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  • Writer's pictureAvi Abraham Benlolo

TheFridayReport: US Senate Approves Jerusalem Embassy 97-3

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

02/05/06 Shabbat Shalom: Candle Lighting - 5:12 pm Parashat Yitro

'150,000 Rockets Pointed At Israel is like 4 million rockets pointed at New York or LA'

As positive news breaks about keeping the US embassy in Jerusalem, it's obvious Israel enjoys near unanimous support in the Senate. This should be a clear signal for the Biden administration on a path forward.

In today's National Post, I lay out a seven point action plan for President Biden to consider as he begins forming a Middle East Policy. It's easy enough to dismantle the previous administration's policies, but as I point out, no other US administration has ever accomplished seven defining peace agreements in their first term; Israel-UAE-Morocco-Bahrain-Sudan-Serbia and Kosovo.

The agreements have been so effective and pervasive that this week, Israel and Kosovo signed an accord with Kosovo declaring it will be moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Kosovo will be the first Muslim majority nation to do so. For their part, the UAE and Morocco have already traded ambassadors with Israel, opening up diplomatic channels.

My roadmap for Biden lays out seven fundamental principals for his administration to follow in order to avoid a conflictual relationship with Israel and its new allies. Biden must try and avoid the duplicity of the Obama administration - on one hand promising to "have Israel's back" while on the other negotiating with Iran, a terror-sponsoring state.

Seven simple yet fundamental steps can be undertaken immediately to strengthen the Middle East peace process. They include: an immediate "invitation" of prime minister Netanyahu to the White House; continuing to hold the Palestinians to account and refusing them aid until they renounce terrorism; refraining from slamming Israel over its settlement expansion; continuing the positive momentum of the Abraham Peace Accords; combating all forms of antisemitism including from the far left (progressives), radical Islam and from white supremacist neo-Nazis; protect and defend Israel at the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and most significantly, contain Iran's nuclear ambition (link to full article provided below).

The Biden administration demonstrated a positive step this week in accordance with the above item on antisemitism. In a statement, Kara McDonald, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said, "As prior U.S. administrations of both political stripes have done, the Biden administration embraces and champions...the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of anti-Semitism, with its real-world examples," calling it "an invaluable tool....We applaud the growing number of countries and international bodies that apply it. We urge all that haven't done so to do likewise."

In fact, this week, Paris joined the growing club and adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism joining other major cities including London and Nice. The definition does not disable anyone from criticizing Israel, but lays out clear and concise guidelines as to the common themes of antisemitism in our world today. On this matter, more and more institutions, including universities are working to adopt the IHRA definition or are cognizant of its guidelines.

In a landmark ruling, the University of Toronto's Marshall Schnapp, Chair of University Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies said, that the Graduate Student Union should revise its policy "so that it does not promote BDS actions based on nationality" and "convert the BDS Caucus fee into a designated fee that is refundable". The complaints panel as well agreed with the premise regarding "human rights and discrimination, and encourages the Graduate Student Union to "consider this commitment in all their policies, programs and operations".

Tools to combat antisemitism are necessary more than ever. Just this week, an antisemitic outburst was captured on video when a former Miami police department employee yelled at a driver - "Move your F***ing car, You stupid Jew". And in the news this week is discussion and debate over what the media is reporting is "Marjorie Taylor's antisemitism". In what sounds comedic, but is serious, she is accused of conspiracy theories including, according to the Jerusalem Post - saying that "Rothschild Inc" started the fires (in California) using a space laser.

But as everyone knows, the elephant in the room is Iran. it was reported this week that an Iranian diplomat was convicted of attempted terrorism in Belgium for his role in a 2018 bomb plot targeting an Iranian opposition group in France. Its hard to fathom that an actual diplomat carried with him explosives for this plot on a commercial flight from Iran to Austria.

This incident seemed to go under the radar as the Biden administration sent Iran signals it is willing to compromise: Neal Price, a State Department Spokesperson said, "if Iran comes into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the US would do the same, and then we would use that as a platform to build a longer and a stronger agreement that also addresses other areas of concern".

But in a report this week, Israel's Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Sneh described that aside from its nuclear ambition, Iran's strategy is to completely encircle Israel with rockets. He estimates that over 150,000 rockets provided by Iran to Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are pointed at Israel from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and soon the territories. "To understand our fears, Americans should imagine that four million rockets are aimed at New York and Los Angeles from bases in Canada and Mexico" Sneh says.

In other words, what this tells us is that Iran continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism. That terrorism is alive and well has not gone unnoticed to Canadian intelligence authorities and our own Minister of Public Safety, Bill Blair. I congratulated Minister Blair this week on adding Al Quaida and ISIS terror groups to our terror watch list, in addition to a number of dangerous white supremacist groups.

Indeed, thorough my efforts over the last two decades with Canadian officials, the landscape in Canada has shifted dramatically with recognition of hate crime and hate speech being held to greater account. This week, authorities in London Ontario took immediate action after I had notified them of a hate crime reported to me by university students. The London Chief of Police condemned the incident and antisemitism. That is positive.

At the same time, Bahrain-based director of the British Middle East Centre for Studies and Research, Amjad Taha, wrote this week that "the Biden administration should understand that the situation is no longer the same as it was during Obama's presidency". Gulf states are no longer weak, he says. They are playing a major role in supporting Egypt's army in combating the Muslim Brotherhood. "America will not stand against its interests in the Gulf in order to favour Iran" - and certainly the Gulf states will hardly stand for it, especially given their inroad with Israel.

The world around us is changing, as new alliances and relationships have been forged under the previous administration. Biden cannot simply turn back the clock - not on policy nor on the horrific pandemic which envelops our daily lives. But what we can all do, to keep our moral and ethical standard is distinguish between good and evil, for they will define the future of freedom and democracy.

This notion was expressed well in an article this week written by Rachel Sharansky Danzinger (Natan Sharansky's daughter). Writing about the horrific plight of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny - who was imprisoned this week to 3.5 years on trumped-up charges, Sharansky-Danzinger expressed: "when Navalny chose to return to Russia after surviving poisoning, he placed his life in Putin's hands, but even more so, he placed his life in our its up to us to keep the world interested and invested in the outcome of this drama".

True words if there were any. What Sharansky-Danzinger is expressing is that had it not been for the continued outrage over her father's nine-year imprisonment and by virtue of this, the confinement of 1 million Russian Jews by the former Soviet Union, he and they would not be free today. Similarly, we must all continue speaking out on social and human rights issues that promote freedom, democracy and human rights. Complacency is not an option.

Shabbat Shalom

- Avi

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Avi Benlolo in National Post: Biden's Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East

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