Posts Tagged ‘Palestinians’

Pence warns of the ‘threat’ from China’s Huawei

February 16, 2019

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is urging allies to take seriously “the threat” posed by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as they look for partners to build 5G wireless infrastructure.

Pence said Saturday the U.S. had been “clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies.”

He told the Munich Security Conference they “provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment (and) we must protect our critical telecom infrastructure.”

He says “America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems.”

China rejects the U.S. position, saying Washington has provided no evidence Huawei threatens national security.

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12:25 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is doubling down on his criticism of European nations working to preserve a nuclear deal with Iran, saying they should follow Washington’s lead and withdraw from the agreement.

Speaking Saturday right after Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 2015 Iran deal, Pence said “the time has come for our European partners to stop undermining sanctions” by continuing to offer economic incentives in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear capability.

He says Europe should withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal “and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve.”

France, Germany and Britain, as well as the European Union, Russia and China, have been struggling to preserve the deal since the U.S. pulled out last year.

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12:10 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says U.S. authorities appear to have concluded that European cars are a threat to national security.

Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference that Germany is “proud of our cars, and we’re allowed to be,” and many of them are built in the U.S.

The European Union and the U.S. have been trying to ratchet down trade tensions in recent months and Merkel says she has “great hope” in the negotiations. But she added: “It is not entirely easy for me as German chancellor to read that apparently — I don’t have it in writing yet — the American Commerce Department says German, European cars are a threat to national security.”

Chancellor Merkel at CDU congress, 7 Dec 18

She noted that German automaker BMW’s biggest plant is in South Carolina “and if these cars … are suddenly a threat to the United States’ national security, that startles us.”

12 noon

Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending the development of the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, dismissing American concerns it will weaken Europe’s strategic position and assuring Ukraine it won’t get cut off from Russian fuel.

Merkel on Saturday told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Munich Security Conference his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the Baltic pipeline is complete.

On security concerns, she says the question is “how dependent are we on Russian gas, and that has nothing to do with the delivery.”

She says Europe also has enough terminals to receive more LNG fuel from the U.S., has its own natural gas and has other options, too.

She says “there’s nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal.”

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11:50 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending European powers’ decision to stand by the Iran nuclear deal, describing it as an “anchor” allowing the West to exert pressure.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Germany, France and Britain of trying to “break” American sanctions on Iran and called on them to follow Washington in pulling out of the nuclear deal.

Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday the split over Iran “depresses me very much,” but downplayed the substance of the differences.

She said: “I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria.”

But “the only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?”

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11:45 a.m.

Egypt’s president has called on Western countries to boost efforts at tackling extremist ideology in online media and mosques.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference Saturday, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says countries must “tackle websites that are inciting hatred and spreading extremist and terrorist narratives among communities in the Islamic world and in the West.”

He also said authorities should “be very mindful of what is being promoted at houses of worship,” adding that extremists should not be allowed to preach. He underlined his efforts in Egypt to control the sermons in mosques.

Egypt has wide-ranging restrictions on free speech.

El-Sissi also mentioned that in the terrorism context, the failure to reach a fair and final settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents the main source of instability in the Middle East.

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11:15 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling on China to join international disarmament negotiations after the collapse of a Cold War-era treaty on nuclear weapons in Europe.

The U.S. earlier this month announced that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, accusing Russia of violating it. Moscow followed suit, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China.

Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday that the U.S. withdrawal was “inevitable” because of Russian violations. But she noted the end of a treaty conceived “essentially for Europe” leaves Europe trying to secure future disarmament to protect its own interests.

Associated Press

Mike Pompeo and Federica Mogherini (Reuters/O. Hoslet)

Pompeo, Mogherini hold tense meeting after Iran rebuke from US

https://www.dw.com/en/pompeo-mogherini-hold-tense-meeting-after-iran-rebuke-from-us/a-47529321

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Hundreds of Palestinians join weekly protest at Gaza border

February 15, 2019

Demonstrators said attempting to sabotage security fence; Palestinian said seriously injured by Israeli fire in West Bank during riot near Nablus

A Palestinian protester carries a national flag and a slingshot during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

A Palestinian protester carries a national flag and a slingshot during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Hundreds of Palestinians were gathering near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel Friday afternoon for weekly protests against Israel.

The army said some rioting was taking place, with demonstrators attempting to sabotage the border fence. Troops were responding with warning fire to push protesters away from the fence.

Meanwhile in the West Bank the Ynet news site reported that a Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli fire during a riot in a village near Nablus.

The riot began after villagers in Urief held a protest prayer session in the eastern part of the village, to challenge the army’s recent move to block a path leading to residents’ agricultural lands. It was not immediately clear why the path had been sealed off.

Last Friday three people died and 17 were wounded during protests at the Gaza border. At the time, the Israeli army said some 8,200 rioters and demonstrators had gathered along the border to throw stones and a number of explosive devices towards troops.

Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, as well as periodic flareups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations.

For the past several months, Egypt, UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov and Qatar have worked to try to restore calm in Gaza and prevent flareups between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

In recent weeks, tensions between Israel and terror groups in Gaza rose after a Palestinian sniper opened fire on a group of Israeli soldiers. The bullet hit the helmet of an officer, lightly injuring him.

Earlier this month Israel announced that it had begun the final phase of construction of a 20-foot (some 6 meters) high galvanized steel fence that will completely surround the Strip.

The barrier will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall that Israel is constructing around Gaza to block terrorist groups’ attack tunnels.

An Israeli Military Intelligence assessment released Wednesday warned that Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, may seek to spark a war with Israel in the near future in an attempt to elicit international sympathy and an influx of international aid money to the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces believes Hamas or the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza, could attempt to draw Israel into a war by conducting an attack along the border — an anti-tank missile strike, an ambush from an as-yet-undiscovered tunnel or a similar low-level but significant attack.

In light of this view, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, whose tenure began last month, called for the military to update operational plans for fighting in the Gaza Strip.

AFP contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/hundreds-of-palestinians-join-weekly-protest-at-gaza-border/

For Omar and AIPAC, a tweet about money turns into a way to raise some

February 15, 2019

Democrats and pro-Israel lobby are not alone, as The Forward, ZOA and others use the anti-Semitism controversy to pitch donors

In this Jan. 16, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walks through the halls of the Capitol Building in Washington. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

In this Jan. 16, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walks through the halls of the Capitol Building in Washington. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

JTA — What do Ilhan Omar, AIPAC, the Forward and the ZOA have in common?

They’re all using the same controversy to ask for your money.

For those who haven’t been on the internet this week, here’s a recap: Omar, a Minnesota Democratic congresswoman, tweeted that politicians were being paid to be pro-Israel. Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor at the Forward, wondered who, exactly, Omar thought was paying the politicians.

Omar’s response: “AIPAC!” That would be the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israel lobby.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle denounced the freshman lawmaker’s tweets as an echo of anti-Semitic stereotypes involving Jewish money and power. She apologized. Then President Donald Trump called on Omar to resign.

And now the controversy has led to fundraising on all sides.

The Zionist Organization of America sent out a pitch saying it “does not accept her recent phony apologies since she has continued her ugly anti-Semitic statements.” Omar appealed to people who considered Trump’s intervention hypocritical after his and other racially charged comments by Republicans.

The Forward, whose opinion editor’s challenge helped spark the controversy, called on donors to help a legacy Jewish newspaper hold politicians to account. AIPAC said Omar’s actions were examples of how Israel is under attack and urged supporters to “renew your commitment to this important work today by clicking here,” offering suggested dollar amounts.

The AIPAC appeal appeared in an email.

“On Sunday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar invoked old anti-Semitic stereotypes with tweets suggesting that the U.S. government supports Israel only because of Jewish money,” the lobby’s email said, according to media reports. “She has also said that AIPAC pays politicians to be pro-Israel. Aside from being offensive, divisive and ill-informed, the congresswoman’s assertions are plain wrong.”

Zionist Union party leader Avi Gabbay addresses the pro-Israel US lobby AIPAC at its policy conference in Washington DC, March 4, 2018. (John Bowel)

Some who shared the email said the request for money served as an ironic confirmation of Omar’s point, expressed in her apology for the AIPAC tweet, about the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”

But AIPAC has noted that it does “not rate, endorse or direct funds to candidates,” and said in a statement on Omar’s tweet, “Our work is the best manifestation of American democracy: the ability to petition our government and advocate directly for the policies, principles and values important to us.”

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Eli Clifton

@EliClifton

AIPAC just sent out an email denouncing @IlhanMN “suggesting the US government supports Israel only because of Jewish money… and that AIPAC pays politicians to be pro-Israel.”

“The congresswoman’s assertions are plain wrong.”

Then they LITERALLY asked for money.

134 people are talking about this

Omar also urged her followers to help her pursue the policies, principles and values they share in a fundraising message titled “Trump wants me to resign.”

Notes of support are posted on the name plate outside the office of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in the Longworth House Office Building on February 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

“After their failed midterm strategy of tying Democrats to Nancy Pelosi, their desperation has given birth to a new plan: smearing women of color as radical, anti-Semitic, or crazy,” the email read, referring to Republican groups. “Running on racism may have worked for Trump in 2016, but it’s not going to work in 2020, as long as we all stick together and support one another.”

The email went on to reference times when Trump was accused of supporting bigotry, including in 2017, when he said there were “very fine people” on both sides of a standoff in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and their protesters.

“Donate now to send a message to those who want to smear our movement and silence our voices,” the Omar email said.

In her apology, Omar had written that “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”

The Forward wouldn’t be the first publication to capitalize on a scoop or story it generated, and in a fundraising letter Wednesday titled “Battling the new anti-Semitism,” it said that Ungar-Sargon “sparked a major conversation early this week when she called out a congresswoman for her blatant anti-Semitism.”

The fundraising letter offered a blunter reading of the controversy than the opinion pages that Ungar-Sargon edits, which included a range of views on whether or not Omar was trafficking in anti-Semitism. They included op-eds with headlines like “Ilhan Omar Is Not Anti-Semitic. She’s An Anti-Imperialist”; “Ilhan Omar Shouldn’t Apologize. Her Critics Should”; “The Democrats Have A Jewish Problem”; and from Ungar-Sargon herself, “Ilhan Omar Tweeted Something Anti-Semitic. Again.”

This November 1, 1936, magazine section of The Forward, illustrates its evolution from a Socialist publication to a Social Democratic supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal (Public Domain)

The email also incorrectly identified Omar as a congresswoman from Michigan instead of Minnesota. In addition to being another Midwestern state beginning with the letters “Mi,” Michigan is home to the other freshman Muslim congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib. The Forward corrected the email an hour later, but it was too late for some denizens of Jewish Twitter — and progressive Jews in particular, whocastigated the left-leaning paper for the email and perhaps confusing Omar and Tlaib.

Like most nonprofits, Jewish organizations regularly fundraise off events that touch on their business, some taking more credit than others.

Although the current Omar controversy was sparked by a round of tweets among Omar, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (the House minority leader and former majority leader, who threatened “action” against Omar), Ungar-Sargon and Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept news site. The Zionist Organization of America took credit for “exposing” Omar.

“By now you may have heard how the ZOA and its President Mort Klein exposed Rep. Ilhan Omar for the vile, anti-Semitic and Israel hatred that she has spewed,” a Wednesday fundraising email from ZOA said.

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) president Morton A. Klein (Joseph Savetsky/courtesy of ZOA)

The email said that ZOA leaders “were there first” on Jan. 16 when they called on Omar to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (while also misspelling her name as “Ihlan”). That same day, Omar appeared on CNN and defended her 2012 tweet in which she accused Israel of “evil doings” and said that nation had “hypnotized the world.”

The American Jewish Committee, another major Jewish group that advocates for Israel, didn’t take credit for being part of the controversy. But AJC did note, in a fundraising email Thursday, that it brought a delegation of high-school students to lobby on Capitol Hill as the scandal was unfolding — and that the students called on officials to condemn Omar’s statement.

“And shortly after meeting with the group, several members issued condemnations of Omar’s remarks,” the email said. “They didn’t do it because of Jewish money; they did it because our young leaders made the compelling case that silence in the face of anti-Semitism was not an option.”

The Anti-Defamation League also sent out an email Tuesday highlighting its work around the controversy, with a donation button reading “Support our work” in the footer.

The Omar controversy was a fundraising opportunity for anti-Zionist groups as well. In a fundraising email Thursday, Jewish Voice for Peace said the attack on Omar reflected anti-Semitism “being cheapened as it is weaponized to suppress and deny important political realities.” JVP said Omar was “attacked for speaking the truth,” along with other people of color who have criticized Israel.

Its email included a “Donate Now” button.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-omar-and-aipac-a-tweet-about-money-turns-into-a-way-to-raise-some/

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Pence urges EU to pull out of nuclear deal, says Iran planning ‘new Holocaust’

February 14, 2019

At Warsaw conference, US vice president calls Tehran the ‘greatest threat’ to peace and stability in Middle East

United States Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

United States Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday demanded that European Union allies follow Washington’s lead in withdrawing from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cease efforts he said are designed to evade US sanctions.

Speaking at a Middle East conference in Poland, Pence accused Iran of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, adding that it was the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East,” and accused the clerical regime of plotting a “new Holocaust” with its regional ambitions.

He lamented that Britain, France and Germany created a special financial mechanism that Washington believes is aimed at “breaking” tough US sanctions on Iran. Those sanctions were eased by former US president Barack Obama’s administration under the terms of the nuclear deal but were reimposed after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement last year.

Pence said the EU had “led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions… against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he added, according to a transcript by the Reuters news agency.

US and European divisions over Iran led France and Germany to opt against sending their top diplomats to the Warsaw conference.

United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

As Iran’s clerical state marks 40 years since the overthrow of the pro-US shah, Pence vowed maximum pressure while not explicitly urging regime change.

“As Iran’s economy continues to plummet, as the people of Iran take to the streets, freedom-loving nations must stand together and hold the Iranian regime accountable for the evil and violence it has inflicted on its people, on the region and the wider world,” he said.

US sanctions “will get tougher still” unless Iran “changes its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” Pence said.

Earlier at the same conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “confronting Iran” was an essential requirement for achieving peace in the Middle East.

“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran, it’s just not possible,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Islamic Republic is a malign influence in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Syria and in Iraq, the US top diplomat went on.

“The three H’s — the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah — these are real threats, and there are others as well. But you can’t get peace in the Middle East without pushing back against Iran,” Pompeo said.

On Wednesday night in Warsaw, Netanyahu used a joint photo op with 10 Arab foreign ministers to urge Arab states to continue normalizing relations with Israel, hailing the opening event of the so-called “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” as a “historic turning point.”

“Yesterday was a historic turning point. In a room of some 60 foreign ministers and representatives of dozen of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said.

The summit appears to be the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials attended an international gathering centered on the Middle East since the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

The two-day conference, which was originally called with a focus on countering Iran but now carries the toned-down and vague goal of seeking stability in the Middle East, opened Wednesday with a dinner at the Royal Castle in Warsaw’s old town.

Pence addressed the guests: “Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area.”

Palestinians have been heavily critical of the conference, with officials describing it as an effort by the US to advance anti-Palestinian positions.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/pence-urges-eu-to-pull-out-of-nuclear-deal-says-iran-planning-new-holocaust/

Kushner: Mideast peace deal will be unveiled after Israeli election

February 14, 2019

President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner said Thursday that he is optimistic about his father-in-law’s Mideast peace plan – the much-touted “Deal of the Century,” which will be unveiled after the Israeli elections on April 9.

Kushner said during a closed session at a Middle East security conference in Warsaw that the parties involved must “keep an open mind,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

“We hear Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel and we understand that there is a chance,” Kushner told participants at the conference, adding that “they do a better job than me to explain why there is a reason to be optimistic.”

He added: “Once, the unifying factor in the Arab world was the hatred towards Israel. Today they are concerned about the citizens.”

A diplomat who saw the presentation quoted Kushner as saying that Trump had given him the Israeli-Palestinian “file” to give the long-elusive goal of a peace deal “a shot.”

Despite the long odds, he said he believed “privately, people are much more flexible.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he won’t judge the plan before he sees it — and hopes the Palestinians will do the same.

“I look forward to seeing the plan once it is presented. I have to say that I know that the Trump administration seeks to ensure the security of Israel for generations,” he said, according to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper.

The Palestinians have preemptively rejected the plan, saying Team Trump is biased toward the Jewish state.

A Palestinian official said the conference lacks credibility.

“By fully siding with the Israeli government, (the Americans) have tried to normalize the Israeli occupation and the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination,” Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, wrote in a column published Haaretz.

Shaath said the Palestinians had refused to attend the two-day conference, titled “Promoting a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” which the US initiated in the Polish capital as it seeks to isolate Iran.

“A peace process cannot be turned into an attempt to obtain amnesty for war crimes or to make one of the parties surrender its basic rights under the UN charter,” he wrote.

The Palestinians have refused to talk to Washington since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

The Warsaw talks have drawn little interest from European powers, which are deeply suspicious of Trump’s intentions.

Iran has slammed the meeting as an American anti-Iran “circus.” Russia has said it would skip the event and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also did not attend.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who hailed the presence of Arab and Israeli leaders”in the same room, sharing a meal and exchanging views,” said the world “can’t achieve peace and security in the Middle East without confronting Iran.”

“They all came together for a single reason — to discuss the real threats to our respective peoples emanating from the Middle East,” Pompeo said.

“There are malign influences in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq,” he added. “The three H’s- the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah. These are real threats.”

During the event, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa was asked when his country would establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

“It will happen when it will happen,” he said. When pressed on whether this will happen soon, Al Khalifa said: “Eventually.”

Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab countries, neighboring Egypt and Jordan.

At an opening dinner Wednesday night at Warsaw’s Royal Castle, Netanyahu spoke in the same room as top officials of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu told reporters as he arrived for Thursday’s main session at a football stadium.

“I think this marks a change and important understanding of what threatens our future, what we need to do to secure it, and the possibility that cooperation will extend beyond security in every realm of life,” he said.

With Post Wires

https://nypost.com/2019/02/14/kushner-mideast-peace-deal-will-be-unveiled-after-israeli-election/

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Saudi Prince Turki to Israeli TV: Netanyahu deceiving Israel about peace chances

February 14, 2019

Veteran diplomat, in unprecedented interview, says Riyadh wants to ‘get our point across directly’ to Israelis: Solve the Palestinian issue and then ‘we can go far’

Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud with Channel 13's Barak Ravid, February 2019 (Twitter screenshot)

Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud with Channel 13’s Barak Ravid, February 2019 (Twitter screenshot)

In an unprecedented interview with an Israeli TV station broadcast Wednesday, the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the US and UK accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of deceiving the Israeli public by claiming that Israeli ties with the wider Arab world can be warmed without the Palestinian issue being solved.

“Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue,” Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told Israel’s Channel 13 news in a lengthy interview in London. “From the Israeli point of view, Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around.”

Asked by interviewer Barak Ravid whether that meant Netanyahu was “deceiving the Israeli public” by claiming to be able to “promote relations with the Arab world regardless of the Palestinians,” Prince Turki replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Asked why Netanyahu would do that, the prince said: “For his own purposes.” Laughing, he continued: “He’s a man who runs for election on platforms of ‘look what I have done for you. I have brought you this. I have brought you that.’ Like all politicians.”

The prince said the Saudi public has “a very negative view of Mr. Netanyahu because of what is happening on the ground,” and because of what he termed Netanyahu’s “hubristic attitude… praising himself.”

Barak Ravid

@BarakRavid

הערב במהדורה ב-@newsisrael13: “סודות המפרץ” – הפרק הרביעי: ראיון מיוחד עם הנסיך הסעודי טורקי אל-פייסל. אל תפספסו

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Ironically, the interview was broadcast only hours after Netanyahu, who is in Poland, met with the foreign minister of Oman, and the two men discussed a new era for the Middle East. Netanyahu has said often that shared concern about Iran is one of the factors helping to gradually warm Israeli ties with Gulf states and others in the region.

“We don’t need Mr. Netanyahu to tell us the dangers that Iran poses,” the Saudi prince stressed. “We see it on the ground. We see their activities in Lebanon. We see their activities in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Bahrain, even in Saudi Arabia. So why should we wait for Mr. Netanyahu to highlight these things? We don’t need that.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) greets Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah at the sidelines of a regional conference on the Middle East in Warsaw, February 13, 2018 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Asked how he would advise the Trump administration as it prepares to present its peace plan, Prince Turki said simply: “The Arab Peace Initiative — take it on. Make it yours.”

He recalled that the late Saudi King Abdullah initiated the plan in 2002. “Basically it’s a quid pro quo: Israel withdraws from occupied Arab territories, in return for Arab recognition of Israel, end of hostilities and normal relations.”

However, he said, “from day one there has not been an Israeli response.” (In 2015, Netanyahu said he backed the “general idea” behind the initiative. Former prime minister Olmert indicated he saw it as a basis for discussion.)

“With Israeli money and Saudi brains, we can go far,” the prince said, but added: “Yes, if there is peace. Unfortunately,” he charged, “Israel chooses to ignore all the efforts of Saudi Arabia to make peace, and expects Saudi Arabia to put its hand in its [Israel’s] hand and go forward on technology, on water desalination, on issues like that. It’s not going to happen,” he exclaimed.

“Israel has not been very cooperative as far as achieving peace in our part of the world,” he also said.


Prince Turki insisted there was no difference between Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when it came to Israel, rejecting the notion that the king had curbed the crown prince’s inclination to warmer ties.

The crown prince “is a stalwart representative of Saudi policy,” he said, and the idea that there was a warmer stance from him was likely “wishful thinking on the part of Israeli officials.” The crown prince “supports the Palestinian cause to the fullest” and had no differences with the king “on any issue. He does what the king tells him.”

The Saudi prince clarified that he was giving the interview in a personal capacity, and “I do not represent the government of Saudi Arabia in any capacity whatsoever.” Nonetheless, asked if it was known in Riyadh that he would be speaking to an Israeli TV station, he said it was normal “courtesy and good manners” to tell people what he was going to be doing.

Ravid said Prince Turki had met with the Saudi king in the days before the interview, and that the prince was plainly conveying a message that Riyadh wants heard in Israel.

President Shimon Peres shakes hands with former US President Bill Clinton, during a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2010 (Photo credit: Sergei Illin/Flash 90)

President Shimon Peres shakes hands with former US President Bill Clinton, during a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2010 (Sergei Illin/Flash 90)

During his years in government, the prince said he had never held official meetings with Israelis, except with president Shimon Peres, over dinner in Davos. Peres suggested they hold more substantive, private talks, but Prince Turki said he demurred: “I told him, Mr. President, nothing in Israel remains a secret.”

He said he was speaking to Israeli television now because “we have to get our point across directly to the Israeli people.”

The prince, who is 73, said he had never been to Jerusalem and looked forward “to the day when there is peace between Israel and the Arab world, and I can visit what I consider to be not only a holy place, but a place of my history as an Arab and as a Muslim. Abraham, our father, is not only the father of the Jews. He is the father of the Arabs. Jerusalem is something I want to see before I die. Unfortunately, I’m not too optimistic that I’m going to see that.”

Asked whether he expected to witness a meeting between an Israeli prime minister and a Saudi king or crown prince in his lifetime, Prince Turki said: “In my lifetime — and there’s very little of it left to come — I don’t think I’m going to see that. Not before the Palestinian issue is resolved. I am looking for an Israeli peace initiative. I haven’t seen one. What is it that Israel thinks will make peace?”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/saudi-prince-turki-to-israel-tv-netanyahu-deceiving-israel-about-peace-chances/

Ilhan Omar Should Know: Left-wing anti-Semitism is a gift to the right.

February 12, 2019

Last October, after a crude mail bomb was found in George Soros’s mailbox, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is now the House minority leader, tweeted, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to buy this election!” The tweet, since deleted, was referring to Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, both of them, like Soros, Jews who are often the object of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Speaking on CNN, Steyer, who had also been sent a mail bomb, described McCarthy’s tweet as a “straight-up anti-Semitic move.”

So it was a bit rich when, last week, McCarthy posed as the indignant defender of the Jewish people, threatening to force congressional action against two freshman Democratic representatives, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, for their criticism of Israel.

It would have been easy enough for either Omar or Tlaib to point out McCarthy’s cynical hypocrisy. Instead, Omar responded with a blithely incendiary tweet quoting Puff Daddy’s ode to the power of money: “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” When an editor at The Forward, a Jewish publication, asked who Omar thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, she responded, “Aipac!,” meaning the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the United States’ most prominent pro-Israel lobby.

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Commentary
By Michelle Goldberg
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Consciously or not, Omar invoked a poisonous anti-Semitic narrative about Jews using their money to manipulate global affairs. This came just weeks after she’d had to apologize for a 2012 tweet in which she said that Israel had “hypnotized” the world, phrasing that also recalled old canards about occult Jewish power. Her words were a gift to Republicans, who seek to divide the Democrats over Israel, even as their president traffics in anti-Semitic imagery and stereotypes. The knives were out for Omar and she ran right into them.

On Monday afternoon, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the House Democratic leadership rebuked Omar and called on her to apologize for her “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters.” It was a depressing fall from grace for someone who just weeks ago was being feted as a path breaker, a refugee from Somalia who, alongside Tlaib, rose to become one of America’s first two Muslim congresswomen.

Omar herself has been subject to vicious Islamophobic smears, and has also come under attack for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to use economic pressure to secure Palestinian rights. Perhaps such criticism is why she’s sometimes seemed unwilling or unable to distinguish between disingenuous political pile-ons and good-faith calls to respect Jewish sensitivities. But whether from carelessness or callousness, her weekend tweets damaged her political allies and squandered some of her own hard-won power.

After I tweeted about Omar on Monday, an anti-racist activist sent me a message expressing genuine confusion about why I found the congresswoman’s words offensive. After all, it’s hardly radical to point out that lobbyist money has pernicious political effects. (Aipac doesn’t make direct contributions to candidates, but it does rally donors on their behalf.) And I certainly have no problem with denunciations of Aipac, which plays a malign role in pushing American policy in the Middle East to the right.

But at a moment when activists have finally pried open space in American politics to question our relationship with Israel, it’s particularly incumbent on Israel’s legitimate critics to avoid anything that smacks of anti-Jewish bigotry. And the idea of Jews as global puppet masters, using their financial savvy to make the gentiles do their bidding, clearly does.

In 2017, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a left-wing, broadly anti-Israel group, put out a guide to help progressives understand anti-Semitism. It describes how in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the early-20th-century Russian forgery purporting to reveal a Jewish plan for world domination, “Jews are depicted as shadowy figures with a lot of money, top-level access, ready to betray the nations of our residence (and our neighbors) in service of an unseen authority.”

In truth, while Aipac’s influence is extensive, no one needs to pay off conservatives to make them support Israel. Evangelicals, a far bigger constituency than American Jews, tend to be pro-Israel for religious reasons; some believe that the return of Jews to their biblical homeland is a precondition for the rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. Plenty of others on the right love Israel because it’s a nationalistic, pro-American power in the middle of the Middle East. You can’t blame Jewish money for Kevin McCarthy’s terrible politics.

Not long after Pelosi’s statement, Omar released one of her own, apologizing “unequivocally.” She wrote, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” Personally, I’m happy to accept her apology. Progressive American Muslims and Jews should be natural allies; our mutual future depends on deepening this country’s embattled commitment to multiethnic democracy. Prejudice helps bind the modern right together, but unchecked it can rip the left apart.

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Michelle Goldberg has been an Opinion columnist since 2017. She is the author of several books about politics, religion and women’s rights, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2018 for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @michelleinbklyn

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Ilhan Omar’s Very Bad Tweets.

Has The US Ordered Banks Not to Send Money to the Palestinian Authority?

February 11, 2019

Fatah’s Hussein al-Sheikh says American financial pressure meant to bring Palestinians to their knees, force them to accept Trump peace plan

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, attends a Christmas midnight mass at Saint Catherine's Church in the Church of the Nativity, traditionally recognized by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, attends a Christmas midnight mass at Saint Catherine’s Church in the Church of the Nativity, traditionally recognized by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool)

A top Fatah official said in an Arabic-language interview published Sunday that the US has asked international banks to squeeze the Palestinian Authority financially in a bid to pressure the Palestinian leaders to accept the Trump administration’s peace plan.

“Major international financial institutions and parties have begun to accede to an American request to impose a tight financial siege on the Authority,” Hussein al-Sheikh told AFP.

“Washington has asked for financial aid given to the authority to be stopped, and it has also issued a circular to banks not to receive transfers for the authority’s accounts.”

The claim came on the same day that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to begin deducting PA payments to convicted terrorists and their families from tax transfers Israel hands the PA each month, and after massive cuts in US aid to the Palestinian in recent months.

According to al-Sheikh, “the sanctions began with preventing the transfer of an Iraqi grant worth $10 million, which was handed over to the Arab League recently. The League has not been able to transfer it because all banks have refused to accept it for transfer to the Authority’s finance ministry or the national fund.”

File: Then-coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, left, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh sign an agreement to revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, January 15, 2017. (Courtesy COGAT)

Al-Sheikh added that “the American decision is in line with an Israeli decision” to cut the tax transfers, which represent more than 50 percent of the Palestinian treasury’s imports and constitute about 70% of the current expenses of the Authority and the salaries of its employees.

He added: “The American and Israeli decisions come as part of an attempt to bring the leadership to its knees and force it to accept [US President Donald Trump’s] ‘deal of the century,’ first by allowing for its announcement and second to pave the way to ‘Arabize’ it and begin the process of Arab normalization with Israel without [Israel giving] anything in return” to the Palestinians.

He accused the US and Israel of pushing PA President Mahmoud Abbas to what he described as “extreme decisions.”

Netanyahu told cabinet ministers on Sunday that he would, in a week’s time, begin cutting funds to the PA over its payments to terrorists and their families.

“By the end of the week, the staff work required for implementing the law on deducting terrorists’ salaries will be completed,” the prime minister said at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, referring to a law that was passed by the Knesset in July and formally went into effect on January 1. It grants the government the power to withhold Palestinian tax funds from the PA equal to the amount spent by the PA in payments to incarcerated security prisoners and the families of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets US President Donald Trump In the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Fadi Arouri, Xinhua Pool via AP)

“Next Sunday I will convene the security cabinet and we will approve the decision needed to withhold the funds. The funds will be deducted. No one should doubt that. And next week,” he vowed.

The comments come amid pressure on Netanyahu to act after the arrest of a Palestinian man, Arafat Irfayia, 29, on Friday for the brutal murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher in a southern Jerusalem wood a day earlier. The case has sparked outrage across the country, and the Shin Bet security service has indicated Irfayia had a nationalistic motive for the attack.

The government has refused to implement the power given to it by the law to freeze the fund transfers amid security officials’ fears it could destabilize the PA and lead to violence. But politicians have faced public pressure to crack down on the PA’s payments, which are viewed as incentivizing terror attacks.

A PA law legislated in 2004 says any Palestinian prisoner and his or her family are entitled to a variety of payments. The law defines a prisoner as “anyone who is sitting in the occupation’s prisons for participating in the struggle against the occupation” and calls such a person “part and parcel of the Palestinian Arab community’s fabric.”

Palestinian officials have argued payments to security prisoners seek to mitigate what they call an unfair Israeli military court system.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 6, 2019. (Alex Kolomoisky/Yedioth Ahronoth/Pool)

Last March, Trump signed into law legislation that requires the American government to cut some aid to the Palestinians until they end payments to terrorists and slain attackers. Since Trump signed the legislation, his administration has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians.

Abbas has said the PA will continue to pay stipends to the families of Palestinian security prisoners and “martyrs” even if it has to spend its last penny to do so.

“We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about,” he told representatives of a Palestinian prisoners advocacy group in July. “Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families.”

Since shortly after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and initiated the relocation of the US embassy in the Jewish state to the city, Abbas has called for an international conference in order to establish a multilateral mechanism for the peace process.

In this Thursday, June 21, 2018 photo, provided by Egypt’s state news agency, MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, meets with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, second left, and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt on a regional tour to discuss a blueprint for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, in Cairo, Egypt. (MENA via AP)

He has also declared that the Palestinians would no longer work with an American-dominated peace process.

Meanwhile, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other administration officials are headed to the Middle East later this month to brief diplomats in at least five countries on the economic section of the expected US proposal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, will be joined by US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, US envoy on Iran Brian Hook and other administration officials who have worked on the economic part of the plan.

Stops are confirmed in Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Other stops could be added to the trip, according to a White House official.

The plan includes an economic development proposal for Palestinians that foresees major infrastructure and industrial work, particularly in Gaza. For the plan to succeed or even pass the starting gate, it will need at least initial buy-in from both Israel and the Palestinians as well as from the Gulf Arab states, which officials say will be asked to substantially bankroll the economic portion.

US officials have said the plan won’t be made public before Israel’s elections on April 9.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-has-ordered-banks-not-to-send-money-to-pa-official-says/

Two Gazans die in Egypt border tunnel: Hamas ministry

February 11, 2019

Two Palestinians including a Hamas policeman suffocated to death from gas in a cross-border tunnel under Gaza’s frontier with Egypt, the enclave’s interior ministry said Monday.

Interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum said 39-year-old policeman Raid al-Ekar and Sabhy Abu Qarushayn, 28, “suffocated due to the inhalation of toxic gases”.

Civil defence crews, alerted on Sunday, retrieved the two bodies from the tunnel “after a great effort that lasted several hours”, Bozum said in a statement.

Tensions between Egypt and Hamas have eased in recent years and many Egyptian goods are now imported openly in Gaza through the Rafah border crossing

Tensions between Egypt and Hamas have eased in recent years and many Egyptian goods are now imported openly in Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.  AFP/File

He did not comment on the origin of the substance, but a Palestinian security source said the Egyptian military has used gas to halt the use of illegal tunnels it finds along the border.

The Egyptian army could not be reached for comment Monday but in 2010 Cairo denied similar charges after the deaths of four Palestinians in a border tunnel.

Tunnels have in the past been a key way for Gazans to skirt a decade-long Israeli blockade and, until recently, Egypt’s closure of its crossing with the enclave.

They once served as a lifeline for the cramped territory of two million people squeezed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.

But the passages have also been used to bring in weapons by Hamas, the enclave’s Islamist rulers who have fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Egypt closed or destroyed dozens of tunnels after the overthrow of its Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, an ally of Hamas, in 2013, though several remain.

Tensions between Egypt and Hamas have eased in recent years and many Egyptian goods are now imported in to Gaza openly through the Rafah border crossing.

AFP

Qatar gave over $1.1 billion to Gaza Strip Palestinians over six years – Funding terrorism?

February 11, 2019

Transfers said to be so high, attorney general calls meeting to ensure they aren’t in violation of sanctions against Hamas

Security forces loyal to Hamas organize a line outside the central post office in Gaza City on January 26, 2019, as Palestinians gather to receive financial aid from Qatar. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Security forces loyal to Hamas organize a line outside the central post office in Gaza City on January 26, 2019, as Palestinians gather to receive financial aid from Qatar. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Qatar gave over $1.1 billion in aid to the Gaza Strip over the past six years, according to figures reportedly presented to Israeli ministers.

The money was given from 2012 to 2018, with last year’s sum totaling $200 million, the Haaretz daily reported.

Last month an “international entity” presented the figures to the security cabinet, the report said, noting that the numbers were confirmed by officials involved in the matter.

In 2018 Qatar gave Gaza $200 million for humanitarian aid, fuel, and wages for Hamas clerks. In addition it gave UNRWA, the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, $50 million, all with Israel’s approval. During the same period it gave just $39 million to other Arab states and almost nothing to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the report said.

The cabinet heard that 44 percent of the cash went to building infrastructure, 40% to education and medical projects, and the rest to Hamas and other groups in the Gaza Strip.

According to the report, the rate at which money is being funneled to Gaza has been increasing, prompting Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to hold a special review of the situation during which state legal and defense authorities were required to confirm that the transfers did not constitute a violation of Israeli and international sanctions on Hamas due to its status as a terror group.

A Palestinian man transports bags of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 20, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP

Gas-rich Qatar has also committed to providing hundreds of millions more via United Nations aid organizations.

In January Qatar signed an agreement to give $500 million to various UN agencies, most of which will be used to keep UNRWA afloat in the Gaza Strip. One project will see the UN employ 180,000 residents in an effort to reduce unemployment in the Palestinian enclave, which has soared to a rate of over 40%.

UNRWA, formally known as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, ran into financial difficulties after in August 2018 the Trump administration said it would stop funding the organization. A government source who saw the figures presented at the security cabinet meeting confirmed to Haaretz that Qatari cash helped keep UNRWA operating in Gaza last year.

Some of the funding is transferred to Gaza in the form of suitcases full of bank notes. These have been be delivered monthly since November of last year.

The Qatari cash injection is part of an unofficial truce between Hamas and Israel that was supposed to see an end to months of violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border in exchange for an easing of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave. Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent the smuggling of weapons and other war materials by Hamas and other terror groups sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction.

A total of $90 million from Qatar was to be distributed in six monthly installments of $15 million, according to authorities, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas.

The money, $10 million of which goes to Hamas civil servants and the rest to needy residents in the Strip, was seen by defense analysts as key to calming tensions between Israel and the Palestinian enclave, which has seen regular violence along the border over the past 10 months.

Israel’s government has offered little information about the transfers, which have been roundly condemned by some on the right who see it as a reward for terror. A picture of money being brought into the Strip in suitcases was widely ridiculed.

Gal Berger גל ברגר

@galberger

Exclusive: 3 suitcases w 15 million dollars in cash entered Gaza today w the qatari envoy through Israel (Erez crossing point). The money goes to Hamas, to pay salaries of civil employees. Exclusive pic:

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After in August US President Donald Trump said he was cutting some $300 million in annual aid to UNRWA, Israel publicly supported the move but defense officials registered concern about its humanitarian impact in Gaza. Israel then sought out Qatar as a possible source to replace the US funding and keep the aid organization going, the report said.

According to the report, Hamas also gets NIS 30 million ($8.24 million) in tax it collects on fuel Israel transports to Gaza and another NIS 100 million $27.4 from taxes on goods transferred to Gaza via border crossings with Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/qatar-gave-over-1-1-billion-to-gaza-strip-over-six-years-report/