Middle East news catch-up: Iran, Jerusalem, the UN and the Palestinians

Here is a (very) short roundup of news that deserves some attention, but which I missed since I was computerless for a couple of days.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

As Pete mentioned in his comment on the previous post, Barack Obama wrote another letter to Khamenei in his over-eager quest to reach a deal, any kind of deal at all, with Iran over its nuclear disarmament. When Jeffrey Goldberg criticises Obama, you just know that Obama is in serious trouble:

The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Carol Lee reported this week that President Obama recently wrote a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, in which he laid out the benefits for Iran of a nuclear compromise.

“The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the campaign against Islamic State and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal,” the Journal reported. “Mr. Obama stressed to Mr. Khamenei that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline.”

This is, by most counts, the fourth letter President Obama has written to Ayatollah Khamenei. He has received approximately zero responses. There are two ways to interpret this asymmetry. The first is to conclude that Obama is chasing after Khamenei in the undignified and counterproductive manner of a frustrated suitor. The second is to conclude that Obama is cleverly boxing-in Khamenei in the court of international opinion:

I go with the first option, and so does Goldberg apparently:

What we can reasonably assert, however, is that the letter will not have its intended effect. Quite the opposite, according to the Brooking Institution’s Suzanne Maloney:

[T]here is simply no plausible scenario in which a letter from the President of the United States to Ali Khamenei generates greater Iranian flexibility on the nuclear program, which the regime has paid an exorbitant price to preserve, or somehow pushes a final agreement across the finish line. Just the opposite—the letter undoubtedly intensified Khamenei’s contempt for Washington and reinforced his longstanding determination to extract maximalist concessions from the international community. It is a blow to the delicate end-game state of play in the nuclear talks at the precise moment when American resolve was needed most.

Read the rest of the article. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic – and so terribly dangerous for the whole world.

Fire damage to the mosque in Al-Mughayir

Back in Israel, earlier this week a mosque near Shiloh caught fire and suffered serious damage. In an almost Pavlovian response, “the settlers” were immediately blamed for the fire. However a closer investigation now raises serious doubts about this accusation – but you won’t hear about this in much of the mainstream media:

On Wednesday night, a Channel One reporter visited Al-Mughayir, the village where the entire first floor of a mosque was allegedly targeted in a revenge attack against Arabs by “settlers,” as international media reported early Wednesday.

After visiting, the correspondent reported that the story may be false – and questioned the Palestinian version of events after closely surveying the site.

He said that when he photographed the building from the inside, it was revealed that a fuse box under the mosque was also burned – as well as a space heater found nearby.

Although the reporter emphatically stressed that the space heater’s presence does not automatically deem the “price tag” labeling a lie, he also noted that space heaters – which are very common in Israel – are also infamous for causing fires. He added that he could not examine the scene too closely due to security officials cordoning off the site, apparently to avoid confrontations with local Palestinians.

However – just minutes after he saw the heater – the reporter returned to discover that someone at the scene had removed the space heater from the site.

The Times of Israel adds some other interesting and mitigating details:

Contrary to accusations by residents of the village, the incident did not coincide with previous “price tag” attack patterns, leading police to believe the mosque was not burned for ideological reasons, Channel 10 reported.

According to an unnamed police source, the incident occurred in the center of the village, unlike previous extremist attacks.

The source also added that no racist graffiti was found at the scene, conflicting earlier Palestinian news reports.

Israeli Police were unable to entirely rule out the option that this was a nationalist attack, as Palestinian authorities refused their entry to the village and did not allow them to conduct a wide-scale investigation.

I really hope that this fire is proven to be an accident. I would hate to think that any Jewish Israeli would go as far as to burn down a mosque. And I hope that the proof is published widely so as to exonerate the settlers as quickly as they were accused.

The residents of Judea and Samaria are not helped by hotheads like this group who are offering prizes to civilians who kill terrorists at the scene. Most Israeli civilians know perfectly well how to act in an emergency and don’t need the incentive of prizes to act in self-defence. All this stupid announcement will do is give Israel even more of a bad reputation.

UN anti Israel biasTalking of bad reputations, Israel has announced that it is refusing to cooperate with the UN kangaroo court commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes during Operation Protective Edge, partly due to the known bias of the chairman, William Schabas:

The Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday it would not cooperate with the UN inquiry into the summer Gaza conflict, and rejected an entry request issued by three members of the investigative committee seeking to gather evidence, leaving them stranded in Amman.

The Foreign Ministry said the decision came about because of the UN Human Rights Council’s “obsessive hostility” toward Israel and “one-sided mandate.” It also cited anti-Israel statements made by inquiry head William Schabas as a factor in the move.

“While Hamas fired thousands of rockets toward Israel, the UN Human Rights Council decided it would determine in advance Israel’s ‘guilt’ and set up an investigative committee to serve as a rubber stamp to its known positions,” a ministry statement said.

“Since the Schabas commission is not an inquiry but a commission that gives its conclusions in advance, Israel will not cooperate with the UN Commission on Human Rights over the last conflict with Hamas,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement.

William Schabas

The head of the UN commission, Canadian law professor Schabas, came under fire with his appointment to the panel for what critics termed his antipathy to Israel after having called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stand trial at the ICC for war crimes.

This is excellent news. It’s about time Israel stood up for its own rights. Yes, there are those who say Israel should cooperate in order to put its side of the story out there and that we should learn from what happened when we refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Inquiry. But the sad truth is that these inquiries enter into the fray with their minds made up ahead of time. You can see simply from reading their objectives. Eventually, despite Israel’s lack of cooperation Richard Goldstone retracted his report’s findings. One would think that Schabas would learn from Goldstone’s experience. But he hasn’t.

John Kerry, Binyamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah meet in Amman

On a more cooperative note, the US Israel and Jordan held a trilateral meeting in order to reduce tensions over Jerusalem:

The trilateral meeting in Amman between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the recent surge of violence in Jerusalem ended Thursday evening, with Kerry issuing a statement praising the sides for their commitment to reduce tensions surrounding the Temple Mount.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah a-Sissi was updated on the meeting by phone, according to a report on Israel Radio.

The top US diplomat said Netanyahu had “strongly reaffirmed his commitment to uphold the status quo on Temple Mount,” while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Kerry met earlier in the day, restated his “commitment to non-violence and to restoring calm” in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Kerry said Abbas told him would do “everything possible to prevent [further] violence.”

…However, Kerry said that it was not the right time for Israel and the Palestinians to come together to renew talks.

Now that was a flying pig moment!

Kerry also praised the “enormously constructive role of Jordan in trying to resolve these challenges.”

I wonder what constructive role he is talking about. Maybe Jordan’s recalling its ambassador from Israel in protest at the closure of the Temple Mount? How constructive is that?

He said Israel and Jordan, which has custodial rights at the Temple Mount, had also agreed to take steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence”.

A senior Israeli government official told The Times of Israel that Netanyahu spoke about the urgent need to stop the incitement that was leading to the violence — incitement promoted by radical Islamists and by Palestinian Authority officials.

Arab rioter on the Temple Mount

Netanyahu’s commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount in effect means that the police won’t restrict Muslims’ entry to Al Aqsa. Let us hope this won’t backfire on Friday when they attend their prayers, along with a side-serving of incitement from the preachers.

And that same status quo has now become inseparable from banning Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, and possibly even simply Israelis going there to visit. Let’s see how long this “reduction of tension” lasts.

Unfortunately the US is not always so helpful when it comes to Israel, and here they are, interfering in Israel’s internal affairs once again, as they condemned Israel’s new directive on home demolitions for terrorists:

The US government condemned Thursday the scheduled demolition of homes belonging to Palestinians who carried out terror attacks in Israel, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki contending that such a move amounted to collective punishment and would only heighten tensions in the region.

No dear, this is not collective punishment. Israel is not destroying entire villages, just the homes of terrorists. If such a punishment persuades one terrorist to rethink his plans and prevents one murder, then the law justifies itself. You would think that the State Department would prefer house demolitions to killing terrorists.

If the State Department’s demands are adhered to, the end result would be that the only collective punishment allowed is that of Israelis, as the terrorists would have a free hand to murder as many Israelis as possible without impunity, with no fear of any punishment at all.

And let’s not even go near the subject of American bombing of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other large swathes of the Middle East.

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5 Responses to Middle East news catch-up: Iran, Jerusalem, the UN and the Palestinians

  1. JudyPt says:

    ,welcome to your new computer may you have many hours of interesting comments to keepl us updated o n current events.Now for a comment on Jen Psaki poking her nose into every corner of our lives.What the blazes is it her business what we do or not?Do we intrefere if the USA builds on former Native territory ,no we dont , by the way we also announced we are building 200 homes in the Arab sector ,but thst is conveniently overlooked by the MSN.Aslong as they (State Dept)can find areason to castigate Israel they will turn over every news item to suit their anti Israel agenda.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for the good wishes on the computer. I’m still struggling with all the new settings.

      Re the State Dept, it seems the US has forgotten that Israel is not the 51st state, nor is it a vassal state of the US. I think State prefers the status quo in all matters – The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel vs. Palestinians, Russia, Iran, Europe, it doesn’t make any difference. They just can’t handle change. So us building houses in Jerusalem, no matter for whom, sends them over the edge.

      They should look to their own affairs and leave us alone.

  2. peteca1 says:

    I have been thinking lately about this whole business of Iran, the centrifuges, the drive towards nuclear weapons, and the talks. I think it was a huge mistake for the world to go down this path … the allow individual countries to build their own centrifuges and have the capability to break out a capability to consruct a nuclear arsenal … the pathway is nearly impossible to manage (or set limits). Iran claims it has a “God given right to its own nuclear processes”. I say NONSENSE!! Such a right does not exist, or have to exist. The global community should have established ONE unified centrifuge capability that served all the nations, and which only processed uranium up to 5% (for commercial power). This arrangement would have been enforceable. But the current situation, with indvidual countries like Iran building 10,000 centrifuges “because they feel like it” … is non-enforceable. It should have been stopped when they built the first one. It is a tragedy that the IAEA has failed completely in its goals.

    I have no idea where all this will go. But since the Iranians are hell-bent on their “national ownership” of a pathway that leads directly to nuclear warheads … I don’t see how it ends well. Secret letters … no secret letters … we appear to be locked into an unworkable framework. It is impossible to verify … it requires that we trust people – who cannot be trusted.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Pete, sorry for not getting back to your comment until now.

      Whether it was a mistake or not to let countries develop their own nuclear capabilities is irrelevant now. The deed has been done. What’s left for us is how to deal with it.

      Your idea of one central centrifuge is a good one but is it actually feasible? I mean technically? At any rate it’s not going to happen any time soon.

      I agree that we CANNOT and MUST NOT trust the Iranians as far as we can throw them. The only way to stop them is by severe sanctions, and an attack if absolutely necessary. The question remains will it be left to Israel to do the world’s dirty work? And then get the blame for it?

  3. Pingback: B’tselem offices go up in flames. Right wrongly blamed – but who will remember? | Anne's Opinions

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