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Middle East Press on US Aid to Israel, Ties between Turkey and Israel and Iran Nuclear Deal: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

29 December 2020

• Untold Story of US Aid to Israel

By Ramzy Baroud

• New Hope for Good Ties between Turkey and Israel

By Hakki Ocal

• The Iran Nuclear Deal: Don’t Confuse the Means with the End

By Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

• Test Of Humans In 2020

By Hamood Abu Talib

• Israel Leads In Vaccinations

By Rina Bassist


Untold Story of US Aid To Israel

By Ramzy Baroud

December 28, 2020

On Dec. 21, the US Congress passed the COVID-19 relief package as part of a larger $2.3 trillion bill intended to cover spending for the rest of the fiscal year. As usual, US representatives allocated a vast sum of money to Israel.

While unemployment and poverty levels in the US are skyrocketing as a result of repeated lockdowns, Washington found it essential to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in “security assistance” and $500 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation.

Although a meagre $600 payment to help struggling American families was the subject of several months of intense debate, there was little discussion among US politicians over the large funds handed out to Israel, for which there are no returns.

Support for Israel is considered a bipartisan priority and for decades has been perceived as the most stable item on the US foreign policy agenda. The mere questioning of how Israel uses the funds — whether military aid is being actively used to sustain its illegal occupation of Palestine, finance Jewish settlements, fund annexation of Palestinian land or violate Palestinian human rights — is a major taboo.

One of the few members of Congress to demand that assistance to Israel be conditional on the latter’s respect for human rights is Bernie Sanders, the Democratic senator who has twice sought presidential nomination for the party. “We cannot give (aid) carte blanche to the Israeli government — we have the right to demand respect for human rights and democracy,” Sanders said in October 2019.

His Democratic rival Joe Biden, now president-elect, quickly countered. “The idea that I’d withdraw military aid, as others have suggested, from Israel is bizarre,” he said.

It is no secret that Israel has been the world’s leading recipient of US aid since the Second World War. According to the US Congressional Research Service, Israel has received $146 billion of US taxpayers’ money as of November 2020.

From 1971 until 2007, the bulk of these funds proved fundamental in helping Israel establish a strong economic base. Since then, most of the money has been allotted for military purposes, including the security of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlement enterprise.

Despite the US financial crisis of 2008, money continued to be channeled to Israel, whose economy survived the global recession largely unscathed.

In 2016, the US promised even more aid. The Obama administration, often mistakenly seen as hostile to Israel, increased US funding by a significant margin. In a 10-year memorandum of understanding, Washington and Tel Aviv reached a deal whereby the US agreed to give Israel $38 billion in military aid covering the financial years 2019-2028. This is a whopping $8 billion increase compared with the previous 10-year agreement, which ended at the end of 2018.

The new US funds fall into two categories: $33 billion in foreign military grants and an additional $5 billion in missile defense.

US generosity has long been attributed to the unmatched influence of pro-Israeli groups, lead among them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. However, little lobbying has been required by these groups in the past four years as powerful agents within the administration itself became Israel’s top advocates.

Aside from the seemingly endless “political freebies” that the Trump administration has given Israel in recent years, it is now considering ways to accelerate the timetable of delivering the remainder of US funds as determined by the last agreement, which currently stands at $26.4 billion. According to official congressional documents, the US also may approve additional sales of the F-35 fighter jet, and accelerate delivery of KC-46A refueling and transport aircraft.

These are not the only funds and perks Israel receives. Much more goes unreported since it is channeled indirectly or simply promoted under the flexible title of “cooperation.”

For example, between 1973 and 1991, $460 million of US funds was allocated to resettling Jews in Israel. Many of these new immigrants are now the very Israeli militants who occupy the West Bank illegal settlements. In this case, the money was paid to a private charity, the United Israel Appeal, which passes it on to the Jewish Agency. The latter has played a central role in the founding of Israel on top of the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948.

Under the guise of charitable donations, tens of millions of dollars are regularly sent to Israel in the form of “tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” according to The New York Times. Much of the money, falsely promoted as donations for educational and religious purposes, often finds its way to funding and buying housing for illegal settlers, “as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure (illegal Jewish) outposts deep in occupied (Palestinian) areas.”

Quite often, US money ends up in the Israeli government coffers under false pretenses. For example, the latest stimulus package includes $50 million to fund the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Funds, supposedly to provide investments in “people-to-people exchanges and economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of supporting a negotiated and sustainable two-state solution.”

Actually, such money serves no particular purpose, since Washington and Tel Aviv endeavor to ensure the demise of a negotiated peace agreement and work hand-in-hand to kill the now-defunct two-state solution.

The list is endless, though most of this money is not included in the official US aid packages to Israel and, therefore, receives little scrutiny, let alone media coverage.

As of February 2019, the US has withheld all funds to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in addition to cutting aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, the last lifeline providing basic education and health services to millions of displaced people.

Judging by its legacy of support for the Israeli military machine and the colonial expansion in the West Bank, Washington insists on serving as Israel’s main benefactor, if not direct partner, while shunning Palestinians altogether. Expecting the US to play a constructive role in achieving a just peace in Palestine shows not only indefensible naivety but also wilful ignorance.


Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books, the latest being “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta).


New Hope for Good Ties between Turkey and Israel

By Hakki Ocal

DEC 28, 2020

In the 1930s the founder of the young Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was swinging back and forth between two worlds: the West (which literally meant Europe symbolizing modernization) and the East (which necessarily spelled the Soviet Union. The new leader of the regime, former President Ismet Inönü, managed to keep the country out of the second European war (which, like the first one, turned into a “world” war eventually) and took the side of the new representative of the West, the United States.

This move was not totally new for Turks; even during and after World War I, there were popular initiatives to ask former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to accept Turkey under its protection, but Wilson had other plans for Turkey: dismembering it and creating a greater Armenia and a unified Kurdistan instead. Moreover, later Wilson would transport the Greek invasion army to Turkey.

Turkey's symbolic entrance into World War II on the side of the Allies in 1945 helped it to become a charter member of the United Nations. The Soviet demands for military bases in the Turkish Straits – which, by the way, had never been documented – provided the basis for the Truman Doctrine in 1947: The U.S. guaranteed the security of Turkey and Greece, and Turkey willingly rushed to Korea to help the American forces. As a result, Turkey joined NATO and became the first Muslim country to recognize the state of Israel in March 1949.

The Ottoman Empire had helped Jews to survive the Spanish massacres in the 14th and 15th centuries and helped them to migrate to the Balkans. Following the Russian persecutions of Jews in the early 20th century, Zionist leader Theodor Herzl even asked Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II to allow Jews to acquire Palestine, which resulted in a massive Jewish return to the Holy Land.

Jews, as well as Arabs and other ethnic and religious minorities of the empire, enjoyed their religious and judicial autonomy in the Balkans and Palestine. Thus, the Jews became passionately loyal to the Ottomans.

Enter Sir Lawrence of Arabia and his handler Gertrude Margaret Bell to the stage. With them not only Jews and Arabs but every other minority, no matter how minor they are, became passionately anti-Ottoman and pro-independence.

The British had skillfully managed to use the idea of a prospective “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine to garner the popular support “for involvement against isolationism” in the U.S. since 1917.

Despite the presence of several Jewish espionage spy networks fighting the Ottomans, the young Turkish republic didn’t have any other chance then to forgive the Jewish terrorism against the Ottomans. The country forgave but did it not forget: It voted against the U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine; however, Turkey recognized the state of Israel. Its first diplomatic mission was a legation, and even that was downgraded to the level of charge d’Affaires after the Suez Crisis in November 1956 when Israel invaded Egypt after it nationalized the Suez Canal.

Since then, Turkey-Israel relations had many ups and downs to say the least. After the Israeli occupation of Arab lands in 1967, almost all Turkish governments kept the relationship at a minimum.

Upon Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and enunciation of Jerusalem as its eternal capital, the representation was relegated to the level of second secretary in 1980.

In 2005 then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Israel offering to serve as a Middle East peace mediator and looking to build up trade and military ties.

Two years later, Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Turkey and addressed the Turkish Parliament. Another guest of Turkey at that time was the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who was on the same podium the next day.

Turkey always hoped that those diplomatic initiatives would further Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and that Israel would start seeing Palestinians as their partners in peace.

But a couple of months later, Israel started what it calls the Operation Cast Lead and what the Muslim world calls the Gaza massacre. Two years later came the Gaza flotilla raid in which nine Turkish aid workers were killed by Israeli troops raiding the Mavi Marmara, a charity ship flying a Turkish flag.

There have been some reconciliation efforts since then. For instance, in 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and apologized for the Gaza flotilla incident.

A reconciliation agreement was announced on June 27, 2016, to end the six-year rift in the relations between both countries. Yet, Israel, never heeding the meaning of that agreement with Turkey, killed 12 Palestinians on the Gaza border.

Erdogan emphasized that last week, saying, the people-to-people relationship between the two countries would have no problems should the Israeli politicians see Turkey’s redlines regarding the rights of the Palestinian people.

One point where they should coordinate their policies is concerning the fact that Israel has moral obligations to the Palestinians.

Sometimes a strong message is the one given in confidence. Good ties with Israel, we learned, are not necessarily “good” or “bad” in themselves. But good ties are the only tool to build that confidence-inducing environment between the two countries.


The Iran Nuclear Deal: Don’t Confuse the Means with the End

By Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

December 28, 2020

Recent comments by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif regarding the expected US return to the 2015 nuclear deal under the incoming Biden administration indicate the increased Iranian expectations from the potential negotiations.

From the tone of Zarif’s comments, when he said Iran was ready for Washington to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), one might think he was the one dictating terms to the US, but issues such as the Iranian missile program are non-negotiable.

Zarif is disregarding observations made by President Rouhani, who took note of statements by US President-elect Joe Biden’s new national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, that the incoming administration wants to box Iran in via Washington rejoining the nuclear deal, forcing Tehran to comply with the terms of the original deal. He stopped short of addressing Iran’s missile program or Tehran’s hostile interventions in the sovereign affairs of US regional allies, which Biden had mentioned earlier.

This shift in the tone of comments from the Biden administration prompted Rouhani to rush to announce that Iran was ready to comply with all the nuclear obligations stipulated in the nuclear deal, in a bid to woo the incoming administration. In contrast, Zarif understands Iran’s missile program is among the most contentious issues within the JCPOA, and wants to use it as a bargaining chip to secure Washington’s return to the deal.

These diplomatic maneuvers make the US return to the deal seem inevitable, but America’s true motives remain hidden.

When Barack Obama introduced the JCPOA to the world in 2015, the foremost justification for this interim 15-year deal was to give Iran’s regime an opportunity to change its behavior to integrate it into the international community as a normal state that respects international law and the norms governing relations among countries.

Logically speaking, it is impossible to agree a deal to prevent a country from committing evil acts that threaten global security and peace for 15 years, then allow it to carry out its threats when the deal expires. In reality, of course, there were no reformists in Iran capable of persuading the regime to be more open to the West, nor was the deal reviewed by those who crafted the JCPOA considering the regime’s belligerent policies toward the international community and to Iran’s neighbors in the region.

Despite this illusionary hope of peace and normalization resulting from the deal, Iran’s regime took immediate advantage of it to support its proxies and allies in the region, boost its missile program, purchase weapons, strengthen its vast domestic repressive apparatuses and intensify internal tyranny — just as regional states had warned it would.

When Trump came to power he announced that the deal had failed to achieve its objectives. but he did not mention the primary objective; integrating Iran into the international community. Instead he focused on the deal’s failure to curb the regime’s nuclear ambitions. Here the crisis began. The original fundamental objective was forgotten, and the means turned into the end. Five years on, the question is, is Iran viewed as a normal state and to what extent has it been integrated into the international community?

After the US pulled out of the JCPOA, the other signatories viewed its return as vital for the deal’s successful continuation. However, they have remained heedless of the potential drawbacks, with nobody asking why Europe wants it to continue?  With Washington’s imminent return to the deal becoming an objective, the tools and means to realize this should be pursued.

Iran has hoodwinked the world into forgetting the primary aim of the deal, making the international community believe that the main question is the regime’s compliance; in fact, this was not the end, but the means.

Iran is also pursuing this deliberate confusion between means and ends at another, deeper level, which is better understood if we question the plausibility of Iran’s claims about its own “peaceful” objective behind agreeing to the deal.

The regime believes that its “forward defense” strategy offers the best means for its survival and for maintaining the regime’s critical support base. In other words, the nuclear deal in its entirety is, from Tehran’s perspective, nothing but a tool for the regime’s survival through ensuring that the focus of any dispute with the West shifts away from considerations of the regime’s viability, instead transferring attention and pressure to the more manageable nuclear deal, which can be discussed, impeded, and delayed at great length over the years. As a result of this strategy, the regime itself is no longer subject to the same scrutiny or hostility, which has instead been transferred to the subject of the nuclear deal.

To end the regime’s absurd plan to turn the means into the end, we should insist on focusing on the nuclear deal’s original end objective, i.e. integrating Iran into the international community and turning it into a normal state that does not pose a threat to the security and safety of the international community. We need to relegate the various means used to meet this end to their proper place and avoid opting for means that proved unsuccessful before and reclassifying them as a realistic end.

The new US administration should remember the objectives that prompted Obama to sign the agreement, and ask itself whether a return to the deal can realistically be considered a successful means to integrate Iran into the international community and turn it into a normal state.


Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah).


Test Of Humans In 2020

By Hamood Abu Talib

December 29, 2020

Undoubtedly, the year 2020 will be recorded as the worst year in the modern history of mankind. But at the same time, it witnessed giant leaps human beings made in the fields of science and technology, as it was a practical test for all the scientific theories and applications propounded, developed, and invented by them and about which they boasted in times of goodness and prosperity.

Then, they found themselves facing a great challenge all of a sudden and they have had to prove that life must continue despite the terrible global pandemic. Things invented by the human mind seem very simple, but they played an important role in protecting and saving him from the deadly coronavirus.

Just imagine what it would be like if a person did not find the elements and compounds that contribute to the manufacture of hand sanitizers, which have become, with the pandemic, more used than any cosmetics used by humans previously. Similar is the case with medical masks without which the virus would have obtained an open transit visa to every lung.

Think of the existence of these simple things before you think about the enormous technologies in laboratories and medical research centers that made scientists prepare the vaccine against coronavirus as a result of complex techniques and continuous experiments that did not stop even for a single moment since the nature of the virus was determined.

If a person has committed grave mistakes against fellow human beings by inventing the means of mass destruction and committing unforgivable follies, then on the other hand he has achieved a great advancement with scientific progress against the biological threats caused to his life.

If this had not happened, he would not have reached the extent of producing more than one vaccine for a new virus within a record time and under harsh conditions. These are the manifestations of good and bad in this weak but mighty being. And this year was a witness to both aspects — darkness and light that are inherent in it.


Israel Leads In Vaccinations

By Rina Bassist

Dec 28, 2020

Health Ministry director Hezi Levi said this morning that there are currently enough vaccines to immunize a significant segment of the Israeli population. Speaking with Ben Caspit and Yinon Magal on 103FM radio station, Hezi noted that the authorities are working to receive more doses. Israel has so far administered only the Pfizer vaccinations, with Moderna vaccinations expected to arrive to the country in the first quarter of 2021.

Hezi spoke shortly after the ministry announced a new daily record in coronavirus vaccination numbers: Sunday saw 98,916 shots administered, bringing the total number of Israelis vaccinated to 379,000. Per capita, Israel has just slightly passed Bahrain and most European countries.

Hezi said in the radio interview that the numbers are "nice achievements, but we all want to increase," adding that the health minister's directive is "to vaccinate about 150,000 a day — and I believe we will be able to achieve that."

Quite a few Israelis, including physicians, had expressed concerns over the safety of the vaccine, saying they did not intend to get vaccinated. But the numbers so far show that many Israelis are enthusiastic and eager to get it.

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, "We are starting the week with gigantic news. I spoke over the weekend with the heads of the companies that are providing us with the vaccines and I told them that our goal by next weekend is to reach 150,000 vaccines a day. Afterward, another 4.5 million will come and another 4.5 million, but this is the critical stage and we can accomplish it."

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tweeted yesterday, "Israel is the first country in the world to repackage it so that vaccination can reach end locations quickly with maximum accessibility to the public. Sela workers are operating in an environment of two degrees [Celsius]! This way we are sure to reach every location in Israel without losing precious vaccines. This is how Israel is leading the world in administrating vaccinations!"

However, the number of Israelis infected by the virus is still rising, with another 3,498 virus cases diagnosed on Sunday. The death toll now stands at 3,226 since the outbreak of the virus in Israel.

Yesterday evening, the country entered its third national lockdown since the start of the pandemic. The government has officially called for a lockdown of two weeks, but health officials have warned it will likely go on for a month. Regulations now bar Israelis from entering another person’s home and restrict movements to one kilometer from home, with some exceptions. Nonessential shops are closed. Restaurants are closed and not even allowed to sell takeout. Schools in "red" cities are also closed.



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