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Vice President Joe Biden listens to President Barack Obama in the White House.(Photo by: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)
Briefing: Biden, the Oscars and the collapse of the PA
By PODCAST
03/06/2016
Introducing the weekly briefing on the JPost Podcast.

  
 





US Vice President Joe Biden will arrive in Israel Tuesday for a two-day visit.

Biden will discuss, among other things, the status of a new Memorandum of Understanding spelling out Washington’s security aid to Israel.

The current MoU, which expires in 2018, provided some $30 billion worth of military aid, and the final figure for the new MoU is expected to be considerably higher, reportedly near $50 billion.

Biden is also expected to discuss how to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, and how Israel can use its off-shore natural gas finds to push forward Turkish-Israeli reconciliation.

***

This past week, Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin said the Palestinian Authority was bound to collapse, whether Israel wanted it to or not.

The most likely cause of the collapse, he said, would result from PA President Mahmoud Abbas leaving office, and the ensuing struggle for power. There is no clear successor to Abbas, who will turn 81 this month, and the internal struggle following his retirement or death would likely fell the governing body.

Elkin, a member of the nine-person security cabinet, predicted that a PA collapse would lead to anarchy and increased levels of terrorism.

****

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is exploring legal options to deport families of terrorists.

Netanyahu has been searching for responses to the wave of terrorism that has hit Israel in recent months. The attacks have largely been carried out by so-called lone wolf attackers.

Netanyahu asked Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit for his legal opinion, even after Mandelblit came out against the move, calling it a violation of both Israeli and International law.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the attorney-general does not intend to change his position, despite Netanyahu’s request.

***

The six-country Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, named Hezbollah a terrorist organization, opening up the possibility of further sanctions against the Iran-allied group that wields influence in Lebanon and fights in Syria.

The GCC is dominated by Sunni states; its members include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. It imposed sanctions on the Shi’ite Hezbollah in 2013 after it entered Syria’s war in support of President Bashar Assad.

The move was the latest in an ongoing battle between Sunni and Shi’a in the region, and the intense rivalry between Saudia Arabia and Iran.

***

Russian President Vladamir Putin reportedly suspended the transfer of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. According to a report Saturday in the Kuwaiti daily Al Jarida, the suspension results from Tehran’s violation of an earlier pledge not to provide sophisticated Russian-made weaponry to the Hezbollah.

A senior source told the newspaper that Israel supplied Putin with clear-cut evidence that Tehran had given its proxy Hezbollah SA-22 surface-to-air missiles.

Russian pilots flying their fighter jets over Lebanon and Syria corroborated the intelligence information.

****

American Democrats living in Israel went to the polls on Super Tuesday last week to vote in the Primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Expats may either vote absentee in their home state’s primary or the Democrats Abroad primary, which takes place in 40 countries and culminates in a Global Convention in Berlin in May. Democrats abroad will send 21 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. The results are still unknown.

***

Back in the US, a new Gallup poll has found that the American public remains strongly pro-Israel, with even those aged 18-29 saying they are more sympathetic to Israel than the Palestinians by a margin of more than 2:1.

According to the annual survey of American’s sympathies in the Middle East conflict, 62 percent of the public say their sympathies lie more with Israel than the Palestinians, and only 15% say they are more sympathetic to the Palestinians.

***

Victims of a 1997 triple suicide bombing in Jerusalem have won a major US appeals court judgment involving an award of $9.4 million in damages from Iran.

The attack in question took place on September 4, 1997, when three terrorists set off suicide vests in the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall, killing five Israelis including three 14-year-old girls, and wounding scores more. Iran is accused of funding the terrorism.

The funds could potentially come from Iranian assets frozen in the US, though further appeals are expected.

***

The Academy Awards took place last week, and Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” won for Best Foreign Language Film.

Last year’s winner in the category, Poland’s “Ida,” was also about the Holocaust.

In other film-related news, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip enjoyed their first night out at the movies in 20 years last week.

Gaza’s once-thriving cinemas were set on fire in 1987 during the Palestinian uprising, or Intifada. They were repaired, but torched again during internal violence in 1996.

Last week, the projectors began rolling again in a newly-opened cinema, though shows have been limited to films about the Palestinian struggle for statehood.
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