Historic U.A.E. Peace Deal, North Korea Hacks Israel, & Egypt Warns Hamas

August 14, 2020

Historic U.A.E. Peace Deal, North Korea Hacks Israel, & Egypt Warns Hamas

August 14, 2020
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Shabbat Shalom!

Today we’re diving into: the historic U.A.E. peace agreement with Israel; the resulting suspension of sovereignty; responses from friends and foes; Haim Saban’s role in peace negotiations; the rejection of the bill to ban Netanyahu; Netanyahu’s case against the Attorney General; North Korea’s cyberattack against Israel; Egypt’s warning to Hamas over incendiary balloons; Facebook’s step against antisemitism; U.S. threatens peacekeepers on Lebanon-Israel border; Trump’s call with Sheldon Adelson; Congressional candidate’s Hitler post; and Israel’s cancer breakthroughs.


Peace deal with U.A.E.: Israel’s most significant diplomatic advance since 1994

Tel Aviv municipality building lit up with the colors of the U.A.E. flag on August 13, 2020. 

Historic ‘normalization of relations’ between Israel and UAE: Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached a historic peace deal known as the “Abraham Accords,” announced on Thursday in a joint statement between President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. This historic deal brokered by the U.S. makes the U.A.E. the only Gulf state, and the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. This is the first deal of its kind since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. Prime Minister Netanyahu called it “a historic day” on Twitter.

  • The Tel Aviv City Hall building was illuminated with the colors of the U.A.E. flag, which was the second time this month the building has lit up the colors of an Arab state after displaying the Lebanese flag in solidarity with the victims of the Beirut port explosion. According to reports, Yossi Cohen, the director of the Mossad spy agency, visited the U.A.E. several times to broker the agreement on the Israeli side. 

Israel agrees to suspend sovereignty: Under the peace agreement, Israel has agreed to suspend applying sovereignty or annexing areas of the West Bank, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria. After the joint announcement, Netanyahu said that he’s still committed to the Trump peace plan and sovereignty, saying he “will never give up on our rights to our land.” Netanyahu insisted that Trump only requested a temporary suspension on annexation plans, which Trump contradicted hours later, saying annexation was “more than just off the table.” In response, a senior U.A.E. official said “The U.A.E. is committed to the Arab peace initiative and the rights of the Palestinian people for an independent state in peaceful coexistence with the state of Israel.”
Palestinian leadership responds: Palestinian officials said they did not know about the agreement before the announcement and issued a strong condemnation of the U.A.E and the deal. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas instructed the Palestinian ambassador to the U.A.E. to return immediately. Abbas’ spokesman called the move a “betrayal” and said, “The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the U.A.E., Israeli and U.S. trilateral, surprising, announcement.” Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for Hamas in Gaza, told Reuters, “Normalization is a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause, and it serves only the Israeli occupation.”
Investment, security cooperation, and additional agreements to follow: The peace agreement will allow for mutual investment, direct flights, establishing embassies, and security cooperation. Further, Netanyahu said the two countries will work closely together on a vaccine for COVID-19. U.A.E. Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said the two countries will meet in the coming weeks to sign agreements. White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi all confirmed that the establishment of formal relations with the U.A.E. opens the door for additional accords with other Arab states. 
Bahrain next? Despite having no diplomatic or official relations, Bahrain’s government in a statement said, “This historic step will contribute to strengthening stability and peace in the region.” After Bahrain’s public response, senior Israeli officials reportedly said that they are in advanced discussions with Bahrain about normalizing ties. A senior American official apparently told Palestinian media that Bahrain and Oman are expected to be the next countries to normalize relations with Israel.
Responses from Israel’s friends and foes: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the deal saying, “I value the efforts of those in charge of the deal to achieve prosperity and stability for our region.” Former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph Biden congratulated both Israel and the Emirates, reiterated his opposition to annexation, and pointed to his work in the region as Vice President saying, “I personally spent time with leaders of both Israel and the U.A.E. during our administration building the case for cooperation and broader engagement and the benefits it could deliver to both nations, and I am gratified by today’s announcement.” Iran’s top leaders have yet to publicly react to the deal, but one official commented that the “U.A.E. will be engulfed in Zionism fire.” 
Haim Saban as driving force behind normalization: In an interview with Israeli publication N12, Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban detailed his role in propelling this historic moment. Saban visited the U.A.E. in 2018 to meet with Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and urged him to make the under-the-radar warming relations between Israel and U.A.E. public. Saban also advised the U.A.E.’s Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al-Otaiba, to warn Israelis against annexation in a strongly worded Hebrew op-ed earlier this year, which, according to Jared Kushner, was a turning point in discussions for official normalization. Al-Otaiba warned that Israel would have to choose between annexation and normalization. During the interview, Saban also hinted he was in conversation with Saudi Arabian leaders, who could be next in another potential historic peace deal.


Amid budget crisis, Netanyahu demands changes to coalition deal

Parliament rejects bill to stop Netanyahu from forming another government: With a standoff over the budget threatening to send Israel into new elections, a bill proposed by Israel’s opposition has been rejected. The bill would have barred Netanyahu from forming another government if the country went into elections again. Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz had initially wavered on the bill, but on the day of its passage, he called for his Blue and White party to boycott the vote. The law would have stipulated that anyone under indictment for a crime, like Netanyahu, would not be eligible for the country’s top job. 

  • Budget woes and election talk: Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz are budging on their positions regarding the country’s budget. If the budget is not passed by August 25th, new elections will be automatically called. Gantz has agreed to pass a law which would delay the passage of the budget and he gave Netanyahu a 24-hour ultimatum to do the same, which Netanyahu has ignored.

Netanyahu demanding changes to coalition agreement: A report by Israel’s Channel 12 detailed that Netanyahu has used Israel’s budget crisis to leverage Gantz to agree to changes to their coalition agreement. Apparently, Likud and Blue and White have been holding secret talks on the matter. According to the report, Netanyahu is demanding that the coalition agreement be altered so that if, due to Netanyahu’s indictments, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit disqualifies Netanyahu from serving as Alternate Prime Minister after Netanyahu hands over the Prime Minister position to Gantz, new elections will automatically be triggered. According to the power sharing coalition agreement, Gantz will automatically assume the premiership in November 2021. 

  • Netanyahu laying groundwork against Attorney General: Netanyahu accused Mandelblit of ignoring serious threats against him and his family. In a letter sent to Mandelblit, Netanyahu said, “Zero action on your part in the face of calls to murder me and my family and rape threats against my wife amounts to nothing less than to scandalously allow the spilling of our blood.” Mandelblit responded that “There is no basis to your claim that [we’re] ignoring complaints regarding your family,” and noted that 29 investigations have been opened in the last few months over such threats. Mandelblit

North Korean hacking group attacks Israel: Israel claimed to prevent a cyberattack against Israeli defense industry companies by a North Korea linked hacking group, called Lazarus Group. Instead of attempting to gain financial information, Lazarus was apparently aiming to collect technological data. The Defense Ministry said the attack was thwarted “in real time” and no “harm or disruption” occurred as a result, but security researchers at a firm called ClearSky say otherwise. ClearSky said the hackers likely stole a large amount of classified data and that Israelis are fearing that it can be shared with Iran, an ally of North Korea. Israel has been fighting an escalating cyberwar with Iran in recent months after Israel thwarted an Iranian cyberattack on its water system. Iran attempted to poison Israel’s water by raising chlorine levels, in an effort to kill Israeli citizens.
Israel’s hospital to test Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine: Israel’s oldest hospital, Hadassah-University Medical Center, will help test a coronavirus vaccine announced by Russia earlier this week. Hadassah’s director-general said: “We are playing a part in conducting safety and efficacy studies.” Israel’s health minister, Yuli Edelstein, has also said that Israel will enter into negotiations with Russia or any country that produces a potential coronavirus vaccine. Russian President Valdimir Putin said that Russia would start producing the vaccine on a large scale in September, despite its incomplete trials. 
Egypt demands Palestinians stop incendiary balloon attacks: Egypt has pressured Hamas to stop sending terror balloons into Israel, warning that Hamas’ incendiary tactics might provoke a larger military escalation. One source said: Egypt “demanded that Hamas and all the Palestinian factions instruct the balloon units to immediately stop the attacks on Israel.” Egypt also reached out to Israel to urge calm on its part. Currently, over 80 fires have been started by balloons in the past two days.


Facebook updates policy after 120-plus groups call on social media giant to address rampant antisemitism

Facebook takes step to curb antisemitism: Facebook announced that it has updated its policies to include combatting antisemitism. More than 120 organizations, many of them Jewish, submitted a letter to Facebook urging the social media giant to implement a better hate-speech policy. The letter criticized Facebook’s lackluster response to the severe and rampant antisemitism that it hosts. Facebook’s Vice President for Integrity said: “We’re updating our policies to more specifically account for certain kinds of implicit hate speech, such as content depicting blackface, or stereotypes about Jewish people controlling the world.”
U.S. threatening to veto peacekeepers on Lebanon-Israel border: The U.S. is reportedly threatening to veto the extension of the UN peacekeepers on the Israeli-Lebanese border, thereby dissolving the mission. The U.S. is demanding changes to the group before the August 31st deadline. Israel has long said that the peacekeeping force does not do enough to protect Israel’s borders. The Americans are pushing for restrictions on UN movement to be lifted so that the forces can better investigate Hezbollah activities. One Israeli official said: “Both us and the Americans stress that in the current reality Hezbollah is just too comfortable with UNIFIL, and this is unacceptable.” The peacekeeping force has been in Lebanon for 42 years; its mandate was expanded following the Second Lebanon War in 2006. 
Democrats urge FBI to investigate call between Trump and Adelson: Two Democratic members of Congress are urging the FBI to investigate a highly contentious call between President Trump and his largest donor, Sheldon Adelson. During the phone call, Trump berated Adelson for not providing enough monetary support to his re-election campaign. Representatives Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York, both former federal prosecutors, allege that the call was tantamount to the solicitation of a bribe on Trump’s part, demanding greater donations from Adelson as the two spoke about legislation. Connecting legislative action to donations and the proposal to do so are both federal crimes.
Congressional candidate defends Hitler retreat post: The publication Jezebel has exposed recently deleted photos posted by Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old North Carolina Republican congressional candidate, which show him smiling at the vacation site of Adolf Hitler. The caption reads: “the vacation house of the Führer. Seeing the Eagles Nest has been on my bucket list for awhile, it did not disappoint… Strange to hear so many laughs and share such a good time with my brother where only 79 years ago a supreme evil shared laughs and good times with his compatriots.” Jews in Cawthorn’s district, including the mayor of Asheville, have expressed outrage at the post. National Jewish organizations have also called on Cawthorn to apologize and provide an explanation.

  • Cawthorn responds: Cawthorn responded to the controversy in a Facebook post saying, “When our soldiers from Easy Company were photographed smoking, drinking and smiling at the Eagle’s Nest in 1945 they were clearly celebrating the Allies triumph over one of the greatest evils in human history. They weren’t celebrating evil; they were celebrating their victory over evil. When I visited the Eagle’s Nest this was the history I had in mind. It was a surreal experience to be remembering their joy in a place where the Nazi regime had plotted unspeakable acts of evil.”


Today we celebrate the announcement of two parallel Israeli cancer breakthroughs that continue the long-running successes of Israel’s fight against cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a Jerusalem medical company’s research into a new drug to fight cancerous tumors. The drugs being tested use the body’s own cells to fight off cancer. For its research, the company had $18 million in investment this year. The second announcement, which came out of Tel Aviv University, was of a new computational system designed to analyze cancer mutations in human genomes and allows medical teams to more effectively design comprehensive treatments for cancer patients.
Today in 1889, 130 families consisting of 824 Russian Jews arrived in Argentina, establishing the first Jewish agricultural colony in South America, which they called “Moisés Ville.” Persecutions and pogroms against the Jewish communities in the Russian Empire led this group to emigrate. Moisés Ville, which is in the process of applying to be recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site, became the most important Jewish village in Argentina and a center of Jewish culture famous for its synagogues, theatre, Hebrew schools and academy, libraries and newspapers and magazines, in both Yiddish and Spanish.

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