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Abbas to Dissolve Palestinian Authority, Revoke Recognition of Israel – Urges Hamas to Join Harsh New Line

By DEBKAfile

The Israeli security cabinet meeting Sunday, Aug. 5, resolved not to revise its counter-terror policy for Gaza in response to the UN-Egyptian truce plan. The statement the cabinet issued: "The IDF is prepared for any scenario" – means that an effort will be made for now to avoid triggering a major conflagration by an escalated response to the Hamas' kite-cum-balloon offensive. The ministers acted on the advice of the IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot, who proposed continuing the measured policy of restraint, in light of reports coming in from Gaza City that most Hamas leaders were themselves keen on a ceasefire and the opening of the border crossings to Israel and Egypt and for that reason would let their arson campaign peter out. Furthermore, the broad plan, advanced by the UN emissary and Egypt for a long-term truce in Gaza, with provisions for alleviating the population's hardships under Hamas rule, has collapsed after less than a week. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) not only vetoed the entire project, he went a lot further; he adopted an extreme rejectionist position against Israel and is urging Hamas to come aboard. He argues that neither the UN nor Egypt should determine the fate of the Gaza Strip, but only the Palestinians themselves. Abbas' first step has been to encourage Hamas to continue its assaults on Israel and not accept a ceasefire. It is the first time that the PA leader has openly allied himself with the rival Hamas' March of Return and terror by incendiary kites and balloons. His next step will be to declare the Palestinian Authority dissolved, followed by the suspension of Palestinian recognition of Israel and the annulment of the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords. In view of the hardening of the Palestinian anti-Israel line, Israel's policy of restraint and containment of terror may prove to be untenable.

Arab Media: Syrian Scientist Killed in Mysterious Blast

By Reuters and Israel Hayom

A top Syrian scientist linked to the development of ?chemical weapons was killed in a bombing over the weekend, ?Arab media reported Sunday. According to the pro-Syrian government newspaper al-Watan, Aziz Azbar, head ?of the Scientific Research and Studies Center ?in Masyaf, in northwest Syria, was killed along with ?his driver on Saturday night when a bomb attached to ?their car exploded.? The incident was not confirmed by any official ?Syrian source. ? ? The deaths were reported by a number of Syrian and ?Lebanese news outlets. The U.K.-based Syrian ?Observatory for Human Rights also reported of the ?incident, as did several websites linked to the ?Syrian army.? The Observatory for Human Rights ?said Azbar was ?close to both Syrian President Bashar Assad and the ?Iranian regime.? It is believed Tehran is using the Masyaf? facility ?to develop and produce weapons, the group said. The Scientific Research and Studies Center has been ?the target of at least two airstrikes ?attributed to Israel, including one in late April, in which several Iranian officers were killed. Western officials have long associated the center ??with the ?production of chemical weapons and Iranian ??missile development efforts. ?

What Could a US-Iran Meeting Mean for Israel?

By Daniel Krygier (Commentary)
US President Donald Trump recently offered to meet Iran's President Rouhani without any preconditions. What would be the purpose of such a meeting? What would be the potential impact on Israel and the wider Middle East? Like Israel, President Trump has been a strong critic of the Obama-led nuclear deal in 2015. At the time, the official purpose of the deal was to moderate the Iranian regime's policies through financial enticement. As Israel feared, the opposite happened. The well-being of the Iranian people was never a priority for the Islamist regime in Tehran. Instead, the infusion of billions of dollars from abroad was used by the ayatollah regime to escalate its aggressive expansionism against Israel and the Sunni Arab world. Unlike Obama, Trump appears to share Prime Minister Netanyahu's view that no deal is better than a bad deal. This conviction led to Washington's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May 2018. However, Trump has also indicated that he is prepared to negotiate a new deal with Iran. Obama's Iran deal was dangerous because it undermined Israel's and America's security. Tehran sensed Obama's desperation to get a deal at almost any price and exploited it. The Iranian regime got plenty of cash without being forced to change its aggressive conduct. It is highly unlikely that Trump will sign a new Iran deal that undermines Washington's and Jerusalem's security interests. The current US President has showed willingness to talk to foes like North Korea. However, Trump has also indicated that he is not afraid to walk away from a bad deal. Neither Israel nor the United States can change the militant ideology of the Iranian regime. Only regime change can address that issue. However, financial pressures on Iran will undermine Tehran's ability to threaten Israel and the Sunni world. Iran's economy is weak and there is growing domestic opposition in Iran to Islamist regime's costly foreign expansionism. Economic sanctions on Iran will increase the unpopular Islamist regime's vulnerability at home. Trump and Netanyahu have both reached out directly to the Iranian people, telling them that they deserve a better future. Trump could offer the Iranian regime certain financial incentives in return for withdrawing its forces from places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. The right mix of carrots and sticks could turn the Iranian people into an active ally of Israel and the United States. Financial pressures could force the Iranian regime to choose between staying in power or endangering its future through its continued aggression against Israel and other US allies. Time is not on the side of the Islamist regime. US sanctions, Israeli military operations against Iranian targets and widespread dissatisfaction at home, gives the ayatollah regime an increasingly limited shelf-life. Destroying Israel has been a strategic goal of the ayatollah regime since its inception in 1979. However, when forced to choose between its own survival and continuing to threaten the Jewish state, Tehran should think twice before rejecting any offer from President Trump.

Five-Year Drought Raises Questions over Israel's Water Strategy

By Israel Hayom

For years, public service announcements warned Israelis to save water: Take shorter showers. Plant resilient gardens. Conserve. Then Israel invested heavily in desalination technology and declared the problem solved – having tapped into the abundant waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The once ubiquitous conservation warnings have vanished. Now, a five-year drought is challenging that strategy, as farmers struggle and the country's most important bodies of water are shrinking. It's a confounding situation for a country that places itself on the forefront of desalination technology in an arid region, where water is a key geostrategic issue that has its own clauses in peace agreements. "Nobody expected five years of drought in a row, so despite our desalination capacity, it's still a very, very grave situation," said National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz. Some say Israel's technological advantage may not be enough to overcome the forces of nature. Situated in the heart of the Middle East, Israel is in one of the driest regions on earth, traditionally relying on a short rainy season each winter to replenish its limited supplies. Years of decreased rainfall have reduced the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main natural water source, to some of its lowest recorded levels, and Israel has stopped pumping water from it to its national system. The current drought has also dried out some tributaries that feed into the Jordan River, which flows south into the Sea of Galilee then squiggles 360 kilometers (220 miles) to the lowest place on Earth, the Dead Sea. The biblical bodies of water are crucial to the survival and stability of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, but they are increasingly drying up, largely due to climate change, growing populations and the greater use of water for agriculture. In a bid to achieve water security, Israel has opened five desalination plants since 2005 and plans to expand that effort in the coming years. Roughly 40% of Israel's drinking-quality water now comes from desalination and is expected to hit 70% in 2050. When the drought was in its infancy, Israel greeted it with a shrug, pointing to its massive investment in desalination. But the tone has changed recently, and over the last few months a televised ad has reprised the plea to save water because – rehashing a tagline from previous campaigns – "Israel is drying up." Critics say water conservation – a crucial measure in semi-arid Israel – has been sidelined in favor of desalination. "Israel definitely put conservation on the back burner," said Sarit Caspi-Oron, director of the water department at the advocacy group Israel Union for Environmental Defense. "As soon as desalination plants were up and running there was this false sense of security." She noted that this sense of security led to the increase of water consumption. "Desalination doesn't make up for everything, and when groundwater is suffering from drought and the Sea of Galilee is suffering from drought, you need to conserve," Caspi-Oron said. In the past, Israel has imposed taxes on water use during droughts and has promoted the use of water-saving devices. But there are no plans so far to pursue the measures this time around. Desalinated water reaches Israeli households in the country's most populated region along the coast as well as some inland residents. But in northern Israel, residents still rely on rapidly shrinking natural sources. So far, their intake has not been limited. Once bubbling brooks in Israel's north have been reduced to a trickle. Officials at the historic Tel Dan nature reserve say the springs there will be dry within two months, which could negatively affect tourism in the region. Among the first to feel the drought's sting have been farmers in the Galilee region. Israel has imposed a limit on the amount of water they can use, which has threatened an already tenuous livelihood and forced many to rethink their crops. Farmer Ofer Moskovitz can typically grow more than one crop each year, but for the first time he has chosen not to plant his wheat crops and is only growing avocados. Even that change is proving a challenge. "If I don't water the avocado trees for one day they start getting weak. If I don't water them for a year, 20 years would go down the drain," he said. The existing infrastructure makes it impossible to deliver desalinated water to farmers in the north, said Caspi-Oron. There are other reasons not to bank on desalination. The desalination plants require immense amounts of energy and are costly to build and operate. Relying so heavily on desalination also creates a potential security risk, as an attack on the plants could potentially knock out large portions of the country's water supply. Still, Israel is keeping the technology a priority. The government passed a plan in June to tackle the drought, with its first objective to increase the amount of desalinated water. It also called for springs and tributaries to be rehabilitated and plans to add desalinated water to the Sea of Galilee starting next year, despite criticism from some that this could disturb the balance of minerals in the lake. Israel is optimistic that the drought can be addressed with a little ingenuity. The drought "will be solved, there is no question," Steinitz, the energy minister, said. "This area is not new for us. We simply resume our historic tradition to focus and find developing water solutions."

Tens of Thousands of Druze and Their Supporters Rally Against Nation-State Law

By JTA

Tens of thousands of Israel's Druze community and their supporters rallied in Tel Aviv against the controversial nation-state law. Israeli media reported that at least 50,000 and up to 90,000 participated in the Druze-led rally on Saturday night in Rabin Square. Many protesters carried the Druze flag and the Tel Aviv city hall was lit up in the colors of the Druze flag. "We're all proud of the democratic and free State of Israel, where human dignity and freedom are the supreme values. We've never doubted the Jewish identity of the state. We recognized its Jewish character with full equality for its non-Jewish citizens," Druze religious leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif said at the rally. "No one can teach us what sacrifice is, and no one can preach to us about loyalty and devotion—the military cemeteries are a testament to that. We are determined to fight alongside you for the state's character and the right to live in it with equality and dignity," Tarif, who received the honor of lighting a torch at last year's national Independence Day ceremony, said. "Despite our unconditional loyalty to the state, the state doesn't see us as equals. The cry of the Druze community is real. They feel justifiably that someone seeks to take their Israeliness away." Tarif also said that he sincerely believes that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has had several meetings with Druze leaders since the passage of the law, and who appointed a high-level committee to recommend and implement actions to cement the position of the Druze in Israel society, plans to fix the damage caused by the law. "We came here to tell the entire Israeli nation, with all of the Israeli people, that this country is for all of us," retired Brig. Gen. Amal Assad told The Associated Press. "We were born here, we will die here, we love this country, we have defended it, and we will continue to live here together — Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassians, Bedouins, as equal brothers. We are all Israelis." Druze, unlike other Arabs who make Israel their home, are subject to the mandatory draft. Several Druze servicemen in the last week have announced that they would resign from the military due to the passage of the law. Ahead of the rally, 40 former Israeli diplomats released a statement against the nation-state law, saying that they are "embarrassed" and "pained" by its passage. "During our years of service for the State of Israel, we could always look world nations in the eye and tell them with an honest heart that Israel, being the only democracy in the Middle East, is indeed a proud Jewish state, but one run in the spirit of Israel's prophets and upholding equality between its different components, including by maintaining Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew," the statement said. "Being proud of the right we were given to represent the State of Israel, defend it publicly, promote its interests, its security and our government's policy, and act to advance science, the economy and culture in Israel, we express our protest against the legislation that excludes the minorities among us—Arabs, Muslims, Druze, Christians, Circassians and others," it also said. During the rally, opposition leader Tzippy Livni and Avi Gabbay, head of the Labor Party, announced in a statement that they would pass legislation making Israel's Declaration of Independence, which calls Israel a Jewish and democratic state, the constitution of the country. Hours after the end of the rally, Netanyahu on Sunday morning at the regular Cabinet meeting addressed again the issue of the nation-state law. "The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people. Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. Individual rights are anchored in many laws including Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. Nobody has harmed – and nobody intends to harm – these individual rights but without the Nation-State Law it will be impossible to ensure for [future] generations the future of Israel as a Jewish national state," Netanyahu said.

He also said that the "deep bond between the Druze community and our commitment to it are also essential; therefore, today we will establish a special ministerial committee to advance this bond and this commitment and at the same time will appreciate those of all religions and all ethnic communities who serve in the IDF and the security forces."

Book Claiming Holocaust Victims Didn't `Tap Into' Inner Strength Required Reading at University of North Carolina

By JTA

An online textbook that states Holocaust victims did not "tap into their strength" is required reading at the University of North Carolina (UNC). The book, "21st Century Wellness," is part of a one-credit hour Lifetime Fitness course all UNC undergraduates have to take before graduation. The course is meant to teach students how to stay physically fit and make healthy lifestyle choices. The book was written by former Olympic speedskater Barbara Lockhart and Brigham Young University Prof. Ron Hager. But along with handing out advice about leading a healthy lifestyle, the book contains an excerpt that says that Holocaust victims who died failed to find their inner strength, CNN reported. "The people in the camps who did not tap into the strength that comes from their intrinsic worth succumbed to the brutality to which they were subjected," the book reads. The text was contracted for use for two years, but it is currently under review for the fall, a school spokesman said. The school works with the book's publisher, Bearface Institutional Technologies, to make changes to the text. Perceivant, Bearface's parent company, sells its materials to 15 universities, including Arizona State, Ohio State and Mississippi State, CNN reported. The Holocaust example was meant to show that a person's circumstance don't define them and their worth, Hager told CNN. Some survivors have said knowing their worth helped them survive, and people who didn't know their worth might have had a harder time in the camps, he claimed. "A sense of inherent self-worth can be a source of strength or motivation that can help those struggling, in this case in concentration camps but also for anyone."

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