Archive for the ‘Israel and Jordan’ category

Israel and Jordan to reopen their embassies, ending 7-month dispute

January 18, 2018

Israel and Jordan to reopen their embassies, ending 7-month dispute, DEBKAfile, January 18, 2018

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem announced Thursday that the Israeli embassy in Jordan would be reopened immediately, seven months after its staff were forced to flee Amman, when an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanian citizens. The incident occurred during raging Palestinian riots on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al Momani said the Israeli Foreign Ministry had sent a memorandum of “deep regrets and apologies” and Jordan had received word that the Israeli guard went through the “necessary legal proceedings.”. The families of the two Jordanians had received compensation for their loss from the Israeli government. The PMO in Jerusalem stated: “Israel attaches great importance to the strategic relations with Jordan and the states will act to promote cooperation between them and to strengthen the peace agreement.”

The State Department blinks in the face of Palestinian threats

December 3, 2017

Posted under a slightly different title: The State Department reverts to form | Anne’s Opinions, 3rd December 2017

Last week we were cheering on the State Department, that bastion of anti-Israel attitudes in every American administration, for telling the PLO that their mission was to be closed due to their non-engagement in the “peace process” and for their threats to bring Israeli officials before the International Criminial Corut.

As expected the Palestinians huffed and puffed. Unfortunately they blew the State Department down (metaphorically speaking – so far)/ The State Department blinked, and gave in to the Palestinian threats. As Caroline Glick writes, the State Department dropped the ball:

in response to Tillerson’s notification, the PLO lashed out as the US. Abbas and his advisers launched an all-out assault against President Donald Trump and his team of Middle East envoys led by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and his senior negotiator Jason Greenblatt.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump

 

 

PLO-controlled media outlets published a flood of stories which trafficked in antisemitic conspiracy theories against Trump and his Jewish American advisors. The PLO media renewed its allegations that Kushner, Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman are more loyal to Israel than to the US.

Abbas’s media outlets also escalated their criticism of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE for their focus on combating Iranian aggression. These regimes are selling the Palestinians down the river, the PLO outlets have proclaimed, as Abbas’s flacks have insisted that the PLO will not accept any regional peace.

Relations between Arab states and Israel, the PLO insists, cannot be fostered so long as Israel fails to capitulate to all of the PLO’s demands.

In commentary published at the Gatestone Institute website, Palestinian commentator Bassam Tawil alleges that the Palestinian rejection of the requirements of US law and its assaults against the Trump administration and Sunni Arab states may serve as a pretext for another Palestinian terror campaign against Israel, which will be justified as a response to an American-Israeli-Saudi-Egyptian plot against the Palestinians.

Given that the US is a superpower and the largest state financier of the PA, not to mention the foundation of the PLO’s claim to legitimacy on the world stage, the US might have been expected to respond harshly to the PLO’s threats and slanders. But then, that isn’t the State Department’s way of doing things with the PLO.

Saturday, The Hill online newspaper reported that the State Department had changed its mind. It is no longer interested in following the law. Instead, it has rewritten the law. Now, it’s fine for the PLO to operate in Washington while trampling US law. It just needs to pretend it isn’t doing what it is doing.

According to the State Department spokesman who revealed State’s about face to the media, the PLO mission can continue to operate, but its operations must be “related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

And if they aren’t, well, under this new interpretation of the law, the State Department can pretend it hasn’t noticed.

By empowering the PLO to continue to breach US law – with the full expectation of continuing to receive US assistance to the tune of more than $500 million a year – the US has made itself a laughingstock. Neither Hamas nor the PLO will take the US seriously. Any pressure the US attempts to apply toward the PLO to moderate its stand toward Israel will be ignored by Abbas and his cronies in the PLO and Hamas alike.

The Palestinians have taken the Trump administration’s measure. By beating a hasty retreat from its initial decision to stand with the law against the PLO, the State Department has told the PLO that the Trump administration is a paper tiger, at best.

The Trump administration will do nothing against them. Instead, in the face of this contemptuous slap in the face to the US, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Ramallah next month and have his picture taken with Abbas the “moderate” leader and peace partner.

This then brings us to the second question of how surrendering to PLO threats will influence the US’s regional position. As Tawil reported, Al Quds, a Palestinian paper that reflects the views of Abbas and his associates, blasted the Arab League for focusing on Iran at its most recent foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo.

For more than a generation, the State Department, and through it US Middle East policy as a whole, have been captivated by the myth that nothing can happen in the Middle East without Israel first capitulating to PLO demands.

By reversing course on closing the PLO mission, and groveling to the threatening PLO, the State Department made a laughingstock of the US and President Trump. The decision to reverse course should itself be reversed, in accordance with US law and in the interest in restoring what it is still possible to restore of US credibility in the Middle East.

There is still a chance for the Untied States to recover its credibility – by moving its embassy to Jerusalem. All it needs is for Donald Trump to refuse to sign the waiver which permits the embassy to remain where it is. Will he refuse to sign and thus move the embassy at last? The media is rife with reports and rumours that Vice President Mike Pence is going to make the fateful announcement on Wednesday – but given the State Department’s record, can we actually rely on this happy event taking place? I’m not so sure. From Arutz Sheva’s account:

Will President Donald Trump fulfill his campaign promise of moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as recent reports citing unnamed administration officials claim? Or will the president settle with a symbolic move of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as other senior sources have claimed?

Last week, a number of unnamed senior US and Israeli officials were cited in reports claiming that the Trump administration is planning on finally implementing 1995 law requiring the executive branch to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.

Other reports claimed that the White House was not planning an embassy move in the near future, but was poised to declare that it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

While White House officials publicly refused to verify the claims, officials in Jerusalem have noted the timing of Vice President Mike Pence’s comments at the 70th anniversary of the United States General Assembly vote on Resolution 181, endorsing the establishment of a Jewish state.

The Palestinians, as expected, have reverted to form and are issuing threats in all directions:

Palestinian President-for-life Mahmoud Abbas has called on the leaders of eight Arab and other nations to intervene with Trump to prevent the embassy move. As with the closure of the PLO offices, the Palestinians threatened to abandon the peace process – which is surely the most cynical move ever made given that the only reason the peace process has stalled is because of the refusal of the Palestinians themselves to accept a Jewish presence anywhere in the Middle East:

Abbas “warned categorically that taking such a step would lead to the destruction of the peace process and would bring the region into an uncontrollable situation,” according to his spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

Mahmoud Abbas, President for life

On Wednesday Abbas ordered his foreign minister to demand the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation hold emergency sessions regarding the possible US measures.

On Friday, a delegation from the Palestinian Authority reportedly met with presidential adviser Jared Kushner to warn that if the White House announces the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or if Trump makes remarks acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this would mark the end of the peace process, according to Israeli news reports.

Any such steps “will kill the negotiations,” the PA delegation — which included Majed Faraj and Saeb Erekat, senior officials close to Abbas — told Kushner, Hadashot news reported.

Hamas is still determined to remain relevant (even while begging Fatah to take over the running of the Gaza strip), and has threatened another intifada if the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Caroline Glick had plenty to say about this as well in her article “From Amman to Jerusalem“. She starts by reminding us of a diplomatic incident that almost spiralled out of control, which King Abdullah did nothing to quell:

Five months ago, 28 year old Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, was stabbed in his apartment by a Jordanian assailant, whom he shot and killed.

Moyal also accidentally killed his Jordanian landlord, who was present on the scene.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, incited by the state-controlled media, the Jordanian public was whipped into an anti-Israel frenzy. In short order, a mob surrounded the embassy, to which Moyal and another 20 Israeli diplomats fled immediately after the shooting.

Violent demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy in Amman

For 24 hours, those Israeli diplomats, led by Ambassador Einat Schlein were besieged.

Despite the fact that they are barred from doing so under the Vienna Convention, Jordanian authorities demanded to interrogate Moyal. By refusing to enable the diplomats to safely return to Israel until Moyal submitted to questioning, they effectively held Schlein and her colleagues hostage.

Jordan is still playing its duplicitous game:

But Jordan isn’t interested in ending the crisis it deliberately precipitated.

On Thursday, Reuters quoted a Jordanian diplomatic source saying that a new Israeli ambassador “will not be welcome in Jordan until a due legal process takes its course [against Moyal] and justice is served.”

So, unless Israel criminally prosecutes its diplomat who was attacked in his home by a terrorist, Jordan will continue to breach its peace treaty with Israel and bar the Israeli embassy from operating in Amman.

Jordan’s latest round of diplomatic war against Israel took place while Abdullah was in Washington on a “working visit.”

And here is where this story ties in with the State Department, the Trump administration and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

According to the Jordanian media – which he controls – Abdullah is devoting significant time in his meetings with senior administration and Congressional officials to attacking Israel.

Specifically, Abdullah is lobbying against President Donald Trump’s intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with US law.

According the Times of Jordan, Abdullah told senior US lawmakers that “moving the embassy… could be potentially exploited by terrorists to stoke anger, frustration and desperation in order to spread their ideologies.”

Jordanian King Abdullah meets with American VP Mike Pence

During his visit, Abdullah also met with Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

Although Jordanian media reports of those visits did not include information regarding the possible move of the US embassy, it stands to reason that Abdullah made similar points to Pence, Tillerson and McMaster.

It can only be hoped that Abdullah’s warnings were rebuked by his American interlocutors.

Because, if terrorists are motivated to act in the wake of a US decision to move the embassy, Jordan will hold a significant share of the blame.

Glick reveals more of the nasty side of Jordanian politics, including a deep-seated antisemitism (stoked by the media with the encouragement of the elites), which can clearly be seen in the following story:

Last March, for instance, Abdullah rejected the US’s extradition request for Hamas terrorist and mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi, the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem.

Fifteen people, including eight children were murdered in the attack. Tamimi selected the Sbarro pizzeria as her target because of the large number of children who frequented the eatery during summer vacation.

She was sentenced to 16 life-in-prison sentences, but was released in Israel’s exchange of Hamas terrorists for captive IDF sergeant Gilad Schalit in 2011. Upon her release, she moved to Amman where Abdullah gave her the red carpet treatment. In her new home, Tamimi hosts a show on Hamas’s television station. She uses her platform to incite terrorism and indoctrinate her viewers to aspire to murder Israelis, as she did.

Several of Tamimi’s victims at Sbarro were American citizens, including 15-year-old Malki Roth and 31-year-old Shoshana Judy Greenbaum.

Greenbaum was five months pregnant when her body was blown apart.

The vile terrorist Ahlam Tamimi who murdered 15 Israelis in the Sbarro bombing – publicly thanks Jordan’s judiciary and leaders for getting her off the hook with the FBI and the US Department of Justice – though the pursuit continues [Source]

By harboring Tamimi, Abdullah tells his subjects they are right to hate Israelis and to work toward Israel’s destruction.

Arnold and Frimet Roth, the parents of Malki Roth who was murdered in that terror attack, have been relentless in following Tamimi’s doings and pulling every string, contact every diplomat and politician possible, in order to have her extradited – all to no avail so far. You can follow their endeavors at their blog This Ongoing War.

Returning to Caroline Glick’s article:

This brings us to the question of Trump’s possible decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Israel’s capital.

By having his media spew a constant diet of genocidal antisemitism, Abdullah is all but guaranteeing that the terrorism he warns of will occur if Trump enforces US law and moves the embassy. So he is not speaking as a worried friend when he tells his American hosts of the dire consequences of moving the embassy. He is threatening them with an outcome for which he will have significant responsibility.

One of the reasons Abdullah feels comfortable making the argument that moving the embassy will provoke terrorism is because that is the argument that has been used successfully to block the transfer of the US embassy to Israel in the past.

But, in October, we received a clear indication that these Chicken Little warnings are untrue.

In October, Trump overruled Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster, and chose not to tell Congress that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal the Iranians were breaching. Supporters of the nuclear deal in the administration and outside of it warned that such a move would have a deeply destabilizing impact on the region and endanger the US.

As the past three months have shown, those warnings were entirely wrong.

The world did not explode after Trump rejected the received wisdom of the foreign policy establishment in Washington. Instead, the US’s Sunni-Arab allies have been empowered to join forces to combat Iran. Economically and diplomatically, Iran is far more isolated globally today than it was three months ago.

… if Trump disregards Abdullah’s threats posing as warnings, and disregards the advice of Abdullah’s many friends in Washington, and moves the US embassy to Jerusalem, the sky will not fall. By recognizing the basic fact that Jerusalem is and always will be Israel’s capital, Trump will give himself the ability to develop Middle East policies that are similarly grounded in reality.

Unfortunately, the State Department did not follow through on Trump’s new strategy. They blinked in the face of Palestinian threats of violence, and retracted their threat to close down the PLO offices.

Will they blink again when it comes to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem? I fear they will but am prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Abdullah in Ramallah will strike anti-Israel stance

August 5, 2017

Abdullah in Ramallah will strike anti-Israel stance, DEBKAfile, August 5, 2017

Jordanian King Abdullah’s forthcoming visit to Ramallah Monday, Aug. 7, for talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, bodes ill for Jordanian-Israeli relations at an especially jarring moment.

The Israeli embassy security officer Ziv Moyal, who on July 24 shot dead two Jordanians in the embassy compound when he was attacked with a screwdriver, left a trail of Jordanian ill will in his wake, especially since the incident occurred in the middle of the Temple House crisis in Jerusalem.

King Abdullah proposes to turn this unfortunate incident into a springboard for persuading the Palestinian leader to work with Jordan in the framework of the peace initiative US President Donald Trump is trying to resuscitate between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abdullah also plans to take advantage of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a moment of political and personal weakness. He is under a barrage of reported police investigations into allegations of corruption. Netanyahu has brushed the reports aside as “background noise.”

Jordan and Israeli signed a peace treaty in 2004. But since the shooting at the embassy, the Israeli ambassador and staff have not returned to Amman. And with tensions still running high, there is no sign that normal diplomatic business will be resumed any time soon.

In Ramallah, security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is still suspended, since Abbas ordered a freeze in the heat of the Palestinian disturbances over the security measures Israel put in place after the murder of two of its police guards.

The Jordanian king believes that there is plenty of common fodder for him and the Palestinian leader to build a united front that will boost him politically and personally at home. The Hashemite throne is in urgent need of shoring up after the shaking it took from an event that had nothing to do with Temple Mount, Jerusalem or Israel.

Abdullah had to sign a life sentence handed down by a Jordanian court against Marik al-Tuwayha, a Jordanian soldier who fired 70 bullets into vehicle of carrying US military instructors, killing three of them.

The court also booted the shooter out of the royal armed forces.

This judgment was a direct hit at the Tuwayha, a Bedouin tribe that by tradition sends its sons to the royal army and is historically loyal to the Hashemite throne. The fact that one of those sons attacked American soldiers carried the dread message that extremist ISIS ideology has penetrated deep into the king’s most solid power base.

The monarch is therefore in an extremely tight spot: He can’t afford to lose the Tuwayha tribe’s allegiance, on the one hand, but neither can be afford to alienate the Americans, when the US along with Israel, are his regime’s economic and security mainstay.

Netanyahu’s warm hug for the security officer on his safe return from Amman put up too many backs in Jordan and its streets for its king to weather the storm without striking a strong anti-Israeli posture. The Palestinian leader will no doubt take advantage of this situation to stir up the crisis between Amman and Jerusalem and so and lift his own plummeting fortunes in the Palestinian street. The royal visit to Ramallah, the first Abdullah has made in five years, will most likely produce a stream of invective against Israel and tough statements assailing Israel’s right to sovereignty over Jerusalem and Temple Mount.

 

Israel-Jordan crisis over, diplomats leave embassy

July 24, 2017

Israel-Jordan crisis over, diplomats leave embassy, DEBKAfile, July 24, 2017

DEBKAfile adds: The resolution of the diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman over this incident did not settle the Israeli-Palestinian impasse over Temple Mount. An Israeli-Jordanian deal was almost certainly struck to ease the crisis over the security measures Israeli installed at the shrine after two of its police officers were shot dead there by terrorists. But any such deal will depend on Palestinian approval, and that remains to be ironed out in further negotiations.

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The diplomatic crisis between Jordan and Israel lasted a day and-a-half before it was resolved. By late Monday, July 24, the Israeli embassy staff was free to leave Amman and drove through the Allenby Bridge crossing on their way home. Among them was the security guard, who Sunday shot dead two Jordanians in a struggle after he was stabbed with a screwdriver. The Jordanian authorities demanded his handover for their investigation and subjected the embassy to a lockdown for most of the day to prevent their departure. Israel rejected this demands on the grounds that the guard had diplomatic immunity.

During the day, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argamon and Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt travelled to Amman to clear up the crisis with senior Jordanian officials. Jordan’s King Abdullah and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were kept continuously in the picture.  When the two leaders spoke directly Monday evening, the end of the crisis was clearly at hand.

While he was in Amman, Argaman invited Jordanian security officials to come to the embassy and view a reconstruction of the contested incident and participate in the questioning of the guard.

DEBKAfile adds: The resolution of the diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman over this incident did not settle the Israeli-Palestinian impasse over Temple Mount. An Israeli-Jordanian deal was almost certainly struck to ease the crisis over the security measures Israeli installed at the shrine after two of its police officers were shot dead there by terrorists. But any such deal will depend on Palestinian approval, and that remains to be ironed out in further negotiations.

DEBKAfile described the incident that provoked the diplomatic crisis between Jordan and Israel as it happened on Sunday:

An incident at the Israeli embassy in Amman Sunday, July 23, left two Jordanians shot dead and an Israeli stabbed and in serious condition. Monday morning, amid reports of an impending evacuation of embassy staff, the building was surrounded by Jordanian forces which prevented departures and entries. This followed a long confrontation overnight between the Jordanian and Israeli governments, most likely at the highest level. Amman demands the Israeli guard surrendered for the investigation into the incident. Israel refuses on the grounds that he has diplomatic immunity.

After the story was held back for several hours by the Israeli and Jordanian authorities, the versions which sparked this development released early Monday, combined with earlier international media reports, left more questions than answers.

According to the Israeli official version, an incident occurred in the “space of the Israeli embassy” which is located in the high-end Rabiyeh district of Amman, when a Jordanian workman who came to repair a piece of furniture at the home of the Israeli security guard, attacked him with a screwdriver. The guard pulled a gun and shot him and another Jordanian man described as “the landlord.”

Jordanian General Intelligence stated that when word was received of a shooting at a residential building used by the Israeli embassy and “within its space,” a security force was sent over and locked it down prior to investigating the incident and its circumstances. This account describes three injured individuals, including an Israeli national.

It is not clear in either account whether the Jordanian assailant came from outside and entered one of the most heavily guarded embassy compounds in Amman, or was a member of the embassy staff – in which case his security clearance by Jordan and Israel would have been high.

Other Jordanian sources describe the Jordanian assailant as a member of the embassy’s maintenance staff with whom the Israelis serving in Jordan were well acquainted.

International media carried various accounts hours before the story was officially released for publication. According to one, the Israeli guard was stabbed in a quarrel with a Jordanian and then shot him several times in the chest. The Israeli was then taken in “unstable condition” to hospital. Israel was said to have begun evacuating the Amman embassy.

The two governments appeared to have been engaged in an all-night discussion, most likely at the highest personal level of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah.

On Friday, thousands of Jordanians protested in Amman against Israel over the installation of metal detectors on Temple Mount, a site in the heart of Jerusalem that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem. They were installed as a protective measure, after a terrorist on July 14 shot dead two Israeli police officers who were guarding the Lion’s Gate entry to the compound.

Since then, the Waqf and Palestinian leaders have instructed Muslims to refrain from entering Temple Mount for worship at Al Aqsa, but to hold prayers in the street outside the compound.  Major disturbances ensued in Jerusalem and other parts of the country and spilled across the border to Arab capitals, including Amman.

Israel later installed new security cameras on Temple Mount, while considering an alternative to the hotly contested metal detectors. But Waqf and Palestinian officials declared emphatically that no security measures installed by Israel for protecting worshippers and visitors to the shrine will be accepted. The Waqf takes its orders from Amman. The Temple Mount crisis has blown up into a major diplomatic incident between Israel and Jordan.

Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones

July 5, 2017

Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones, DEBKAfile, July 5, 2017

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the Russians suggested that the discussion be held over for the next session. They then took the Americans by surprise by relocating the sixth session of the Astana conference to Tehran. This too was a measure of the conference’s breakdown as a peace forum. US, Jordanian and Syrian rebel opposition groups will never travel to the Iranian capital to negotiate an end to the Syrian war.

The ceasefire was supposed to be in effect until midnight on Thursday, June 6, but there is now a possibility that the fighting will resume earlier, perhaps even in the coming hours.

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The fifth round of Russian-initiated Syrian peace talks taking place Tuesday, July 4, in the Kazakh capital of Astana was designed to prepare the ground for the Trump-Putin summit Friday on the sidelines of the Hamburg G20 summit, by laying out proposals for deconfliction zones in Syria.

To support this move, Moscow twisted the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad’s arm to declare a unilateral ceasefire in southern Syria.

However, the ploy was soon aborted. The Astana conference quickly broke down when Iran and Turkey, two of the three sponsors along with Russia, rejected the formula for deconfliction zones on Syria’s borders with Iraq, Jordan and Israel, DEBKAfile’s sources report.

Present at Astana along with the three sponsors were leading Syrian opposition and rebel groups, as well as UN envoy for Syrian affairs Staffan de Minstura, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones, and Jordanian Foreign Ministry adviser Nawaf Uasfi Tal.

The Iranina and Turkish delegates had no objections to the two demilitarized zones proposed for the Damascus and Homs areas, but withheld their consent for the zones in eastern and southern Syria, and refused to accept the formula for forces policing the latter deconfliction zones, their identity, powers as truce monitors and the types of arms they were allowed to carry.

Iran and Turkey demanded the deployment of their own troops along with Russians in the two safe zones, which border on Israel, Jordan and Iraq, and wanted them armed for “self-defense.” The representatives of the US and Jordan refused, proposing instead that an international force be established to supervise the zones. Turkey and Iran rejected this out of hand.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the Russians suggested that the discussion be held over for the next session. They then took the Americans by surprise by relocating the sixth session of the Astana conference to Tehran. This too was a measure of the conference’s breakdown as a peace forum. US, Jordanian and Syrian rebel opposition groups will never travel to the Iranian capital to negotiate an end to the Syrian war.

By knuckling under to Tehran on this venue, the Russians have shown their hand as supporters of Iran’s military objectives in Syria, which they have hitherto tried to disguise.

The failure of the Astana peace track calls into question the ceasefire declared on Sunday by Damascus on all the warfronts of southeastern Syria, including the battle for Daraa, 1 km from the Jordanian border, and the fighting for the Quneitra region, just 3 km from Israel’s Golan.  That front was the source of the mortar shells that strayed across the border into the Golan last week.

The ceasefire was supposed to be in effect until midnight on Thursday, June 6, but there is now a possibility that the fighting will resume earlier, perhaps even in the coming hours.

Turkish takeover in Jerusalem

June 2, 2017

Turkish takeover in Jerusalem, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, June 2, 2017

(Please see also, Report: Turkey Eclipsing Jordan in Old City, Temple Mount. — DM)

In short, the disintegration of Palestinian secular nationalist organizations and institutions in east Jerusalem, alongside Israeli torpor, has facilitated the rise of Islamist factions and hostile foreign actors.

The enlarged foreign presence in the heart of Israel’s capital touches the deepest chords of the issue of Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city. Koren and Avrahami warn that this presence cannot be easily eliminated. While significant security action and determined diplomatic maneuver are clearly mandated, Israel will have to do more to “recapture” east Jerusalem. It will have to assume full responsibility for the services that east Jerusalem Arab residents need, with major budgetary repercussions.

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The fireworks and fanfare of the Jerusalem liberation jubilee have shoved under the radar a blockbuster expose about the unruly situation in east Jerusalem. Alarm bells should be ringing about the nefarious intensifying involvement of Erdogan’s Turkey and other radical Islamist groups in Jerusalem political and social affairs.

Dr. David Koren and Ben Avrahami are the advisors on east Jerusalem affairs for the Jerusalem Municipality. They lead the municipal team that oversees all of Jerusalem City Hall’s interactions with the Muslim and Christian populations of the city. They are intimately familiar with the thicket of contradictory interests, tensions, and disagreements that inform daily life in earthly Jerusalem.

The two experts have just published a rare, breathtaking and shocking description of political trends in east Jerusalem. Their article, “East Jerusalem Arabs Between Erdogan and Israel,” published in the new, important Hebrew intellectual journal Hashiloach (Vol. 4, May 2017), offers a brief account of the fruits of normalization and Arab east Jerusalemites’ increasing integration into the Israeli scene, But mainly it serves as a wake-up call regarding countervailing toxic trends.

According to Koren and Avrahami there has been very significant erosion in the status of the veteran east Jerusalem mukhtars and the influence of Fatah political infrastructures and Palestinian Authority leaders. Into the vacuum have stepped elements identified with Hamas, with the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and with the Muslim Brotherhood in its wider context.

Through a series of civic associations, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations, sometimes at the neighborhood level and sometimes more extensive, they are investing tens of millions of dollars per year in dawa (missionary) activities, mainly charitable enterprises and educational programs to attract the young to Islamic values.

There is a direct line, say the article authors, from civic dawa to radicalization and active enlistment in the armed struggle against Israel. This includes active social networking which glorifies terrorists, martyrs, and prisoners, and explicitly calls for violent resistance to Israel. These networks were also the source for the libel that Al-Aqsa mosque is endangered by the Jews/Zionists, and for dissemination of an incredible volume of disinformation related to Israeli actions on the Temple Mount.

The authors ask for particular attention to the mounting involvement of Erdogan’s Turkey, which is the worldwide Brotherhood’s main patron. Turkey now enjoys unprecedented popularity among the Arab residents of east Jerusalem, the authors write. The Turks’ public support of the Palestinian cause and adoption of the Al-Aqsa issue, and their decision to inject millions of dollars into east Jerusalem, have won them great sympathy and support.

The Turks fund a great part of the dawa activities in the city, with Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri as the lead Turkish agent. (He is a former grand mufti of Jerusalem appointed by the PA and today the most prominent representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city.) The Turkish consulate in Jerusalem, the Turkish government assistance agency, and a string of Turkish organizations that have local branches in Israel or the West Bank, are directly implicated in this subversive activity too. As a result, Turkish flags today fly everywhere in east Jerusalem and prominently on the Temple Mount as well.

The Turks also have injected significant sums to those who do their bidding on the Temple Mount, for various activities such as Quran-recitation groups, transportation of worshipers to and from the mosque, iftar feasts in Ramadan, renovation and cleaning campaigns, and the like. In general, the Islamist forces on the Temple Mount operate, intentionally or not, to Turkey’s benefit and the detriment of Jordan. They may believe that the replacement of the Jordanian presence by a Turkish presence would be a positive and welcome development.

The main loser here is Jordan, which long enjoyed the status of Guardian of the Holy Places and protector of the Arabs of Jerusalem. This also is the context of the PA’s intensive activity in the international arena, and especially at UNESCO, ostensibly intended to protect the Islamic holy places against an Israeli takeover. This tactic allows the PA to convey to its critics that it is the true defender of Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem against the threat of “Judaization,” while at the same time gnawing at Jordan’s historic role as guardian of the Mount and seeking to counteract the emerging Turkish dominance in Temple Mount affairs.

Attention should be devoted also to another mounting force in Jerusalem, the Islamic Liberation Party, or Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has several thousand supporters in the city. This Salafist group, like ISIS, seeks to proclaim a global Islamic caliphate from Al-Aqsa. It has acquired growing influence on college campuses throughout the West Bank, including al-Quds University near Jerusalem. Sheikh Issam Amira of the al-Rahman Mosque in Beit Safafa is the group’s most conspicuous preacher, and he enjoys freedom of activity and speech on the Temple Mount.

While the Liberation Party does not advocate violent jihad, some party members could “advance” from a Salafi mindset to a Salafi-jihadist outlook and join the ranks of ISIS. This may explain, say Koren and Avrahami, the presence of ISIS cells and ISIS operatives in Jerusalem, such as Fadi al-Qunbar, who carried out the terrorist truck-ramming attack in East Talpiot in early 2017, and the ISIS cell that was apprehended in the Shuafat refugee camp several months earlier.

In short, the disintegration of Palestinian secular nationalist organizations and institutions in east Jerusalem, alongside Israeli torpor, has facilitated the rise of Islamist factions and hostile foreign actors.

The enlarged foreign presence in the heart of Israel’s capital touches the deepest chords of the issue of Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city. Koren and Avrahami warn that this presence cannot be easily eliminated. While significant security action and determined diplomatic maneuver are clearly mandated, Israel will have to do more to “recapture” east Jerusalem. It will have to assume full responsibility for the services that east Jerusalem Arab residents need, with major budgetary repercussions.

In a future article, we will look at the remedies for this situation being implemented by Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem (and more still required) in order to increase east Jerusalem Arabs’ sense of belonging to a united Jerusalem. Also to be considered are the complicated proposals coming from the political Left for redistricting of the city into independent boroughs or divesting some Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority.

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference

April 5, 2017

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference, White House via YouTube, April 5, 2017

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel

April 3, 2017

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel, DEBKAfile, April 3, 2017

(Please see also, Restore the U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Alliance, Designate the Muslim Brothers as Terrorists. — DM)

Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.

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US President Donald Trump’s first face to face with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi at the White House Monday, April 3, focuses on four main topics, DEBKAfile reports: The fight against Islamist State terror rampant in Egyptian Sinai and neighboring Libya; topping up US military assistance to Cairo, aid for easing Egypt’s dire economic straits and, finally, the effort to bolster normal relations between the Arab world (including the Palestinians) and Israel.

From the moment he assumed the Egyptian presidency in June 2014, El-Sisi has waged a never-ending war on Islamist terror against Ansar Beit-al Maqdis, which later pledged alliance to the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The Egyptian army has so far been worsted.  The Egyptian president is not deaf to the criticism of the Second and Third Armies’ failure to overcome a few thousand armed men, even though they can at a moment’s notice raise several thousand more fighters from the Bedouin tribes of Sinai. US intelligence has rated the Egyptian forces as slow-moving and unwieldy; but for limited forays, its contingents preferring to sit safely in their barracks rather than risk going out and pursuing the enemy across the Peninsula.

Shortly before President El-Sisi’s trip to Washington, the Egyptian air force conducted intense bombardments of ISIS concentrations around the northern town of El Arish, killing at least 14 terrorists, nabbing 22 and seizing large caches of roadside bombs. But they too long delayed bearding the Islamists in their main stronghold atop Mount Jabal Hala in central Sinai. ISIS is therefore free to move around the territory and strike at will, the while expanding its operations into Egypt proper.

The weekend air strikes came after months in which ISIS overran sections of El Arish, Sinai’s biggest town (pop: 100,000). Their grip is such that Egyptian forces no longer dared venture into those lawless neighborhoods, especially at night. Earlier this year, terrible persecution including executions forced the few thousand indigenous Christians, most of them Copts, to flee their homes in El Arish. Egyptian forces proved unequal to safeguarding the US-led international observer force (MFO) monitoring the 1972 Egyptian-Israel peace treaty at a nearby station.

American military aid to Egypt stands today at $1.3bn a year. Even though the US president means to slash foreign aid programs, he may make an exception in this case and expand military assistance -, possibly in the coin of advanced military hardware, given the country’s unending frontline battle against Islamist terror.

Its presence in El Arish, 130km from the Egyptian-Israeli border, plants the peril on the doorsteps of Egypt’s neighbors as well: Northern Sinai borders on Israel, its northwestern district shares a border with the Gaza Strip, abutting in the east on Jordan and in the southwest on Libya. The cities of western Sinai sit on the banks of the Suez Canal.

The Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate is closely allied with Salafi organizations in the Gaza Strip and works hand in glove with its Palestinian Hamas rulers, especially in the lucrative arms-smuggling business.

Al-Baghdadi last year posted a group of Iraqi officers in his service to the Sinai contingent. They travelled through southern Jordan to reach the peninsula. The Islamist cells in Libya have moreover made ISIS-held turf in Sinai their safe highway for traveling undetected to their other strongholds across the Middle East.

To stamp out this sprawling, multi-branched menace, the Trump administration needs to bring Egypt, Jordan and Israel into a coalition for a sustained, common campaign.

The Obama administration, which boycotted President El-Sisi for persecuting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, tried unsuccessfully to build Turkey, Egypt and Israel into a counterterrorism pact. The Trump administration, for which the Brotherhood is anathema, has a better chance. But first, relations between the Arab world and Israel need to be placed on a regular footing. Some groundwork already exists in the informal bilateral military ties Egypt and Jordan maintain with Israel. DEBKAfile’s military sources have revealed in past reports the limited give-and-take relations for fighting terror Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi maintain with Israel.

The US President’s advisers recognize that before a broad, effective front against ISIS and Al Qaeda can be put together from these partial, often covert ties, progress is necessary towards normalizing relations between the Arab governments and the Jewish state, including the Israeli-Palestinian track.

Trump will certainly want to hear what role his Egyptian guest is willing to take for bringing this process forward. He will ask his next Middle East visitor, Jordan’s Abdullah II, the same question, when he arrives in Washington Tuesday. As for the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he was promised an invitation to the White House this month, but not yet been given a date. He is clearly being left to wait until the senior players in the region have had their say. Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.

Dire Jordanian straits

March 14, 2017

Dire Jordanian straits, Israel Hayom, Daniel Pipes, March 14, 2017

Palestinians, according to most estimates, constitute a substantial majority of the population and present the deepest division. It’s common to speak of “Jordanians” and “Palestinians” even though the latter are citizens and children and grandchildren of citizens. As this suggests, the sense of being separate from and superior to the mostly tribal peoples of the East Bank has not diminished over time, especially not when Palestinians have achieved economic success.

I asked nearly all of my 15 interlocutors (who represented a wide range of viewpoints) about a return of Jordanian sovereignty to the West Bank. I regret to report that every one of them strongly rejected this idea. “Why would we want that headache?” they all seemed to say. Accepting their verdict means Israel has no practical solution to its West Bank conundrum, so its reluctant and unwanted sovereignty over Palestinians will likely continue into the distant future.

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“We’re in dire straits,” Jordan’s King Abdullah said half a year ago. After recently completing a week of intensive travels and discussions throughout Jordan, I found no one disagreeing with that assessment. Jordan may no longer be hyper-vulnerable and under siege, as it was in the past, but it does face possibly unprecedented problems.

Created out of thin air by Winston Churchill in 1921 to accommodate British imperial interests, the Emirate of Transjordan, now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for almost a century has led a precarious existence. Particularly dangerous moments came in 1967, when pan-Arabist pressures led King Hussein to make war on Israel and lose the West Bank; in 1970, when a Palestinian revolt nearly toppled the king; and 1990-1991, when pro-Saddam Hussein sentiments pushed him to join a hopeless and evil cause.

Today’s dangers are manifold. Islamic State lurks in Syria and Iraq, just beyond the border, attractive to a small but real minority of Jordanians. The once-robust trade with those two countries has nearly collapsed — and with it, Jordan’s lucrative transit role. In a region bountiful in oil and gas, Jordan is one of the very few countries to have almost no petroleum resources. City dwellers receive water just one day a week and country dwellers often even less. Tourism has declined, thanks to the Middle East’s notorious volatility. King Abdullah’s recent assertion of authority grates on those demanding more democracy.

The core issue of identity remains unresolved. As a country of massive immigration for over a hundred years (even exceeding the numbers going to Israel), it has received waves of Palestinians (in 1948-1949, 1967, and 1990-1991), Iraqis (2003), and Syrians (since 2011). Palestinians, according to most estimates, constitute a substantial majority of the population and present the deepest division. It’s common to speak of “Jordanians” and “Palestinians” even though the latter are citizens and children and grandchildren of citizens. As this suggests, the sense of being separate from and superior to the mostly tribal peoples of the East Bank has not diminished over time, especially not when Palestinians have achieved economic success.

The country’s strengths are also formidable. Surrounded by crises, the population is realistic and wary of trouble. The king enjoys an undisputed position of authority. Intermarriages and the influx of Iraqis and Syrians are eroding the historic divisions between Palestinians and others. The population enjoys a high level of education. Jordan has a good reputation around the world.

Then there’s Israel. “Where are the fruits of peace?” is a common refrain about Jordan’s 1994 treaty with Israel. Politicians and the media may not say so, but the answer is blindingly obvious: Whether it is using Haifa as an alternative to the Syrian land route, the purchase of inexpensive water, or the provision of plentiful gas (which is already being delivered), Jordan benefits directly and substantially from its ties with Israel. Despite this, a perverse social pressure against normalization with Israel has grown over time, intimidating absolutely everyone and preventing relations with the Jewish state from reaching their potential.

One Jordanian asked me why Israelis accept being treated like a mistress. The answer is clear: Because Jordan’s welfare ranks as a paramount Israeli priority, successive governments accept, even if through gritted teeth, the calumnies and lies told about Israel in the press and on the streets. Though they are too polite to say so, they clearly wish the king would take hold of this issue and point to the benefits of peace.

On a personal note: Since 2005, I have been advocating for “Jordan to the West Bank, Egypt to Gaza: The Three-State Solution” as a way to solve the Palestinian problem.

Accordingly, I asked nearly all of my 15 interlocutors (who represented a wide range of viewpoints) about a return of Jordanian sovereignty to the West Bank. I regret to report that every one of them strongly rejected this idea. “Why would we want that headache?” they all seemed to say. Accepting their verdict means Israel has no practical solution to its West Bank conundrum, so its reluctant and unwanted sovereignty over Palestinians will likely continue into the distant future.

Summing up the visit: Jordan has muddled through many crises and may do so again, but the concatenation of current dangers pose an extraordinary challenge to Jordan and its many well-wishers. Will Abdullah cope with these “dire straits”?

EXCLUSIVE – Arab Intel Official Warns Israel, Jordan, Syria Borders at Risk of Becoming an Iranian Stronghold

February 18, 2017

EXCLUSIVE – Arab Intel Official Warns Israel, Jordan, Syria Borders at Risk of Becoming an Iranian Stronghold, BreitbartAaron Klein and Ali Waked, February 18, 2017

(Please see also, Can Trump rescue his Syria deal with Putin?. — DM)

jordan-border-640x480AP Raad Adayleh

TEL AVIV — There is fear that further advances by the Syrian army, assisted by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and elite Iranian troops, may turn the Israel-Jordan-Syria border area into an Iranian proxy base, an Arab intelligence officer said.

“It’s not so much the possibility that it happens, but the prospects of an Israeli retaliation if Iranian forces come near its border,” he said. “Israel made it clear, publicly and behind the scenes, that it would not tolerate Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guards’ presence along its border.”

“Iran has exploited the campaign against Nusra Front and the Islamic State to take root in the border area,” he said. “Jordan and Israel too would like to see these organizations out, but not to the point that Hezbollah and Iran fill the void.”

Lately, Israel and Jordan have cooperated closely on the matter, he stated. “Israel knows that Jordan needs to act against extremist elements but both want to prevent Iran from taking advantage of it.”

“It is also in [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s best interest to keep the Iranians out,” the official contended. “True, he has stated that the Golan Heights would be liberated by force, and he relies heavily on Hezbollah and Iran. But at some point he’d wish to rule over his own border areas, which is something Jordan can live with. But not Iran.”

He added that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards tried several times in the past to gain a foothold in Jordan. “But these cells were unveiled and dismantled before they became operational.”

He added that the joint operation room of the Syrian opposition groups has become almost completely inactive.

“Its activity has been dramatically reduced,” he said of the operation room. “There are no more operational and tactical plans and directives. The world wants first and foremost to remove the jihadist threat, but the elements in the region believe that the jihadi threat will be replaced by an Iranian one.”

He said that Jordan has rebuffed Iranian proposals to increase economic cooperation despite the financial dire straits in which the Kingdom finds itself. “They want to prevent Iran from having any kind of foothold in the kingdom.”