Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day in Israel began last night with official ceremonies at Yad VaShem. As always, six survivors of the Shoah (the Holocaust) lit torches. The story of each was shared in a short video. How strong and beautiful these people are.
It has been my practice each year to share some of these painful stories: It is forbidden to forget what happened, and I have sought to honor those who lived through the horror by recognizing them.
But this year is different. I am so alarmed by the turn of events in several spheres that, in the spirit of remembering the Holocaust, I want to turn to other issues. A major theme of the Holocaust is “Never Again!” Had there been an Israel in 1940, six million Jews would not have been killed.
There is then no lesson more important in these times filled with threats of a diverse and sometimes terrifying nature than the need for us to stay strong and united. Sadly, the evidence right now is that we have not yet learned this lesson.
Please, read this in its entirety and share!!
Recently, I wrote about the theft of land in Area C by Arabs funded by the EU. Today I want to consider disturbing positions and policies emanating from Washington DC that generate a threat to Israel. Do not delude yourselves, the Biden administration is not remotely concerned about Israel’s security!!
Last Friday, the Biden administration lifted sanctions that Trump had imposed on two top officials of the ICC. Secretary of State Blinken indicated that, “We believe…that our concerns about these cases [regarding Israel in Gaza and the US in Afghanistan] would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions.” (Emphasis added)
This was done despite a request from Israel that the sanctions remain in place.
This change in policy is not a singular event: it represents a norm for the new administration.
Blinken also recently announced US plans to re-engage immediately with the UN Human Rights Council as an active observer, with intention to compete for a seat on the Council in the fall. President Trump had pulled the US out of the Council in 2018 after an assessment that attempting to engage constructively to effect changes was an exercise in futility. Remaining a member might have lent the impression that Council actions were passively condoned.
Presumably, the thought with regard to the US becoming a member again is that it can constructively stand against undermining of human rights. But what I would suggest is that this approach is left-wing “pie-in-the-sky” – a mindset that is the default position of the Biden administration. Before Trump pulled out of the Council, the US was not even able to secure the termination of Agenda Item 7, under which Israel is the sole country discussed at the Council.
But there are other issues at the heart of left-wing “pie-in-the-sky” thinking by the Biden Administration.
Three years ago President Trump had pulled the US out of the Iran accord (JCPOA), which had been negotiated under Obama, saying it was “defective to its core”: It did not stop Iran from going nuclear, it merely delayed the process. At that time he also ordered the re-imposition of primary and secondary sanctions that had been waived in accordance with the deal.
In light of Obama’s massive influence on the current administration, it was not a huge surprise that Biden, not long after moving into the White House, declared that he wanted to re-engage with Iran. He called re-entering the JCPOA deal a priority.
So, we knew what was coming.
Last Friday, both the US and Iran announced that indirect talks on resumption of the deal would take place starting Tuesday in Vienna. The parties did not meet face to face, but relied on shuttle diplomacy. The other members of the accord, the P4+1 group, namely Russia, China, Britain, France plus Germany were also in the city and involved in meetings.
The Iranians made it clear that they expect the US to remove sanctions first, before they resume compliance with the deal. In a tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the aim of the Vienna session would be to enable this to follow “rapidly.”
Not so easy, as Iran has been exceeding its limits as specified by the accord and a good deal would have to be done to move it back. What is more, Iranian nuclear scientists have more information and experience than they did in 2015, when the deal was first brokered. There is no way to truly go back in time.
The revised US position is generating considerable concern in Israel. Previously there had been talk about negotiating an agreement that was “longer and stronger.” Now that seems to have been jettisoned for a simple return to the 2015 deal.
Israeli officials call this “very troubling.”
It was the position voiced by US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley in a PBS interview that first caused consternation in Israel. Not that there was reason for surprise. Malley was the lead negotiator for the US during establishment of the JCPOA – when concession after concession to Iran was made.
Commented one Israeli source: “Nowhere in the entire interview does Malley say the goal is to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Nowhere does he accuse the Iranians of any bad behavior… Nowhere in the interview does he talk about the importance of consultations with American allies in the region.
“In the old deal, snapback sanctions disappear in 2025. In 2030, all nuclear restrictions end…Is that the deal they want to go back to?” (Emphasis added)
Following the Tuesday meeting, both parties declared it “constructive” and said there would be further meetings.
Once again chief Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi insisted the US must lift sanctions before Iran makes any concessions. And let us be clear about precisely what’s going on (emphasis added):
“In late February, Iran began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities. But under a last-minute deal worked out during a trip to Tehran by Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN atomic watchdog, some access was preserved.
“Under the agreement, Iran will no longer share surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities with the IAEA but it has promised to preserve the tapes for three months. It will then hand them over to the IAEA if it is granted sanctions relief. Otherwise, Iran has vowed to erase the recordings, narrowing the window for a diplomatic breakthrough.
“The small window for negotiation will make it even more difficult for the US to try to bring new concerns into the deal, such as Iran’s regional influence and its ballistic missile programme.”
The Americans, eager to restore the 2015 deal, are likely to comply with Iranian demands.
This is incredibly sad, because the Iranians’ eagerness to have all sanctions lifted is a sign that they are hurting – that Trump’s approach, designed to weaken the mullahs, was working.
So strongly is the Iranian regime playing hardball on this that it refuses to agree to reduce its uranium enrichment from 20 percent — just a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels — in exchange for the release of $1 billion in frozen assets.
Writes attorney Leo Terrell: “The regime is showing just who holds the cards…”
Terrell notes that this proposal diverges “from the Biden administration’s previous stance that the U.S. would not relieve any sanctions prior to the regime’s full compliance with the JCPOA.”
So there we are: a turn around already. That was one quick cave.
At the program at Yad Vashem last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu made Israel’s stance on Iran clear:
“Unlike in the past, today there is no one in the world that will deprive us of the right and the might to defend ourselves from an existential threat. The nuclear deal with Iran is once again on the table. Such deals with extreme regimes are worthless.
“I say to our closest friends too: ‘A deal with Iran that paves Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, a weapon that threatens us with annihilation, will not obligate us.’ Only one thing will obligate us: to prevent those who wish to destroy us from carrying out their plans.”
Just as the Biden administration has advanced a policy regarding Iran that wipes away all the accomplishments of President Trump, so is it the case with the Palestinian Authority:
At the end of March, State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the US considers Judea & Samaria (aka “the West Bank”) to be “occupied” by Israel.
“It is a historical fact that Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights after the 1967 War,” he said. “This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades.”
Yes, a longstanding position, but not the position of the Trump administration – which is now being reversed. In November 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had declared that settlements in Judea & Samaria were not inconsistent with international law. This overturned the 1978 Hansell Memorandum, written by a US State Department legal advisor who said the settlements were illegal.
We have hardly seen the last on this. And it is clear where the US is going:
“Again, our ultimate goal here is to facilitate – to help bring about – a two-state solution because it is the best path to preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state, while bestowing on the Palestinians their legitimate aspirations of sovereignty and dignity in a state of their own.”
Yup, that was inevitable with Biden. I will be returning to this in more detail, but here I want to share material that makes it very clear indeed that Israel is not “occupying” Judea & Samaria:
Perhaps the most bizarre example of Biden administration left-wing “pie-in-the-sky” thinking is this:
Just days ago, Spokesman Price indicated that: “The Secretary [Blinken] emphasized the Administration’s belief that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.”
To equate the two peoples is a joke. And the kicker is the idea that the two societies “should enjoy” equal measures of democracy. Whatever our very major faults, Israel IS a democracy. But the Palestinian Arabs don’t know from democracy. There is no free press and no civil rights. And there are certainly no regular elections. Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four year term as president in January 2005, and he is still in office.
Lately you may have been reading about upcoming Palestinian Authority elections. They are being pushed by the US because this will demonstrate that the PA is a democracy. Get it? This will justify US moves towards a Palestinian state. I will have a great deal more to say about this: it is going to be a headache for us because of Hamas involvement and the potential candidacy of a terrorist.
More serious still is this: “The Biden administration has allocated $90 million in aid to the Palestinians, with only a portion of the money being publicly announced, according to a report by the Associated Press.
“The United States announced last week that it would give $15 million in coronavirus relief to the Palestinians. However, the Biden administration notified Congress a day later, without a public announcement, that it will allocate $75 million to the Palestinians for economic support to be used in part to regain their ‘trust and goodwill’ following Trump administration cuts, the AP report said.”
According to United with Israel, USAID claims that this aid “adheres” to “anti-terrorism vetting” that ensures “assistance does not go to Hamas or other terrorist organizations.”
Believe this, and I have a nice bridge to sell you. The Trump administration had cut nearly all aid to the Palestinian Authority in compliance with the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits US aid to the PA as long as it continues to provide support to terrorists or their families. The last time I checked, the payments to terrorists and their families were still a highly-touted PA priority.
I will add here that the US has also announced renewed support for UNRWA, a corrupt agency that is destructive to peace efforts and supportive of Hamas, to the tune of $150 million. Trump had cut US assistance here, as well, with very good reason.
Some of the funds will support UNRWA education. See here for a look at that education:
State Department spokesman Ned Price says: “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.”
So the US has returned to a policy of sucking up to the Palestinian Authority, rather than demanding that it act with responsibility and accountability. See Ruthie Blum on this (emphasis added):
“Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas may be facing serious challenges to his reign in Ramallah, but he’s having no trouble playing the powers-that-be in Washington. After four years of being called to task by the administration of former President Donald Trump, Abu Mazen (as he is familiarly known in the Middle East) is once again enjoying the upper hand…
“Unlike Trump’s people, however—who made it clear from the outset that the aging despot’s delusions of grandeur and posturing wouldn’t work on them—Biden’s are kissing up to him.”
There we have, then, an overview of what Israel is going to have to contend in the months ahead. It is painful to contemplate.
As I have said before, and will continue to say, the best way – the ONLY way – for Israel to contend effectively, is with a united, solid right-wing government.
Yet as negotiations for a governing coalition begin, the prospects are dim. If Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar would stop thinking about getting rid of Netanyahu, and about securing their own political futures, and start worrying about the nation, we could have that government. Bennett, whose game-playing is particularly reprehensible, is attempting to point a finger at Bezalel Smotrich, the only one telling it straight.
I will have a great deal to say about this…come my next posting.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.