News Digest — 4/1/21
Current U.S. Administration ‘Quietly’ Ramping Up Aid To The Palestinian Authority
The Biden administration is quietly ramping up assistance to the Palestinians after former President Donald Trump cut off nearly all aid. Since taking office with a pledge to reverse many of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian decisions, the administration has allocated nearly $100 million for the Palestinians, only a small portion of which has been publicized.
The administration announced last Thursday (3/25) that it was giving $15 million to Palestinian communities in Gaza and PA-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. A day later, with no public announcement, it notified Congress that it will give the Palestinians $75 million for economic support, to be used in part to regain their ‘trust and goodwill” after the previous administration’s cuts.
The State department declined to comment on the notification, and it wasn’t clear if the $75 million includes the COVID-19 pandemic help. Nevertheless, the funding plan represents a major shift in the U.S. approach to the Palestinians.
In general, the administration supports a resumption in aid to the Palestinians, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“We continue to believe that American support for the Palestinian people, including financial support is consistent with our values. It is consistent with our interests. Of course, it is consistent with the interest of the Palestinian people. It is also consistent with the interests of our partner Israel. And we’ll have more to say about that going forward,” he told reporters.
NOTE: Nothing was mentioned by the State Department about the “pay-for-slay” policies of the PA which pay terrorists and their families large amounts of money for killing and maiming Israelis, or for dying as “martyrs” in terror attacks. This practice was one of the reasons the PA was defunded in the first place, by both the U.S. and other countries. The practice continues.
Kosovo’s Top Diplomat Calls Jerusalem Embassy ‘Done Deal’
Kosovo’s new foreign minister says she considers the opening of the country’s embassy in Jerusalem to be “a done deal.”
Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla was asked during an interview about the pressure Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put on Kosovo’s new government to reconsider the Balkan nation’s recent opening of an embassy in Jerusalem.
“I believe that the issue of our embassy in Israel is a done deal. Why is it a done deal? Because we cannot get involved in diplomatic adventures to reconsider an issue that already has ended,” Gervalla said during the Tuesday night interview (3/30) with online news site Kallxo.com.
Gervalla said Kosovo wants to strengthen ties with Israel but also wants to have “ties with Palestinian authorities.”
Kosovo established diplomatic ties with Israel on February 1, and earlier this month became the first European country and the first Muslim-majority one to establish an embassy in the western part of Jerusalem.
The move follows a White House summit that Kosovo’s former prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, attended in September with then-U.S. President Donald Trump and Serbian President Aleksander Vucic.
The United States and Guatemala are the only other countries with embassies in Jerusalem.
Erdogan asked Kosovo to reconsider in a letter of congratulations to Prime Minister Albin Kurti after he took office last week.
Happy 10th Birthday Iron Dome
In 2011, Israel’s brand new Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted its very first rocket fired from Gaza, high above the country’s battered south.
The all too familiar screeching whistle of the rocket siren was heard in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot.
But this time instead of people fleeing to their reinforced rooms in a panicked wave, everyone excitedly stepped onto their balconies to watch the light show that was the Iron Dome in action.
People clapped and cheered at the sight of the system’s first successful interception. Pride swelled in the chests of Israelis who knew that reality in the country would forever be changed.
Despite the south’s newly-found euphoria, many around Israel believed that this multi-million dollar system – whose missiles are priced at tens of thousands of shekels apiece – was nothing less than an overkill response to the ramshackle rockets cobbled together in Gaza’s dilapidated scrapyards.
That notion was a mistake. Iron Dome is one of the best things to happen to the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip in particular and the south as a whole. The fighters operating the system are seen as nothing less than family in every household in southern Israel.
The very deployment of the system both changed life in the south and signaled that Israel’s leaders finally understood the country’s home front had to be protected by any means.
It served as a stepping stone for the deployment of additional protective means in the south, such as the new and technologically advanced fence along the Gaza Strip border.
Still, back in 2011, the use of the system was subject to criticism, with some claiming that intercepting the rockets fired from Gaza would both make Israel too lenient towards the Strip and abolish any reason for a swift, powerful response against Gaza’s terror groups.
There is no doubt that Israel reacts differently to an attack in which a rocket is intercepted midair and one in which a rocket strikes down in the middle of a city and causes multiple casualties.
But the bottom line is that Israel has managed to develop a system that does nothing less than save human lives. Every time the people of the south hear that awful siren blare, they at least now know that someone is watching over them.
Iron Dome batteries have become part of the scenery in the south. Far from being feared by the local population, these missile batteries are instead seen as guardian angels bearing the promise of proper safety.
Even so, real lasting peace in the south demands leaders who can and will make decisions on the Gaza Strip.
However, when leaders fail, Iron Dome excels time and time again.
China-Iran Deal: Something To Fear
Iran and China’s 25-year strategic cooperation agreement inked on March 27 will provide Iran billions in Chinese investment in return for Iranian oil.
The agreement, or “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” covers economic activities ranging from oil to agriculture. Iran will also gain access to Chinese military technology.
According to the New York Times, the deal calls for China to invest $400 billion in Iran over the 25-year period.
“The deal marked the first time Iran has signed such a lengthy agreement with a major world power,” the Associated Press reports, surpassing one signed by Iran and Russia in 2001.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Friday (3/26) that the deal is “deep, multi-layered and full-fledged” and “can elevate bilateral ties to a new strategic level.”
It was signed by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Before the signing, Yi met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and special Iranian envoy in charge of the deal Ali Larijani.
Critics say the new partnership will become an end run around U.S. sanctions, as Iran has now established a long-term oil buyer. If Iran once more becomes flush with cash it can increase its support to its terror proxies in the region.
The deal also strengthens China’s presence in the Middle East, “which it wants for access to energy and raw materials as well as to increase its economic sway,” a Wall Street Journal editorial notes on Tuesday (3/30).
The geopolitical ramifications may go beyond the Middle East.
The Journal says, “The countries will also form a Chinese-Iranian bank with the aim of evading the U.S. dollar dominance in world trade that gives U.S. sanctions their bite.”
“Breaking the dollar’s hold on global trade and finance is a major goal of Russia, China and Iran. China believes that U.S. fiscal profligacy is putting the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency at risk, and they want the Chinese yuan to replace it.”
Others have downplayed the agreement. A Bloomberg op-ed says, “For all the Iranian hype, the deal is not so much a ‘partnership’ as a promissory note espousing better economic, political and trade relations between the two countries over the next quarter-century.”
It also claims that on agreements important to China, President Xi Jinping signs the deal, not his foreign minister.
The Journal says of those who want to dismiss the deal, “Don’t believe them. This is a big deal that advances the strategic interests of both sides – at the expense of the U.S. and stability in the Middle East.”
In Canada, Jews Targeted By More Hate Crimes Than Other Religious Groups
Jews remain by far the most targeted religious group for hate crimes in Canada, according to the Canadian government’s annual survey of police-reported hate crimes.
The report found that there were 1,946 police-reported hate crimes in Canada in 2019, up 7% from a year earlier. In particular, some 608 hate crimes targeted religion, down 7% compared to 2018. This number, however, remains higher than those recorded before 2017, when it hit its peak at 842 incidents.
According to the report, Jewish Canadians were targeted 296 times in 2019 – a 20% decrease from 372 in 2018.
Despite the decrease, attacks on Jewish Canadians still occurred on average five times per week during 2019 with Jews comprising some 50% of overall religious hate crimes, Muslims at 10% and Catholics and other religions at 3%.
The frequency of attacks comes despite the fact that the country’s Jewish community comprises only 1% of the population, and yet it is the target of 17% of all police-reported hate crimes.
“Though we welcome the 20% decrease in crimes targeting the Jewish community, Jewish Canadians still remain the most targeted religious minority for hate crimes and second overall,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), in a statement.
Although Canada remains one of the best countries in the world in which to be Jewish, or any other minority for that matter,” he said, “these numbers are troubling and should concern all Canadians of goodwill.”