News Digest — 10/29/20

US Agrees To Allow The Funding Of Cutting-Edge Companies In Judea And Samaria

Israel and the US signed agreements extending research cooperation to areas beyond the pre-1967 border.  Underlining the importance of the agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the signing ceremony at Ariel University in Samaria.

The agreement will permit three US-Israel foundations that fund cutting-edge companies in Israel whose products are mutually beneficial for both countries to provide monies for research over the so-called Green Line.

The Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), The Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD) grant tens of millions of dollars a year to push forward research and development in many areas of mutual interest to the two allies.

These include the fields of medicine, renewable energy, water, communications, agriculture, homeland security, and many other technology sectors.

All established in the 1970s, these government-run foundations have contributed well over a billion dollars in today’s money to Israeli projects which have led to scientific, medical and technological innovations with wide-ranging practical applications.

Before signing the revised agreement, US Ambassador David Friedman called the geographic restriction an “old wrong” an “anachronism” that “no longer agrees with our foreign policy.”

Friedman referenced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement last November that the official American position on the legality of settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Golan had changed.  The US government no longer held the opinion that their existence was “incompatible with international law,” he said.

Netanyahu credited Friedman for the day’s events, saying, “You’ve done it again,” and thanked the ambassador “for all your efforts on behalf of the Israeli-American alliance to right past wrongs, to put things on the right course.”

Netanyahu linked the revocation of the geographic constraints to President Donald Trump’s “successful approach to bringing peace” to the region, referring to the recent normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.

“But I think the Trump vision also puts something forward that we see today,” Netanyahu said.  “It opens Judea and Samaria to academic, commercial, and scientific engagement with the United States.  This is an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimize everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines.  And to all those malevolent boycotters, I have a simple message today.  You are wrong, and you will fail.”



Iran Vows To Liberate Golan Heights From Israel

In a recent meeting in Tehran, Iran’s judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, told Syria’s ambassador to Iran that it supports the “resistance to retake the Golan Heights from Israel.

The Syrian regime views the Golan as part of Syria, but the United States recognized it as part of Israel.  In the past week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Iran and its ally Hezbollah against entrenching near the Golan.

Raisi, a key figure and former presidential candidate, was quoted in Iran’s Tasnim News concerning his comments about Israel.  He was meeting Ambassador Adnan Mahmoud.  He praised Syria and said that Iran and Syria must work together to accelerate the “demise of the fake Israeli regime” using what is called a “resistance strategy.”  This usually refers to using Hezbollah or other proxies.  But Iran says it wants to see “active resistance” against Israel, perhaps setting the stage or hinting at new operations.  Iran says all the “occupied” areas must be “liberated.”

”The “resistance” is how Iran refers to its efforts against the US, Israel and “takfiri” militias, which means terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.  Iran is also pushing new policies to threaten Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Raisi said that “the people of the region are showing that Syria stood well against the United States and Israel and all their armies, which are also supported by some countries in the region.”

He also said that Iran has weathered the storm of US sanctions.  “I am convinced that the resistance of the Syrian people and the resistance movement and all the mujahideen forces in the region, from Hezbollah to Hamas, will bring victory and will lead to growing eternal misery and hatred for the United States.”

Raisi said that Israel had dominated the region in the past, but now things are changing.

He said negotiations with Israel had failed to achieve what locals wanted.  “Neither the Camp David Agreement, nor the Oslo Accords nor the Sharm el-Sheikh Accords could do anything,” he said.

He slammed normalization with Israel and the UAE and Bahrain.  “The people of the UAE and Bahrain are good people, but they are caught up in governments that have sacrificed their zeal and religious and national identity for unstable interactions and relations with the murderous and usurping regime that violates human rights and international treaties,” he said.

“Israel is perishable,” Raisi said, and called for “active resistance.”  The head of the judiciary mentioned the assassination of “martyr Qassem Soleimani” as an unforgettable crime.  

Tasnim News noted that Syrian ambassador Mahmoud stressed that “Iran had always been a model for the Syrian people.”



Palestinian Power Struggle As PA Police Clash With Supporters Of Abbas Rival

Clashes broke out in Ramallah after Palestinian police broke up a rally in support of exiled Palestinian strongman Mohammed Dahlan and arrested several of his followers, Palestinian and Israeli sources reported Wednesday (28th).

Residents in Ramallah staged a rally near the “Muqata” headquarters of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas chanting support for Dahlan and were met by Palestinian police in riot gear who broke up the gathering, the Palestinian news website SHFA reported.

The supporters chanted “We are your men Dahlan,” in support of the prominent Palestinian leader who is in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates after falling out of favor with the Palestinian leadership.  Postings on social media showed youths clashing violently with Palestinian police, in one case throwing Molotov cocktails while police responded with tear gas and stun grenades and made arrests.

The controversial Dahlan, 59, had been in charge of Gaza security for Fatah, the main Palestinian political faction led by Abbas, but was away from the Gaza Strip when the Hamas terror group seized control in a bloody 2007 military coup.  Many in Fatah blamed Dahlan for the loss and later accused him of having murdered Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Veteran Arab Affairs analyst Yom Ben Menachem called the clashes “the battle for inheritance in the Palestinian Authority.”

Ben Menachem reported that the unrest had spread to numerous areas around Judea and Samaria where Dahlan has many loyalists, including in Qalandiya and Al-Amari just north of Jerusalem as well as in Jenin and Tulkarm, where supporters demanded the release of those arrested.

With tensions rising, Ben Menachem, the former Arab affairs correspondent for Israel Radio and now a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, questioned if the clashes could spark “an intifada in all PA areas.”

There is no clear successor to Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority.  The aging Abbas, who turns 85 next month, was elected for a four-year term in 2005 and has been in power ever since, repeatedly putting off elections.

A Dahlan supporter interviewed by a Palestinian website friendly to Dahlan accused the Palestinian Authority of continuing its policy of arresting close associates of Dahlan in what was “political persecution of the reformist current” that Dahlan started in Fatah, Israel’s Channel 20 reported.

A senior Fatah official told the TV channel that Abbas “and some of his associates are convinced that Dahlan, who is supported by the United Arab Emirates, is planning a coup.”

Another Fatah official said that although Dahlan has recently stated publicly that he is not interested in returning to participate  in the “dirty games in the Palestinian swamp,” he is gradually working to establish a socio-political movement, with one of its bases in eastern Jerusalem.       



Report: US Passports For Citizens From Jerusalem To Say ‘Born In Israel’

US President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to soon announce that passports for US citizens born in Jerusalem can have Israel listed as their country of birth, Politico reported Wednesday (28th).

The move was confirmed to Politico by an unnamed US official and may be announced by the State Department as soon as Thursday (29th) in the lead-up to the upcoming US presidential election on November 3, with Trump looking to turn out support from his pro-Israel voter base.

Due to the exact status of the city being disputed as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US passports have never used the phrase “Jerusalem, Israel.”  Rather they would simply indicate “Jerusalem.”

However, this new policy is far from unprecedented, ever since the Trump administration changed US policy on the matter by officially recognizing the city as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  In fact, according to Politico, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in 2019 that a potential changing of the passport policy was being considered.

According to the US official, passport holders born in Jerusalem will now be able to have the option of passports with “Jerusalem, Israel,” or simply “leaving them as they are,” Politico reported.



Malmo Suspends Arab Book Fair Amid Revelation Of Anti-Semitic Texts

The Swedish city of Malmo has decided to suspend its partnership with the annual Arab Book Fair after it was revealed that the fair was featuring and promoting anti-Semitic texts.

The city is now looking to close down the book fair indefinitely.

The government was alerted to the anti-Semitic texts after the Simon Wiesenthal Center penned a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Steafan Lofven, notifying him of their presence.

“It has come to our knowledge that visitors to the book fair’s website are offered to buy anti-Semitic literature, which is completely unacceptable,” said Malmo’s Cultural Director Pernilla Conde Hallman.  “It goes against everything we stand for and we therefore choose to immediately terminate the cooperation…and hope that other contributors such as the Swedish National Council for Culture will do the same.”

“The city of Malmo has contributed $17,000 in project-support to the Arab Book Fair,” the cultural director added.  “We will review whether we can reclaim the already paid support.”

Following the suspension, Dr. Shimon Samuels, director for International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that he was satisfied with the city’s decision but “urged the Malmo municipality to investigate who originally agreed to this generous support, and take appropriate measures to ensure that sponsorship for any form of hatred is never repeated.”



Italy Agrees To Provide Israel With COVID Vaccine

Israel and Italy have reached an agreement for Rome to provide the Jewish state with doses of a vaccine against the coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry says.

The agreement was reached as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hosts his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio for talks in Jerusalem.

“I thank the government of Italy for its agreement to transfer Israel doses of a vaccine for coronavirus and hope that soon we can renew tourism between the countries,” Ashkenazi is quoted saying in a statement from his office.

Italian biotech firm ReiThera is currently developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ashkenazi and Di Maio also sign cooperation agreements on education and culture.