News Digest — 6/16/20

Greenblatt: Sovereignty In Judea And Samaria Not Illegal – Land Not ‘Palestinian’

Former White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt wrote on Monday (15th) that the US government does not believe that the extension of Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria would be illegal and that it is, in fact, permitted by President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan.

“Our view was that the leadership in Ramallah should no longer have a veto on what happens to this land and to the Israelis living there.  But to protect the Palestinians, we gave them a lengthy period – four years – to get their house in order so that they, too, could obtain the many benefits contemplated by the vision for peace,” wrote Greenblatt in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post.

He said that after spending over three years traveling to Arab capitals, “he came to learn that we agree on far more than we disagree on.”

The op-ed was a response to an opinion piece by Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States, who published an article on Israeli news site Ynet arguing that applying Israeli sovereignty to the areas under discussion would be illegal.

Greenblatt wrote: “I don’t agree that the extension of Israeli sovereignty to the areas being contemplated would be an illegal seizure of land.  The US government also does not believe so,” which is why, he said, “Trump’s vision for peace provides for this concept.”

He also took issue with the UAE ambassador’s term “Palestinian land,” saying “it is not Palestinian land.  It is land that is disputed… .”



Will Palestinians React With New Intifada To Application Of Israeli Law In Parts Of West Bank? – Khaled Abu Toameh

The Palestinian Authority won’t allow scenes of anarchy and lawlessness, if and when Israel implements its plan to extend sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, PA officials in Ramallah said on Sunday (14th).  A PA security official said the increased cooperation between the PA security forces and Fatah armed groups, including the Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, “should not be interpreted as a green light” for carrying out armed attacks against Israel.

“The Palestinian Authority won’t allow any group to carry out armed attacks against Israelis.  We believe that such attacks would benefit the Netanyahu government and cause damage to the Palestinian cause.”

Palestinian political analyst Ahmad Eid said that the general feeling is that there won’t be an eruption of large-scale protests or armed attacks even if Israel proceeds with its plan.  “The Palestinian public is not ready for another intifada.  People seem to be more worried about the economy.”

Abdel Qader Sulieman, a veteran Fatah activist, said, “An intifada would be counterproductive.  If we return to the armed struggle, we will lose the sympathy of the international community.  We don’t want to repeat the mistakes we committed during the second intifada.”



Gaza Rocket Strikes Field In Israel As Hamas Urges ‘Resistance’ To Annexation

Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into southern Israel on Monday night (15th), striking an empty field and causing no damage, the military said.

The launch triggered sirens in the fields near where the rocket hit, in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, but not in any populated areas, the IDF said.

In response, IDF aircraft targeted Hamas infrastructure used for underground activity in the southern Gaza Strip.  IDF tanks also targeted Hamas military posts.

The attack came amid rising tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, including threats of military action by the latter, apparently over delays in the transfer of Qatari aid money to Gaza, as well as the Israeli government’s plans to annex portions of the West Bank.

Ironically, Israel, on Monday (15th) had just approved the transfer of $50 million from Qatar to the Gaza Strip.

In recent days, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the two most powerful terror groups in Gaza, have threatened to step up clashes along the border, following months of relative calm there.

Earlier on Monday (15th), senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil called for “the annexation project to be confronted with resistance in all forms.”

“We cannot exclude the possibility that – in the wake of Israeli aggression – matters may reach a point of escalation in the confrontation, which might lead to military escalation,” said Hamas deputy political chief Saleh Al-Arouri, to local news media.

Last week, groups in the Strip believed to be proxies of Hamas and Islamic Jihad began launching balloons carrying incendiary devices and explosives into Israel – an apparent first signal of the growing tensions.



Turkey Embraces Iran Once Again, Defying The US

Turkey, on Monday (15th), reiterated its opposition to US sanctions on neighboring Iran, saying the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the world needs greater cooperation and solidarity.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments in Istanbul during a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is the first dignitary to visit Turkey since its coronavirus outbreak began in March.

“Iran’s stability and peace is very important to us,” Cavusoglu said.  “We oppose unilateral sanctions.  In fact, the pandemic has taught us that the world needs greater cooperation and solidarity.”

Zarif said the US had “tightened the sanctions in order to damage the Iranian economy during the pandemic.”  He thanked Turkey for its support.

US President Donald Trump imposed heavy sanctions on Iran after he withdrew the United States from Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers in May 2018.  American officials contend Iran is working to obtain nuclear capable missiles, which the Iranians deny.

Meanwhile the ministers said the two countries were working toward reopening their border for travelers and plan to restart flights between Turkey and Iran on August 1.  The border was closed after the coronavirus outbreak, which hit Iran particularly hard.  It has since been reopened for trade only. 



Doctors Optimistic As Syrian Baby Completes First Of Three Heart Surgeries In Israel

Israeli doctors on Sunday (14th) expressed cautious optimism after completing a complicated heart surgery on a 10-day-old Syrian baby who was flown to Israel last week – the first of three procedures the boy will require to address a rare congenital defect.

The Syrian baby arrived in Israel from Cyprus on Thursday (11th) with his father, a Syrian refugee currently living in the Mediterranean island nation, in order to receive the surgeries at Ramat Gan’s Sheba Medical Center.

The infant was born with a rare congenital defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the left side of the heart fails to develop properly, leading to poor blood circulation.  A hospital spokesman told The Times of Israel,  if left unaddressed, the condition is fatal.

In order to fix the problem, the infant will ultimately require three procedures: the first was completed on Sunday (14th); the second will be performed in six months; and the third will be carried out when he is two years old.

Dr. Alain Serraf, head of the International Congenital Heart Center at Sheba’s children’s hospital, completed the first surgery – known as the Norwood Procedure – on the newborn on Sunday morning (14th), the hospital said.

“We will be watching him carefully over the next few days.  But I can say the procedure went well and we are guardedly optimistic that the child will be okay as we slowly wean him off the various machines,” Serraf said.

“If everything goes according to plan, the child can have a normal lifestyle,” he added.

Speaking through Sheba’s spokesperson, the boy’s father thanked the governments of Cyprus and Israel for coordinating the emergency surgery.

“I feel much more relieved and have complete faith in Sheba’s medical staff for all of the help they are giving my child,” the Syrian national said Sunday (14th), via the spokesman.

This was the first time that Sheba – often ranked as one of the world’s top hospitals – received such an emergency case from abroad since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, according to hospital officials.

Such situations were common before the outbreak, and they involved not just allies of Israel, but also countries with which the government in Jerusalem does not have diplomatic ties, like Syria and Iraq.

From 2013-2018, Israel maintained a program along the Syrian border allowing residents of the area, who were affected by the country’s civil war, to enter Israel for medical treatment.  That effort formally ended in the summer of 2018 when Syrian dictator Bashar Assad took control of southern Syria.