Tangible progress toward peace in the Middle East is scarce after the much-anticipated and controversial two-day conference in Bahrain last week. Plus, Israel blames Russia for GPS jamming over Israeli airspace that is interfering with civilian flights. On the southern border the continual fires are pushing residents to appeal to the UN against Hamas.
Palestinian Economic Plan Update
Little has changed in the push for peace between Palestinians and Israelis after U.S. officials presented the White House’s $50 billion Peace to Prosperity plan to some Arab leaders in Bahrain last week.
The ten-year plan promises to double Palestinian gross domestic product, create a million jobs, reduce unemployment rates to single digits, and drop Palestinian poverty under 50 percent. Despite a boycott by much of the Arab world following the Palestinian rejection of the plan, the two-day “economic workshop” was hailed as a “tremendous success” by author of the plan and White House Adviser Jared Kushner.
The Times of Israel reported that he said his “very detailed and reasonable” plan was well received, but with a Palestinian boycott and no conference invitation to Israel the feasibility of the implementation of the plan is still held in doubt.
A report about the conference from Al Jazeera said that the International Monetary Fund’s managing director said that based on their experience it can be a struggle to generate economic growth in conflict-torn countries. Kushner has referred to the economic portion of the plan as a starting point, noting that a yet-to-be-released political solution was key to the success of his economic proposal. He has said that both Israelis and Palestinians would need to make concessions for this to work.
Palestinians displayed their anger with the proposal calling it a “bribe” and holding protests and demonstrations across the West Bank. Fourteen Palestinian businessmen attended the Bahrain event, not as government representatives, and have faced threats and arrests from Palestinians for their participation, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The Times of Israel reported that in Iraq, pro-Palestinian protestors stormed the courtyard of the Bahrain Embassy waving Palestinian flags before eventually being dispersed by security forces.
Kushner told the conference attendees that Palestinian leaders have no reason not to trust Trump and that he will refine ideas from the conference for an upcoming announcement, according to Ha’aretz. There is no public information on the critical political proposal.
Russia Blamed for Israel GPS Interference
For weeks, planes flying near Israel’s Tel Aviv airport have experienced GPS disruption that Israel now says is the result of Russian cyber warfare.
Israeli security officials say that they believe the interference, which can make planes appear wildly off course, is part of a Russian defense of their planes operating in Syrian air space, according to Ha’aretz. The unexplained disruptions have not affected any landings or takeoffs, and Israel’s government said on Wednesday that “measures are in place” to continue to allow for the safe operation of its largest international airport. The GPS interference affects only planes in the sky and not ground-based sensors.
Russia’s ambassador to Israel has flatly denied the allegation that they are behind the cyber attack calling the claim “fake news” and that it cannot be “taken seriously,” according to the BBC.
A U.S. based researcher at the University of Texas told the Times of Israel that the signal disrupting the flights originates inside a Russian air base inside Syria.
Russia has military forces operating in Syria including air assets housed at Syrian bases. Israel’s air campaign to hold Iranian proxy forces in Syria away from the border hasn’t publicly targeted Russian elements, but Russian air defense systems have activated during Israeli raids, according to Syrian state media.
Earlier last week, the first-ever U.S.-Israel-Russia trilateral meeting took place in Jerusalem. Ha’aretz reported that during a joint press conference on Monday, Netanyhau said that "security cooperation between Russia and Israel has already contributed much to the security and stability of our region and has made a fundamental difference in the situation in the region."
Weekly Gaza Update
Hours after Palestinian media outlets reported that Israel agreed to several economic concessions for the Gaza Strip in exchange for an end to incendiary balloons and violence more than a dozen fires broke out and some 7,000 protested along the border.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health ministry said 50 were wounded at the border on Friday afternoon though reports conflict on how many were wounded from Israeli fire. Rioters threw firebombs and explosives and one video shows an Israeli military vehicle on fire. The Times of Israel also reported that hundreds of incendiary balloons were launched sparking fourteen fires in southern Israel, according to Fire and Rescue Services.
The continual scorching of land in southern Israel has proved to inflict a high cost on the border communities fueling the southern residents’ criticism of the government’s handling of the border protests. Now, the Jerusalem Post reports that the heads of regional councils near the Gaza border are looking into the legal options for filing a complaint against Hamas to the UN in order to protest the disruptions and human rights violations carried out against residents of southern Israel.
The southern border communities have long been on the front line of not only fire kites and balloons but also rocket and mortar attacks. In a video posted by the Unity with the South group on Facebook, a woman says, "I'm from a community near the Gaza Strip and I feel invisible. I feel like the rest of the country doesn't see me."
About one hundred fires were reported in the past week, but Channel 13 reports that no government officials visited the area or discussed the issue with local regional council heads.