Israel, UAE Agree to Deal Normalizing Relations in Blow to Palestinians

Israel and the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) reached a watershed deal establishing full diplomatic relations between the two countries. This is the third such deal struck by Israel with an Arab nation, following Egypt (in 1979) and Jordan (in 1994). U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration helped broker the deal, which the White House announced as “the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.” Trump tweeted, “HUGE breakthrough today. Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!” Israel also agreed to suspend extending its sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria to help relations between Israel, the UAE, and other Arab nations. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the deal as a “new era of Israeli relations with the Arab world.” Netanyahu said there would be a full exchange of embassies and ambassadors, as well as economic exchanges direct flights between the two nations. He stated that “Together, with our joint strengths, we can bring a great future for our peoples and our region.” He also said, “This is very important for our economy, the regional economy and our future.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s top advisor and son-in-law, opined that the normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia were also inevitable. Although Saudi Arabia remained silent in the wake of the announcement, like Israel and the UAE, it shares a common enemy in Iran. Kushner said that a younger Saudi generation looked upon Israel in admiration, saying, “They see Israel as almost the Silicon Valley of the Middle East and they want to be connected to it as a trading partner, as a technology partner, as a security partner.” He also said that older generations were “still stuck in conflicts of the past,” and that it would take time for change to come about. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In a separate interview, Kushner described Trump’s thinking on Middle East policy. “This really is a paradigm shift,” Kushner said. “And what President Trump has tried to do for the last three years is he recognizes that a lot of the approaches taken in the Middle East in the previous administrations just didn’t work and weren’t serving America’s interests. What he did was he tried to align the different countries in the region around their common interests, as opposed to focusing on historic grievances.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the deal with the UAE will pave the way for treaties with more Arab states because it has removed the “Palestinian veto” on peace between Israel and the Arab world. Netanyahu made the announcement on August 30, the day before an U.S.-Israeli delegation including presidential advisor Jared Kushner was set to take the first ever Israeli commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien was also set to be aboard the flight. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The delegation will “discuss civilian issues” first, Netanyahu says. “Additional issues, including security matters, will be discussed later,” the prime minister said. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The UAE’s president formally issued a decree abolishing a law boycotting Israel and allowed trade and financial agreements between the two countries. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Oman backed the deal between Israel and the UAE, with Oman’s foreign ministry saying it hoped the deal would “contribute to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East and in a manner that would serve the aspirations of the peoples of the region.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had an angry call with French President Emmanuel Macron about the agreement, telling the latter that no country had the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinians. Abbas tweeted that he told Macron “of my determination to work for peace in the Middle East,” and that the resumption of peace talks “remains a priority.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…Iran and Turkey blasted the deal, portraying it as a betrayal against Muslims and the Palestinians. Iran called the deal a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.” Turkish officials characterized the UAE role in the deal as “hypocritical behavior” that would never be forgotten or forgiven by the region’s people. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, condemned the deal, claiming the UAE had made a “huge mistake.” Echoing Iran’s foreign ministry, Rouhani called the deal a “betrayal of the will of the Palestinian people and the will of Muslims.” Rouhani warned the UAE, not to “invite Israel into this region, they will have a different agenda you may be treated in a different way to now.” He also said the UAE “have made a huge mistake and committed a treacherous act.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… The UAE’s foreign minister summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires to answer for Iran’s threats and belligerent statements toward the Gulf state after the announcement of the deal with Israel. The ministry said that Iran’s statements contained “unacceptable and inciting” threats against the UAE. Earlier, Iran’s chief of staff for its armed forces, Mohammad Bagheri, said Tehran’s approach to the UAE would change, and “If something happens in the Persian Gulf region and if our national security is damaged, however small, we will hold the UAE responsible for that and we will not tolerate it.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The Israel-UAE deal may not be the only deal to normalize relations between Israel and other Arab countries. Israeli officials have disclosed that they are in advanced talks with Bahrain to normalize relations between the two countries. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Lebanon has also hinted at the possibility of peace talks with Israel. In an interview with France’s BFM-TV, Lebanese President Michel Aoun would not rule out negotiations, saying “it depends” and that “we have problems with Israel and we have to resolve them first.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… But Kuwaiti officials rejected the idea of normalizing ties with Israel, telling a local news outlet it had no interest in changing longstanding policies. In a statement Kuwaiti officials said, “The Kuwaiti position is consistent with its decades-old foreign policy approach in support of the Palestinian cause, as it is the premier Arab issue.” The statement also said that only “what the Palestinians accept” would be acceptable to Kuwait. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

MSNBC and CNN offered little coverage to the deal, leading to accusations that networks were engaging in a pattern of downplaying news stories favorable to the Trump administration. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a Muslim scholar, criticized mainstream media for its treatment of the deal, saying it had reacted in a short-sighted way to a deal that could change the world over the next century. Appearing on Fox & Friends Weekend, Ahmed said, “It’s just very difficult to explain the scale of this. This is epic and historic.” Ahmed also said the deal would “end the game for the Islamist mothership, the Muslim Brotherhood” and put Iran on the defensive. Reported by Fox News. Read more… The deal is not a good omen for the Palestinian cause. According to a New York Times article, the deal has taken away a key incentive for peace. Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian mission to the U.K., says “This agreement is very damaging to the cause of peace because it takes away one of the key incentives for Israel to end its occupation – normalization with the Arab world. It basically tells Israel it can have peace with an Arab country in return for postponing illegal theft of Palestinian land.” The article suggests the deal may have traded one Palestinian nightmare—annexation of Palestinian land—for another nightmare—one of no longer being relevant. Reported by The New York Times. Read more…

The new deal between Israel and the UAE could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year Israel’s Economic Ministry reported. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The fruits of normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE were immediately apparent, with telephone service between the two nations beginning a few days later. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… An Israeli poll a few days later showed that almost 80 percent of Israeli’s preferred normalization of relations with the UAE over West Bank annexation. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

U.S. Loses Dual Bids to Extend Iran Arms Embargo, Impose Snap-Back Sanctions, Iran Crows; Iran Names Two New Missiles After Military Leaders Killed by U.S. Action; Tehran to Allow IAEA to Inspect Suspected Nuke Development Sites

The United States lost big before the United Nations Security Council on August 14, 2020. The Council rejected a U.S. bid to extend a 13-year old arms embargo on Iran. The embargo was due to expire in October 2020. The resolution managed only two votes in favor—the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.  U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the U.N. of failing to uphold its “fundamental mission set.” He also blasted the council, saying, “It rejected a reasonable resolution to extend the 13-year old arms embargo on Iran and paved the way for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell conventional weapons without specific U.N. restrictions in place for the first time in over a decade. The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Israeli leaders blasted the Council for rejecting the extension. “The decision of the UN Security Council not to renew the arms embargo on Iran is scandalous,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Iranian terrorism and aggression threaten the peace of the region and the entire world. Instead of opposing weapons sales, the Security Council is encouraging them.” Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said, “Iran doesn’t just finance terror, it also carries it out and represents a danger to regional and international stability.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Iran, however, hailed the rejection. Iran president Hassan Rouhani said that “The United States failed in this conspiracy with humiliation.” He went on to say that “In my opinion, this day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.” Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said, “In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated.” He added, “Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilize a small country (to vote) with them.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The Trump administration promised to act “in the coming days” to extend the embargo. U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft said in statement that “The United States has acted in good faith throughout this process and made clear to all parties that failure was simply not an option.” Referring to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the West, Craft gave some indication as to what the U.S. might do. “Under Resolution 2231, the United States has every right to initiate snapback of provisions of previous Security Council resolutions,” Craft said. “In the coming days, the United States will follow through on that promise to stop at nothing to extend the arms embargo.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

On August 20, 2020, the United States did ask the U.N. Security Council to impose snap-back sanctions against Iran under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, notifying the council that Iran was “in significant non-performance of its JCPOA commitments.” The snap-back provision allows sanctions to be reimposed on Iran for failing to comply with the terms of the deal. Reported by The Jewish News Syndicate. Read more… Israel reacted favorably to the Trump administrations request for snap-back sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I commend the United States for its decision to trigger snapback sanctions against Iran. This is the right decision.” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., said, “reimposing the U.N. sanctions on Iran is a critical step to curbing Iranian aggression, which threatens the entire world. The Security Council should not allow the world’s largest terror regime to obtain and trade lethal weapons and ballistic missiles freely. Nor should it pave the way for Iran to fulfill its nuclear ambitions.” Reported by The Jewish News Syndicate. Read more…Alas, the demand fell on deaf ears. The U.N. Ambassador for Indonesia, who currently chairs the council, rejected the demand. Reported by The Hill. Read more…

In a curiously timed announcement, Iran said is naming two new classes of missiles after slain military officials killed by U.S. forces. A new 870-mile range missile is called the “Martyr Hajj Qassem,” named after Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The second is a 620-mile range naval missile named “Martyr Abu Mahdi,” after Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who had close ties with Iran. The ceremony revealing the missiles took place after the U.N. vote failing to extend an embargo against the purchase or sale of weapons from or to Iran. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

In a more recent development, Iran has agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) to inspect two sites where the country is suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material. The IAEA said Iran was “voluntarily providing the IAEA with access to the two locations specified by the IAEA and facilitating the IAEA verification activities to resolve the issues.” One site is reported to be Abadeh, south of Isfahan, a location previously identified by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as being the location of a secret facility. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Six Hundred Jewish Groups Back Black Lives Matter Movement

More than 600 Jewish organizations endorsed a letter in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The letter was published in the New York Times and the groups involved represent the majority of American Jews. “We support the Black-led movement in this country that is calling for accountability and transparency from the government and law enforcement. We know that freedom and safety for any of us depends on the freedom and safety of all of us,” reads the letter, “As Jews, we know how dangerous this is: when politicians target Jewish people and blame us for problems, it leads directly to violence against us. When Black movements are undermined, it leads to more violence against Black people, including Black Jews.” The groups signing the letter included both conservative and liberal Jewish organizations. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

FBI to Assist in Investigating Cause of Beirut Explosion; Congresswoman Tlaib Urges Trump to Allow Lebanese to Remain in U.S. Temporarily: Lebanon President Denied Hezbollah Role in Blast

The FBI will join Lebanese and international investigators probing the cause of the explosion that devastated Beirut on August 4, 2020. The cause is still not known, other than almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse was involved. The U.S. has offered $18,000,000 in aid to Lebanon. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Meanwhile, House Democrats, lead by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., are asking U.S. President Donald Trump to allow Lebanese nationals temporarily in the U.S. to stay. In a letter to Trump they say, “As news reports of the impact of the Beirut explosion continue to unfold, it is clear that Lebanon is not in a position to safely accept the return of its citizens at this time.” The letter was signed by Tlaib and more than 80 other Democrats. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun, says it is impossible that the explosive material and explosion that resulted from it was caused by Hezbollah arms. In an interview with an Italian news outlet, Aoun said “serious events like these light up spirits and imagination.” He vowed, however, that “even this lead will be investigated.” Aoun is seen as a puppet of the Hezbollah terror group, which is backed by Iran. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Hamas Continues Incendiary Balloon Attacks as Talks for Cease Fire Falter

Palestinians in Gaza are once again using incendiary balloons to start fires in Southern Israel, say Israeli authorities. Between June 27 and August 15, 2020, Israeli press reported continued arsons in southern Israel sparked by incendiary balloons released from the Gaza Strip. The fires culminated on Sunday, August 16, with 28 brush fires started in a single day. Palestinians were also reportedly rioting near the security fence on a nightly basis, so-called “nightly confusion units” designed to disrupt the lives of soldiers patrolling the fence as well as Israelis living in the area. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… (June 27, 2020); Read more… (August 6, 2020); Read more… (August 16, 2020). Efforts at a cease fire failed August 28, with Hamas warning Israel of “messages” to be sent within hours. According to Lebanese-Hezbollah affiliated TV al-Mayadeen, a Hamas ‘source’ stated Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi had been in Gaza to broker a cease-fire but had left after the effort failed. According to the ‘source’ the deal failed due to Israel’s insistence on “calm in return for calm” instead of “calm in return for an end to the blockade.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Other reports suggest the envoy is still in Gaza trying to broker a deal. After reports the deal fell through, another wave of incendiary balloons descended on southern Israel, sparking 20 fires. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… On other fronts, Turkey plans to grant citizenship to high-ranking members of the Hamas terrorist group who are living in Turkey. The twelve members living there are reported to be involved in planning terror attacks, with one overseeing a failed plot to assassinate Jerusalem’s mayor. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Protests Continue Outside Netanyahu’s Home as Likud Blasts Police, Prosecutors for Doing Nothing; Likud, Blue and White Narrowly Avoid Budget Stalemate; Bratslav Hasidic Jews Fume at Government Inaction Over Travel Ban, Renounce Support for Netanyahu; Likud to Back Bill Setting Referendum Regarding West Bank

Rallies against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue. Two weeks ago protesters rallied at sites around Israel to protest his indictment and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The main protest, as usual, was held outside Netanyahu’s residence. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Then, on August 22, 2020, police arrested 30 protesters after fighting broke out when police tried to forcibly remove protesters from Paris Square, a site near Netanyahu’s residence. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Days later state prosecutors told police not to arrest protesters for blocking streets, except in exceptional circumstances, prompting backlash from the Likud party. “The right to demonstrate does not include the right to block roads and violate police instructions,” the Likud said in a statement. “This is not what the rule of law and democracy looks like, but rather violent anarchy. It seems everything is kosher when it comes to an attempt to bring down Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Hundreds of protesters blocked streets in Tel Aviv and Haifa, calling for Netanyahu’s resignation. The Likud continued its criticism, saying, “The illegal demonstrations and blockages of roads that disrupt public order are a direct result of the outrageous decision of the state prosecutor to not take action against violators of the law. When it comes to the anarchic left-wing protests against the prime minister, everything is allowed.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile, the Knesset seems to have staved off new elections because it could not agree on a budget. Israeli law required the Knesset to approve a new budget by August 25, or the Knesset would automatically be dissolved. As the deadline loomed, MK Zvi Hauser, for the Derech Eretz party, proposed legislation to push the deadline back 100 days. The date was later changed to December 23, 2020. His proposal also prohibited approval of senior appointments until the budget is approved. The Knesset finance committee approved the second and third readings of the bill, moving it forward. Reported by Israel National News. Read more… Even then it was a close call as hours before the final vote Likud went on the offensive, accusing the Blue and White party of straying from its promise that no appointments for top positions in the public sector would be made until December 23. Blue and White responded, accusing Netanyahu of trying to control the appointment of the state attorney and attorney general to influence the outcome of his criminal trial. Reported by Ynet News. Read more… Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Saturday, August 29, protests outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. drew as many as between 20,000 to 37,000 participants as the Hasadim, unhappy with Netanyahu’s handling of a crisis with the Ukraine, joined in and police remained passive. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… On Wednesday, August 26, the Ukraine issued a temporary ban on the entry of foreigners into the country. The ban will go into effect ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, and ahead of an annual pilgrimage when tens of thousands of Bratslav Hasidic Jews visit the burial place of Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav. Reported by Israel National News. Read more…  The ban ignited a political firestorm in Israel, where Bratslav Hasidic Jews blamed Netanyahu for not working on a plan for a travel exception. Israel’s Bratslav secretariat issued a statement saying the government “has shown that religious citizens are second-class citizens and can be assailed [by] every means, so that they [won’t be unable to] fulfill their beliefs.” The Bratslav Hasidic sect also said that it would never again support Netanyahu. Rebbe Nachman founded their sect in the 18th century. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The political crisis with Bratslav Hasidic sect is to some extent of Netanyahu’s own making as he continued to support Prof. Ronnu Gamzo, the government’s coronavirus czar. Gamzo has pushed to prevent Bratslav Hasidic Jews from taking part in the pilgrimage to the Ukraine, who have called for him to be fired. In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said, “Prime Minister Netanyahu, who appointed Prof. Ronni Gamzo to the position of coronavirus czar and appreciates his dedicated work, works in  cooperation with him on a daily basis and calls on everyone to do the same.” Netanyahu has been keen on avoiding alienating Ultraorthodox Jews but was forced to take a stand after the Ukraine announced it would be restricting travel to that country. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Yamina party leader and one-time Netanyahu ally Naftali Bennett also took Netanyahu to task for his response to the pandemic, accusing him of putting personal enmity towards Bennett ahead of Israelis. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Bennett said, “I submitted a plan to defeat the coronavirus on March 29th to the prime minister, and he did not implement it, and he knew it was correct, because he was afraid of me, that I would succeed. Because he didn’t implement that plan at the time, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering,” Bennett charged. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The perceived failure of Netanyahu to do anything about the travel ban led Bratslav Hasidic Jews to join protests in front of Netanyahu’s residence. Netanyahu announced on Saturday the formation of a team to formulate a plan to allow the pilgrimage. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Finally, the Likud party is ready to back any bill proposing the holding of a referendum before Israel withdraws from any West Bank settlement territory or dismantles any settlement. A bill along those lines was put forward by MK Zvi Hauser of the Derech Eretz party. The party is a member of the unity government formed by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Hezbollah Seeks Eye-for-Eye Retaliation for Death of Fighter

Terror group Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, says the group will only be satisfied when it has killed an Israeli soldier. Nasrallah apparently views such a killing as reestablishing “deterrence.” In a speech Nasrallah said, “I want to be more clear than at any previous time: when Israel kills one of our fighters, we will kill one of your soldiers.” Tensions between the terror group and Israel have been on the rise since Israel reportedly killed Hezbollah commander Ali Kamel Moshen in a July 20 airstrike near the Damascus airport in Syria. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Hezbollah may have tried to carry out the threat, exchanging fire with IDF forces at the border with Israel. In response, Israel called out the U.N.’s peacekeeping forces in the region. Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan wrote a letter to the U.N. Security Council, saying, “The last attack directed at IDF forces, together with Hezbollah’s strengthening and its activities in south Lebanon, raise the chances of escalation on [Israel’s] northern border that could have terrible consequences for Lebanon and the entire region.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Blast Rips Beirut; Government Negligence Stokes Protests, Violence; Macron Promises Aid

A massive blast ripped apart Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The explosion occurred at a warehouse in the city’s port area. Initial reports were up to 78 people killed and more than 5,000 injured. The explosion sent a mushroom cloud into the sky and leveled nearby buildings. The blast was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been ignited. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Reported by Fox News. Read more… Early reports suggested the possibility of Hezbollah involvement in “unofficial” control over firefighting efforts at an explosives depot led to the blast. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has “categorically” denied the terror group had stored any weapons or explosives at the port. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… A later report on Israeli TV, however, said that Hezbollah planned to use the ammonium nitrate against Israel in a third war. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Ammonium nitrate is a substance often used in fertilizers. It is not an explosive itself but can ignite under the right circumstance. It has been the cause of several industrial blasts over the years, including the Texas City disaster of 1947, where 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded, killing about 500 people. It also exploded at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013, killing 15. Ammonium nitrate was also used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168. Reported by CBS News. Read more… Reported by ABC News. Read more… Reported by The Guardian. Read more… The Guardian has published a visual guide to the explosion, explaining its effects. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… The Washington Post published a visual analysis of the explosion, with multiple videos, explaining how the explosion occurred and showing its effects. Reported by The Washington Post. Read more…

Despite Lebanon’s claim the explosion was caused by ammonium nitrate, U.S. President Donald Trump said military generals told him the explosion was likely caused by a bomb of some kind. “I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of an event,” Trump said. “They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… U.S. officials were quick to say, however, that it was too early to say whether the explosion was caused by a bomb. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Defense Secretary Mark Esper contradicted Trump’s claim, saying, “most believe that it was an accident as reported and beyond that, I have nothing further to report on that. It’s obviously a tragedy.” Reported by Fox news. Read more… Trump himself later walked back his claim, saying, “Whatever happened, it is terrible. They don’t really know what happened. I don’t think anybody can say right now, we’re looking into it very strongly.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Others were not happy with Trump’s remarks. Tom Fletcher, former British ambassador to Lebanon, said, “I would advise against listening to Donald Trump at the best of times, let alone the worst.” Fletcher then excoriated Trump, saying, “You can’t show up unprepared for the Middle East. Careless messaging from the White House has consequences, even when no one takes the tweeter seriously. I hope future American presidents will try to help put out fires in the region, not fan them.” Democratic senator Chris Murphey tweeted, “Before the explosion, Lebanon was already in dire crisis, with a collapsed economy and sectarian tensions at a boiling point. I can’t imagine anything worse right now than Trump making unfounded claims of an ‘attack’.” Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Lebanon already faced several crises before the explosion, including Covid-19, protests against government corruption, economic freefall, and longstanding regional conflicts, including Hezbollah’s assistance of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime in a civil war and ongoing confrontations between the terror group and Israel. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… The explosion, on top of all else, left one young Lebanese man wondering whether the country was cursed. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

The ammonium nitrate was linked to a Russian ship—MV Rhosus—that had been docked in the port since 2013. The ship had been carrying the fertilizer and was en route to Mozambique when its owners hit financial difficulties and eventually abandoned it. The fertilizer was then off-loaded and stored in a warehouse. Lebanese customs director Badri Daher repeatedly warned government officials that the fertilizer posed a threat of exploding but says he was repeatedly ignored. Reported by Fox News. Read more… The ship was owned by Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin and was reported to be in poor condition and over 40 years old. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Revelations that government negligence may have played a role in the explosion incited more anger against Lebanon’s political class. As recently as six months ago, officials inspecting the consignment warned that if it were not moved it would “blow up all of Beirut.” Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Violent demonstrations took place in Beirut on Saturday. Protesters stormed the energy and economy ministries and set fire to the offices of the Association of Lebanese Bankers, who protesters blame for the country’s banking crisis. Protesters also called for the resignation of the government and punishment for those whose negligence they say led to Tuesday’s explosion. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Demonstrators also targeted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, hanging of cutout of him from a noose during one demonstration. They hung several political leaders in effigy, including Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Nasrallah and Aoun are two key power brokers in Lebanese politics. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Lebanese security forces used teargas to target demonstrators. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Further reported by The Guardian. Read more… Lebanon’s information minister, Amnal Abdel Samad, resigned, apologizing to the public for failing them. Meanwhile, the Patriarch of Lebanon’s Maronite church, Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, called for the resignation of the entire government. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Day after-reports further showed the extent of the disaster. As the death toll soared to over 100, CBS News Producer Sami Aouad said, “Houses, buildings, dead bodies in streets, injuries, hospitals couldn’t accept more injuries and bodies because they were full. Beirut is a destroyed city. It is like a real war zone.” Secretary General of the Lebanese Red Cross, George Kettaneh, said “The disaster is unprecedented.” Reported by CBS News. Read more… The death toll later rose to more than 135 killed. The blast was felt as far away as Cyprus. Reported by CNN. Read more… All port officials have been placed under house arrest by the military while the government has promised a full and transparent investigation. Reported by the BBC. Read more…

The U.S. military sent three cargo planes to Lebanon filled with medical supplies. Reported by Fox News. Read more… France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, visited Beirut, where protesters pleaded that he help bring political change to Lebanon. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Macron promised that foreign aid would not fall into “corrupt hands.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

On Sunday, the Lebanese military said there is little or no hope of finding any more survivors at the blast site. The current death toll stands at over 150 dead, with 15 missing. Some 6,000 people were injured. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

MBS Sued Over Alleged Plot to Kill Former Saudi Intelligence Official

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (also known as MBS) has been accused by a former senior Saudi intelligence official of plotting to kill him. Saad Aljabri, who has close ties to western intelligence agencies, sued the Crown Prince and other Saudi officials in a district court in Washington D.C., claiming the Crown Prince of targeting him in Canada because the prince feared Aljabri’s relationship with the U.S. would threaten his ascendency to the Saudi throne. The lawsuit also claims bin Salman sent a strike team to Canada to kill Aljabri. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… The Canadian press is reporting that Aljabri has been placed under heightened security due to a new threat on his life. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Israel’s Unity Government On Verge of Collapse Due to Budget Fight; Protestors Continue to Demonstrate Against Netanyahu; Israeli COVID-19 Deaths Top 600

Tension between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minster Benny Gantz continue, with reports Gantz has accused the prime minister of never intending to honor a deal to have a budget through 2021. Gantz is demanding the government have a budget for 2020 and 2021, but Netanyahu has insisted on a one-year budget due to the coronavirus crisis. Leaks from a closed-door meeting Sunday say Gantz accused Netanyahu of deceiving him and never intending to honor the coalition agreement between their parties. If the government does not agree on a budget by August 25, the government will automatically dissolve triggering new elections. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… It was uncertain whether the weekly cabinet meeting would take place, and the coalition government appeared to be sliding closer to dissolution as on Friday both Likud and Blue and White announced there would be no cabinet meeting due to the budget fight. Under their coalition deal, both parties must approve the agenda for the meeting. Likud accused the Blue and White of refusing to approve an economic relief plan that would create 10,000 new jobs for the economy. Blue and White responded that the meeting was called off because of the Likud’s insistence on not adhering to the coalition agreement. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Additionally, two of the Likud’s senior officials have reportedly urged Netanyahu to allow new elections to occur. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… MK Gidean Sa’ar, a Likud party rival of Netanyahu, however, is said to have come out strongly against new elections, calling them a “direct blow” to the country. Nonetheless, the Blue and White and Labor parties are reportedly talking about running on a joint slate if new elections are held. Reported by The Times of Israel (Blog). Read more…

The week before on Sunday, August 2, 2020, thousands of protesters again rallied outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house, demanding his resignation. Protesters are angry at how Netanyahu has handled the coronavirus crises, as well as by charges of alleged corruption pending against him. During his Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu complained that news media coverage was “one-sided” and supporting the movement against him. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Netanyahu was also irked by a life-sized pop-up Last Supper exhibit that appeared in Tel Aviv overnight, showing the prime minister gorging on a giant frosted cake, champagne, and pink macaroons. The exhibit appeared in the wake of the continued protests. The Israeli prime minister compared the exhibit to a death threat. The exhibit appeared in Rabin Square, which has been the focal point of the protests. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Finally, Israel’s coronavirus death toll has hit 600 as security cabinet ministers approved new restrictions and extended existing ones. Many of the restrictions reaffirmed existing ones set to expire under a coronavirus law passed last month. The restrictions continue to limit outdoor gatherings to 20 people and indoor gatherings to ten people. The restrictions also limit passengers to three per car, and businesses may have one-customer on premises per 7 sq. feet of floor space. Business are also prohibited from serving customers not wearing a mask and must take the temperature of those seeking to enter. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…