians.
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

6/11/2022 Abraham Accords: Israel carves new influence, regional peace by SETH J. FRANTZMAN – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
    Israel and Saudi Arabia could be moving toward closer ties, as the two-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords approaches.    This is an important development because it shows that the legacy and fruit of the accords are continuing to grow.
    However, at the same time, there are many challenges in the region.    Iran and its proxies are on the march, holding countries hostage, such as Lebanon.    That means Israel can’t even come up with a maritime boundary with its northern neighbor, even with the US backing the mediation.    Israel’s coalition government chaos and tensions with the Palestinians also threaten to do some harm to Israel-Arab relations.
    In early July 2020, during the pandemic, the first hints of Israel-Gulf ties began to show themselves.    These hints had been around for a while, as commentators and experts noted that Israel, the UAE and Bahrain had shared interests.    There was also talk of how Israel and Saudi Arabia shared some views in the region.
    This historic move by the Gulf was part of a multi-decade process.    Israel had some relations with Gulf countries in the 1990s.    In addition, Saudi Arabia had floated a peace proposal in the early 2000s.    However, it stipulated that the Jewish state would have to withdraw from the West Bank in order to achieve peace.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post BACK ON the right track: US president Bill Clinton applauds
while flanked by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (L) and Jordan’s King Hussein, at the close of the
Israel-Jordan peace treaty signing ceremony, in Washington, October 26, 1994. (credit: REUTERS)
    What changed?
    What changed was that movement toward peace became possible due to the Trump administration’s push for a peace deal, and the UAE and Bahrain deciding to move forward.    Bahrain would have been the first to make peace, but the small country needed backing.    The UAE had an independent foreign policy and was able to move the ball to the peace end zone.
    Another context of this was the fact that Israel hadn’t achieved new peace deals since the 1990s.    Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there was a move toward peace by Egypt and then Jordan.    In addition, there was similar movement by Tunisia, Morocco and some other states.
    The end of the Cold War took the wind out of the sails of anti-Israel states – and Iran had not yet expanded its power in the region.    But the rise of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and extremism in the region put some peace ideals on hold. In addition, the Second Intifada and the inability of Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace deal put other deals on hold.
    US officials such as then-secretary of state John Kerry wanted to hold out the chance for peace by pressuring the Gulf to pressure Israel to make peace with Ramallah first.    But the Obama administration failed, and the Trump administration was willing to rewrite the rules.    What slowed down its work was the Netanyahu administration and its endless elections, which began with political chaos in late 2018.
    BY 2020, despite the antics of the Netanyahu administration, the Abraham Accords came to fruition.    Foreshadowing began with an op-ed by the UAE’s ambassador to Washington in an Israeli newspaper and cooperation regarding COVID, as well as humanitarian flights.    This was symbolic.
    For instance, an agreement was reached in July 2020 by the Abu Dhabi-based Group 42 with Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to develop breakthrough technology solutions for COVID-19.    “Israel Aerospace Industries entered a historic collaboration agreement with Group 42, a company based in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE,” a statement noted.    “The collaboration between the two companies will cover research and development of solutions that may help fight the COVID-19 pandemic."
    “The agreement was signed between IAI’s ELTA Group via a videoconference call between Israel and the Emirates.    In the call, representatives of both companies discussed ways to leverage AI and other innovative technologies, including lasers and sensors, to develop COVID-19-focused systems.    The solutions, as well as the joint medical and technological initiatives, are meant not only to help the populations of both countries but also to aid in the global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the healthcare situation of the entire region.”
    Yoav Turgeman, IAI VP and CEO of ELTA, said that “IAI is excited to sign the collaboration agreement with our Abu Dhabi partners.”
    Two years later Israel and the UAE signed a free trade agreement.    This could be huge, eventually covering billions in trade.
    Dorian Barak, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, praised the new trade deal.    “UAE-Israel trade will exceed $2 billion in 2022, rising to around $5b in five years, bolstered by collaboration in renewables, consumer goods, tourism and the life sciences sectors,” he said.    “Additionally, Dubai is fast becoming a hub for Israeli companies that look to South Asia, the Middle East and the Far East as markets for their goods and services.    Nearly 1,000 Israeli companies will be working in and through the UAE by year’s end.    It’s unprecedented.”
    IN THE last two years there have been many milestones in the aftermath of the accords.    These include trade and defense deals, inter-religious and interfaith coexistence initiatives, the symbolic celebration of Jewish holidays in the Gulf and the blooming of new Gulf Jewish communities.    In addition, there is a lot of talk about how green technology and food security are important for the region, and how Israel and the UAE can partner on initiatives.    With the Ukraine crisis unfolding, the supply chain crisis continuing in the aftermath of COVID and fears about food security, there is a plethora of issues that Israel and its Gulf peace partners can now work on.
The real benefit
    But the real benefit of the peace deals has been the renewal of Israel’s ties with Egypt and Jordan.    Talks with Cairo and Amman have enabled these ties to come into the open after many years where relations with Jordan were tense and cold.    In fact, more than two decades after the Jordan-Israel peace deal of the 1990s, there was real concern that things were going in the wrong direction.    The Abraham Accords look to have improved ties with Amman, even though issues in Jerusalem continue to stymie real friendship.    With Egypt, on the other hand, there is much closer cooperation with the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
    Further afield, Israel-Morocco ties have also grown by leaps and bounds.    Israel-Sudan ties have also increased, but there is concern in Khartoum that Israel is not cementing these relations.    Sudan also has political troubles in its attempted transition from a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government to democracy.
    However, the role of Saudi Arabia in Sudan and also in Egypt has important ramifications for Israel ties.    Riyadh backs these countries having closer ties to the Jewish state.
    Toward that end, the Saudis appear to be doing more outreach as well.    The Wall Street Journal reported on June 6 that Saudi Arabia was moving toward eventual ties with Israel.    This comes as US President Joe Biden appears to have postponed a trip to the two Middle East countries.    Riyadh is trying to balance closer ties to Israel against reducing tensions with Iran and the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
    Another aside to this is that Jordan and Egypt are working more closely with Iraq. In turn, the UAE is working more closely with Syria.    Syria and Iraq are enemies of Israel, at least according to their government propaganda.    The Syrian regime is weak these days, so Iran can use Syria to move weapons to Hezbollah.    Iraq has even passed a new law instituting the death penalty for anyone who suggests normalization with Israel.    A conference last year that suggested peace with Israel became very controversial in Iraq.
    In addition, Iran has attacked Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan autonomous region, claiming to be targeting the “Mossad.”    This comes amid new Iran-Israel tensions, as the Islamic Republic accuses Israel of an assassination in Tehran and reports that a drone targeted Iran’s Parchin military complex.    Iran has vowed revenge and may even target Israelis in Turkey.
    Ankara, meanwhile, has been working to reconcile with Israel, as well as with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.    One could read this as being related to the Abraham Accords, which Turkey initially opposed; but Ankara’s real interest in reconciliation is economic, not about peace.
    AS WE survey the region two years after the accords, we can see many changes. The importance of the growing Israel-UAE-Bahrain relationship is clear.    Also, Israel’s move to be within US Central Command’s area of operations is important because the accords enabled Washington to work closely with Jerusalem in the region, rather than doing so via European Command as in the past.    Now Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and the US can train together in the Red Sea.
    In addition, Israel’s close ties with Greece and Cyprus tie in with Athens working more closely with Egypt and the UAE.
    Further afield, Egypt backs the Libyan forces that control eastern Libya, as the country continues to be divided as it has been since 2011.    Turkey has backed the government in Tripoli, and rivals continue to clash in Libya.
    The point is that the Israel-UAE-Bahrain relationship now ties into the operations of US Central Command’s naval component NAVCENT and this has huge ramifications for the region.    USCENTCOM’s new head, Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, was recently in Israel, where he saw the country’s large Chariots of Fire drill.    That drill is all about preparing for possible confrontation with Iran and Iranian-backed proxies such as Hezbollah.    Israel also did massive training in Cyprus as part of the drill.
    Here we see how Israel has carved out a new depth of influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.    This has Hezbollah so angry that it threatened attacks on June 5, as Lebanon complained about Israel gas exploration.
    Suffice it to say that Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Iraq – all the countries where Iran has proxies – will not be moving toward peace with Israel.    Probably neither will Algeria, Libya or Tunisia.    But Israel has had brief, recent ties with Oman, after then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2018 visit there.
    It remains to be seen what will happen with Saudi Arabia, but overall the growth of ties appears to be running in a positive direction.    Tensions over Jerusalem as well as Hamas attempts to sabotage Israel’s relations will continue.    But many countries now understand that groups like Hamas exploit these tensions.
    This is another major outcome of the peace deals as well. There is more positive coverage of Israel in the region.    Most of the media in the countries Israel has peace with are pro-government, which is favorable to the accords because it means fewer governments are pumping out official anti-Israel propaganda.    Considering that several decades ago this was not the case, that means a new generation can be raised with more amicable views of both Israel and Jews in general.
        The official slogan of the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen is “Death to Israel, curse the Jews.”    For years, Western diplomats and media would have accepted such hatred as the ways things work in the region.    Today we can see, across a swath of the region, that open hatred for Jews and Israel has been reduced.    Jerusalem’s ties with the Gulf matter greatly in this respect, helping to rewrite decades of antisemitism in the Middle East.

6/11/2022 Israel continues working on Arab sector plan worth NIS 30 billion by JERUSALEM POST STAFF – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
    The Israeli government approved on Tuesday the allocation of NIS 2 billion from its NIS 30 billion five-year plan for the Arab sector to go toward road and transport infrastructure in Arab localities.
    The NIS 30 billion budget project, officially named Taqaddum (?????????, 'progress' in Arabic), was agreed upon as a requirement from MK Mansour Abbas' Ra'am party as part of coalition talks with Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid and Yamina's Naftali Bennett.
    Issues with road infrastructure in and around Arab villages and cities were targeted as a pressing concern in the Knesset's Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs, which is chaired by Abbas.    Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen presented the progress made in executing the plan to the committee.
    "We are working daily to fully implement the five-year plan for the Arab sector."
Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Ra'am head MK Mansour Abbas with
Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen (Yesh Atid) (credit: SOCIAL EQUALITY MINISTRY)
Two major road infrastructure projects
    Cohen highlighted two major projects which are all set to begin by the end of June.     The biggest project will see some NIS 600 million allocated for the construction and renovation of inner-city roads in several Arab localities, with Ayalon Highways hired as a contractor for the project. Major investment will also go toward the construction of intercity roads between Arab localities and cities at the cost of NIS 102 million.     Additionally, NIS 333 million will go to other road infrastructure projects at the local and municipal levels.     In the committee meeting, the social equality minister stressed the importance of improving the socio-economic state of Arab localities across Israel and the Arab sector as a whole.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post View of construction of a new road and
sidewalks in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
Arab sector: Work in progress
    Several other aspects of the Arab sector plan have already been implemented since the package was approved in the Knesset in October 2021.
    NIS 200 million were set aside for "balance grants" for Arab localities and municipalities, adding to the NIS 140 million previously set aside for the project.    Housing projects in Arab cities were allocated a NIS 500 million budget and an extra NIS 47 million are set to go to various economic projects in the Arab periphery.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government also invested in the education of Arab-Israeli youth, especially in their integration into Israel's vibrant hi-tech sector.
    A NIS 600 million plan, to be implemented over five years, will see an increase in the number of Arab engineers working in Israeli hi-tech by an estimated 250%.

6/12/2022 Mansour Abbas refuses to rule out government with Netanyahu by JERUSALEM POST STAFF
© (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
    Ra'am joining an alternative government led by opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu cannot be ruled out, MK Mansour Abbas said at a Shabatarbut event in the Arab city of Baka al-Gharbiya.     Abbas reportedly stated that, if Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government falls, he will not rule out any political possibility, including with Religious Zionist head MK Bezalel Smotrich and MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, according to Walla.     During the event, Abbas also praised the current government's efforts, saying that the notion that the experiment of an Arab party in the coalition failed is wrong.     "People see it as black or white...we continue to work well together as different factions, in that sense the experiment succeeded," Abbas said.
    "We work well together as different factions, in that sense the experiment succeeded"
Ra'am head MK Mansour Abbas
    Abbas added that in his view, no bill, bar the budget bill, can topple the government.    "We can't pass every bill, Bibi's previous government also could not pass any bill it wanted."
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu
at the Knesset, May 18, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Likud MK: Abbas "shares Hamas' values"
    Later on Saturday, Abbas played down talks of an alternative government being formed in the current Knesset in a 'Meet the Press' N12 interview.     In the interview, the Ra'am head said that "the people should be asked on they think should lead the country" if the Bennett-Lapid government is toppled.     MK Israel Katz, who was also interviewed on the broadcast, signaled that Likud has no intention of forming a partnership with Ra'am by attacking Abbas, claiming he is a "terror supporter" who "shares Hamas' values."
    The two also argued on whether there were negotiations between Ra'am and the Likud prior to Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 and the formation of the 36th government.
Heavy pressure on rebel coalition MKs
    Abbas' comments come following Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar threat that the coalition's inability to pass the West Bank emergency directive bill last week. Sa'ar, who initiated the bill, said that not passing the bill would cause chaos before it was voted down in the Knesset plenum by opposition MKs and two coalition MKs, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz) and Ra'am's Mazen Ghanaim.     Rebels Zoabi, who previously quit and rejoined the coalition, and Ghanaim are both under heavy pressure to resign from the Knesset to make way for MKs that are more likely to vote with the government. Zoabi pressured by Meretz, Arab officials to quit Knesset     On Saturday, some 20 Meretz activists called on their elected representative Zoabi to resign as an MK during a protest under Zoabi's Nof Hagalil home. The protesters said Zoabi's actions could give rise to a Netanyahu-led government which features in Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in prominent offices, calling for her to quit in order to "save the change government."
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Meretz voters protest under MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi's Nof Hagalil home (credit: MAARIV)
    Heads of Arab localities across Israel also began a campaign to push Zoabi out of the Knesset, as per KAN News.    The Arab officials, some of which were present during coalition negotiations between Zoabi and Lapid last month, asked for her resignation in several meetings.     According to the officials, all the projects agreed for their localities by Zoabi and Lapid were put on hold due to the uncertainty of Zoabi's position in the coalition.     Meretz head, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, also indirectly called for her resignation in a tweet last week, saying "those who cannot withstand the difficulties" should resign.     However, Zoabi said she has no intention of resigning from the Knesset in a Saturday evening interview with KAN News.    The coalition has reached a point of "posing a threat to the Arab sector, especially on national matters."     "The Israeli government is posing a threat to the Arab sector, especially on national matters."
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi
    Zoabi also claimed that Meretz '"changed" due to their decision to vote for the West Bank bill, adding that she may have angered Jewish left-wing voters but that she retains the support of Arab Meretz voters.
Ghanaim intends to remain an MK
    Ra'am MK Ghanaim, who is also pressured in recent days to quit the Knesset, will not quit the Knesset and intends to vote against the emergency directives again when they're brought up to a vote once more, Haaretz reported.     Ghanaim, who was reportedly offered support in his intention to run for mayor of Sakhnin in local elections next year, said that even if he decides to run, he will not quit the Knesset.
© Provided by The Jerusalem PostMK Mazen Ghanaim and MK Nir Orbach exchange words
during a vote in the Knesset plenum on June 6, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
    Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who launched a verbal attack on Ghanaim during the crucial Knesset vote, reportedly warned his faction head, Bennett, that he would bring the government down if the two Arab MKs did not resign.
    Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

6/14/2022 Abbas’s Fatah: Hamas trying to take over West Bank by KHALED ABU TOAMEH – The Jerusalem Post
    Hamas members planned to seize control of a Palestinian security installation near Ramallah, Palestinian sources claimed on Tuesday.
    The claim coincided with the 15th anniversary of Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces there.     According to the sources, the PA security forces recently discovered a weapons cache and tunnel near the headquarters of a Palestinian security installation in the town of Beitunia, west of Ramallah.
    At least 19 Hamas members were arrested in connection with the weapons and the tunnel.
    The Hamas men are suspected of planning to infiltrate and seize control of the security installation, which belongs to the PA’s Preventive Security Service, the sources said. The weapons were discovered following an explosion in a carpentry workshop in the town.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post PALESTINIAN STUDENTS wave Hamas flags during
a rally at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, last week. (Credit: FLASH90)
    During the coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas militiamen used a tunnel to detonate explosive devices underneath the headquarters of the Preventive Security Force in the city of Khan Yunis. Several officers were killed in the massive explosion.
    More than 700 Palestinians were killed during the clashes that erupted in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and PA and Fatah (the ruling Fatah faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas) officers and activists.
    “In its crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip, Hamas used heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and bombs, and killed hundreds under brutal torture,” according to a report by the PA’s official news agency Wafa.    “Hamas killed entire families after besieging their homes and raining missiles on them as if they were fighting a people other than their own.    A large number of Fatah members and security officers were martyred, and their headquarters and homes were burned and demolished over their heads and the heads of their families.”
    A senior PA security official refused to comment on the claim regarding the alleged Hamas scheme to attack a security installation in Beitunia.
    “In its crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip, Hamas used heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and bombs, and killed hundreds under brutal torture.”
PA’s official news agency Wafa
    In a statement marking the anniversary of the Hamas coup, Fatah warned that the Gaza-based terror group was continuing its efforts to extend its control to the West Bank. Hamas is “proceeding with its attempts and conspiracies to control the West Bank,” Fatah charged.
    Fatah went on to accuse Hamas of preparing to carry out “sabotage attacks” in the West Bank in order to undermine the PA and its security forces.    Referring to the reports concerning the alleged Hamas plot near Ramallah, Fatah said that the discovery of the weapons and tunnel was a clear example of the terror group’s ongoing efforts to spread chaos and anarchy in the West Bank.    Since the 2007 coup, the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been divided into two separate entities.
    Ayman al-Raqab, a senior Fatah official, said that the split was a Palestinian “gift” to Israel.    “The division was the worst event to happen in Palestine,” he said.    “Israel stands to benefit from the consolidation of the division.”
    At least seven attempts by Arab countries to end the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah have failed.    The countries that tried to achieve national reconciliation between the rival parties included Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, Yemen, Algeria and Egypt.
    Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said that Hamas’s “black coup” remains an obstacle to the “continuation of the Palestinian struggle to end the occupation.”    He claimed that Israel and other regional and international parties have since been “encouraging” the division among the Palestinians.    “Hamas is not interested in ending this black chapter in the history of our people,” al-Ahmed argued.

6/14/2022 Biden Trip to Saudi Arabia Is Set, but Energy Help Is Not by Peter Baker – The New York Times
© Samuel Corum for The New York Times
    WASHINGTON — President Biden’s much-anticipated trip to Saudi Arabia has been formally set for next month, the White House announced on Tuesday, but officials played down the chances of securing much immediate help in stabilizing energy markets roiled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    Mr. Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East as president from July 13 to July 16, stopping first in Israel and the West Bank before heading to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the reported mastermind of the brutal 2018 assassination of a Saudi dissident with American ties.
    The trip has generated waves of criticism even before it was officially announced.    Human rights activists, media figures and even some of Mr. Biden’s fellow Democrats denounced the idea of a president shaking hands with a Saudi leader said to have ordered the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a leading critic of the royal family who lived in the United States and wrote a column for The Washington Post.
    As a candidate for president, Mr. Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia “pay the price and make them in fact the pariah that they are” because of the murder.    After taking office, he ordered the release of an intelligence report tying Prince Mohammed to the Khashoggi killing and imposed modest sanctions on lower-level figures.    But with gasoline prices marching steadily upward and Russian energy increasingly shunned, analysts said Mr. Biden could ill afford to keep one of the world’s largest oil producers at arm’s length much longer.
    Mr. Biden and his staff have insisted in recent days that the decision to visit Saudi Arabia — effectively relieving it of pariah status — had more to do with security issues than the price of gasoline.
    “The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Sunday, citing national security concerns.    “It has to do with much larger issues than having to do with the energy piece.”
    Related video: Biden visit to bolster ties? US President Joe Biden says Saudi Arabia visit possible Biden visit to bolster ties? US President Joe Biden says Saudi Arabia visit possible Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that while energy will be a point of discussion, the relationship between the nations was far more complex than that.    “To look at this trip as it being only about oil is not — it would be simply wrong to do that,” she said.
    OPEC Plus, the group of oil-producing nations led by Saudi Arabia, already announced this month that it would increase production modestly in July and August, and American officials have said they expect the bloc to ratchet it up even more in the fall.    But that commitment has had little effect thus far on the price at the pump, which hit $5 a gallon on average in the United States this weekend for the first time.
    An administration official who briefed reporters on the president’s trip on condition of anonymity according to White House ground rules said Mr. Biden would meet in Jeddah with Prince Mohammed, the country’s de facto ruler, but would not say whether the president would raise the Khashoggi case.    A formal White House statement announcing the trip mentioned human rights as one of a group of issues expected to come up, along with climate change, Iran’s nuclear program and the war in Yemen.
    Mr. Biden will be traveling to the region at a time of enormous volatility.    Negotiations to revive a 2015 pact in which Iran would once again forswear its pursuit of nuclear weapons appear to be faltering, raising fears that Israel might take action on its own, with tacit support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states that also consider Tehran a threat. But Israel’s fragile governing coalition, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has been teetering, and there is no guarantee it will last even until Mr. Biden’s visit.
    At the same time, the president will try to restore America’s place as more of an honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians after the yearslong pro-Israeli tilt of former President Donald J. Trump and reaffirm America’s support for a two-state solution.    Mr. Biden will also meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, the first such presidential meeting since Mr. Trump’s 2017 visit before their relationship fractured.    Mr. Biden is likely to meet with Mr. Abbas in Bethlehem.
    But aides said Mr. Biden would also demonstrate his commitment to Israel’s security, possibly by visiting one of the defensive systems provided by the United States.    And he will encourage the growing normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab states under the so-called Abraham Accords kicked off in Mr. Trump’s final months in office.
    Aides said Mr. Biden would also participate in a virtual summit meeting with fellow leaders of a new bloc called the I2-U2, which stands for Israel, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
    While in Jeddah, Mr. Biden will meet with the leaders of nine Arab nations: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, which all belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
    In defending the president’s decision to travel to Saudi Arabia after branding it a pariah state, officials said he always meant to recalibrate the relationship rather than rupture it altogether, and insisted he still stood for human rights.
    But they emphasized Saudi cooperation in brokering a truce in the long-running war in neighboring Yemen between the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which has shattered the country and left millions hungry and impoverished.    The truce, now in its ninth week, was just renewed for another two months, and officials said that it illustrated the benefits of American engagement with Saudi Arabia.

6/18/2022 Israel warplanes hit Hamas sites in Gaza after rocket fire by AFP
© Eyad BABA
    Israeli air strikes hit Hamas military sites in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave run by the Islamist movement, the Israeli army said.
    "A short while ago, in response to the rocket attack, (Israeli military) aircraft struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip," the army said in a statement.
    The strikes came after Hamas "launched a rocket... toward Israeli civilians in southern Israel," it said, adding the projectile was intercepted by Israel's air defences.
    The Israeli "aircraft targeted a weapons manufacturing site located inside a Hamas military post and an additional three military posts belonging to Hamas," the statement said.
    Balls of flame shot into the air, leaving dark smoke drifting over the territory, after the strikes.
    The army said hours earlier that air raid sirens were sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and in areas near the blockaded Gaza Strip.
    The exchange came after three Palestinians were killed and 12 others wounded on Friday during an Israeli army raid in Jenin, a stronghold of armed Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank.
    The men were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on a vehicle in which they were, the Palestinian news agency Wafa said.
    Israel's army said soldiers had come under fire during an operation to search for weapons.
    One of the dead was a Hamas commander, the group said, vowing that the killings "will not go unpunished."
    In April, Israeli warplanes also hit Gaza after incoming rocket fire.    The Hamas-controlled Gaza coastal enclave of 2.3 million people has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
    That exchange came after nearly a month of deadly violence focused on Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.
    Last year, Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war triggered in part by unrest over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the most holy site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.
    Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.    It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by most of the international community.

6/18/2022 Israeli air attacks hit Gaza after rocket fire by Al Jazeera
© Provided by Al Jazeera
    Israel has launched air raids on the Gaza Strip after rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave targeted the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel, following months of relative calm in the region.
    Palestinian media said the Israeli strikes fell on agricultural land in Gaza on Saturday, but the Israeli military said it targeted military sites belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian group which rules the enclave.
    “In response to the rocket attack, Israel Defence Forces aircraft struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
    There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza or Israel.    There was no immediate response from Hamas, nor a claim of responsibility from any of the enclave’s other groups.
    The air attack comes a day after Israel launched military raids on Jenin in the occupied West Bank in which three Palestinians were killed and 10 were wounded.    Also on Friday, an Israeli observation balloon crashed and fell in the northern Gaza Strip.
    Palestinian news agency Wafa named the men killed in Jenin as Baraa Lahlouh, 24, Yusuf Salah, 23, and Laith Abu Suroor, 24.
    Hamas said one of those killed was among its members, while another group that draws on members of Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad claimed the dead men as its own.
    The last cross-border rockets were in April when Israeli warplanes launched an attack in the Gaza Strip targeting what the military said was a weapons manufacturing site belonging to Hamas.
    Although Saturday’s cross-border fire did not appear to signal a wider escalation, violence has risen in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Israel in recent months.
    According to the Palestinian health ministry, more than 60 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year, many of them in raids.    A string of Palestinian attacks since March has also killed 19 people in Israel.
    Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces last month in Jenin while she was covering an Israeli army operation.    She was wearing a flak jacket marked with the word “PRESS” when she was shot dead.
    In May 2021 Israel launched an 11-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.    Israeli air and artillery attacks killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and left more than 1,900 people wounded.    Two children were among 12 people killed in Israel by rockets fired by Hamas and other armed groups from Gaza during the same period.
    US-brokered peace talks aiming to establish a Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza collapsed in 2014 and there is no sign of their revival.
    US President Joe Biden is expected to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders during a visit to the region in July.

6/19/2022 Syrian leader receives credentials from Bahrain ambassador by Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
    DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A new ambassador from Bahrain formally took up his post in Syria on Sunday, the country's first full diplomatic mission there in more than a decade as Damascus continues to improve its relations with Gulf Arab states.
    President Bashar Assad received the credentials of Ambassador Waheed Mubarak Sayyar in an official ceremony also attended by Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. Sayyar was appointed in December and recently moved to Damascus.
    Assad has been gradually reintegrating into mainstream regional acceptance.    His visit to the United Arab Emirates in March was the first such trip to an Arab country since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011.
    Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League and boycotted by its neighbors after the conflict broke out.
    Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the war, which displaced half of Syria’s population.
    Large parts of Syria have been destroyed, and reconstruction will cost tens of billions of dollars.
    Early in the conflict, Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar rushed to back Sunni fighters battling Assad’s forces.    Arab countries sanctioned Damascus and condemned its use of military force against civilians.
    In recent years, however, the Syrian army has won a series of key military victories with the help of Russia and Iran.
    The embassy of Bahrain was reopened in Damascus in 2018.
    Most Gulf countries, at odds with regional rival and Shiite powerhouse Iran, seek warmer ties with Damascus, hoping to peel it away from Tehran’s influence.    Iran is a traditional ally of Syria and has sent advisers and resources to back Assad during the conflict that broke out in March 2011.
© Provided by Associated Press In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA,
Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, shakes hands with Bahrain's new Ambassador to Syria Waheed Mubarak Sayyar,
in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, June 19, 2022. Assad received on Sunday the credentials from Bahrain's first ambassador
to Syria in more than a decade as Damascus improves its relations with Gulf Arab countries. (SANA via AP)

6/20/2022 Israeli forces kill Palestinian near separation barrier
    TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man on Sunday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, after the Israeli military said he tried to illegally cross the separation barrier that divides Israel and the occupied West Bank.    In a statement, the military said soldiers saw the man “sabotaging” the barrier and “attempting to illegally cross into Israeli territory.”    Forces opened fire to get him to stop and shot him, the statement said.    Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man last month under similar circumstances.

6/21/2022 Israeli government fast-tracks bill to dissolve parliament by ILAN BEN ZION, Associated Press
    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's outgoing coalition government will fast-track a bill this week to dissolve parliament, setting up the country for its fifth elections in three years, a Cabinet minister said Tuesday.
© Provided by Associated Press Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, speaks during a joint statement with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid,
at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 20, 2022. Bennett's office announced Monday, that his weakened
coalition will be disbanded and the country will head to new elections. Bennett and his main coalition partner, Yair Lapid,
decided to present a vote to dissolve parliament in the coming days, Bennett's office said. Lapid is then to serve as caretaker
prime minister. The election, expected in the fall, would be Israel's fifth in three years. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Monday that he would disband his alliance of eight ideologically diverse parties, a year after taking office, and send the country to the polls.    A series of defections from his Yamina party had stripped the coalition of its majority in Israel's parliament, known as the Knesset.
    Bennett cited the coalition's failure earlier this month to extend a law that grants West Bank settlers’ special legal status as a main impetus for new elections.    His key ally, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, will become the caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed in the aftermath of elections, which are expected to be held in October.
    Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, a member of Lapid's Yesh Atid party, told Israeli public broadcaster Kan that the coalition would bring the bill to a preliminary vote on Wednesday.
    “We hope that within a week we will complete the process," Cohen said.    "The intention is to finish it as soon as possible and to go to elections."
    Related video: Israel Coalition govt: What did Israel's most diverse government achieve in a year?
    Israel Coalition govt: What did Israel's most diverse government achieve in a year?
    A parliamentary committee approved holding a preliminary vote to dissolve parliament on Wednesday, with a final vote expected early next week.
    New elections raise the possibility that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now opposition leader, will be able to stage a comeback.    Netanyahu was ousted by the eight-party alliance after four inconclusive elections that were largely seen as referendums on the his fitness to rule.    The alliance's factions range from dovish liberals opposed to Israeli settlements to hawkish ultranationalists who reject Palestinian statehood.    It was only their opposition to Netanyahu that brought them together.
    Netanyahu is currently on trial for corruption but has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the charges as a witch hunt by his political opponents.    Israeli law does not explicitly state that a politician under indictment may not become prime minister.
    As politicians gear up for fall elections, several coalition members have floated the possibility of passing a law before the Knesset disbands that would bar a lawmaker accused of a crime from serving as prime minister.
    Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the aim of his Yisrael Beytenu party in the upcoming elections is “to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from returning to power."    Along with the bill to dissolve parliament, he said he would advance legislation on Wednesday to bar a lawmaker under indictment from assuming the premiership.
    “I hope that bill, too, will find a majority,” he said at an economic conference hosted by the Israel Democracy Institute.
    Justice Minister Gideon Saar, leader of the New Hope party, told Army Radio that his faction had advocated such a bill and would vote in favor if it's brought before parliament.

6/21/2022 Netanyahu prepares for a comeback in Israel’s next elections by Shira Rubin – The Washington Post
    TEL AVIV — The announcement of the Israeli governing coalition’s collapse and the preparations for a fifth election in less than four years was met with exasperation by many Israelis.    But the news came as a resounding victory for Benjamin Netanyahu, who, over the past year as the head of the opposition, has been preparing for his own comeback.
© Ronen Zvulun/Reuters Netanyahu prepares for a comeback in Israel’s next elections
    It is not immediately clear how that would happen, however, since polls show that most Israelis will continue to vote the way they have in the past few elections, producing a polarized, deadlocked Knesset and fragile coalition governments.
    Netanyahu, who led Israel for much of the past 20 years, seems to be betting on breaking the political stalemate by galvanizing his right-wing base and painting his opponents as a threat to society.
Israel’s leader to dissolve Knesset, triggering new elections
    “A government that depended on terror supporters, which abandoned the personal security of the citizens of Israel, that raised the cost of living to unheard-of heights, that imposed unnecessary taxes, that endangered our Jewish entity.    This government is going home,” Netanyahu said Monday in a video posted on Twitter.    “My friends and I will form a government … that, above all, will return the national pride to the citizens of Israel.”
    The coalition’s collapse is in large part the result of Netanyahu’s efforts to encourage coalition members uncomfortable with its ideological diversity to jump ship.
    “From Day One, Netanyahu sought to take down the government, and focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issues related to the Arabs in Israel,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, a political analyst.    “It was low-hanging fruit.”
    A Knesset committee voted unanimously Tuesday to hold the first reading of the vote to dissolve itself Wednesday, instead of next week, as was originally planned, to foil efforts by Netanyahu to form a last-ditch alternative government.
    At 72, after a year and one week spent in the Knesset’s opposition hall and in the Jerusalem District Court, where he is the subject of an ongoing corruption trial, Netanyahu’s determination to reclaim his political throne appears to be fiercer than ever.
    “This is the big show, and no one does the big show like Netanyahu,” said Aviv Bushinsky, a former adviser to Netanyahu.
    Michael Maimon, a longtime Netanyahu voter and a former army colleague of Netanyahu’s from the 1960s, said he expects the vote to be different from the past four times.    The “nightmare” of the outgoing government has mobilized Netanyahu’s base, about 300,000 of whom did not go out to vote in the last elections as a result of exhaustion over the extended cycle of political gridlock.
    Israel Coalition govt: What did Israel's most diverse government achieve in a year?
    Netanyahu has reliably won the most votes in each election but struggled to cobble together the 61 seats needed to control the 120-seat Knesset.
    “Bibi knows that he is the most popular candidate and that the support for him is better now than it was in the past few years,” Maimon said.    “He’s eager to get back in.”
© Oren Ben Hakoon/AFP/Getty Images Israel's former premier Benjamin Netanyahu
speaks to the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20.
    A survey by the Israeli radio station 103FM found that a Netanyahu-led bloc — including his right-wing Likud, and the religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox parties — would win the highest number of seats in fresh elections, although still two short of a majority — a consistent problem of the past several coalition attempts.
    In 2021, Netanyahu failed to build a coalition and was compelled to pass the mandate to the centrist Yair Lapid, who was head of the second-largest party, which then allied with right-wing Naftali Bennett in a power-sharing agreement.
    The Bennett-Lapid coalition replaced Netanyahu last June with the backing of a razor-thin coalition of eight ideologically divergent parties, united solely by a desire to oust Netanyahu.
    Part of the reason Netanyahu failed to form a coalition in 2021 was that he had alienated so many of his erstwhile allies on the right — the same people now vowing to prevent his comeback.
    “I won’t be bringing Bibi back.    All of the party members are with me.    No one will succumb to inducements [to defect to Likud],” Gideon Saar, the Justice Minister and a former Likud party veteran, told Army Radio on Tuesday.
    Netanyahu will try to shave off those from Bennett’s religious-Zionist base who have expressed discomfort with the coalition’s inclusion of an Arab-Islamist party.    Netanyahu has long claimed its inclusion compromised Israel’s Jewish character and its security — although he himself once wooed the party.
    “Peace and security must be restored to the citizens of Israel and to the streets of our cities.    Unfortunately, we all see that a government dependent on the Islamic movement is unable to do so,” Netanyahu said after visiting the relatives of one of the Israelis killed in a shooting in March.
© Oren Ben Hakoon/AFP/Getty Images Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L)
and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid make a joint statement to the press in Jerusalem on June 20.
    With the rush toward elections, the Arab community in Israel is bracing for a Netanyahu campaign that will vilify Arabs, said Yousef Jabareen, a former Knesset member with the Palestinian Israeli left-wing Hadash party.
    In past elections, Netanyahu cast the Palestinian citizens of Israel as a danger, warning in one instance that they were “heading to the polling stations in droves.”
    “We are seriously concerned that Arab politicians and Arab citizens will be the subject of delegitimization,” Jabareen said.    “We know that incitement against the Arab community is integral to Netanyahu’s process, in that it tries to attract more right-wing voters while also to try to keep Arab voters out of the game.”

6/22/2022 Israel’s next leader faces tests - Yair Lapid to step up until elections in fall by Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Election campaign billboards last year in Ramat Gan, Israel, feature the Likud party leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
left, and opposition party leader Yair Lapid. Following the government’s decision to dissolve parliament, Lapid, now foreign
minister, is set to take office as caretaker prime minister until elections in the fall. ODED BALILTY/AP FILE
    JERUSALEM – In a 10-year political career, Israel’s Yair Lapid has transformed himself from an upstart political novice to a feisty opposition leader to the savvy operator who toppled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Next week, he is expected to assume his biggest role yet – as the new prime minister.
    Following the government’s decision to dissolve parliament, Lapid, now foreign minister, is set to take office as caretaker prime minister until elections in the fall.    It will be a critical test for Lapid, 58, who will try to convince Israelis he is worthy of the top office as he takes on a resurgent Netanyahu.
    “A year ago, we started the process of rebuilding, and now: we’re carrying it on, and carrying it on together,” Lapid declared late Monday as he stood alongside his main coalition partner, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
    Officially, the two men were announcing the end of their year-old government – an alliance of eight diverse parties that was severely weakened by months of infighting and rebellion.    But in many ways, Lapid sounded like he was beginning his next campaign.
    “Even if we are going to elections in a few months, the challenges we face will not wait,” he said, pointing to Israel’s high cost of living and security challenges in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran.
    In a swipe at Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, he vowed to “stand against the forces threatening to turn Israel into a nondemocratic country.” Netanyahu, believing he is the victim of a political witch hunt, has made clear he intends to take on the country’s legal and law-enforcement establishment if he returns to power.
    A former author, columnist, news anchor, bank pitchman and amateur boxer, Lapid left a successful career as a media personality to enter politics in 2012 as head of a new centrist party popular with middle-class Israelis.
    He promised economic relief, an end to controversial draft exemptions for seminary students and a more moderate approach to the Palestinians.
    Unlike the right-wing parties that dominate Israel’s political system, Lapid favors peace talks leading to an eventual two-state solution with the Palestinians, although it’s unclear if he will ever have the kind of mandate needed to engage in such a process.
    In 2013, he led his new Yesh Atid party to a surprisingly strong showing in parliamentary elections.    Yesh Atid finished as the second-largest party, with 19 seats in the 120-member parliament.
    Lapid became finance minister, a difficult and often thankless task.    While marking some successes, his key promises of lowering the cost of living and bringing down housing prices failed to materialize.    Netanyahu eventually fired him for insubordination.
    Yesh Atid dropped to 11 seats in the 2015 elections.    Lapid found himself in the opposition and appeared to be on the way to becoming the latest in a long line of centrist politicians to flame out after early success.
    But Lapid managed to reinvent himself.    He formed an alliance with former military chief Benny Gantz that came close to toppling Likud in three consecutive elections.
    Those elections, focused on Netanyahu’s divisive personality and fitness to rule, all ended inconclusively.    Moving to end the deadlock, Gantz briefly joined forces with Netanyahu in 2020 – leaving Lapid as opposition leader and a vocal government critic.
    When the country went back to the polls in early 2021, Yesh Atid once again surged and emerged as the second-largest party in parliament.    In a stroke of creative diplomacy and political savvy, Lapid cobbled together a new coalition that pushed Netanyahu into the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
    Although Lapid was the mastermind of the alliance, he cemented the deal by agreeing to rotate the job of prime minister with Bennett – a move that was seen by many as selfless and statesmanlike.    Lapid took on the post of foreign minister.
    The coalition members spanned the Israeli political spectrum, with little binding them together beyond opposition to Netanyahu.    The government made history by being the first to include an Arab party.
    The coalition got off to a strong start – passing the first national budget in several years, navigating a pair of coronavirus waves and improving relations with the U.S. and Arab allies.
    Ultimately, ideological differences caused it to unravel.    Parliament is expected to dissolve itself in a series of votes over the coming days.    Once that happens, Lapid takes over as caretaker prime minister until elections in October or November.
    The coming months present great risk – and great opportunity.    Once again, Netanyahu’s Likud party appears to be the front-runner.    And once again, Netanyahu’s leadership style and legal woes are likely to be high on voters’ minds.
    While Lapid is sure to face relentless attacks from Netanyahu, who has tried to portray him as a lightweight who betrayed Israel’s security by allying with an Arab faction, he will do so from the perch of the prime minister’s office.
    After serving as foreign minister for the past year, he will have even more opportunities to strengthen his international standing.    He is set to host President Joe Biden on a visit next month and will have the opportunity to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
    Lapid spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday to prepare for Biden’s visit, the Foreign Ministry said.
    “The visit will have significant implications for the region and the fight against Iran, as well as immense potential to significantly improve regional stability and security,” it said.
    As caretaker prime minister, he is unlikely to launch any major military operations or bold peace initiatives with the Palestinians.
    If Lapid can keep things quiet and avoid controversy, he could be well-positioned for the next election.
    “Lapid has to work now at looking prime ministerial,” wrote Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist at the Haaretz daily.    “His new post, from next week on, as interim prime minister is his greatest asset going into the election.”

6/22/2022 Israel lawmakers give initial approval for early election by AFP
    Israeli lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to advance legislation to dissolve parliament and call an early election, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his eight-party coalition was no longer tenable.
© Menahem KAHANAAs Israeli lawmakers vote on a government bill to call an early election, former
prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is plotting a snap return to power without recourse to the polls
    The government has said it wants to fast-track parliament's dissolution but the opposition led by ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu may attempt to derail the process, in a bid to form a replacement government without the need for what would be Israel's fifth election in less than four years.
© GIL COHEN-MAGEN Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R)
attend the preliminary vote on a bill to dissolve parliament and call an early election
    The government's bill still needs to pass a committee vote and three further votes in the full parliament before an early election is called.
    In a complex day of legislative manoeuvres that included fiery debate, Israel's parliament gave near unanimous approval to 11 separate bills to dissolve parliament, drafted by both coalition and opposition lawmakers.
    The bills are expected to be united into one, but timelines for that process remain unclear and could depend on Netanyahu's political calculations.
And now to breaking news in Israel, the fragile coalition government Israeli prime minister announces coalition governments’ dissolution, calls new election
    If final dissolution legislation is approved, new elections could held in late October or early November, according to Israeli reports.
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would take charge as prime minister of a caretaker government, in accordance with a power-sharing deal he reached with Bennett after 2021 elections, when the pair forged an alliance of ideological rivals united in their desire to oust Netanyahu.
    Netanyahu has cheered the coalition's collapse and vowed to form a new right-wing government, with or without fresh elections.
    His Likud party has been courting potential defectors from coalition ranks to give him the parliamentary majority he needs for a snap return to power.
    Those being wooed include religious nationalists from within Bennett's own Yamina party and hawks from Justice Minister Gideon Saar's New Hope party.
    "Until the dissolution law is finalised there's still the option of an alternate government, a government headed by Netanyahu," Likud lawmaker Miri Regev told army radio.
    A slew of opinion polls conducted after Bennett's shock announcement late Monday that his coalition could no longer govern pointed to gridlock between supporters and opponents of Netanyahu.
    Four separate polls found that neither bloc would secure the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

6/22/2022 Jordan, Saudi Arabia support efforts to prevent a nuclear Iran by KHALED ABU TOAMEH – The Jerusalem Post
    Jordan and Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday that they support international efforts aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
© (photo credit: VIA REUTERS) Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman stands with Jordan
    The two countries expressed support for Arab efforts to urge Iran to stop meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries and avoid all “destabilizing activities.”
    In addition, Saudi Arabia expressed support for Jordan’s role as custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.    Unconfirmed reports over the past few years claimed that Saudi Arabia was seeking to replace Jordan as custodian.
    The announcement was included in a joint communique issued at the end of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Jordan, where he held talks with King Abdullah and his son, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah.
    “The two sides stressed the importance of redoubling efforts to confront extremism and work to combat terrorism in all its forms, confront its ideological roots, dry up its sources, stop all means of financing it, and spread the values of religious, cultural and moderation,” the statement read.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post SAUDI CROWN PRINCE Mohammed bin Salman. (credit: BAHRAIN NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
    Saudi Arabia and Jordan condemned the terrorist attacks carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen against Saudi Arabia, and that Jordan supports the Saudis in all the steps they take to protect their security, stability and interests.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    According to the statement, the two countries stressed the need to launch a serious and effective international effort to find a real political horizon for resolving the Palestinian issue “on the basis of the two-state solution, which embodies the independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967, lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”
    The two Arab countries affirmed that the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace, “which constitutes an Arab strategic option and a necessity to achieve regional and international security and stability.    They stressed the need for Israel to stop all illegal measures that undermine the two-state solution and the chances of achieving a just peace.”
    Saudi Arabia and Jordan emphasized the need for Israel “to respect the historical and legal situation in Jerusalem and its Islamic and Christian holy sites, and to respect the role of the Jordan-controlled Wakf Department as the only authority authorized to manage the affairs of al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif."
    “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stressed the importance of the role of the historical Hashemite guardianship over the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in protecting the holy sites and preserving its Arab, Islamic and Christian identity.”
    The Saudi crown prince and the Jordanian monarch also discussed economic, trade and investment relations and ways to enhance them.
    The two sides stressed the importance of enhancing joint cooperation in the field of investments and diversifying them, including investment areas for the sectors of mining, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, culture, healthcare, and information technology, and creating more job opportunities, which contribute to boosting economic growth in the two countries.

6/22/2022 Saudi Arabia’s MBS heads to Turkey as countries normalise ties by Al Jazeera
    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has travelled to Turkey for the first time in years for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aiming to fully normalise ties that were ruptured after the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
© Provided by Al Jazeera Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's trip signals that Riyadh and
Ankara have moved past the issues that divided them in recent years [File: Andy Rain/Pool/EPA-EFE]
    The Turkish president was due to welcome the crown prince at the presidential palace in Ankara for talks on Wednesday afternoon. No public statements are expected.
    The visit comes as part of a tour that included stops in Egypt and Jordan earlier this week.
    It is expected to bring “a full normalisation and a restoration of the pre-crisis period,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters.    “A new era will begin.”
    Ties between Ankara and Riyadh took a turn for the worse after a Saudi hit squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October 2018.
    Erdogan at the time blamed it on the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.    MBS has denied any involvement in the murder.
    However, Ankara halted its murder trial in April, after a months-long drive to mend relations.    The rapprochement was marked by Ankara’s approval of a request to transfer the trial to Riyadh. Human rights groups condemned the move, saying Saudi Arabia could not be expected to hold a fair trial.
    MBS has been leveraging Saudi Arabia’s vast wealth and oil production capacity to soften criticism of the country’s human rights record.    In turn, Erdogan is seeking financial support that could help relieve Turkey’s beleaguered economy ahead of tight elections for the presidency, expected in 2023.
    Turkish officials said agreements on energy, economy and security would be signed during the visit, while a plan was also in the works for Saudi funds to enter capital markets in Turkey.
    However, negotiations on a possible currency swap line that could help restore Turkey’s diminished foreign reserves were not moving “as fast as desired” and would be discussed privately between the two leaders.
    Turkey’s economy is badly strained by a slumping lira and inflation soaring beyond 70 percent.    Saudi funds and foreign currency could help Erdogan shore up support ahead of elections, analysts say.
    The leaders will also discuss the possible sale of Turkish armed drones to Riyadh, Turkish officials told Reuters.
    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi received MBS at the airport on Monday evening, on the first leg of a Middle East tour that comes ahead of United States President Joe Biden’s trip to the region next month.
    The Saudi leader, who is a steady financial backer of the Egyptian government, discussed “regional and wider international political affairs,” according to el-Sisi’s spokesman Bassam Radi.
    MBS then departed to Jordan for talks with its monarch, King Abdullah II, also a close ally of Saudi Arabia.     Business leaders and officials hoped the visit would unblock at least $3bn of investment projects that Saudi Arabia committed to in recent years, but that never materialised.

6/23/2022 Israel’s Netanyahu prepares for his return by Opinion by Dov S. Zakheim, Opinion Contributor – The HIll
    The last thing President Biden needs at this time is the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister.    Currently the leader of the opposition, having been out of power for a year after a dozen years as prime minister, Netanyahu is poised to return to yet another term at the helm of an Israeli government, following the collapse of the coalition government of Naftali Bennett.
© Provided by The Hill Israel’s Netanyahu prepares for his return
    In so doing, he threatens to undo many of the achievements that Bennett’s short-lived government was able to implement — including the passage of a state budget, improvement in the lives of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians on the West Bank, and a restoration of comity with much of the Democratic Party.    Netanyahu is likely to clash publicly with Biden over the future of the territories, which he previously threatened to annex, and the pending Iran nuclear deal, which he vocally opposed.
    And he no doubt will publicly identify once again with the Trumpian elements in the Republican Party, all but dismissing Democrats of every political hue.
    Netanyahu desperately wants to return to power, with the hope of avoiding a conviction on charges of bribery that he is fighting in court.    Not surprisingly, therefore, during his year out of office, Netanyahu did not merely oppose the government but actively sought to undermine it.    He tried picking off individual members of the governing coalition, reportedly offering them plum governmental positions if they would defect to his side. He failed to pick up additional adherents, but it is clear that his policies, if not his blandishments, helped to motivate the more right-wing members of Bennett’s own Yamina party to vote against it.
    Netanyahu has bitterly attacked the Bennett government for including the Arab Ra’am party in the coalition, which was a first for an Israeli government.    Having an Arab party as a formal member of the governing coalition offered Israelis a glimmer of hope that the country’s Jews and Arabs could work for the common good of both.    That hope has been shattered, at least for the time being.    It is unlikely that a new Netanyahu administration, any more than his previous ones, will include Arabs in his coalition.
Meet the man who helped oust Netanyahu and future prime minister of Israel
    On the other hand, Netanyahu is certain to win the support of the ultra-Orthodox and extreme Religious Zionist parties.    The ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, bitterly opposed the Bennett government not only for keeping them out of power for the first time in years, but for attempting to loosen their stranglehold over both the private lives of Israeli citizens and state budgets that all too generously financed their academies, schools and pet projects.    Indeed, Haredi leaders claimed that the Almighty had caused the government to fall. As one of them put it, “a government that … tried to destroy Judaism and the sanctity of Israel … has been driven from the world.    The Holy One, blessed be He, had mercy on the people of Israel.”     The Religious Zionist party, another certain member of a Netanyahu coalition, vocally supports the West Bank settlers, who constitute much of its political base.    Not surprisingly, its politicians advocate for the annexation of the West Bank.    The party’s leader, Bezalel Smotrich, once a member of Bennett’s Yamina party, has no compunction about vocalizing his attitude toward Arabs.    In 2015, he stated that Israeli developers should not have to sell them homes.    Late last year, he told his Arab Knesset colleagues, “You’re here by mistake — it’s a mistake that Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw you out in 1948.”
    A poll this week showed that Netanyahu and his political partners likely would win 60 seats, one short of a parliamentary majority.    Israeli polls are notoriously incorrect, however, and many former Yamina voters — “Yamina” is a Hebrew word for “go right” — could well switch to Netanyahu’s Likud party.    Indeed, the Israeli press reports that Netanyahu is attempting to replace Bennett without an election by picking up the votes of current Yamina members of the Knesset.    Ayalet Shaked, currently serving as Bennett’s Minister of the Interior, has announced her readiness to join a Netanyahu government.
    Over the past year, the Bennett government attempted with some success to mitigate the impact of Netanyahu policies that had driven Israel and the United States further apart than at any time since the 1960s. Should Netanyahu return to office, the rift is certain to grow wider.    The Biden administration rightly is focusing on the war in Ukraine and the competition with an ever-threatening China.    The Middle East no longer is the central focus of White House policy.
    Netanyahu, therefore, may find that — should he resume both the policies and attitudes that he left off a year ago — there will be no welcome mat waiting for him at the White House door.
    Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.    He was undersecretary of Defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense from 2001 to 2004 and a deputy under secretary of Defense from 1985 to 1987.

7/1/2022 Israeli Foreign Minister Ascends To Prime Minister by OAN NEWSROOM
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid react after a vote on a bill to dissolve the
parliament at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Thursday, June 30, 2022. Israel’s parliament has voted to dissolve
itself, sending the country to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has officially stepped down from his position.    In a ceremony Thursday, he handed the position over to the country’s foreign minister — Yair Lapid.
    Lapid’s ascension comes after the Israeli Parliament voted to dissolve themselves and the announcement of Bennett’s retirement from politics.    Additionally, as part of a coalition agreement, Lapid will continue to function as Israel’s foreign minister alongside his new position.
    “This very special role and this state, it does not belong to one person, it belongs to all the people of Israel,” Bennett stated.    “And I am passing to you this holy baton and the responsibility for the State of Israel, and I wish you that you will protect it and God will protect you.”
    Bennett delivered some remarks during the hand-off ceremony in Jerusalem.    Meanwhile, Israel will form a new cabinet in their November elections.

7/3/2022 Saudi Security Forces Show Strength Ahead Of Hajj, Biden Visit by OAN NEWSROOM
Members of the Saudi special forces perform a military parade in preparation for the annual
Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
    Saudi Arabia held a rare demonstration of its security forces and military preparedness ahead of Joe Biden’s visit.    On Sunday, Saudi Security Forces held a parade in the city of Mecca as part of preparations for a major religious holiday.
    Authorities said millions of Muslim’s visited Mecca for Hajj celebrations, but only vaccinated or immunized worshippers were allowed to attend public events.    Officials said the nation is prepared to address any potential security challenges.
    “By having these security forces and all military forces participating here today, we affirm our readiness to serve the guests of God,” said the Ministry of Interior spokesman Talal Al-Shalhoub.    “We are ready to implement the orders to preserve security and safety of the pilgrims in the state.    This parade reflects the efforts of the king’s government towards the importance of holding the pilgrimage rituals safely and in peace.”

    President Joe Biden said Thursday he will not directly ask Saudi Arabia’s leaders to increase oil production when he visits the kingdom.    He insisted that his trip to the Middle East is not focused on one-on-one engagement with King Salman or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    “That is not the purpose of this trip, I’m not going to ask them,” Biden stated.    “All the Gulf states are meeting.    I’ve indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production generically, not to Saudi Arabia in particular.    I hope we see them in their own interests concluding that makes sense to do.”
    Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia to discuss mutual ties as part of his upcoming tour of the Middle East.    The tour will take place between July 13 and July 16.

7/5/2022 Israel says Iran military build up in Red Sea is threat to stability by Reuters
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel's defence minister said on Tuesday that Iran has been entrenching itself militarily in the Red Sea, calling it a threat to regional stability and trade.
© Reuters/Corinna Kern FILE PHOTO: Benny Gantz attends an election campaign rally in Ramat Gan
    "Today, we can confirm that Iran is methodically basing itself in the Red Sea, with warships patrolling the southern region," Defence Minister Benny Gantz said at an event in Athens.
    "In the last months, we have identified the most significant Iranian military presence in the area, in the past decade," he said.    Gantz's office said he presented satellite images of four Iranian warships patrolling the Red Sea.
Israel's military intel backs Iran deal? Iran Nuclear talks set to resume
    Iran has been building up its naval presence in the Red Sea over more than a decade in a move which it says is needed to protect Iranian oil tankers against the threat of piracy.
    Israel and a number of Arab countries share concerns about Iran's influence in the region as well as Tehran's nuclear programme.    Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.
    Ahead of a visit to the Middle East by U.S. President Joe Biden next week, Gantz has called for stronger security ties with Gulf Arab states that drew closer to Israel under a 2020 U.S.-sponsored diplomatic drive.
    On Saturday, Iran-backed Hezbollah, an armed group in Lebanon, sent three drones towards an Israeli offshore gas rig that were intercepted by Israel's military.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch Editing by Peter Graff and Catherine Evans)

7/6/2022 Revive Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Macron tells Lapid by LAHAV HARKOV – The Jerusalem Post
    PARIS – Prime Minister Yair Lapid has the potential to make historic peace with the Palestinians, French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday during the premier’s visit to the Elysee Palace.
© (photo credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron) French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Israeli Prime Minister
Yair Lapid as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022.
    Macron called for “a return to political dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis.”
    “I know you can have a historic figure by launching a process that has been stopped for so long,” he said.
    Referring to the long-standing friendship between the leaders, Macron added: “I know from personal experience that you can be that figure.    You have the agenda; you have the commitment to peace.”
    “I know from personal experience that you can be that figure.    You have the agenda; you have the commitment to peace.”
Emmanuel Macron
    Lapid avoided mentioning the Palestinians in his remarks, focusing instead on the Iranian nuclear program and Hezbollah’s threats to Israeli natural-gas fields.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid delivers a joint statement with French President
Emmanuel Macron before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (Credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron)
PM Lapid's first trip abroad
    The visit to Paris was Lapid’s first trip abroad as prime minister and a reunion of two politicians who have been friends for nearly a decade, since Lapid was finance minister and Macron was economy minister.    They bonded over forming centrist political parties and have discussed ways to promote centrist politics.    They are in regular contact over the WhatsApp messaging application.
    Macron grinned when Lapid arrived at the Elysee Palace in a Renault hatchback, and they embraced, walking into the presidential building with their arms around each other.    The French president was effusive in his praise of the new Israeli prime minister.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post French President Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of Prime Minister
Yair Lapid at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (Credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron)
    “You chose France as your first visit abroad, something I found very moving, dear Yair,” Macron said.    “The people of Israel are lucky to have you as their new prime minister.”
    “It’s a true pleasure for my first visit as prime minister to be to a country and president that is a close friend,” Lapid said.
    Following his meeting with Macron, Lapid was asked whether he would meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.    Lapid said he would not “have a meeting for the sake of a meeting.    I would only do it if there was a chance of a positive result for Israel, so it is not at the agenda for the moment.”
    Lapid said, however, he would not rule out such a meeting.
    The Palestinian issue came up in the meeting with Macron, but it was only a small part of the conversation, a source in Lapid’s entourage said.    Macron understands that the makeup of the current Israeli government does not allow for major developments on that front, the source added.
Israel's foreign minister Yair Lapid to be next prime minister
    Macron said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 Iran deal that Western powers have yet to give up on reviving, “will not be enough, but I do believe we need to keep Iran below the nuclear threshold.”
    “We need to continue talks with the Americans and negotiations on their regional and ballistic activities,” he said.
    Lapid said Israel and France “may disagree about what the content of the agreement should be, but we do not disagree on the facts: Iran continues to violate the agreement and develop its program, enriching uranium beyond the level it is allowed to and removing cameras from nuclear sites.”
    “We need to continue talks with the Americans and negotiations on their regional and ballistic activitiesEmmanuel Macron
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with
French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, July 5, 2022. (Credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
    “In 2018,” Macron was “the first leader to talk about the need for a new deal with Iran, with no expiration dates and coordinated international pressure to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-threshold state,” he said.
    Macron made the 2018 proposal after then-US president Donald Trump left the JCPOA, and he has supported US President Joe Biden’s efforts to return to it.
    “The Americans and Europeans think there will not be an agreement with Iran,” Lapid said following the two-hour meeting.    “If there isn’t an agreement, we need something else.”
    The JCPOA is so favorable to Iran, “if Iran doesn’t agree to this, then nothing will happen unless there is a credible military threat,” he said.
    Israel also advocated for the parties to the JCPOA to institute snapback sanctions – a reinstatement of sanctions lifted if Iran violates the agreement.
    “I tell this to the French, the Americans, everyone,” Lapid said.    “It’s time for snapback.    We need to bring it to the UN Security Council.”
    Three days after the IAF shot down three drones that Hezbollah directed toward the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, Lapid said: “Israel will not sit back and do nothing given these repeated attacks.”
    “Hezbollah is a terrorist group that threatens Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty, threatens Israel’s security and harms the national interests of Lebanon,” he said at the Elysee Palace.
    Lapid showed Macron intelligence on how Hezbollah is threatening Lebanese and French interests.
    “This is connected to the attack on the Karish gas rig, which we feel is an attack on Israeli sovereignty,” Lapid said in a press briefing following the meeting.    “We want to prevent this from continuing so we don’t have to use military force.”
Macron said Lebanon’s stability is a key element of regional stability.
    “We will continue to help get Lebanon back on its feet,” he said.
    Macron called for the continuation of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon on their maritime border.    “The countries must reach an agreement to develop energy resources,” he said.
    The energy company Total, which is partially owned by the French government, has the rights to gas exploration in Lebanon’s economic waters, an Israeli official said, adding that settling the maritime border dispute with Israel would also benefit France.
    Macron also spoke of France’s strong relationship with Israel.
    “You can count on France’s commitment to Israel’s security and to make sure the region enjoys stability and security,” he said.    “You can count on my commitment to fight our common enemy – terrorism… Never forget that here, in Paris, you have a friend committed to Israel’s success in the region.”
    Lapid and Macron said they wanted to enhance the strategic dialogue between their countries on military and technological cooperation.
    “There had been a feeling that the days of war in Europe are over, but Ukraine showed us that isn’t true,” Lapid said.    “France is going to strengthen its army, and we have a lot to contribute on this front.”

7/11/2022 Biden tries to shift Mideast policy - Softening approach after criticizing Trump moves by Aamer Madhani and Darlene Superville, ASSOCIATED PRSS
Israeli authorities project an image of the Israeli and U.S. flags on the walls of
Jerusalem’s Old City in honor of July Fourth. President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel and
the occupied West Bank this week as part of a broader trip to the Middle East. Mahmoud Illean/AP file
    WASHINGTON – Joe Biden took office looking to reshape U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, putting a premium on promoting democracy and human rights.    In reality, he has struggled on several fronts to meaningfully separate his approach from former President Donald Trump’s.
    Biden’s visit to the region this week includes a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the oil-rich kingdom’s de facto leader who U.S. intelligence officials determined approved the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
    Biden had pledged as a candidate to recalibrate the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, which he described as a 'pariah' nation after Trump’s more accommodating stand, overlooking the kingdom’s human rights record and stepping up military sales to Riyadh.
    But Biden now seems to be making the calculation that there’s more to be gained from courting the country than isolating it.
    Biden’s first stop on his visit to the Mideast will be Israel.    Here, again, his stance has softened since the firm declarations he made when running for president.
    As a candidate, Biden condemned Trump administration policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.    As president, he’s been unable to pressure the Israelis to halt the building of Jewish settlements and has offered no new initiatives to restart long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Biden also has let stand Trump’s 2019 decision recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which reversed more than a half-century of U.S. policy.
    The Biden administration 'has had this rather confusing policy of continuity on many issues from Trump – the path of least resistance on many different issues, including Jerusalem, the Golan, Western Sahara, and most other affairs,' says Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.     Now Biden appears to be trying to find greater equilibrium in his Mideast policy, putting focus on what’s possible in a complicated part of the world at a time when Israel and some Arab nations are showing greater willingness to work together to isolate Iran – their common enemy – and to consider economic cooperation.
    'Biden is coming in, in essence making a choice,' Sachs said.    'And the choice is to embrace the emerging regional architecture.'
    Biden on Saturday used an op-ed in the Washington Post – the same pages where Khashoggi penned much of his criticism of Saudi rule before his death – to declare that the Middle East has become more 'stable and secure' in his nearly 18 months in office and he pushed back against the notion that his visit to Saudi Arabia amounted to backsliding.
    'In Saudi Arabia, we reversed the blank-check policy we inherited,' Biden wrote.    He also acknowledged 'there are many who disagree' with his decision to visit the kingdom.
    He pointed to his administration’s efforts to push a Saudi-led coalition and Houthis to agree to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire – now in its fourth month – after seven years of a war that has left 150,000 people dead in Yemen.    Biden also cited as achievements his administration’s role in helping arrange a truce in last year’s 11-day Israel-Gaza war, the diminished capacity of the Islamic State terrorist group in the region and ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.
    But Biden’s overall Mideast record is far more complicated.    He has largely steered away from confronting some of the region’s most vexing problems, including some that he faulted Trump for exacerbating.
    Biden often talks about the importance of relationships in foreign policy.    His decision to visit the Mideast for a trip that promises little in the way of tangible accomplishments suggests he’s trying to invest in the region for the longer term.
    In public, he has talked of insights gained from long hours over the years spent with China’s Xi Jinping and sizing up Russia’s Vladimir Putin.    He’s relished building bonds with a younger generation of world leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japan’s Fumio Kishida.     'He doesn’t have the personal relationships.    He doesn’t have the duration of relationships,' said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    He arrives at an uncertain moment for Israeli leadership.    Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid last month dissolved the Knesset as their politically diverse coalition crumbled.    Lapid, the former foreign minister, is now the caretaker prime minister.
    Biden also will face fresh questions about his commitment to human rights following the fatal shooting of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.    Independent investigations determined that she was likely shot by an Israeli soldier while reporting from the West Bank in May.
    The Abu Akleh family, in a scathing letter to Biden, accused his administration of excusing the Israelis for the journalist’s death.    The State Department last week said U.S. security officials determined that Israeli gunfire likely killed her but 'found no reason to believe that this was intentional.'
    Two of the most closely watched moments during Biden’s four-day Middle East visit will come when he meets with Israeli opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and when he sees the Saudi crown prince.
    But neither encounter is likely to dramatically alter U.S.-Mideast political dynamics.

7/11/2022 Israeli PM pushes for Saudi relations ahead of Biden visit by Emily Rose, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, center left, makes a statement at the start of a Sunday cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
Israel’s ties with Arab states have grown since normalizing relations with four Arab states in 2020. MAYA ALLERUZZO/POOL/AP
    JERUSALEM – Israel’s prime minister expressed hope Sunday that his country will establish formal diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, days before President Joe Biden visits the two countries as part of a regional trip.     Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have official diplomatic relations, but have shared clandestine security ties over a mutual enmity of regional arch-rival Iran.    The kingdom is widely believed to be among a handful of Arab states weighing open ties with Israel.
    “Israel extends its hand to all the countries of the region and calls on them to build ties with us, establish relations with us, and change history for our children,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said during a weekly Cabinet meeting.    He said Biden will carry “a message of peace and hope from us” when he embarks for Saudi Arabia.
    Israel’s ties with Arab states have grown since normalizing relations with four Arab states in 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords.    Defense cooperation has tightened since the Pentagon switched coordination with Israel from U.S. European Command to Central Command, or CENTCOM, last year.    The move lumped Israel’s military with those of former enemy states, including Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations that have yet to recognize Israel.
    Biden is set to arrive in Israel Wednesday for three-day trip that will also include meetings with Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank. From there, he will fly directly to Saudi Arabia.
    In an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Sunday, Biden said he’s aiming to bring the two countries closer together.
    “I will also be the first president to fly from Israel to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia,” Biden wrote.    “That travel will also be a small symbol of the budding relations and steps toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world, which my administration is working to deepen and expand.”
    Formal ties with Saudi Arabia would be a major diplomatic coup for Israel.    The kingdom has been publicly reticent about acknowledging cooperation with Israel.    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has been a longtime supporter of the Palestinians and their desire to establish an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.    Israel captured all three areas in 1967, though it withdrew its forces and settlers from Gaza in 2005.
    The kingdom has long conditioned the establishment of full diplomatic ties with Israel upon a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.    Israel and the Palestinians have not held substantive negotiations in more than a decade.
    But recent years have seen signs of a shifting attitude.
    Saudi Arabia has allowed flights between Israel and Gulf states to cross through its airspace.    In 2020, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and last week several Israeli defense reporters visited the kingdom and published news reports about their welcome.

7/11/2022 Israeli party ministers to run as election partners by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – The leaders of two parties in Israel’s outgoing government coalition announced Sunday that they would run as political partners in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
    The announcement by Gideon Saar and Benny Gantz was the first shift in Israel’s political landscape since the Knesset voted to dissolve itself June 30 and send the country back to the polls to elect a new parliament.
    Israel will hold its fifth elections in under four years in November after the government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett collapsed last month.    The previous four elections were largely referendums on longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s fitness to serve as prime minister while under indictment for corruption.
    Gantz, a former army chief of staff, heads the centrist Blue and White party and serves as Israel’s defense minister.    Saar is a former member of the once-dominant Likud party who broke ranks and formed his hawkish New Hope party.    He is currently justice minister.
    Both were key members of the alliance of eight diverse parties that joined forces last year to oust Netanyahu after 12 years in office.
    Gantz said that the two parties were joining forces in order to provide voters with a strong centrist option to help end the country’s protracted political crisis.
    “Today, we are laying the foundation of the next government,” he said.
    Saar said the aim was to break the political deadlock and form “a broad national unity government that is not dependent upon the fringes.”    He said that Gantz was best suited to lead as prime minister.

7/10/2022 Biden WaPo Op-Ed: I Have To Meet With Saudi Govt To Keep America Safe And Secure by OAN NEWSROOM
FILE – President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House,
Friday, July 8, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
    President Joe Biden defended his upcoming meeting with Saudi leaders despite outcry from critics.    In a Washington Post op-ed allegedly written by Biden, the president asserted his commitment to upholding human rights.
    However, he argued that he has to position America to take on Russia and China.    He claimed bolstering ties with Saudi Arabia will help do that.    The Saudi Royal Family, especially crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman have been suspected of aiding the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the recent mass executions of political prisoners.
    “I know that there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia,” Biden said.    “My views on human rights are clear and long-standing.    Fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad as they will be during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank.”
    Additionally, critics have condemned Biden’s recent attempts to reach out to the Saudi government to beg for oil exports amid his war with American energy companies.    Biden said the Middle East he will be visiting is more stable and secure than the one his administration inherited 18 months ago.
    “As president, it is my job to keep our country strong and secure,” he voiced.    “We have to counter Russia’s aggression.    We have to put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world.    To do these things we have to engage directly with countries that can impact those outcomes.    Saudi Arabia is one of them and when I meet with Saudi leaders my aim will be to strengthen a strategic partnership going forward that’s based on mutual interests and responsibilities, while also holding true to fundamental American values.”
    Biden will be the first president to fly from Israel to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.    He claimed his travels will be a small symbol of the budding relations and steps toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world, which his administration has worked to deepen and expand.
    He is expected to visit Saudi Arabia on Friday during his tour of the middle east.

7/12/2022 Amichai Chikli quits Knesset, clears path to join Netanyahu's Likud by JERUSALEM POST STAFF
© (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) House committee approves bill to disperse the Knesset, December 26th, 2018.
    MK Amichai Chikli resigned from the Knesset on Tuesday, in a move that will enable him to run in the upcoming election for an established faction, such as opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
Netanyahu to be Israeli PM again? How political crisis could mark the return of Bibi
    This was agreed upon following Chikli's successful appeal of his designation as a renegade MK to the Jerusalem District Court.    Chikli quit Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's Yamina party before the government was formed in June 2021.

7/12/2022 Biden aims to boost a Mideast defense strategy – comment by NEVILLE TELLER – The Jerusalem Post
    Once top secret, a multinational meeting of military leaders in March formed the basis for discussions that US President Joe Biden is planning for his imminent visit to the Middle East.
© (photo credit: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/REUTERS) GULF COOPERATION Council foreign ministers meet in Riyadh, last year.
President Joe Biden is to attend a GCC meeting, augmented by the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
    For three months, a clandestine get-together of US, Israeli and Arab military chiefs remained secret.    Then on June 26, The Wall Street Journal printed an exclusive, revealing details of a meeting hosted by the US in Egypt’s Sharm e-Sheikh the previous March, which had apparently included military leaders from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.    They had met in secret, according to the report, to explore ways of coordinating a joint response to Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities.
    As the WSJ pointed out, these talks marked the first time that such a range of ranking Israeli and Arab officers had met under US military auspices to discuss how to defend themselves and each other against a common threat.
    A glance at the participants suggests that something else is new on the regional scene – the positive effect that the Abraham Accords is having in expanding the concept of normalization across the moderate Arab world.    No longer does the idea of sitting round a table with Israelis seem inconceivable, even though Qatar and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations with Israel.    On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly obvious to Arab leaders that linking up with Israel’s hi-tech capabilities across a multitude of fields brings them huge benefits not otherwise available.
    For example, Arab countries appear increasingly keen to access sophisticated Israeli air defense technology, following a succession of recent drone strikes on oil facilities and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, perpetrated by Iran or its proxies.    One such, carried out in September 2019, was claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post US President Joe Biden speaks after signing an executive order to help safeguard
women's access to abortion and contraception after the Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v Wade decision
that legalized abortion, at the White House in Washington, US, July 8, 2022. (Credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
    It hit an Aramco compound in Saudi Arabia, shutting down about 5% of global oil production and caused chaos in financial markets.    A three-drone strike directed by Hezbollah against Israel’s Karish oil rig in the Mediterranean on July 2 was shot down by the IDF.
    During his visit, Biden is due to attend a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to be augmented by the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.    It will no doubt include on the agenda the regional threat to security posed by Iran and its proxies.    Collaborative counter-measures arising from the Sharm e-Sheikh meeting in March might be reviewed.
    Media reports claim that the participants in the March meeting discussed which country’s forces would intercept drone, ballistic or cruise missile attacks.    They agreed in principle to coordinate rapid notification systems when aerial threats are detected, but apparently agreed that for the present a US-style military data-sharing system would not be set up, but that alerts would be sent via phones and computers.
Warming relationships
    Presidential visits invariably generate intense media speculation, and the word is that during his time in Israel and Saudi Arabia, Biden will announce further steps in the warming relationship between the two nations.    There is talk of Biden brokering a new Saudi-Israeli agreement, which is believed to include allowing Israeli commercial flights over the kingdom, and Israeli approval of a plan to transfer Egypt’s control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
    In 2017, against much internal objection, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified a treaty to hand over Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.    The uninhabited islands figure in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, which promises safe passage to Israeli civilian and military ships through the narrow waterways of the Straits of Tiran.    The transfer was never finalized, and requires Israel’s consent.    That now seems forthcoming.
    Visits by US presidents to Israel might almost be considered routine (six did so, some more than once), but Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia was long weighed in the balance.    The fact that it is going ahead is a mark of the importance that Washington attaches to it.    Liberal opinion in the US declares itself outraged at the idea of Biden shaking hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), in the light of the Khashoggi affair.
    On the afternoon of October 2, 2018, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of MBS entered the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Istanbul, never to emerge.    Having listened to purported recordings of conversations inside the consulate made by Turkish intelligence, a UN special rapporteur concluded that the journalist had been “brutally slain” inside the building by a 15-strong team of Saudi agents, and that his body was then dismembered.
    Khashoggi’s murder sparked worldwide outrage.    US intelligence agencies concluded that the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, had approved the operation.    MBS denied playing any role.    A year after the killing, a Saudi court found five people guilty of directly participating in the killing and sentenced them to death.
    The sentences were later commuted to 20-year prison terms.    Three others received lesser sentences for covering up the crime.     While Turkey has signed off on its involvement in the case, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and MBS have exchanged visits, liberal opinion in the West refuses to accept the Saudi judicial outcome, and continues to charge MBS with responsibility for the assassination.
    It is against this background that Biden sets foot in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, hoping to achieve a clear commitment by Saudi to increase oil production over time, thus fostering a drop in prices.    With renewal of the Iran nuclear deal now unlikely, he will be seeking to expand cooperation between the Gulf states, other Arab countries and, as far as possible, Israel, to counter the threat from Iran.
    High on Biden’s list of objectives will be to advance regional normalization, but especially the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel.    Media reports claim that Washington is working on “a road map to normalization” between the two countries, and that during his visit, Biden will discuss a “vision for integrated missile defense and naval defense” with his hosts.    In other words, the secret meeting at Sharm e-Sheikh in March 2022 virtually set the agenda for this month’s presidential visit.
    The writer is Middle East correspondent for Eurasia Review.    His latest book is Trump and the Holy Land 2016-2020. Follow him at:

7/13/2022 Biden's east Jerusalem visit boosts PA claim to city – congressmen by TOVAH LAZAROFF The Jerusalem Post
    President Joe Biden’s scheduled visit to an east Jerusalem hospital on Friday will boost the Palestinian Authority’s claim to that section of the city which is under Israeli sovereignty, six Republican representatives said in a letter they addressed to the White House.
© (photo credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN/POOL VIA REUTERS) US President Joe Biden waves as he leaves Israel
    A visit would be viewed as a continued sign of continued support [for] the Palestinians in their illegitimate efforts to claim east Jerusalem,” the six representatives wrote.
    The initiative to try and sway Biden not to make an unprecedented visit to the eastern part of the city was spearheaded by Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Texas.
    It was signed by three other Texas Representatives; Randy Weber, Pete Sessions and Ronny Jackson.
Representatives Bill Johnson of Ohio and W. Gregory Steube of Florida also signed the document.
    Biden will be the first US president to visit an east Jerusalem location identified with the Palestinians and it is seen as a nod in the US acceptance of the Palestinian’s right to have their capital there.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post US President Joe Biden participates in a welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion
International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, July 13, 2022 (credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
    Former US president Donald Trump also crossed the Green Line during his 2017 visit, but he went to the Jewish holy site of the Western Wall, in a move that preceded his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his relocation of the US Embassy to that city from Tel Aviv.
Biden is visiting a Middle East very different from the one he visited as vice president: Israeli politician
    The United States Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital in 1995 when it passed the US Embassy Act.
    The six Republicans recalled that Biden had supported that Act when he was a senator.
    “Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.    Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem – including the East, which it occupied in the 1967 Middle East War – as its indivisible capital,” the representatives said.
    They recalled that in October 168 House republicans had signed a letter opposing any US moves to reopen the east Jerusalem Consulate General that had served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians until Trump closed it in 2018.
    Biden has promised to reopen that consulate but has yet to secure the needed permission from Israel.
    Friday’s visit is seen as a gesture in lieu of that move.
    “Israel has a sovereign capital, and just like no other nation has another consulate on its territory, neither should Israel,” the representatives said.
    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon wrote in an open letter that such a visit would symbolize support for the PA’s efforts to divide Jerusalem.
    In contrast, the left-wing Israeli NGO B’Tselem pushed Biden to recognize Israel as an apartheid state.

7/14/2022 Biden, Israel Prime Minister Lapid Sign Strategic Partnership Declaration by OAN NEWSROOM
U.S. President Joe Biden, left, and Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid, sign a security pledge
at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 14, 2022. (Atef Safadi/Pool via AP)
    President Joe Biden and Israel Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed a strategic partnership declaration, reaffirming the strength of ties between both nations.    The two leaders signed the Jerusalem US-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration Thursday after holding talks on Iran, Saudi Arabia and other issues in the Middle East.
    The declaration reaffirms America’s longstanding commitment to Israel’s security and both nation’s commitment to never allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.    Additionally, Biden asserted his administration is “devoted” to protecting the Jewish state.
    “We talked about what was, from my perspective, for Israel to be totally integrated into the region,” stated the US President.    “We are guaranteed our administration and I think the vast majority of the American public, not just my administration, is completely devoted to Israel’s security.”
    Biden also said the US will not wait forever in regards to potentially reviving the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran.

7/14/2022 President Biden admits he was given prepared list of reporters to call on during joint news presser in Israel by Kristine Parks – FOX News
    During a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday morning in Jerusalem, President Biden said he was "given a list" of reporters to take questions from.
    The president made the gaffe after taking one question from an Israeli reporter.    Afterwards, he was prompted to call on more reporters, when he said, "Um, sure.    Uh, I was given a list here," before reading off the name of Reuters reporter Steve Holland.
    As the conference went on, Biden repeatedly looked down at his list to call on reporters.    "The next person to ask us a question, I guess, is Nadia [Bilbassy]," he said referring to a reporter for an Arabic news outlet.
    The gaffe came one day after Biden misspoke while referring to the Holocaust, shortly after landing in Israel to begin the first leg of his Middle East trip.
    "Later today, I will once more return to the hallowed ground of … Yad Vashem to honor the 6 million Jewish lives that were stolen in a genocide and continue — which we must do every, every day — continue to bear witness, to keep alive the truth and honor of the Holocaust — horror of the Holocaust — honor those we lost, so that we never, ever forget that lesson, you know, and to continue our shared, unending work to fight the poison of anti-Semitism wherever it raises its ugly head," Biden said in comments covered by Fox News.
    After visiting Israel, the president will visit the West Bank before traveling to Saudi Arabia to conclude his first visit to the Middle East since taking office.
    This isn't the first time President Biden has raised eyebrows for admitting to calling on a pre-approved list of reporters given to him by his staff.
    At a Russia-United States Summit in Geneva last year, the president was mocked for "saying the quiet part out loud" when he told reporters that "as usual," he would only be calling on reporters his staff directed him to.
    More recently, Biden repeatedly referred to a list of names during a press conference in Madrid, Spain following the NATO Summit at the end of June. Looking down at his paper, he stated he was "told" to call on Darlene Superville from The Associated Press.
© AP Photo/Alex Brandon President Biden listens to questions from reporters while speaking about the Russian
invasion of Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
    According to one report, Biden's staff avoids holding press events in the Oval Office because there is no teleprompter.
    During his first year in office, the president did far less formal sit-down interviews with journalists than his previous two predecessors.    Donald Trump did 92, and Barack Obama did 156, while Joe Biden only did 22, according to data from Towson University's White House Transition Project, Fox News reported.

7/14/2022 Tensions over Iran nuclear deal disrupt Biden's kumbaya moment in Israel by Maureen Groppe and Francesca Chambers, USA TODAY
JERUSALEM – President Joe Biden's meetings with Israeli leaders on Thursday delved into divisions over how to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Biden begins his first presidential trip to the Middle East in Israel, focuses on security
    At first, it was mostly kumbaya between Biden and new Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. With the prime minister at his side, Biden said their bilateral meeting was a "good beginning" of what's going to be "a long, God willing, relationship" between the two leaders.
    "I think the vast majority of the American public, not just my administration, is completely devoted to (Israel's) security," Biden declared.
    The president acknowledged that he and Lapid discussed his administration's desire to revive a nuclear deal with Iran, brokered by the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.    The deal curbed Iran's nuclear enrichment capabilities, but     Tehran stopped adhering to its limits after the Trump administration withdrew from the pact.
    "There will be no nuclear Iran.    This is not only a threat to Israel, but to the world," Biden said.    "And we discussed some other issues we are going to keep to ourselves."
    But at a news conference later, Lapid lectured Biden on the issue.    In prepared remarks, the Israeli leader pushed Biden to change course on Iran.
    Lapid said no amount of words or diplomacy would stop Iran from further developing its nuclear program.
    "The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table," Lapid told Biden.
    Biden said in his opening remarks that he would be maintaining his approach.    "I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome, and we'll continue to work with Israel to counter other threats from Iran throughout the region."
    Lapid said later that no daylight exists between the two allies on the desired outcome, which is keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
Timeline: How tensions escalated with Iran after Trump withdrew US from nuclear deal
    Biden said Iran has an opportunity to accept the agreement that is before them.    "If they don't, we made absolutely clear: we will not, let me say it again, we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon."
© Evan Vucci, AP Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid listens as President Joe Biden
responds to him during a news conference in Jerusalem on Thursday.
    The U.S. and Israel also issued a joint statement outlining areas of consensus and launched a partnership on emerging technologies.
The latest:
© Debbie Hill, AP President Joe Biden greets Holocaust survivors, Rena Quint and Gita Cycowicz, in the Hall
of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
What's about to happen
    Biden will conclude his trip to Israel on Friday. Before he flies to Saudi Arabia, he will meet in Bethlehem with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.    They will deliver joint statements from the West Bank and Biden will visit the Church of the Nativity.
    Hours before Biden was to depart Israel, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to “all air carriers,” signaling the end of its longstanding ban on Israeli flights overflying its territory – a key step toward normalization between the two nations.
    In a statement posted to Twitter, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said it was announcing “the decision to open the Kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the Authority for overflying.”
    The announcement is an incremental step toward the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and builds on the strong but informal ties the erstwhile foes have developed in recent years over their shared concerns about Iran’s growing influence in the region.
    The White House said the announcement paves the way for "a more integrated, stable and secure Middle East region."
© MANDEL NGAN, AFP via Getty Images President Joe Biden is welcomed by Israel's President Isaac Herzog, left,
and caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Top takeaways
    Despite their differences on Iran, Israelis still like Biden personally, says David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
    “Biden as an individual is very popular because they like the visceral politicians who wear their love of Israel on their sleeves,” Makovsky said.    “He does.”
    But Israelis know that progressives in the Democratic Party are pushing Biden to get tougher on Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians, according to Tamar Hermann, a senior research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.
    Plus, Hermann said, Biden succeeded former President Donald Trump, a very popular figure in Israel.
    Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and helped normalize relations between Israel and several Arab nations.
    At Thursday's news conference, Biden and Lapid were pressed on their differing views on Iran and help for the Palestinians.    But they were not asked about Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist who was shot dead in May while reporting on an Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank.
    Biden said, "Israel must remain an independent democratic Jewish state" to guarantee the security of the Jewish people and the entire world.    "I believe that to my core, and the best way to achieve that remains a two-state solution," he said.
What they are saying

7/15/2022 Joe Biden turns attention to Palestinians on final day of trip to Israel by Maureen Groppe and Michael Collins, USA TODAY
    JERUSALEM – After two days of reaffirming America’s steadfast alliance with Israel, President Joe Biden on Friday will turn his attention to the plight of the Palestinians, though he has already acknowledged he can’t give them what they want.
    And now as President.
    Biden begins his first presidential trip to the Middle East in Israel, focuses on security.
    Shortly after arriving in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Biden said he still supports the creation of an independent Palestinian nation alongside Israel but knows that won’t happen any time soon.
    Instead, Biden will visit a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem where he will announce humanitarian assistance and will meet in Bethlehem with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The latest
What's about to happen
    Biden is expected to announce several initiatives to benefit the Palestinian people, including more than $316 million in aid for various programs.
© GIL COHEN-MAGEN, AFP via Getty Images President Joe Biden, Israeli President Isaac Herzog (L) and Israel's caretaker
Prime Minister Yair Lapid attend the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Thursday.
Why it matters
    East Jerusalem is predominantly Arab and claimed by Palestinian leaders as the future capital of their independent state.
    Since then-President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, Israeli government officials have participated in visits to East Jerusalem by U.S. officials.    But they won’t accompany Biden Friday.
    Biden isn't expected to announce any progress toward his commitment of reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, which had served as a de facto embassy.
What they are saying
7/14/2022 News Analysis: Palestinians feel increasingly disillusioned by Biden's approach by Tracy Wilkinson, Noah Bierman – LA Times
    The short ride that takes President Biden from Jerusalem to Bethlehem passes an enormous mural of a smiling woman, wearing a flak jacket, yellow paint giving highlights to her chestnut hair.
© (Evan Vucci / Associated Press) President Biden and Israeli President Isaac Herzog arrive for a ceremony
to present Biden the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor on Thursday. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
    The painting depicts the Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, shot to death in May, probably by Israeli forces.    The Biden administration’s reaction — a muted condemnation, an inconclusive investigation — is the latest in a long list of grievances Palestinians have with the current U.S. government.
    For decades, Middle East diplomacy has usually revolved around the Palestinian demand for statehood and how to obtain it.
    Yet, in Biden’s four-day trip this week to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia, his only meeting with a Palestinian government leader is seen as little more than a courtesy call.    And making peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians isn’t on Biden’s to-do list.    Instead, the trip is focusing on Iran and regional security.
    Upon arriving here on Wednesday, Biden said he continued to support the two-state solution — the concept of an independent Palestinian country sitting alongside Israel.    But, the president conceded, such a historic step won’t happen “in the near term.”
    In a later news conference, Biden repeated his long-held position that “Israel must remain an independent, democratic Jewish state."
    "I believe that to my core, and the best way to achieve that remains a two-state solution," he said.
    But he also said he has not reversed the Trump-era declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, a controversial position because Palestinians claim part of the contested holy city as their capital for an eventual state.
    Given the political situations in Israel and the Palestinian leadership, administration officials have said there is no space for renewing negotiations.    Israel is about to hold its fifth national election in four years, with a caretaker government in place.
© (Mahmoud Illean / Associated Press) A mural by Palestinian artist Taqi Spateen depicts slain Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,
on part of Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Mahmoud Illean / Associated Press)
    On the Palestinian side, President Mahmoud Abbas has stayed in office a decade past the legal end of his term, and he has refused to hold new elections.    Further complicating matters: Palestinian leadership is divided between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the more militant Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
    The Palestinian issue was drastically marginalized by former President Trump.    In addition to moving the U.S. Embassy here from Tel Aviv.    Trump cut most aid to the Palestinians and closed their de facto embassy in Washington.    He also shut down the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem that served Palestinians Biden plans to meet with Israeli, Palestinian leaders during Middle East visit.
    Trump’s policies were lopsidedly pro-Israel.    Biden campaigned on reversing most of them and reviving the peace process, and his rhetoric raised expectations among the Palestinians.
    But 18 months into his presidency, Biden has not fulfilled key promises, and Palestinians have grown deeply disillusioned with his administration.
    “Biden’s approach to the Palestinians was already quite minimalistic coming in, focusing on reversing the most damaging changes implemented under Donald Trump while expending the least political capital,” Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said in a recent forum.    “And yet, the administration’s policies have fallen well short of this already modest goal.”
    Biden administration officials insist they had a lot to rebuild after Trump.    The U.S. government has renewed aid to the Palestinians, they said, and has reopened diplomatic contact.
    But that's about it.
    More important, say Palestinian activists, is that the Biden administration has turned a blind eye to rapid Israeli settlement in the West Bank and the demolition of Palestinian homes.    Settlements, which much of the international community consider illegal under the Geneva Convention, have turned the West Bank into a Swiss-cheese landscape that will make it impossible for Palestinians to have a contiguous viable state in the territory, Palestinians say.
    Already bitter, Palestinians were enraged when Abu Akleh, the journalist, was shot dead during an Israeli raid on the Palestinian town and refugee camp of Jenin on May 11.    Though she was wearing a flak jacket that said "PRESS" and a helmet, she was nevertheless fatally struck by a bullet.    Palestinians quickly blamed Israel; Israel said it was likely the work of a Palestinian gunman.
    The State Department lamented the "terrible tragedy" but went no further.
© (Maya Levin / Associated Press) Israeli police clash in May with mourners carrying
the casket of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. (Maya Levin / Associated Press)
    In June, the United Nations human rights commission concluded Abu Akleh was shot by the Israelis, adding that "several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards" her and a group of six other journalists "from the direction of the Israeli Security Forces."
    On July 4, the State Department said it was "likely" the deadly shot was fired by Israeli forces but there was "no evidence" that it was an intentional killing.    It was unclear how the U.S.-appointed investigators reached that second conclusion because they did not interview members of the Israeli military.    Israel eventually acknowledged its soldiers may have killed the journalist "accidentally."
(Palestinians initially refused to hand over the bullet recovered from Abu Akleh's body but eventually gave it to U.S. authorities to perform forensic testing. The U.S. concluded the bullet was too badly mangled to determine who fired it.)
    Abu Akleh, whose funeral at a Greek Catholic church was disrupted by Israeli forces who said mourners were throwing rocks at them, was a veteran reporter for the Al Jazeera television network and something of a journalistic icon in Palestinian households.    She was also a U.S. citizen.
    Her family is demanding justice and a meeting with Biden.    Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who is accompanying Biden, telephoned the family this week and invited them to Washington.
    In a letter to Biden, the family accused the State Department of a "whitewash" in issuing its conclusions and said the U.S. "has been skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by Israeli forces.”
    Palestinian activists say the killing and how the investigation was handled have added fuel to restive anger fed by neglect and hostility that dominates the occupied territories.    The difficulties are exacerbated by increasingly repressive Palestinian Authority security forces clamping down on dissent.
    Diana Buttu, a lawyer and former advisor to the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinians were initially hopeful that when Biden took office things might change.    Instead, they believe he has fallen "into lockstep" with policies that Trump had pursued.
    "Not in tone but in practice," she said in a video call from Haifa.    "Trump laid down the foundation, and Biden is letting it go unchecked."
    The accords that are opening ties between Israel and several Arab countries that never recognized its existence — brokered first by Trump and being expanded by Biden — have further disheartened the Palestinians who believed Arab nations would only normalize relations with Israel once statehood had been resolved.
    The Biden administration argues that broad normalization will make for a more secure region that ultimately benefits the Palestinians, too.    Most Palestinians do not regard it that way, having watched as their most important bargaining chip evaporated.
    This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

7/15/2022 Oil prices bounce as expectations fade for Saudi output rise after Biden visit by William Watts - MarketWatch
© Joe Raedle/Getty Images Oil prices bounce as expectations
fade for Saudi output rise after Biden visit FUTURES MOVERS
    Oil futures bounced Friday, but remained on track for hefty weekly losses, after a news report said the U.S. doesn’t expect Saudi Arabia to immediately boost production during President Joe Biden’s visit to the kingdom.
Price action
Market drivers
    Biden arrived in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on Friday, greeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a fist bump.    Biden was scheduled to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and participate in a working session with the crown prince and Saudi ministers.    On Saturday, Biden was slated to participate in a summit meeting of Gulf nation leaders.
    The visit is widely seen as an effort by Biden to reset the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.
    Citing a U.S. official, Reuters reported that Washington doesn’t expect to see Saudi Arabia immediately boost production, with expectations instead centered around an Aug. 3 meeting of OPEC+, made up of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies.
    Biden, in his 2020 presidential campaign, had vowed to treat Saudi Arabia like a pariah.    In February 2021, the White House cleared the release of an intelligence report that determined that the crown prince had ordered the operation that led to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
    The New York Times on Thursday reported that Martin Indyk, a former diplomat who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, had said that while exact amounts were uncertain, the Saudis were expected to increase production by around 750,000 barrels a day, with the United Arab Emirates boosting output by 500,000 barrels a day for a combined 1.25 million barrels a day.
    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are seen as the only OPEC+ members with the spare capacity available to meaningfully raise output, but analysts have questioned how wiling they would be to significantly tap into that cushion.
Commodities Corner: Why Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is unlikely to contribute much to oil’s price decline
    “We believe that any supply additions from the Kingdom or any other Middle Eastern producers will be incremental and fall well short of the 1.25 mb/d figure cited yesterday by the New York Times,” said Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.
    “While we believe that there will be an additional barrels ask from the American administration, the ramp up from Saudi Arabia and UAE will be gradual in order to preserve the slim spare capacity shock absorbers,” she wrote.
    Croft said any increase would likely be done within the framework of the existing OPEC+ agreement that runs through December “and could entail compensating for the countries that have consistently failed to meet their production targets — namely Nigeria and Angola, which are producing a combined 930 kb/d below their quotas.”
    Rising fears of a recession have been blamed for a sharp retreat for crude which saw both WTI and Brent sink below the $100-a-barrel threshold, with the U.S. benchmark on Thursday temporarily erasing all of the rise seen following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

7/15/2022 Biden fist bumps Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid criticism of meeting by ABC
    Three years after he vowed, as a presidential candidate, to make Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a "global pariah," President Joe Biden was given a warm welcome on Friday in Jeddah as he sat across from Saudi Arabia's de-facto leader.
Biden fist bumps Saudi’s crown prince
    "Mr. President, welcome to Saudi Arabia," said a smiling crown price, clearly delighted that Biden made the trip to his turf.
    Mohammed bin Salman and members of the Saudi delegation appeared warm throughout their brief discussion, with the powerful Saudi leader appearing to nod as Biden spoke to him.
© Evan Vucci/AP President Joe Biden participates in a working session with Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman at the Al Salman Royal Palace, July 15, 2022, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
    Before reporters were ushered out, they peppered the leaders, unsuccessfully, with questions, asking the crown prince if he would apologize to the family of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident whose murder U.S. intelligence says the crown prince ordered.
    When one asked Biden if Saudia Arabia is still a pariah state, a noticeable smirk was briefly spotted on Mohammed bin Salman's face.
© Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Court via Reuters Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fist bumps
President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Al Salman Palace, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022.
    Biden, continuing his first visit to the Middle East as president, shared a fist bump with Mohammed bin Salman upon meeting him outside the Al Salam Royal Palace,, ahead of their highly-anticipated meeting despite criticism around the Saudi Arabia stop.
    Biden met, separately, with the prince's father, King Salman.
© Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Court via Reuters Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
receives President Joe Biden at Al Salman Palace upon his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022.
    The president stepped off Air Force One in Jeddah and onto a lavender carpet -- symbolic of blooming flowers in the Saudi Kingdom -- shortly after 11 a.m. ET, descending the steps and greeted immediately by two individuals.    He fist bumped the first greeter and shook hands with others.    The president then walked towards the Beast, stopping to greet a few other officials lined up for his arrival, accompanied by national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
    Sullivan declined to say earlier this week if the public would see the president and the crown prince shake hands, and Biden has repeatedly declined to say whether he will bring up the 2018 murder of and Washington Post columnist Khashoggi with him -- despite immense pressure to snub the leader over alleged human rights atrocities, particularly since a U.S. intelligence report found Mohammad bin Salman directly approved the murder operation at a Saudi embassy in Turkey in 2018.
© Evan Vucci/AP President Joe Biden is greeted by Saudi Arabia officials as
he arrives at King Abdulaziz International Airport, July 15, 2022, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
    Sullivan pushed back again Friday on a reporter's suggestion that Biden was "dancing around" whether he would directly address Khashoggi's murder, despite the slain journalist's fiancé saying the White House assured her his specific case would be raised.
    "I think it's wrong to say the president was dancing around it," Sullivan said, ticking through Biden's statement on the matter.
    "First statement, he doesn't describe the details of what he is going to raise in meetings, particularly before he's had them, because he wants to go have those meetings. Second statement, he always raises issues of human rights, and this will be no different," Sullivan said.
Question over handshake symbolizes Biden's awkward approach to Saudi Arabia
    Although, as a presidential candidate, Biden vowed to make oil-rich Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state over Khashoggi's murder, the rapprochement in U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations comes at a time when gas prices have skyrocketed as the West has attempted to boycott Russian oil, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, and as Biden faces calls to balance security interests with human rights concerns.
© Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images President Joe Biden is welcomed at the
King Abdulaziz International Airport in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah on July 15, 2022.
    Biden has defended his trip to the oil-rich nation, writing in an op-ed for The Washington Post published ahead of his visit that "my aim was to reorient -- but not rupture -- relations with a country that's been a strategic partner for 80 years."
    "As president, it is my job to keep our country strong and secure," he wrote.    "We have to counter Russia's aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China, and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world."
    Biden won't say if he'll bring up Khashoggi's murder when he meets with Saudis.
    But Sullivan on Friday ahead of the meeting downplayed any chance of an agreement from Saudi Arabia to increase oil production as a result of Biden's meetings in the kingdom.
    "I don't think you should expect a particular announcement here bilaterally," he told reporters on AF1.    "We will discuss energy security at this meeting," he said broadly, when asked if the public should expect an agreement.
© Bloomberg via Getty Images President Joe Biden, speaks during an arrival
ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 13, 2022.
    Since taking office, Biden has spoken twice with King Salman, the crown prince's father, who officially rules the country, but had dispatched Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to serve as his administration's point of contact with the crown prince, in what was widely perceived as a snub to the powerful Saudi leader.
    On Saturday, Biden plans to attend a summit of Arab leaders in Jeddah, a meeting that the crown prince will also attend, though it's not yet clear how the two leaders will interact or engage there.
    Biden noted in his op-ed he would be the first U.S. president to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, describing it as a "small symbol" of the deepening ties between Israel and the Arab world.
    ABC News' Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

7/15/2022 Saudi Arabia more than doubled Russian oil imports in the second quarter, freeing up their own crude for export by (Brian Evans) – Markets Insider
© Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 14, 2019. Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images
    The world's largest oil producer stepped up imports of Russian oil in the second quarter despite sanctions aimed at choking Moscow's energy flows, Reuters said.
    Saudi Arabia imported 647,000 tonnes of Russian oil from April to June, according to data reviewed by Reuters.    Saudi Arabia took possession of the oil from Russian and Estonian ports, and has thus far imported 320,000 more barrels from Russia compared to 2021 levels.
    The Kingdom's increased willingness to grow its reliance on Russian oil is at odds with global powers which are trying to condemn the Kremlin and cut off its exports in response to its invasion of Ukraine in February.    Reports say that President Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia isn't likely to yield a deal on oil, further straining price pressures in the US despite 20-straight days of decline prices at the pump.
1 of 11 Photos in Gallery©Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    'Too big to sanction'?    10 key facts about Russia's oil and commodity exports.
    Russia is a big player in the world's commodity markets.    It is one of the world's largest exporters of some of the most vital raw materials, from wheat and grains, to oil, natural gas and coal, to gold and other precious metals.
    The country's invasion of Ukraine led to a barrage of unprecedented sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow and choking off its access to international financial markets.
    While sanctions have not directly targeted Russia's energy exports yet, the US said on Sunday it and its European allies are considering a ban on its imports of its oil.    Russia is the world's third-largest producer of oil and one of the biggest producers of gas.    A ban would send its customers scrambling for any kind of alternative at any price.     Just the potential for some kind of ban saw Brent crude futures surge to over $130 a barrel Monday, their highest since mid-2008.
    But it's not that simple.    Russia isn't just dominant in the oil trade.    It's one of the biggest producers of wheat and coal. And some experts believe Western leaders will stop short of outright embargoes, given their economies could be too badly damaged by the ensuing price rises as a result.
    "Russia is too big to sanction," Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman at energy consultancy company FGE, told Bloomberg last week.
    "The global market cannot survive without Russian oil, and certainly Europe cannot survive without Russian gas."
    Here are 10 key facts about Russia's energy and commodity exports:
    The imports also allow the Kingdom to free up their own oil exports to reap in profits from the record-high prices on the international market.    Some of the Russian fuel made its way to Saudi Arabia through Egypt, accounting for some of the 110,000 barrels per day imported from Egypt in June.    Meanwhile, Egypt imported 70,000 barrels per day from Russia in June, Reuters said.
    Saudi Arabia uses oil for its power grid, especially important during scorching summer months.    Many large cities in the Kingdom stretch far from natural gas fields, making their dependence on oil even stronger.    Saudi Arabia typically runs through 600,000 barrels per day during the summer and roughly 300,000 barrels per day during the winter.

7/15/2022 Biden Meets With Palestinian Leader Abbas by OAN NEWSROOM
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a joint statement with Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas at the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    President Joe Biden met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.    Biden visited Abbas in Bethlehem on Friday, where he affirmed, he is still working toward a two-state solution and lasting peace between Israel and Palestinian authority.
    Biden said the violence between both sides has devastated too many families and added that it is “heartbreaking” that so many Palestinians and Israelis have died this year.    He acknowledged that a two-state solution will not be a reality anytime soon, but pledged to not give up on pursuing it.
    “There must be a political horizon the Palestinian people can actually see or at least feel,” Biden said.    “We cannot allow the hopelessness to steal away the future that so many have worked toward for so long.    So even if the ground is not ripe at this moment to restart negotiations, the United States and my administration will not give up on trying to bring the Palestinians and Israelis and both sides closer together.”
    This comes as the Biden administration announced Thursday that it is providing $316 million in additional aid to the Palestinian authority, including around $200 million for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
    The administration also proposed a multi-year contribution of $100 million for the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network, which provides medical care ranging from oncological care to emergency services for 50,000 local patients, though the funding would require authorization from Congress.
    Furthermore, Israelis are in the midst of more political chaos after the government’s collapse last month.    The country is headed for its fifth election in under four years and the polls show yet another toss-up.    That opens the possibility for a return to power for Benjamin Netanyahu, an antagonist to a peace deal that isn’t lopsided in Israel’s favor.

7/16/2022 Israel strikes Gaza target in response to rocket fire by Associated Press
    JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military attacked what it said was a Hamas military site in the Gaza Strip early Saturday in response to a pair of rocket attacks overnight.    The exchange that took place hours after U.S. President Joe Biden concluded a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
© Provided by Associated Press Sparks from an explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Saturday, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ali)

© Provided by Associated Press A view of an explosion caused by Israeli
airstrikes in Gaza City, Saturday, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ali)
    The army said its fighter jets struck an underground complex containing raw materials used in the production of rockets.
    The two rocket attacks, coming several hours apart, set off air raid sirens in parts of southern Israel but caused no injuries or damage.    The army said one of the rockets was intercepted, while the others landed in open areas.
    No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.    But Israel blames Hamas, the militant group that has ruled Gaza for 15 years, for any violence emanating from the Palestinian enclave.
    In addition to the military sites, shock waves from Israeli airstrikes ripped up window frames and shattered glasses at several homes and a nearby gas station.
Palestinian rocket fire draws Israeli strikes on Gaza
    Commenting on the air raids, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem vowed to “continue our legitimate struggle" and stand up to the U.S. support of Israel.
    Despite heightened tensions in recent months, Biden’s three-day trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank passed smoothly.    In the West Bank, Biden met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expressing support for Palestinian independence but also saying that conditions are not ripe for re-launching peace talks.
© Provided by Associated Press A view of an explosion caused by Israeli
airstrikes in Gaza City, Saturday, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ali)
    Hamas dismissed Biden’s expressions of sympathy for the Palestinians, calling the United States “a partner in the aggression on our people.”    It also criticized Abbas for meeting with Biden and reiterating his support for a peace process with Israel.
    Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel.    Since taking over Gaza by force in 2007, the militant group and Israel fought four deadly wars and numerous rounds of cross-border violence.
    Biden continued from Israel to Saudi Arabia, where he is trying to bolster a regional alliance against Iran.    Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, in part because of its support for militant groups like Hamas.
© Provided by Associated Press A view of an explosion caused by Israeli
airstrikes in Gaza City, Saturday, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ali)

    This page created on 1/1/2022 and updated on 12/31/2022.

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