“WE WILL NEVER FORGET” – U.S. Marks 18th Anniversary of 9/11 Terror Attacks

The United States marked the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, with U.S. President Donald Trump saying that fateful day “is seared into our soul.” Ceremonies were held in the morning at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This year, for the first time, the names of first responders who have died since the attack as a result of illnesses diagnosed in the aftermath, were read aloud. “For every American who lived through that day, the September 11 attack is seared into our soul,” Trump said during a Pentagon ceremony. “It was a day filled with shock, horror, sorrow and righteous fury.” He added, “For the families who join us, this is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss. It’s the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over: the last kiss, the last phone call, the last time hearing those precious words ‘I love you.’” Trump later tweeted, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Trump Scores Second Diplomatic Coup in Middle East; Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

U.S. President Donald Trump scored another diplomatic coup in the Middle East with the announcement of a deal normalizing ties between Israel and Bahrain. A formal ceremony occurred at the White House on September 15, 2020, to ink the deal. “This is really something special, very, very special,” Trump said, saying the region “will become more secure and prosperous” as a result. A formal statement issued by all three nations said they agreed to “the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Reported by the Associated Press. Read more… White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern told Fox News that the deal was “an extraordinary achievement. The president made the first major breakthrough like this in 26 years.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… In yet another blow for the Palestinians, the Arab League refused to condemn a similar deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was announced last month. The League failed to pass a resolution put forward by the Palestinian Authority. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Senior White House advisor Jared Kushner spoke about the two deals (UAE and Bahrain) normalizing ties with Israel, stating the deals would allow Muslim countries to prioritize their own national interests over those of the Palestinians. “This will reduce tension in the Muslim world and allow people to separate the Palestinian issue from their own national interests and from their own foreign policy, which should be focused on their own domestic priorities,” Kushner said in an interview shortly after the deal was announced. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Kushner also recently defended Trump’s Middle East peace plan, saying it was a bid to save the two-state solution. According to Kushner, the plan stops Israel from further expanding its presence in the West Bank, noting that the “reality today is that a lot of this land is inhabited with Israelis.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In the wake of the latest announcement, Jared Kushner said he hopes other Arab nations will follow suit, telling one news outlet, “Let’s hope its months.” After flying to Bahrain, Kushner was scheduled to continue onward, visiting Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Fox News reported that CNN and MSNBC all but ignored the peace deal in their prime-time broadcasts. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the deal, saying, “I am thrilled to announce to you, Israeli citizens, that we will reach a peace agreement tonight with another Arab country, Bahrain. An agreement that joins the historic agreement with the United Arab Emirates. It took us 26 years to go from the second peace agreement with an Arab state [with Jordan in 1994] to reach a third peace agreement [with the UAE]. And it took us not 26 years, but 29 days to go from a third peace agreement with an Arab country to a fourth one. And there will be more.’” Reported by the Al-Monitor. Read more… In Bahrain itself, the Jewish community welcomed the deal. Ebrahim Dahood, head of Bahrain’s Jewish community, called it an historic moment that Bahraini Jews did not expect to see in their lifetime. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The Palestinian Authority condemned the deal, calling it another “stab in the back” and an act of “aggression” by an Arab country. In a statement, the Palestinian leadership said, “This step is a token of support for legitimizing the ugly crimes of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Iran and Hezbollah both blasted Bahrain for its decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps told Reuters, “The executioner ruler of Bahrain should await the harsh revenge of the Mujahideen [Islamic fighters] aiming to liberate Jerusalem and the proud Muslim nation of this country.” Hezbollah said, “All of the efforts to justify the Bahraini regime’s move can’t justify the betrayal and painful stabbing in the back of the Palestinian people.” The terror group also said, “We see Bahrain’s recognition of the Zionist entity and normalization of ties with it as another [step] in the public betrayal of the Palestinians. All of the Arab peoples and the Palestinians in the resistance axis in the region need to oppose these moves.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…  In the Gaza Strip, Gazans burned pictures of Bahrain’s king, along with posters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump. “We have to fight the virus of normalization and block all its paths before it succeeds, to prevent it from spreading,” Hamas official Maher al-Kholy reportedly told Reuters. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The Israel-Bahrain deal wasn’t the only deal overseen by Trump. He also had a hand in a deal that saw the normalization of economic relations between Serbia and Kosovo. That deal also includes Kosovo recognizing Israel and Serbia relocating its embassy to Jerusalem. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by The Guardian. Read more… While this deal calls upon Israel and Kosovo to establish diplomatic relations, it does not call full recognition of Kosovo as an independent country. Serbian sources have said that if Israel grants full recognition to Kosovo, it would destroy the Israel-Serbian relationship, with one source going so far as to say Serbia will not open a Jerusalem embassy as promised. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… [Ed. note—Kosovo, also known as the Republic of Kosovo, is a breakaway nation from Serbia. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 and has achieved partial recognition as an independent nation].

As a direct result of the deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates struck last month, the first commercial flight between Israel and the UAE occurred on September 1, 2020, carrying a high-ranking American and Israeli delegation. The delegation included Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is also his chief advisor. National security advisor Robert O’Brien, Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz, and envoy for Iran Brian Hook were also aboard. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Trump may be setting his eyes on Morocco next. Although Israel and Morocco have long had informal but close intelligence ties, there has been no normalization of diplomatic relations between the two nations. An attempt at a deal earlier failed, but Trump is hoping to open direct flights between the two countries, which would be a significant advance towards normalization. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Saudi Arabia won’t be so easy to convince, however. While King Salman praised Trump’s efforts in the region, he nonetheless reportedly stressed “the Kingdom’s keenness to reach a lasting and just solution to the Palestinian cause to bring peace,” which remains “the main starting point for the Kingdom’s efforts and the Arab Peace Initiative.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

President Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing about the peace deal between Israel and the UAE. The nomination came from Norwegian politician Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of Norway’s parliament. “For his merit, I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees,” Tybring-Gjedde told Fox News. Although not a big Trump supporter, Tybring-Gjedde said, “The committee should look at the facts and judge him on the facts – not on the way he behaves sometimes.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by the BBC. Read more… Trump picked up a second nomination, this one from Magnus Jacobsson, a member of Sweden’s parliament, for his role in bringing about the deal normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Jacobsson stating he was nominating the Trump administration along with Serbia and Kosovo “for their joint work for peace and economic development, through the cooperation agreement signed in the White House.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… An editorial in the Atlantic magazine called for an end to the Nobel Peace Prize, saying, “peace had its chance, and blew it.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Protesters Continue to Call for Netanyahu’s Resignation; Nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown Imminent; Likud, Netanyahu Demand Corruption Case be Settled After Revelations that Police Conflict of Interest Cover-Up

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home on September 5, 2020, demanding his resignation. The protests have gone on for months. Protesters blame Netanyahu for the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, massive job losses, and believe he should step down while on trial on corruption charges. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… On Friday, September 11, thousands more protesters marched in central Jerusalem and then rallied outside the prime minister’s home. Although protests have been ongoing for months, this is the first-time police have allowed protesters to march in Jerusalem to reach Netanyahu’s residence. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile Israel continues to face problems from the coronavirus. By Friday, September 11, 2020, Covid-19 cases surpassed 4,000 reported new cases for the second day in a row. Nearly 500 of those cases were persons in serious condition. Israel currently has 33,920 active cases, and 146,542 Israelis have contracted the virus since the pandemic began. Deaths did not increase, remaining steady at 1,077. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… On September 11, Israeli ministers voted to impose a nationwide lockdown on Israel. The lockdown was reported to be starting mid-week. After the two-week lockdown, schools would remain closed for another two-weeks. However, other specifics of the deal had yet to be finalized. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Anger over the coming lockdown manifested itself during protests in front of Netanyahu’s home. One woman repeatedly yelled into a megaphone, “Israel, Israel won’t shut down.” Many see the current high infection rate, after the virus appeared to be defeated in May, as a symptom of the government’s failure to control the spread of the virus. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… On Sunday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein took a hardline on the lockdown, telling ministers that he will not introduce an alternative plan if they reject his proposal for a multi-stage lockdown. That lockdown will see extensive restrictions during the upcoming holidays. According to leaks from the weekly cabinet meeting, Edelstein told ministers, “There is no choice but to impose a lockdown… This is a difficult day for the country. But there is no other choice but this proposal.” Edelstein blamed a lack of “aggressive, effective and unforgiving enforcement” of existing restrictions as one of the reasons behind the broader lockdown. “Therefore, I would like to be clear — with the exception of various cosmetic changes, I will not permit negotiations over the plan,” Edelstein told ministers. “I am saying this clearly at the start of the discussion: if the plan is not accepted, I will pull it and I won’t bring forth an alternative plan. The coronavirus is not a political issue and not a matter of populism. It’s a matter of life and death.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… However, a two-week lockdown may not be enough. According to the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, which operates under the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, at least three months will be needed to bring infections down to 400 cases a day. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In the days leading up to the government’s decision to impose a lockdown, small businesses and self-employed workers threatened to keep their businesses open unless the government promised financial compensation. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In a Zoom conference between Edelstein, coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu, and others, hospital chiefs said their staffs were near collapse under the strain of rising numbers of sick. One unnamed director reportedly said, “There’s no alternative to a lockdown in two-three weeks.” Reported by The Times of Israel Read more… However, an advisor to Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, says the lockdown may be useless if Israel doesn’t correct mistakes from the last lockdown and map out a clear exit strategy. Prof. Arnon Afek, deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, warned, “If you don’t plan the exit from restriction measures, from the lockdown, then it’s useless, because you will find yourself with another rise [in infections] and then you will have to do another lockdown, and it will not end; and you will end up with a very poor country, which you do not want.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The political war over Netanyahu’s indictment on corruption charges exploded this week after a news report revealed that law enforcement allegedly covered up conflicts of interest in the Netanyahu corruption investigation. According to the report, senior law enforcement officials filed a complaint with the state comptroller alleging that senior police officers and the state prosecutor engaged in a wide-spread coverup to avoid derailing the investigation into alleged corruption by the prime minister. Netanyahu called the news report “shocking” and said it proved the corruption cases against him were politically motivated. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In the wake of the revelation, MK Miki Zohar, a close ally of Netanyahu, formally asked that the charges against the prime minister be dropped. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Earlier in the week, Netanyahu lashed out at Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the state prosecutor, and the police, questioning the conduct of law enforcement after news report broke. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… And Likud MKs threatened to ‘tear down’ the Justice Ministry if Mandelblit tried to force Netanyahu to resign. MK Uzi Dayan told members of the Likud that the party needed to demand that Mandelblit “end his time in office” and that the party needed to stick to its demands even if it brought down the current government. The Blue and White party, a member of the governing coalition, panned Dayan’s comments and vowed to protect justice officials. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In the Knesset, lawmakers also rejected three bills that aimed to prevent Netanyahu from serving as Israel’s president once he does leave office. Most Blue and White lawmakers were absent during the voting. One bill would have prevented anyone under indictment from serving as president; another bill would have barred from the post anyone convicted whose punishment is longer than three months in prison. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

U.S. Vetoes U.N. Security Council Resolution on Terrorists

The U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on how to handle foreigners who went to the Middle East to fight for ISIS and other Islamic terror groups. The U.S. vetoed the resolution because it did not call for repatriation of terrorists to their home countries. Instead, the resolution encouraged countries to prosecute, rehabilitate, and reintegrate terrorists back into their societies. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft, criticized the resolution, saying, “It is incomprehensible that other members of this Council were satisfied with a resolution that ignores the security implications of leaving foreign terrorist fighters to plot their escape from limited detention facilities and abandoning their family members to suffer in camps without recourse, opportunities, or hope.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

U.S. to Withdraw More Troops from the Middle East; Trump Awards Medal of Honor to Army Sgt. Major

The United States will be withdrawing more troops from the Middle East. President Donald Trump and the Pentagon were set to announce a reduction from 5,200 soldiers to about 3,500. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, announced that about 2,200 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of September. Reported by Fox News. Read more… In Washington, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Sgt. Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for heroism during a 2015 raid in Iraq. The raid rescued 75 ISIS hostages from a prison in northern Iraq. Trump praised Payne as “one of the bravest men anywhere in the world.” Payne’s exploits included running back into a collapsing building to ensure all the hostages were out. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Major Fire at Beirut Port Spurs Evacuations

A major fire has broken out at Beirut’s port facility, a month after a fire and explosion there devastated much of the city and killed nearly 200 people. The Lebanese army has reportedly told people to evacuate the vicinity. The fire is reported to be in or near the port’s duty-free zone among containers of tires, oil, and other flammable material. The fire may be at a warehouse where the International Red Cross stores foods supplies earmarked for humanitarian needs, potentially disrupting humanitarian efforts in the region. Reported by the Associated Press. Read more… Reported by Fox News. Read more… The fire triggered panic among Beirut residents, who cracked windows and called each other to warn of the new fire. This is the second major fire at the port since the fire and explosion in August. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Iran Executes Wrestler Despite World Outcry, Continues to Oppress Protesters; Iran’s Currency Sinks Lower; Iran Starts Military Exercise, Builds New Centrifuge Facility

Iran executed wrestling champion Navid Afkari. The 24-year old wrestler had participated in demonstrations against the Iranian regime last year, and many believe the government wanted to make an example of him. Iran accused Afkari of stabbing a water supply company employee during the protests. Although Iran claimed Afkari confessed, Afkari said the confession was coerced by torture. In a tape obtained by an Iranian human rights group, Afkani said, “There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I’m guilty. But they don’t want to listen to us. I realized they are looking for a neck for their rope.” Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said, “The people of Iran, especially the courageous youth, will not remain silent vis-à-vis the savage execution of this brave son of Shiraz and will rise up in solidarity with the heroic people of Fars Province over his unjust execution.”  Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by The Guardian Read more… Iran continues its oppression of protesters, allegedly arresting and torturing thousands in the wake of mass protests in November 2019. Amnesty International reports that detainees, including children, were subjected to beatings, extreme temperatures, stress positions, and electrocution. The group also claims it has collected the names of more than 500 people investigated by Iranian authorities, three of whom have been sentenced to death. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Meanwhile, Iran’s currency hit a new low against the U.S. dollar. The rial has dropped almost 30% in value under severe sanctions imposed by the U.S. government on Iran. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Nonetheless, Iran has commenced an expensive three-day annual war military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz.  The maneuvers are taking place amid increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Units from Iran’s navy, air force, and army are cooperating over an area of nearly 772,200 square miles that includes parts of the Gulf of Oman. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Iran is also reported to be building a new centrifuge site to replace the one at Natanz, which was destroyed by an explosion on July 2. Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Australian Women and Children Missing After Being Forcibly Removed from Refugee Camp in Syria

Four women and ten children, all Australian citizens, were taken from the al-Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria. The camp is where the families of ISIS fighters are held. According to reports, unidentified men cam in the middle of the night and removed the women and children. They have had no contact with their families since being taken, and their whereabouts are unknown. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Saudi Court Overturns Five Death Sentences in Khashoggi Murder

A Saudi court has overturned five death sentences handed down in trial over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The final ruling jailed five defendants for twenty years, and three others for another seven to ten years. Khashoggi’s sons “pardoned” the killers in May, sparing the lives of the five people sentenced to death. One U.N. expert characterized the pardons as a “parody of justice.” Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018, by a 15-man squad. Although both the CIA and a UN special envoy have directly linked the murder to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman, Saudi Arabia says the murder was a “rogue: operation. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… In veteran reporter Bob Woodward’s new book, covering 18 interviews with President Trump, the president reportedly bragged that he “saved his ass”—referring to Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman—before Congress over Khashoggi’s murder. According to Woodward, Trump said, “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…