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Settler violence and IDF collusion deny Palestinians the fruits of their harvest

Stolen fruit, destroyed trees and harassment by the army and settlers wreak havoc with the yearly olive harvest, an essential source of subsistence for West Bank Palestinians.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

“The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up” (Deuteronomy 28:33)

“I’ve been taking care of my trees for 31 years. These are my trees, I planted them, they’re like my children,” says Ali Taher Ali Salah. He is standing in his toy shop in the village of A-Sawiya, watching the children coming and going, buying toys that cost a shekel each. Not far away, near a military base, are his olive groves. We visited him at the height of the olive harvest season in early November. Palestinians rely greatly on the olives and the oil they make from it for their livelihood. Some two months ago, before the official beginning of the harvest, Salah saw children — not much older than the ones who frequent his store — stealing the fruit from his trees, filling one sack after another. “I see them harvesting the olives, putting a sack under the tree. Can you imagine how hard it is for me to see someone else harvesting my trees, and I can’t walk over to him and ask ‘what are you doing?'”

Salah’s grove is located next to another grove that had been looted two weeks earlier. In this case the police arrived on the scene, but made it too late. In Salah’s case, the cops caught the minors red-handed and returned his olives to him, but the case against the thieves was closed due to their young age.

As far as Salah is concerned, the legal side is less important. The impotence by which a person sees his labor stolen before his eyes and can do nothing about it repeats itself time and again. “This should be difficult for me, but also for the State of Israel,” he says.

The latest information sheet we published regarding the olive harvest shows that the State of Israel does not care all that much. The military authorities claim they will permit the Palestinians to harvest their groves “until the last olive” — a policy they are beholden to by a High Court of Justice ruling handed down in the Murad case (Read More

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I'm Israeli, and I want to be blacklisted for boycotting settlement products

I don’t know what sanctions the Israeli government can impose on me for boycotting products made in the settlements, but I’ll accept them proudly.

By Eitan Kalinski

Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, this week recommended to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that a special committee be set up to put together a blacklist of companies, organizations and individuals that call for a boycott of products made in West Bank settlements.

I, the undersigned, am not a limited company nor an organization; I am a private individual who has personally undertaken not to buy products from the settlements.

It’s written in the draft regulations sent by Erdan to Kahlon that sanctions will be placed on anyone who commits not to buy products and services from “areas under Israeli control.” It would be my honor to make the list: in my opinion, it’s a respectable whitelist of citizens who recognize the right of the Palestinian people to establish a state of their own alongside the State of Israel.

I don’t know which sanctions you could place on me, a citizen who is on the threshold of his ninth decade. But I guarantee you I will proudly accept any sanction that the Treasury decides to impose on me, because I am determined to continue not buying products made in the settlements.

Eitan Kalinski is a retired Bible teacher. This article was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Meet the radical Israeli looking to lead Britain's Jewish students

A radical, left-wing British-Israeli has shaken up the race for the next president of the U.K.’s Union of Jewish students, and drawn international media attention. Eran Cohen talks BDS, diasporism, and being wounded by unfriendly IDF fire.

By Matan Kaminer

The election campaign for president of the U.K.’s Union of Jewish Students is not the kind of story you’d expect to be picked up by the international media. But Eran Cohen, a British-Israeli and a radical leftist, is not your usual kind of candidate, and his campaign has generated headlines in Jewish outlets in the U.S. and Israel.

With political views seemingly at odds with that of the wider British Jewish community — traditionally conservative in its outlook, particularly when it comes to Israel — Cohen may seem like a long-shot for the UJS presidency. He is, after all, a BDS supporter, albeit with a more nuanced take than some reports have suggested, and has participated in anti-occupation demonstrations in the West Bank. But this is 2016, and nothing seems impossible — especially not the collapse of common-sense consensus politics in the face of challenges from the Left and Right.

Moreover, as a U.K. poll released last year shows, there may be fertile ground for at least some of Cohen’s message: fewer Jews are identifying as Zionists, most believe peace with the Palestinians should be Israel’s top priority and three-quarters believe settlements are a major obstacle to such peace.

Perhaps this shifting climate is why the representatives of mainstream Jewry in the U.K. seem to be pulling out all the stops, including lame puns, to stop his insurgent, hilarious meme-fuelled campaign. I spoke to Eran in the final leg of his campaign to talk BDS, diasporism and the state of U.K. Jewish politics.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I’m from Kfar Vitkin, a third generation socialist family, and we emigrated just before the start of the Second Intifada. I came back when I was 18 to do my service in the infamous Anarchistim Neged HaGader [Anarchists Against the Wall] unit where I saw combat. Other people’s combat, but still. In the course of a routine operation I was wounded by unfriendly fire from IDF personnel.

What is the UJS? Is there anything in its history that indicates that it might be a good vehicle for progressive or radical ideas?

The Union of Jewish Students...

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Public campaign to increase Arab voices in the media makes its mark

A project aimed at increasing Arab representation in the Israeli media has made rapid gains, using public pressure and hard data. 

Regular followers of the news on Israeli television and radio are unlikely to have missed a significant change that has been taking place over the last few months. More and more Arab interviewees are appearing on the screen, in particular pundits who have been invited to speak about their personal and professional expertise. This was, until recently, a rare sight.

A year ago, Sikkuy — a Jewish-Arab civil rights NGO based in Israel — began a wide-scale public campaign to increase the representation of Arab citizens in the Israeli media. In partnership with The Seventh Eye website we began publishing the statistics on the topic in a weekly “Representation Index.” The statistics show that since March 2016, there has been an increase of dozens of percentage points in the ratio of expert Arab interviewees, and in general there has been a significant increase in the presence of Arab interviewees on television and radio, primarily news programs.

The dramatic change of the last few months and the lively discourse surrounding the issue on social media and in the media world are the direct result of the index and the accompanying publicity. The flood of data, the highlighting of previously excluded figures, and the comparison between them led to a real change in news programs.

The numbers back up the overall impression: while at the beginning of the year around 30 Arab experts appeared on television and radio every month, over the last few months the number of interviewees reached 100 experts or more. Before the index began only around 10 percent of all Arab interviewees were invited to speak about their realm of expertise, and the rest were mainly interviewed on issues characteristic of or identified with Arab society — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, crime, poverty etc. In September the percentage of experts among all Arab interviewees had reached nearly 30 percent.

When we started the campaign to increase the representation of Arabs in the media we never imagined that we would see results within a year. So what caused such a significant change in such a short time and what can we learn from it?

There is no doubt that the first and...

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Supreme Court rules against exposing Israel's role in Bosnian genocide

Citing potential damage to Israel’s foreign relations, the Supreme Court rejects a petition calling to reveal details of the government’s arms exports to the Serbian army during the Bosnian genocide.

By John Brown* (Translated by Tal Haran)

Israel’s Supreme Court last month rejected a petition to reveal details of Israeli defense exports to the former Yugoslavia during the genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s. The court ruled that exposing Israeli involvement in genocide would damage the country’s foreign relations to such an extent that it would outweigh the public interest in knowing that information, and the possible prosecution of those involved.

The petitioners, Attorney Itay Mack and Professor Yair Oron, presented the court with concrete evidence of Israeli defense exports to Serbian forces at the time, including training as well as ammunition and rifles. Among other things, they presented the personal journal of General Ratko Mladić, currently on trial at the International Court of Justice for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Mladić’s journal explicitly mentions Serbia’s ample arms ties with Israel at the time.

The exports took place long after the UN Security Council placed an arms embargo on various parts of the former Yugoslavia, and after the publication of a series of testimonies exposing genocide and the creation of concentration camps.

The Israeli State Attorney’s reply and the court’s rejection of the petition are a de facto admission by Israel that it cooperated with the Bosnian genocide: if the government had nothing to hide, the documents under discussion would not pose any threat to foreign relations.

The most horrific acts of cruelty since the Holocaust

Between 1991 and 1995 the former Yugoslavia shattered, going from a multi-national republic to an assemblage of nations fighting each other in a bloody civil war that included massacres and ultimately genocide.

The Serbs waged war against Croatia from 1991-1992, and against Bosnia from 1992-1995. In both wars the Serbs committed genocide and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the areas they occupied, leading to the deaths of 250,000 people. Tens of thousands of others were wounded and starved, a multitude of women were raped, and many people were incarcerated in concentration camps. Other parties to the conflict also committed war crimes, but the petition focuses on Israel’s collaboration with the Serbian forces. The horrendously cruel...

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Israeli teens charged for brutally beating asylum seeker to death

Darfuri asylum seeker Babikir Adham-Uvdo was beaten to death by two teenagers after he was allegedly seen speaking to a group of young women. Why aren’t more Israelis talking about it?

By John Brown*

Emmett Till was an African-American teenager from Mississippi who was lynched on August 14, 1955 during a visit to his relatives. His murderers mutilated him and threw his body into the Tallahatchie River after he reportedly flirted with a 21-year-old white woman by the name of Carolyn Bryant.

After they were were acquitted, Till’s killers admitted to the crime in an interview, claiming that they did not believe there was anything wrong with what they did. The lynching was one of the central catalyzers of the civil rights movement.

Two weeks ago two Israeli teens murdered Babikir Adham-Uvdo, a Darfuri asylum seeker who lived in the city of Petah Tikva, not far from Tel Aviv. Adham-Uvdo was attacked after he reportedly spoke to two white teenage girls. The teenagers kicked him in the head for an hour and a half, leaving him for dead. His body was found and brought to Rabin Medical Center. After four days in the hospital, Adham-Uvdo was taken off life support and died.

On Sunday the State Attorney indicted the two teenagers, 19-year-old Dennis Bershivitz and a 16-year-old minor, on manslaughter charges. Manslaughter, not murder, since the State Attorney argues that it cannot be proven that the two intended to kill Adham-Uvdo. The State Attorney claims that it cannot be proven that the two acted out of racism.

This is an absurd claim: whoever kicks a helpless person in the head for an hour and a half clearly intends to kill him. It is also clear that the killing was racially motivated: had a white person been caught with the teenage girls, we could safely say that the two attackers would not act the same way.

Channel 10’s Itay Vered’s excellent report [Hebrew] shows how several Petah Tikva locals responded to the attack. One woman can be seen saying “whoever isn’t Jewish can go fuck himself,” a different woman says “this is the Jewish state, why do we need Muslims?” while a passerby is asked his opinion on the fact that a brutal killing had taken place right where he was standing. His response: “Okay, so what? Yalla.”

When Miri Regev, the member of Knesset who once declared Sudanese a ‘cancer’ during an anti-refugee rally, becomes the...

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A dumb and dangerous way to fight anti-Semitism

The U.S. Senate unanimously passes a bill that would force universities to include ‘holding Israel to a double standard’ as a form of anti-Semitism.

By James J. Zogby

Without debate or an actual vote, the U.S. Senate stealthily passed a disturbing and dangerous piece of legislation that would require the Department of Education (DOE) to apply the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism in evaluating complaints of discrimination on U.S. campuses.

The State Department definition of and guidelines on anti-Semitism were designed to help U.S. officials monitor anti-Semitism abroad. They were not intended to be applied to police speech on college campuses at home.

In developing their definition and guidance, the State Department adopted language used by the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC):

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious institutions.”

This description of anti-Semitism is both correct and instructive, as are several examples of contemporary anti-Semitism mentioned in the State Department guidance, including: “accusing Jews, as a people, of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the State of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews”; or “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews – or the power of Jews – as a collective.” These and other examples cited in the guidance are objectively anti-Semitic and patently wrong.

Where the State Department guidance goes off the rails is when it tries to expand the definition to include “anti-Semitism relative to Israel,” citing, as examples, speech that demonizes or delegitimizes Israel or that applies a double standard to it. The example given for applying a “double standard for Israel” is “requiring…behavior [of Israel] not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” With this expansion of the definition of anti-Semitism, the guidance becomes both subjective and open to dangerous abuse by those who would use it to silence criticism of Israel.

This language is so vague and open to interpretation that when the University of California Board of Regents was being pressed to apply the State Department guidance to California campuses, the lead author of the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism objected, pointing out the dangers this would present to free speech. “Enshrining such a definition...

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For Palestinian citizens, Israel was and remains a Shin Bet state

Israel’s military rule over its Palestinian citizens may have ended in 1966, but the long arm of the Shin Bet and the police continues to meddle in our private affairs. I know from personal experience.

By Yaser Abu Areesha

“What did you do?!” yelled my mother, God rest her soul, with a mix of fear and anger.

I was 23 years old and the year was 2009. She called close to midnight as I made my way toward my home in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood, following a long day of work. I tried to calm her down and understand what she wanted. “You have been summoned for interrogation by the police,” she told me.

I was shocked. My body froze as I felt the fear seep into me, causing my knees to nearly buckle. I regained my composure, trying to stay on the line with her. And while I was fairly certain that I did nothing to merit an interrogation, I was still frightened. Along with the fear, however, I was curious how my name reached the police, and all this during my first days as a student.

I calmed down my mother and explained that I would be home the following day. I tried to maintain my cool, telling her that there must be some misunderstanding, and that even if the police did want to speak to me — I had done nothing wrong. My mother did not agree that I would stay the night in Jaffa, so I headed north to my hometown of Fureidis — leaving me feeling even more helpless. I had to see the summons with my own eyes, hoping to find in it even the slightest explanation or piece of information. But when I arrived I discovered that this was the full message that awaited me:

Summons for interrogation: You are hereby summonsed for questioning at the Zichron Ya’akov police station.

Just like that, without details: simply head over to the station. And Arabs, as Majd Kayyal (who underwent a Shin Bet interrogation following a trip to Lebanon) once said, do not ask the regime “why.”

Pleased to meet you

The following day I headed over to the police station, where I was met by an elderly, exhausted duty officer. “Your summons does not appear in our system, please go to the Hadera police station.” Her response astounded me; while I was stressing out and losing...

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Following complaints, bus company halts Arabic-language announcements

Residents of Be’er Sheva were enraged to find out that a new bus company had announcements in both Hebrew and Arabic. After numerous complaints, the Arabic announcements came to an end.

By John Brown*

An Israeli bus company in the southern city of Be’er Sheva stopped activating its Arabic-language announcement system last week, following complaints by city residents.

The company, Dan Be’er Sheva, won a tender in January of this year, replacing the Metro Dan company to the delight of many residents, who have repeatedly criticized the city’s poor public transportation. The new buses include a PA system, which announces upcoming stations in both Hebrew and Arabic in order to make public transportation accessible to more segments of the population. Tens of thousands of Arabic speakers live in Be’er Sheva, which serves as a metropolis to over 200,000 Bedouin in the surrounding areas. Arabic is Israel’s second official language.

It turns out that Arabic announcements, however, were too much for some residents. Their complaints over the bi-lingual PA system were first published on social media and included calls for boycotting the company. A local Be’er Sheva news site even ran a story under the headline, “Be’er Sheva’s residents are enraged: ‘Announcements in Arabic on the bus, from Metro Dan we have become Metro-Gaza.'” According to the article, the residents were surprised to discover not only that the bus also includes the written Arabic name for every stop, but that the bus’ PA system announces the name of every station in Arabic. One complainant said the announcements reminded him of Iran, adding that soon they would “start building mosques.”

Following the complaints, the company put an end to Arabic announcements on public buses, at least temporarily. According to the Ministry of Transportation, public buses must include written Arabic names, but not announcements.

Attorney Shada Aamer of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) demanded Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz bring back the announcements. “There is no doubt that this decision is illegitimate and illegal, which excludes an entire public from the public sphere and harms its basic right to equality,” Aamer wrote. “The Transportation Ministry must work to permanently fix the situation and to bring back the Arabic announcements in all bus lines in Be’er Sheva and in the rest of the country.”

The Transportation Ministry issued the following response:

Implementing Arabic announcement systems in public transportation in Israel’s main cities is one...

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Will the Trump administration treat Middle Easterners as inferior?

What foreign leaders would possibly be willing to engage in tough negotiations with the Trump administration if its top officials approach them as defective?

By Derek Davison

On Friday, Donald Trump’s transition team announced that Fox News national security analyst Kathleen Troia McFarland will serve as his Deputy National Security Advisor, working under National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn. McFarland previously served on Gerald Ford’s National Security Council and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs in the Reagan administration, from 1982 to 1985.

NBC News predicted that McFarland’s appointment “will likely be far less controversial” than that of her new boss, Flynn, which is a fair assessment. It’s not every administration, after all, that appoints a National Security Advisor who says that Islam is “like a cancer,” who argues that “fear of Muslims is rational,” and who has taken money from foreign governments in the very recent past. Neither should McFarland’s appointment raise as many eyebrows as notorious Islamophobe Clare Lopez’s would have. Lopez had been considered a front-runner for the position McFarland has now taken.

But McFarland’s appointment does seem to confirm that the Trump administration’s foreign policy will be shaped by people who fundamentally believe that there is something inferior about the people of the Middle East, and that the United States must pursue confrontation as its primary response to Middle Eastern nations. McFarland may not be as incendiary in her views as Flynn, but consider the “one essential truth of the Middle East” that she claimed to offer readers of her blog back in 2014:

Why? Because we failed to realize one essential truth of the Middle East — that the nations in that part of the world aren’t just like us.

We in the West think of peace as society’s default position. War is a temporary state of affairs that happens when peace fails. For us, war is something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When it is over, win or lose, the warring factions lay down their arms, and resume their normal lives.

In the modern Middle East, war and peace are seen through a different lens. War is the default position, the normal state of affairs. Peace is what happens between wars; it is the temporary pause where defeated factions fade into the woodwork to lie low, regroup, and...

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If you're Palestinian in Israel, satire can land you in jail

Anas Abudaabes was arrested last week for publishing a satirical Facebook post criticizing Arabs who celebrated the wildfires raging across Israel. Three separate judges claimed he was inciting to violence.

By John Brown*

The Be’er Sheva District Court rejected an appeal on the detention of Bedouin journalist Anas Abudaabes on Sunday, after he was arrested last week over a Facebook post. The police, which claimed the post incited people to commit arson in the wake of the current wildfires blazing across Israel, decided to release Abudaabes from detention under restrictive bail conditions.

Despite the stated reasons for his arrest, Abudaabes’ Facebook posts actually criticize Arabs from surrounding countries who are praising the fires on social media. In one of his two posts he satirically suggests to burn more forests in order to win the respect of the celebrants. He also mocks Muslims who suddenly forgot that protecting nature is supposed to be part of their religion. The irony of the posts was lost on the police detectives.

Abudaabes’s attorney Eyal Avital explained to the court that the posts were satirical and were even criticized for their content — even going so far as to present to the court an article published on Local Call, which includes a translation of the statuses (originally published in Arabic). Yet the judges remained unmoved; the case was brought before them three times, and each time they upheld his detention.

Last Friday Judge Alon Gabison ruled that there is reasonable suspicion that the post includes incitement to harming state security, and that the author of the post should have thought about how others would interpret his words. The police explains that the status was written in very high language, and thus there are those who will not be able to understand it.

On Saturday Judge Orit Lifshitz ruled that “ostensibly an innocent reader who reads this post and did not read the other posts could come to the conclusion that it is a post intended to encourage the arsons.” Avital’s argued in response that even if what Lifshitz says is true, Abudaabes acted without any criminal intention. On Sunday Judge Amit Cohen approved the judges’ rulings, arguing that the posts were posed a danger to state security, and that the question of Abudaabes’ sarcasm will have to wait for the trial itself.

To Abudaabes luck, the police decided to release him, although it is not...

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Before the fires are out, Israeli politicians blame the Arabs

Security officials and counter-terrorism experts warn against calling wildfires terrorism, but Israeli politicians and some media have no such qualms. How do you reach a conclusion before the investigation is even started?

By Yael Marom

As tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, and as the flames were still burning across Israel and Palestine, Israeli leaders already found someone to blame, several Israeli news outlets declared the start of the “Arson Intifada,” and government ministers were lining up to describe the wave of fires as an act of Palestinian nationalistic violence.

The sight of flames devouring homes, neighborhoods and forests is devastating. It’s impossible not to feel for the tens of thousands of of people who have been forced to flee from their homes, and the thousands who have lost their worldly belongings. But it’s also impossible to not wonder how, as all of this is happening, Israel’s leaders seem so preoccupied with inciting against the Arab population.

To be clear, it’s entirely possible that not all of the dozens of fires in Israel and Palestine over the past few days broke out accidentally or naturally. It’s fire season — the combination of unusual dryness for this time of year and strong winds make wildfires a naturally occurring threat. And on top of that, Palestinian and Arab towns, cities and villages, have also been evacuated and hit by the fires — they’re not “targeting” Jews.

As Haggai Matar pointed out in Hebrew on Local Call, wildfires have been breaking out throughout the region over the past few days. A map from Global Forest Watch, a site that monitors wildfires via satellite imagery, seems to demonstrate that the fires are not limited to Israel. (See it here.)

“Though law enforcement has been loath to comment definitively [on the cause of the fires] before additionally evidence could be collected and processed,” the Times of Israel noted, ”politicians have had no such qualms.”

The wave of fires came just at the right moment for Israel’s prime minister. Somehow it always works out for him that way. There’s nothing like a fire to distract the public from a corruption scandal involving the purchase of unnecessary military submarines and the prime minister’s personal lawyer. Netanyahu knows that there’s nothing like an opportunity to blame it all on the Arabs, and that the media will eagerly...

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What happens if Trump rips up the Iran deal? A view from Israel

President-elect Trump is just two months away from controlling America’s nuclear arsenal. His supporters are already working on torpedoing Obama’s greatest foreign policy success.

By Shemuel Meir

For many the combination of the words “Donald Trump” and “nuclear weapons” is the stuff of nightmares. “If we have nuclear weapons — why don’t we use it?” asked Trump during his presidential campaign. In his view nuclear weapons is akin to conventional weapons, which means they can be used to promote U.S. interests. This is the man who on January 20th, 2017 will be in control of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Nuclear weapons are “monarchic,” such that the president of the U.S. is the sole decision maker over when to use them.

Equally worrying was Trump’s imploring Japan and South Korea — both of which enjoy America’s nuclear umbrella under a NATO-type defense treaty — to forgo the alliance with the U.S. and to arm themselves with nuclear weapons in the face of North Korean threats. The “proposal,” whose significance would be dismantling the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — the most universal treaty in the world, and the foundation of the global nuclear order.

But what about the Middle East? During his speech at the annual AIPAC conference in March of this year, Trump declared that the number one priority of his administration would be to “dismantle the agreement with Iran, which is a disaster.” People from Trump’s inner circle (though not Trump himself) added that the “bad deal” needs to be torn up on the first day of his presidency.

These issues, alongside additional strategic topics, are at the top of the priority list among Trump’s “first day” team, which views undoing Obama’s legacy as its top goal. The uncertainty over whether Trump will make good on his campaign promises make it difficult to truly analyze the current situation. It’s important, however, to raise the issues in light of what may come.

It is especially important to follow and see who will be appointed to Trump’s National Security Cabinet. The assumption that he will appoint neoconservatives does not bode well for the stability of the Middle East and the rest of the world. For instance, rumors that John Bolton will be appointed secretary of state. Bolton is among the harshest opponents of the Iran deal. In his article last week, Bolton ignored the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) reports,...

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