Friday, March 17, 2017

Israel’s Next Big War

From the Forward, 16 March 2017, by Yossi Alpher:

Getty Images

Israel’s next big war is almost certainly going to pit it against some combination of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah forces along its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon. To be sure, an additional confrontation with Hamas in Gaza (Israel’s opponent in the costly 2014 Gaza War. which led to the death of roughly 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis) could also be in the offing. But the forthcoming war in Israel’s North — home to an estimated 1.2 million people — could be closer to the kind of all-out war that the Jewish state hasn’t fought since 1973.

The reasons have far less to do with the Arab-Israel conflict than with the ongoing civil war in Syria and the continuing confrontation between Iran and Israel. The outcome could result in considerable destruction inside Israel, but also in a strengthening of Israel’s burgeoning strategic ties with its Sunni neighbors — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — who alongside their reservations on the Palestinian issue share Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s aggressive regional ambitions. In this sense, a confrontation in Israel’s north would decisively reflect current far-reaching changes in the Middle East strategic balance of power.

Syria’s civil war is winding down, at least in the Western or non-desert part of Syria facing the Mediterranean — appropriately termed “Useful Syria” — and in the South, along Syria’s borders with the Israeli Golan Heights and Jordan. Iranian and Russian intervention has turned the tide in favor of the Assad regime in Damascus. In helping Bashar al-Assad to win on the ground, Tehran has mustered a broad war coalition of Shiite mercenaries from as near as southern Lebanon’s Hezbollah and as far afield as Afghanistan and Iraq. The end of fighting in Useful Syria is liable to leave all these battle-tested forces near the Golan. Alongside them will be al-Assad’s ally, Hezbollah, with its estimated arsenal of close to 100,000 rockets and missiles capable of targeting most of Israel, as far south as the Dimona nuclear reactor.

True, Iran’s proxy army, as well as Hezbollah, suffered losses in Syria and is battle weary. But Iran now has the financial resources to speed its return to battle-readiness. This force is understood by Israeli military intelligence to represent the primary military threat to the country for several reasons.

First, both Iran and Hezbollah continue to issue a barrage of threats against Israel — hardly the pose of someone shying away from a fight. In February, Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, pictured above, referred to Israel as “a cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut.”

Second, victory in Syria will represent a major Iranian strategic success in projecting its power in the region. Iran, which is zealously buying top-flight weapons from Russia, is trying to develop a Mediterranean naval presence as well, with a port on the Syrian coast.

Forward Graphic

Third, a combination of Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah pressure has spurred a political shift in Lebanon. President Michel Aoun, a Christian who owes his recent election to Hezbollah support, stated on February 12 that Hezbollah’s weapons are complementary to those of the Lebanese army: “The resistance’s [meaning Hezbollah’s] arms are … an essential part of Lebanon’s defense.”

This groundbreaking and, inside Lebanon, controversial statement abrogates Lebanese policy that once proclaimed that only the Lebanese army defends the country. Lebanon used to at least project a certain distance between Hezbollah’s strategic aims and activities and those of sovereign Lebanon.

Already there are signs that the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon is deferring to Hezbollah forces along Israel’s border. Given the [collaboration] between the Lebanese military and Hezbollah’s forces, Israel is justified in deeming another attack by Hezbollah an act of war by Lebanon itself and responding militarily against the Lebanese army and the country’s infrastructure. Yet this could have a devastating effect on both Lebanon’s delicate internal ethnic equilibrium and Israel’s otherwise improving relations with the Arab world.

On March 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow for a summit with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, for the fourth time in the past 18 months. Since Russian forces entered Syria in September 2015 to rescue the Assad regime, Jerusalem and Moscow have had much to talk about, including ways to ensure that Israeli and Russian combat aircraft don’t get into dogfights in the skies over Damascus. Changed global strategic circumstances may also now dictate that Netanyahu exploit his close contacts with both Putin and President Trump to pass messages between the two. But Netanyahu very pointedly stated after his meeting that the main agenda item was Iran: not the Iran nuclear deal, which is a fait accompli, but the growing Iranian military threat to Israel from Syria and Lebanon.

These developments raise weighty questions.

  • Can Putin be persuaded to escort Iran’s forces and proxies out of Syria as part of the Russian endgame there? 
  • Will the Israeli threat to target all of Lebanon next time around succeed in deterring another war with Hezbollah, or could it have the unfortunate effect of widening that war? 
  • And if war breaks out and Hezbollah rains tens of thousands of missiles over most of Israel, will an all-out Israeli response that targets large portions of both Syria and Lebanon succeed in ending the next war quickly? 
  • Will Iranian forces suffer enough damage in the fighting to deter Tehran in the future? 
  • Will Israel, too, suffer heavy civilian and infrastructure damage?

Last but not least, where does the Trump administration weigh in regarding the increasing Iranian threat to Israel from Syrian and Lebanese soil? 

The United States and Russia are potentially the only parties capable of changing the reality on the ground in Syria. The Arab world certainly won’t.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A sick new low for UK aid to the PA

From The Daily Mail (Australia), 16 March 2017, by Ian Birrell In Hebron:

Palestinian boys and girls pretend to execute an Israeli soldier – as teachers at schools funded by YOU tell their pupils that terrorists are heroes 

  • Palestinian schools funded by British foreign aid are named after terrorists 
  • Pictures of 'martyrs' and revolutionary slogans are posted all over the walls
  • Despite this millions of pounds of aid continues to pour into the region
  • The Mail on Sunday is calling on the government to end foreign aid madness 

Britain is pumping huge sums of foreign aid into Palestinian schools named after mass murderers and Islamist militants, which openly promote terrorism and encourage pupils to see child killers as role models.

A Mail on Sunday investigation has found 24 schools named after Palestinian terrorists and evidence of widespread encouragement of violence against Israel by teachers, with terrorists routinely held up as heroes for schoolchildren.

Pictures of ‘martyrs’ are posted on school walls, revolutionary slogans and symbols are painted on premises used by youngsters, sports events are named after teenage terrorists and children are encouraged to act out shooting Israeli soldiers in plays.

In a sick classroom play children at the Al-Surra School surround a classmate dressed as an Israeli soldier to play out a mock 'execution'
In a sick classroom play children at the Al-Surra School surround a classmate dressed as an Israeli soldier to play out a mock 'execution'

Head teachers openly admit flouting attempts by British and European donors to control the curriculum at schools. They print overtly political study aids for pupils, some even denying the existence of Israel, and teachers boast of encouraging pupils to emulate teenage attackers killed in the most recent wave of terrorist attacks in the region.

One senior teacher from a prominent West Bank school, asked what he would say to a pupil threatening to attack Israelis, told this newspaper: ‘I would tell them go in the name of God.’

This is all despite a review of the hundreds of millions of pounds in donations poured into Palestinian public services last year, which came after Western donors raised concerns about the indoctrination of children.

The changes to aid handouts followed a furore sparked by a previous Mail on Sunday investigation exposing how British taxpayers’ cash supported monthly payments to convicted terrorist killers and the families of suicide bombers.

 After the soldier was 'shot' dead the photo was posted on the school's Facebook page 
 After the soldier was 'shot' dead the photo was posted on the school's Facebook page 

The investigation also discovered that British aid was funding salaries for thousands of civil servants who had not worked for nine years, despite many admitting they had second jobs. These payments were stopped three months ago.

The investigation was part of this newspaper’s long-running campaign against the Government’s commitment to foreign aid which is set to reach £12 billion.

Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel and MP for Enfield North, said she supported sending aid to Palestine but urged Ministers to make the Palestinians stick to funding agreements. She said: ‘We cannot stand idly by while the Palestinian Authority sanctions anti-Semitic incitement which poisons young minds and makes a two-state solution ever more difficult to achieve.’
Girls play outside Dalal Mughrabi high school. In 1976 Mughrabi led an attack that left 37 people dead, 12 of them children 
Girls play outside Dalal Mughrabi high school. In 1976 Mughrabi led an attack that left 37 people dead, 12 of them children 

This year alone Britain is giving £25 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA). It will help fund salaries for 30,000 officials in West Bank health and education.

The EU, which gets one-tenth of its aid budget from Britain, is donating £272 million. More than half of this goes to public servants in education, health and social services in Gaza and West Bank.

Dalal Mughrabi was a member of the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)
Dalal Mughrabi was a member of the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)

Both the Department for International Development and the EU say the use of such money is carefully vetted by accountants. But a new report prepared for Labour Friends of Israel by Palestinian Media Watch, a respected Israeli monitoring organisation, has discovered:

  • Twenty-four schools named after prominent Palestinian terrorists, including four named after the man who planned the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, one after the founder of militant Islamist group Hamas and one after Amin al-Husseini, the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who backed Hitler and helped recruit for the SS.
  • Sports events being regularly named after terrorists. Typical was a football tournament, hosted by a school in al-Bireh, named after a 13-year-old who stabbed two Israeli citizens a few weeks earlier. His 15-year-old friend was shot dead in the attack.
  • Plays put on at schools and summer camps have pupils staging ‘executions’, such as one in Hebron featuring a child draped in Palestinian colours ‘shooting’ another dressed as an Israeli soldier. The images were posted on the school’s Facebook page.
  • The Palestinian ministry of education planted trees to commemorate terrorists killed in ‘the ongoing popular uprising’. It was a means of ‘honouring the martyrs, among them school students, and to strengthen the sense of belonging to the land.’

Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch, said British aid was backing the glorification of terrorism and indoctrination of Palestinian children to see murderers as role models
‘Britain and the European Union bear responsibility for this terror when they are funding a school system that is actively promoting, and thereby creating, terrorism,’ he said. ‘This is simply child abuse, encouraging kids to die in armed struggle.‘It is a terrible message for the next generation. Children are the key to peace but look at what they are being exposed to from a young age, growing up in an environment of terror and told the killing of Israelis is a heroic action.’
One of the schools he identified was Khalil al-Wazir elementary school for girls in Hebron.

This is named after the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s former military mastermind known as Abu Jihad, who was blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis.

The smart hilltop school has an image of his face painted inside its grounds alongside the words: ‘Abu Jihad. First the bullets and first the stones.’ The logo for political group Fatah, which runs the West Bank, is sprayed beside the main gate with its familiar crossed guns.

In one corner of the courtyard can be found a plaque marking the ‘construction and rehabilitation of toilets, storage facilities and drinking fountains’ funded by EU aid.

Another of the schools is Dalal Mughrabi high school for girls in al-Shuyukh, Hebron. It is one of three named after the woman who led the most lethal terror attack in Israeli history, a 1978 bus hijacking that left 37 people dead, including 12 children.

A mural nearby Khalil al-Wazir girls' school depicts PLO terrorist Abu Jihad, blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis 
A mural nearby Khalil al-Wazir girls' school depicts PLO terrorist Abu Jihad, blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis 

A map of Israel and the Occupied Territories was painted on the wall beside the front door – filled in entirely with the Palestinian flag to illustrate the ‘illegitimacy’ of Israel’s existence. Pupils told me they knew little about Mughrabi. But girls at another school named after her told Palestinian television three years ago of their pride in attending a place named after ‘a great leader’. One said her ‘life’s ambition’ was to emulate such a hero.

A teacher also hailed Mughrabi as ‘one of the brave female fighters who carried out martyrdom-seeking operations.’

An education official in Hebron told me they did not see such a person as a terrorist since she was defending the people’s rights against repressive occupation. ‘We do not consider her a child killer,’ he insisted. ‘Where is the problem in calling schools after such martyrs?’

As we talked, a colleague tapped away on a computer with a USAid sticker on it, one of 25 recently donated to the municipality.

One of Barack Obama’s last acts as President was to hand $221 million (£181 million) to the PA hours before Donald Trump succeeded him.

The move highlights how a corrupt regime is propped up by foreign aid, with £14 billion handed over during its 23-year existence. Foreign support has fallen recently, causing financial problems in the struggling region, yet terrorists and their families are still being paid £246 million a year.

Western donors, stung by accusations of aiding terrorism, forced the PA to change its school curriculum at the start of this school year by weeding out controversial issues in history, geography and religion.

In the courtyard of Khalil al-Wazir girls' school a plaque marks out that it's funded by the EU
In the courtyard of Khalil al-Wazir girls' school a plaque marks out that it's funded by the EU

Teachers told me they were now meant to be barred from discussing the 1948 Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were exiled or fled from their homes during Israel’s war of independence. Koranic verses referring to jihad are also off limits.

But they brazenly said they ignored the bans, claiming their leaders agree controls just to get through the vetting process and obtain aid cash in full knowledge any restrictions will be brushed aside in classrooms.

‘This is how it works,’ said Anwar Abu Quak, an English teacher in Ramallah. ‘They apply for funds, they get funds and they claim they will remove things from our textbooks. Then the principals tell teachers to take it upon themselves to teach the right things. Why should we listen to the foreign donors? They are buying the politicians and civil servants with their money, not those of us teaching the kids.’

He admitted they talked about the Nakba and ‘martyrs’ in lessons. ‘We tell them they are the foundation of our people,’ he said. ‘It is important to name schools after the martyrs. There should be monuments in schools celebrating them.

A Hamas demonstration in Palestine. Nabil Samara, a headteacher, said: 'If I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation' 
A Hamas demonstration in Palestine. Nabil Samara, a headteacher, said: 'If I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation' 

‘Where does all this aid money go?’ he asked. ‘First look at the schools, with no libraries or playgrounds and 45 children to a class – then look at the well-furnished offices of officials.’ He added that he had never seen a Western donor visit his school premises.

Nabil Samara, head of the 850-pupil school, spent two spells in prison for affiliation to a terror group and one for encouraging teachers to incite violence. He has seen five pupils shot dead in protests during his decade in charge (their pictures are displayed in the school) and about 20 jailed. ‘As long as the occupation continues it is impossible for us not to be inciting violence,’ said Samara, 58.

‘The donor countries put in their rules but if I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation.’

He admitted they printed their own leaflets to flesh out the new curriculum, including ones for geography lessons showing Palestine occupying all the territory of Israel, as before its creation in 1948.

‘The geography of Palestine has been removed from the curriculum,’ he said. ‘We should not take money with all these conditions. It is my job to teach children our history, our geography and our religion.’...

Samara insisted that he would seek to stop any of his pupils from actively participating in attacks on Israel
Stone-throwing "students"actively participating in attacks on Israeli civilians

Netanyahu urges Putin to block Iranian power corridor on Israel’s border

From the Washington Post,  March 9, by David Filipov and Ruth Eglash:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Moscow. (Pool photo by Pavel Golovkin via European Pressphoto Agency)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [is] seeking reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country’s presence in Syria would help Israel block arch-nemesis Iran from taking advantage of the chaos to position itself permanently on Israel’s northern border.

Until now, the Israeli government has stayed relatively quiet about developments in the six-year-old conflict raging in neighboring Syria, acting militarily only when it feels its security threatened. But now, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad receives a boost from the strategic alliance between Russia and Iran, Tehran’s expanding influence across the region is causing alarm in Israel.

...Netanyahu noted the significant progress made by Russia and other players in the region in fighting Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. He added, however, that
“the victory over the terrorism of ISIS cannot lead to an upsurge in terrorism by Iran and its proxies. We will not exchange terrorism for terrorism.” ...
...Although Russia is unhappy with some of Iran’s strategic objectives in a postwar Syria, it is unclear how far Putin would go in supporting Israeli action to prevent Iran from building a sphere of influence from Tehran to Lebanon, via Syria and Iraq.

“Syria is at a crossroads right now. On one side, there is a cease-fire that seems to be holding and Assad has managed to regain control of parts of his country. Israel is worried that Iran and its proxies will gain a permanent foothold in Syria,” said senior Israeli minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu.

Ever since Russia entered Syrian territory two years ago, Israel has repeatedly emphasized to Putin its red lines regarding Iran and the groups it supports — Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Shiite militias involved in the fighting in Syria. Netanyahu has visited Moscow four times over the past 1½ years, and the two sides have struck cooperation agreements aimed at preventing confrontations between their warplanes in Syrian airspace.

 With rapid changes on the ground, however, Hanegbi said Israel feels it is time to focus on the future.

In its official statements, Moscow has been unwilling to make predictions about what would happen with Iran’s military buildup after the end of hostilities in Syria.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, in an interview with the newspaper al-Hayat on Sunday that was quoted by the Interfax news agency, said that any decision on the withdrawal of Iranian forces would rest with Syria’s leaders.
“The lawful authorities who will be lawfully chosen in Syria would be the ones with the right to demand the withdrawal of all foreign powers from the country,” Bogdanov said.
This official stance reflects the reality that Putin has neither the ability nor the intention to exclude Iran from a settlement in Syria, not when Iran’s role in supporting Assad far exceeds that of Russia, said Vladimir Frolov, a foreign-policy analyst based on Moscow.

 During the course of Syria’s war, Iran has provided billions of dollars to shore up Assad’s regime and contributed much of the manpower that has sustained the depleted Syrian army’s capabilities, in the form of Shiite militias recruited from the region and elsewhere.

In the process, Iran has significantly expanded its reach across Syria, giving it new strategic depth in any future conflict with Israel. Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are now present along the 1967 cease-fire line with Israel in the Golan Heights, putting them directly opposite Israeli troops for the first time. 

Hezbollah, which has fought wars with Israel and has an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 fighters in Syria, is also active in the Golan.

 On Wednesday, an Iranian-allied Shiite militia from Iraq, Hezbollah al-Nujaba, announced that it had established a new unit, the Golan Liberation Brigade, dedicated to liberating the remainder of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel since 1967.

...Iran is also thought to have deployed missiles in Syria capable of reaching deep inside Israeli territory.

While refraining from commenting on the war in Syria, Israel is believed to have carried out unclaimed airstrikes inside Syria targeting suspected Iranian and Hezbollah weapons storage sites and missile depots in recent years. Russia has turned a blind eye to the strikes.

Putin, who has made support for Assad a cornerstone of his policy, would probably be unwilling to go beyond that and support an Israeli incursion.

“Given all this, it is hard to see what Putin could promise to Netanyahu,” Frolov said. “He might, and likely will, promise a lot, but is in no position to deliver.”

U.S. envoy to U.N. says 'we need to get Iran' out of Syria

From Reuters, 8 March 2017, by Michelle Nichols:

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks while Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho (L) and South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae-yul (R) look on during a press encounter after meeting on North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles at the United Nations in New York, U.S., March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks while Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho (L) and South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae-yul (R) look on during a press encounter after meeting on North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles at the United Nations in New... REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The United States supports the U.N.-led Syria peace talks, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday, saying Syria could no longer be a "safe haven for terrorists" and that it was important "we get Iran and their proxies out."

Haley spoke to reporters after U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the Security Council behind closed doors on 10 days of talks between the warring parties in Geneva, which ended last week.

She did not respond to questions on whether the United States believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, should step down.

All eyes have been on how Washington would approach ending the six-year war in Syria, given pledges by President Donald Trump to build closer ties with Russia, especially in the fight against Islamic State. Trump's Syria policy has been unclear.

"The United States absolutely supports Staffan de Mistura and the work that he's doing, we support the U.N. process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue," Haley said.

"This is very much about a political solution now ... and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists, we've got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we've got to make sure that, as we move forward, we're securing the borders for our allies as well," she said.

Iran is backing fighters in Syria from Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah....

Iran Poses the Greatest Threat

From the US Department of Defense, 9 March 2017, by  Lisa Ferdinando:

Iran poses the most significant threat to U.S. Central Command's complex area of responsibility, Centcom commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Centcom has dealt with a number of significant challenges over the past 12 months, including in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt and the Sinai, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, he said.

"We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region," the general said at the hearing on the posture of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command.
"It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world," Votel said.
Iranian activities of concern, according to Votel, include "malign influence across Iraq and Syria," and efforts to prop up the Syrian regime and exploit Shia population centers.

'Highly Complex Area'
The Centcom area of responsibility, which covers four million square miles from the Arabian Gulf region into Central Asia, remains a "highly complex area, widely characterized by pervasive instability and conflict," he said.

The region is "increasingly crowded" with external nation-states, including Russia and China, that are pursuing their own interests in attempting to shift alliances, Votel said.

...Violent extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are taking advantage of the fragile security environment of heightened ethno-sectarian tensions, economic uncertainty, and weak or corrupt governance, Votel explained.

VIDEO | 01:01 | Centcom Commander Discusses Organization’s Mission, Goals at Senate Hearing

..."While we must take the necessary actions to counter immediate threats, such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria," Votel’s written statement to the committee said, "we also need to find ways to address these and other root causes of instability if we hope to achieve lasting positive effects in that part of the world."...

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran

From Israel Hayom, 9 March 2017, by Ariel Bolstein:

...Russia, which has exhausted its military moves in Syria, is searching for a future strategy that will allow it to integrate into the world of U.S. President Donald Trump. 

Russia has paid a high price for its confrontation with the West. True, as a result of the United States' geopolitical retreat under former U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian influence has grown on a few fronts, primarily in the Middle East, but this achievement is not worth much without American recognition of Russia's new-old status as a world power.

The changing of the guard in Washington provided Moscow with a unique opportunity to turn the page on its relationship with the West, but the significance of such a change would also mean concessions on its part.

It seems that Russia may meet Trump halfway on the Iranian issue. Russia did not have much in common with the country of Islamic revolution from the outset, and the collaboration between them stems more from a desire on the part of both countries to challenge the existing world order.

Indications of Russia's openness to the idea of turning its back on Iran have been noted on Russian state television. ...In recent weeks, these programs have raised the possibility of placing Iran on the sacrificial altar between Moscow and Washington, and this was received with understanding by a majority of participants. 

One must remember that Putin and as a result the Russian public are determined to witness Russia's inclusion in the select club of world powers, but they have no interest in dragging others who also claim the crown along with them, and certainly not Iran.

From Israel's perspective, Netanyahu is now the only statesman to enjoy the trust of and an unprecedented friendship with both the White House and the Kremlin. Israel has succeeded in preserving its interests in the tempest of upheaval in the Middle East, in large part due to the relationship Netanyahu has forged with Putin. The Russians have been forced to honor Israel's freedom of action in the region and have come to understand full well Israel's determination to act whenever Israeli considerations require that it do so.

In the Trump era, Israel's stock has risen even more in the eyes of the Russians. Moscow could not help but notice the special affinity Trump has shown toward Netanyahu and the feelings of solidarity they share. Israel is clearly not operating within a vacuum -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia after Netanyahu, and later in the month, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will do the same -- but those in the Kremlin must understand the differences in influence among these three figures.

The possible resolution in Syria and its de facto division into regions of influence underscores the need to stop the expansion and strengthening of Iran. Russia needs to understand that Hezbollah's murderousness and lack of humanity is no different from that of the Sunni terrorists it so mercilessly bombed. There should be one law for the Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham -- formerly Nusra Front -- and Hezbollah. If Russia operates according to this principle, its standing and the security of the region will vastly improve.

"Progressive" Jews fuelling antisemitism

From Isi Leibler, 15 March 2017:

...the crass political exploitation of their Jewish identity by American leaders of purportedly “nonpartisan” mainstream Jewish organizations is unprecedented. Today, in what must be described as self-destruction, a substantial number of irresponsible leaders of the most successful and powerful Jewish diaspora community seem to have gone berserk and are fueling anti-Semitism.

Nobody suggests that Jews should not be entitled, like all American citizens, to engage in political activity of their choice ...but as leaders of mainstream religious and communal organizations, they are obliged, as in the past, to assiduously avoid being perceived as promoting partisan political positions.

...Let us set aside the fact that many of these liberal Jewish organizations have also distanced themselves from or even abandoned Israel. They have done so even though the Trump administration has the potential of restoring the U.S.-Israel alliance that then-President Barack Obama undermined in a vain effort to appease Muslims. 

It is also clear that, for many assimilated liberal Jews, Israel is no longer a priority, especially now that President Donald Trump has signaled his intentions to renew the alliance.

The facts are that liberal Jewish leaders have declared a hysterical war against the Trump administration. Led initially by the Anti-Defamation League but rapidly joined by the Reform and Conservative wings of the Jewish community, many Jewish community leaders have exploited their positions to endorse a vicious campaign in which Trump is portrayed as a satanic anti-Semite promoting fascism and racism, representing the antithesis of Jewish values. This, despite the reality that his presidency highlights an unprecedented acceptance of Jews at the highest levels of government.

Headed by CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Obama staffer, the ADL initiated its campaign during the elections by effectively echoing the far-left J Street. It accused Trump of tolerating and encouraging anti-Semitism and white supremacy and engaging in Islamophobia. Greenblatt went so far as to proudly announce that if immigration restrictions weighed against Muslims, he would proclaim himself a Muslim and called on Jews to do likewise.

At the same time, some progressive rabbis, usually without a mandate from their constituency, organized fasts and days of mourning in their synagogues and, donning prayer shawls and kippot, they paraded at the forefront of anti-Trump demonstrations that vulgarly undermined the presidency, emphasizing that their political stance was a product of their religious Jewish values.

Furthermore, they supported and participated in demonstrations led and hijacked by vicious anti-Israel Muslim activists such as Linda Sarsour and even convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh. In a similar vein, the ADL continues to promote Black Lives Matter despite its hatred of Israel and support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The constant false accusations of anti-Semitism were highlighted by the biased liberal media emboldening right-wing degenerates who were provided with enormous exposure. This created a perception of a sudden rise in radical right anti-Semitism.

There has been a huge flurry of anti-Semitic outbursts in social media. Jewish organizations have been plagued with bomb threats and several cemeteries were desecrated.

The media highlighted these developments and many Jews panicked, in the belief that this was evidence of a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism, and accepted the false allegation that this was a Trump factor. Last week, Greenblatt went so far as to make the preposterous statement that Trump had “emboldened” anti-Semites and encouraged acts of terror in his own country.

Fortunately, to date, not a single Jew has been harmed. It only takes a few fanatical scoundrels to ignite a flow of anti-Semitic tweets and social media activity. It only takes a handful to telephone bomb threats to Jewish organizations. The campaign to blame Trump and accuse him of indifference to anti-Jewish agitation is simply nonsensical.

It is also noteworthy that the first person arrested for having made numerous bomb threats was no alt-right extremist but an African-American notorious for his tweets against “white people” and the “white media.”

Alas, the reality is that in promoting their personal political agenda and vulgarizing and demonizing Trump while posing as Jews motivated by religious principles, they are hypocritically exploiting their leadership positions and fueling anti-Semitism.

This becomes even more stark in contrast to the eight years of Obama’s administration, during which not a single condemnation was uttered against the outrageously biased statements in relation to Israel. Obama’s repeated statements attributing moral equivalence to Israeli defenders and Palestinian terrorists, his accusations of disproportionate Israeli response to terrorism, and his refusal to condemn the Iranians as they repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map, were all ignored. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was treated despicably in Washington while Obama was groveling to the Iranian terrorists.

There is no distinction between anti-Semitism of the Right and Left and the forces of bigotry that are mushrooming globally, including within the U.S., albeit the most tolerant nation in the world in relation to Jews.

The reality is that today, the prime global anti-Semitic threat emanates not from neo-Nazis but from the witches’ brew of far-left and Muslim anti-Jewish incitement, which has transformed many American university campuses into hotbeds of anti-Semitism. Jewish students are being intimidated and pro-Israel speakers denied the opportunity of making their case. This has deteriorated over recent years and today represents the central source of anti-Semitic agitation in the U.S. Where are the shrill voices against this manifestation of anti-Semitism from those that blame Trump for anti-Semitic threats? Greenblatt went as far as to oppose the legislation against BDS, insisting that some of its promoters still loved Israel and should not be condemned.

A large proportion of Trump supporters are Christian evangelicals whose passionate support for Israel more than compensates for liberal Jews who are more concerned about Muslims, a substantial proportion of whom hate and would kill Jews, endorse jihadism and support the destruction of the Jewish state. Obviously, witnessing Jews purporting to be upholding Jewish values by engaging directly in the demonization of their president must outrage them.

It is surely time now for responsible Jewish leaders to intervene and condemn this distortion of Judaism, making it clear that these liberal officials and rabbis have no mandate to speak on behalf of the Jewish community and are simply promoting their personal political agendas.

The Zionist Organization of America and some Orthodox Jewish groups are trying to dispel the perception that these attacks on Trump are officially Jewish-sponsored. To his credit, Abe Foxman, himself a liberal, who headed the ADL for three decades prior to Greenblatt, urged Jewish leaders to “cool it” emphasizing that “Trump is not an anti-Semite.” He warned that the issue “has been hijacked politically by Democrats who’ve made it a political issue to attack Trump,” though he also noted that “Republicans made it a political issue to defend him.” His conclusion: “The whole issue has become a political football and that doesn’t serve us.”

It is sad and ironic that the decline of the most affluent and successful community will have been engineered by some of its leaders who, in their fanatical liberal zeal, exploited their Judaism and Jewish affiliations to advance a partisan political agenda. Unless this tide of official Jewish anti-Trump demonization is reversed or halted, there will be major long-term negative ramifications on the standing and influence of the American Jewish community.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Inevitable Outcome of the Establishment of another Arab state in Palestine.

From a posting by Barry Shaw*, 7 March 2017:

...Strategic thinking dare not go beyond [the "two-state road block"]. No alternative route to peace can be contemplated. It is, for too many, the only route allowed. ...The only end goal is a Palestinian state and they try to convince us that this is the only ultimate aim that should be considered.

Hamas public execution of political dissidents and "collaborators" with Israel

...Allow me to predict the reality of a Palestine that will emerge from their efforts. And my prediction is firmly based on facts on the ground that any thinking diplomat should be able to see for themselves.

Firstly, when they talk about the negotiating arm of Palestine they only refer to the Authority led by the undemocratic, corrupt and elderly leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas claims he represents the Palestinian people.

In their parliamentary elections of 1996, parties not affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organisation were banned from registering their candidates and Hamas refused to participate. When the inevitable results were announced Hamas usurped power in the Gaza Strip in a bloody civil war which left Arabs dead on both sides of the political divide.

What is swept under the carpet is the fact that in the 2006 parliamentary elections Hamas won an overwhelming victory taking 74 of the 132 seats. The Palestinian Authority have been fearful of holding parliamentary elections ever since.

Hamas continues to enhance its grip on power in the Gaza Strip by eliminating much of the opposition by fair means or foul.  Its repressive fist leave Gazans hostage to the whims of an ideological-based terror regime that devotes its full attention and most of its finances to developing an increasingly sophisticated terrorist infrastructure. Despite an internationally legitimate blockage on Gaza both by Israel and by Egypt, Hamas has stockpiled thousands of missiles aimed at Israel.

The anti-Semitic Hamas founding charter openly calls for the murder of Jews.  And they have made steady headway in the territories controlled by its Fatah-led rival, the Palestinian Authority

If not for the tireless efforts of Israel’s counter-terror intelligence and security forces Hamas would be the power of influence in key West Bank cities governed by the Palestinian Authority including Bethlehem, Hebron, Tulkarm and even in east Jerusalem.

In April 2015, Hamas students scored a convincing victory in the student council election winning 26 seats as opposed to Fatah’s 19. For those unfamiliar with the geography Bir Zeit is located just ten kilometres north of Ramallah, the central headquarters of Fatah and the seat of the Palestinian Authority administration. Bir Zeit has been considered as the most liberal of all Palestinian universities and is, therefore, a good indicator of the mood of the Palestinian street in the West Bank.

How about the future political face of Palestine?  In Gaza, Hamas just elected their replacement to Ismael Haniyeh. If you thought that the old face of Hamas was bad, the new face is even worse.  Haniyeh was a disciple of the Muslim Brotherhood. His replacement, Yahya Sinwar, is an arch-terrorist linked to the extremist Islamic Salafist movement.

Sinwar was released from a twenty-year prison sentence on gross terrorism charges as part of a prisoner exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped from Israel and dragged into Gaza by a Hamas terror cell and kept in captivity for five years. Sinwar is not only responsible for the deaths of many Israelis. He is also reported to have murdered Palestinians with his own hands on alleged charges of “spying” or “collaboration” though it is more likely that they opposed his ruthless Hamas oppression.

The Hamas monster is such a distasteful reality that [proponents of the two-state paradigm] need to airbrush it out of their incessant campaign. Better, they think, to ignore it. Raising the likely outcome of Hamas usurping power by the ballot or by the bullet in the West Bank in a new Palestine is too awful a thought. Better to leave it to the Israelis to deal with after the Jewish state has been forced to withdraw to impossibly vulnerable lines.

As for the Palestinian Authority, a Post-Abbas future looks equally grim.

I am involved in a campaign to have Jibril Rajoub removed from his position as the Palestinian delegate at FIFA, the governing body of soccer. We have irrefutable evidence of Rajoub using football, and other sports, to propagate and glorify Palestinian terrorism including naming sports events after Palestinian terrorists who have murdered Israeli civilians, including women and children.
Yet, shockingly, this man is one of the leading candidates to replace Mahmoud Abbas.

The other leading candidate is Marwan Barghouti currently serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli jail for his murderous terror outrages against Israeli civilians.  In a 2015 Palestinian poll he was the only Fatah candidate pegged to defeat Hamas in any Palestinian election.

One would have thought the record of these candidates would disqualify them from serving as president of any country but, in a society brainwashed and indoctrinated in hatred and violence and the inadmissibility of a Jewish state, this is the result.

The inevitability of yet another civil war seems certain. These rival forces are divided by a deep political chasm. They may be united in their hatred of the Jewish state which in both their lexicons must be obliterated, by stages if necessary, but when push comes to shove they hate and distrust each other as they vie for overall power.

This is the Palestine a naïve and cynical world is determined to impose on Israel.

The two-state solution demands an Israeli withdrawal from territories and a vague Palestinian promise to desist from violence.

The inadvisability of establishing such a regime is not predicated on issues of settlements or borders. It is entirely based on the inevitable spectre of a violent politically nonviable Palestine with a long term agenda to continue its struggle to destroy whatever remains of Israel.

Therefore it is essential for the Israeli government and all self-respecting academic and strategic think tanks to ask the diplomatic community and the impactful global institutions what they are doing to reform the Palestinian leadership into united and peace-loving pragmatists.

So far we have seen little progress in any such reformation. Nor are we likely to see any positive change going forward.

If no assurance can be given then Israel cannot be expected to make dangerous concessions based on nothing more than the empty echo of peace.

*Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.  He is the author of the new book ‘1917. From Palestine to the Land of Israel.’

Why New Israel Fund?

I would not get involved in any New Israel Fund activities. 

The organisation spends about 30% of its funds on NGOs that undermine Israel's existence and vilify it around the world. 

For example, Breaking the Silence alleges that the IDF has committed war crimes and is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and “ethnic cleansing.” 

BtS has provided 57 negative testimonies in international reports against IDF soldiers. A Palestinian foundation — The Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, operating in Ramallah, noted in a report published in 2015 that it paid BtS in order to bring at least one negative testimony against the IDF.

Hamas admitted this past year that it used the BtS report on Operation Protective Edge for the purposes of its propaganda campaign against Israel.

So Breaking the Silence (BtS):

  • implies all of Israel is occupied territory and defames the IDF, 
  • has been banned from any events attended by Israeli soldiers, and 
  • is banned from Israel’s school system. 
Education Minister Naftali Bennett has said,
“Our children are sent to the education system in order to encourage mutual responsibility, and not to harm IDF soldiers. The operations of Breaking the Silence caused the slander of Israel in the world, as they made it their target to harm their brothers, who protect us. Lies and propaganda against the IDF — not in our schools.” 
However when Ben-Gurion University recently said that Breaking the Silence “is an organization that is not in the national consensus, the New Israel Fund chose to come to the rescue — and launched a campaign, raising  $20,000 for the organization.

Breaking the Silence is rejected across the Israeli political spectrum — and despite this, The New Israel Fund has authorized grants worth $699,310 to it in the last six years. SHAME ON THE NIF!!!

The Obama administration's support for Hamas was not passive

From The Jewish World Review, March 3, 2017, by Caroline B. Glick:

REVEALED: The Obama administration's support for Hamas was not passive

In the next inevitable confrontation with the terror group, the lessons of the Hamas War must not be ignored

Israel's State Comptroller’s Report on Operation Protective Edge, the Jewish state’s war with Hamas in the summer of 2014, is exceedingly detailed. The problem is that it addresses the wrong details.

Israel’s problem with Hamas wasn’t its tactics for destroying Hamas’s attack tunnels. Israel faced two challenges in its war with Hamas that summer. The first had to do with the regional and global context of the war. The second had to do with its understanding of its enemy on the ground.

War between Hamas and Israel took place as the Sunni Arab world was steeped a two-pronged existential struggle. On the one hand, Sunni regimes fought jihadist groups that emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood movement. On the other, they fought against Iran and its proxies in a bid to block Iran’s moves toward regional hegemony.

On both fronts, the Sunni regimes, led by Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Saudi regime and the United Arab Emirates, were shocked to discover that the Obama administration was siding with their enemies against them.

If Israel went into the war against Hamas thinking that the Obama administration would treat it differently than it treated the Sunni regimes, it quickly discovered that it was mistaken. From the outset of the battle between Hamas and Israel, the Obama administration supported Hamas against Israel.

America’s support for Hamas was expressed at the earliest stages of the war when then-secretary of state John Kerry demanded that Israel accept an immediate cease-fire based entirely on Hamas’s terms. This demand, in various forms, remained the administration’s position throughout the 50-day war.

Hamas’s terms were impossible for Israel. They included opening the jihadist regime’s land borders with Israel and Egypt, and providing it with open access to the sea. Hamas demanded to be reconnected to the international banking system in order to enable funds to enter Gaza freely from any spot on the globe. Hamas also demanded that Israel release its terrorists from its prisons.

If Israel had accepted any of Hamas’s cease-fire terms, its agreement would have constituted a strategic defeat for Israel and a historic victory for Hamas.

Open borders for Hamas means the free flow of armaments, recruits, trainers and money to Gaza. Were Hamas to be connected to the international banking system, the jihadist regime would have become the banking center of the global jihad.

The Obama administration’s support for Hamas was not passive.

Obama and Kerry threatened to join the Europeans in condemning Israel at the UN. Administration officials continuously railed against IDF operations in Gaza, insinuating that Israel was committing war crimes by insisting that Israel wasn’t doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.

As the war progressed, the administration’s actions against Israel became more aggressive. Washington placed a partial embargo on weapons shipments to Israel.

Then on July 23, 2014, the administration took the almost inconceivable step of having the Federal Aviation Administration ban flights of US carriers to Ben-Gurion Airport for 36 hours. The flight ban was instituted after a Hamas missile fell a mile from the airport.

The FAA did not ban flights to Pakistan or Afghanistan after jihadists on the ground successfully bombed airplanes out of the sky.

It took Sen. Ted Cruz’s threat to place a hold on all State Department appointments, and Canada’s Conservative Party government’s behind-the-scenes diplomatic revolt to get the flight ban rescinded.

The government and the IDF were shocked by the ferocity of the administration’s hostility. But to his great credit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surmounted it.

Netanyahu realized that Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood nexus of jihad and also supported by Iran. As a result the Egyptians, Saudis and UAE rightly view it as a major enemy. Indeed, Egypt was in a state of war with Hamas in 2014. Gaza serves as the logistical base of the Salafist forces warring against the Egyptian military.

Netanyahu asked Sisi for help in blunting the American campaign for Hamas. Sisi was quick to agree and brought the Saudis and the UAE into an all-but-declared operational alliance with Israel against Hamas.

Since the Egyptians were hosting the cease-fire talks, Egypt was well-positioned to blunt Obama’s demand that Israel accept Hamas’s cease-fire terms.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Iran axis in Syria leads Israeli security concerns

From The Times of Israel, March 2, 2017, by RAPHAEL AHREN AND JUDAH ARI GROSS:

Ministry chief praises Trump for tough line on Islamic Republic, says Jerusalem hoping for ongoing US involvement in Syrian crisis

Illustrative: smoke billows following a reported car bomb explosion at a Syrian pro-government position during clashes between rebel fighters and regime forces to take control of an area in the southern city of Daraa on February 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamad Abazeed)
Smoke billows following a reported car bomb explosion at a Syrian pro-government position during clashes between rebel fighters and regime forces to take control of an area in the southern city of Daraa on February 20, 2017. 
(AFP Photo/Mohamad Abazeed)

Despite ongoing concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, dealing with threats emanating from the Syrian war theater currently tops the agenda of Israel’s security apparatus...

Chagai Tzuriel, director-general of the Intelligence Ministry:
“The most important strategic issue we’re currently facing is the strengthening of the Shiite axis led by Iran in Syria, especially after the fall of Aleppo...Syria is the key arena, because it’s a microcosm of everything: world powers, such as Russia and the US; regional actors such as Iran and Turkey; and rival groups within the country, such the Assad regime, the opposition, the Kurds and the Islamic State...Whatever happens in Syria today will greatly impact the region, and beyond, for years to come.”
The war there shows that the entire world is now made up of “frenemies,” countries with conflicting interests, he said...Israel’s recent rapprochement with Turkey...could be seen as an extension of this “frenemies” concept. The two staunchly disagree on Hamas and the Palestinian issue, but see eye to eye on the threat from Iran.

Syria, Russia, Iran
...In a sense, the six-year-long war in Syria has already had a massive impact on the world, Tzuriel said, citing scores of terrorists and millions of immigrants who exited the country and left their mark across the globe. “In that respect, it is no exaggeration to say that the Syrian civil war has, to some extent, influenced important developments way outside its borders, such as Brexit and even the election in the US,” he said.

Recent developments in Syria have created “a strong imbalance in the region to Iran’s benefit,” said Tzuriel. And yet, since Moscow decided to take a more engaged role in the conflict, actively supporting the Assad regime, Iran’s role as Damascus’s main backer has been diminished, he said.

“Russia has become the dominant power in Syria,” he said, adding that Moscow achieved that feat despite investing remarkably minor resources into the civil war. “The Russians have managed to become the key player with only a few dozen aircraft. That’s proof that political will and the readiness to use military force are key.”

On Tuesday, Russia, along with China and Bolivia, vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have sanctioned Syrian officials over the regime’s illicit use of chemical weapons. The US and other Western powers on the council voted in favor of the resolution and denounced Moscow for blocking it.

Besides treating wounded civilians on the border and attacking weapons convoys deemed a strategic threat, Israel has so far stayed out of the war. However, Tzuriel said, the US’s continued involvement is crucial to Israel’s interest in seeing Iran kept from extending hegemony to Syria, allowing the Islamic Republic to link Tehran and Beirut.

“For Israel, it is important to see the US remaining active in Syria and the region,” he said.

Criticizing the previous US administration, he said president Barack Obama’s decision, in 2013, to not use military force against Assad’s regime despite its use of chemical weapons “was a pivotal moment for the entire region.”

“This moment changed everything,” said Tzuriel, who served as the Mossad’s representative to the US a few years ago.”It showed [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that the US was not willing to use force. It opened the door for Russia to take center stage.”

For Israel, the most important issue in Syria is making sure Iran and its proxies aren’t able to set up a base to attack Israel from.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on June 7, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on June 7, 2016. 
(Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to travel to Moscow in the coming days to further discuss Israeli-Russian coordination regarding Syria. He has said Israel will oppose any peace agreement that would allow Iran and its Shiite proxies any foothold there.

“If Iran and Hezbollah manage to base themselves in Syria, it would be a permanent source of instability in the entire region,” Tzuriel explained, referring specifically to the threat of an Iranian naval base on the Mediterranean. “It would also bring instability to areas with Sunni minorities outside the Middle East.”

‘Obama didn’t see Iran as part of the problem. Trump does’

Despite the supreme focus on Syria, the Iranian nuclear program remains high on Israel’s agenda, Tzuriel said. Affirming Jerusalem’s general objection to the nuclear pact Iran and six world powers signed in 2015, he confirmed that, so far, Tehran “abides by the terms of the deal.”

But the world may have “bought the present in exchange for the future,” he said.

“The main problem with the deal is that it allows the regime to build advanced centrifuges. These centrifuges will enable Tehran to build several nuclear bombs in much less time than they did before the deal with the old centrifuges,” he said.

Stopping short of calling for the deal to be torn up, he said it would be good “if there was a way to improve the terms of the deal and advance other resolutions that deal with the Iranian missile program and support of terror organizations.”

As opposed to the Obama administration, Trump has indicated a tough policy vis-a-vis Tehran. It is noteworthy that the new president said that he will “never” allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon capability, Tzuriel said.

“The feeling in Israel was that Obama didn’t see Iran as part of the problem. Trump, by contrast, appears to view Iran as part of the problem.”

Putting the U.S.-Israel Relationship to Work

From The American Interest, 28 Feb 2017, by STEVEN L. SPIEGEL:

Americans think of Israel in terms of ideology or geopolitics, when they should be thinking about business, technology, and job creation.

With more than six decades of strong ties, the United States and Israel are now reaching a new stage in their relationship: one in which they are bound by common interests in economic and technological innovation. However, the United States has still not developed an effective mechanism for taking advantage of this partnership, which must be nurtured with carefully designed institutional bonds.

There are several ways these bonds might be forged, some more ambitious than others, and some involving other innovative economies in addition to Israel’s. To seize the moment, the Trump Administration needs to act now.

Historically, there have been three dimensions to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. At its inception, Israel was seen as a fulfillment of biblical prophecies, and a haven for Jews escaping from anti-Semitism and persecution in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Many Americans came to view Israel as a paradigm of the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. Finally, as the Cold War threw the Middle East into turmoil, Israel emerged as a strategic asset for U.S. security and intelligence. As was often said, it was like having a stationary aircraft carrier in the region.

Since 1967, the U.S. government has had no genuine competition from any other country for Israel’s friendship. Today, however, that is no longer true. Many countries, especially in Asia, now compete with the United States to secure the benefits of Israel’s technological prowess. Indeed, China is expected to surpass the United States in the near future as Israel’s most significant collaborator in joint government-backed development projects, according to one Israeli analyst quoted in the Wall Street Journal. China and Israel have officially begun negotiating a free trade agreement, and Israel now joins the United States and Canada in the select group of countries whose citizens receive Chinese visas that are valid for ten years. For now, Israelis—however much they may be flattered by Chinese attention—still feel more comfortable dealing with American interlocutors. But what happens when they get used to China and the United States remains aloof?

There are certainly ample opportunities for the United States to partner with Israel on business and technology. The wide range of fields in which the two countries can cooperate include such areas as water management, medicine, pharmaceuticals, green technology, nanotechnology, cyber security, military instruments, and communications. Israelis were involved in developing the cellphone, Amazon’s Kindle, the navigational app Waze, numerous medical breakthroughs such as devices that help paraplegics walk, advances in stem cell research, and much more. Indeed, a June 2014 Forbes analysis listed five Israeli companies among the top ten that are changing the world of healthcare. In 2016, the Mayo Clinic announced a new collaboration with Israeli start-ups to increase the availability of Israeli medical innovations in the United States.1

It’s no surprise that U.S. companies such as Intel, Facebook, Google, Apple, GM, Lockheed Martin, IBM, and GE have all set up major R&D centers in Israel. Yet most U.S. companies and state and local governments have not yet taken advantage of the enormous potential for U.S.-Israel cooperation.

In particular, the United States and Israel need to boost the development of new security products, just as the U.S. Department of Defense is doing in partnership with Silicon Valley. As outgoing Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work put it, “The department is trying to deepen our cooperation with our close allies and partners. We’re collaborating—collaboratively planning now on our roles, missions, and investments in future capabilities.” Due to its record innovation, Israel should be at or near the top of that list of partners.

Such increased cooperation would improve Washington’s ability to manage shifting economic and political forces around the globe. Technology is transforming our world; major powers are scrambling to adjust, and one means of securing an advantage is working with other countries, especially smaller states with particular skills. Partnering with Israel on the development of new technologies would reinforce the U.S. position at the top of the international economic pecking order.

Meanwhile, U.S. companies and governments (Federal, state, and local) should use Israel as an incubator of innovations that could improve U.S. industries and job markets. Of course, there are other countries that hold some advantages for the United States, such as South Korea, Finland, Sweden, and Singapore. But while these and most other countries develop innovation to solve local or regional problems, Israel develops its technology from day one for the global market (since its domestic market is so small). Indeed, Israel was ranked the second-best place in the world to invest after Silicon Valley, according to the 2015 Global Venture Capital Confidence Survey.2

While the numbers are still relatively small, more and more U.S. companies and governments, such as those of New York and Texas, are increasing their ties to Israel’s technology sector. Israeli water experts and companies have become central to California’s efforts to overcome its drought.3 Massachusetts has significantly benefited from projects with Israeli companies, which generated almost 4 percent of the state’s GDP in 2015.4 A possible model for other states can be found in Texas, where minimizing the barriers to entry for Israeli innovators has proven to be financially attractive.5 In addition, cities of all sizes, including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, San Antonio, and New York City, have begun to discover that their needs can be addressed by Israeli innovation.

The nation’s leading universities, such as MIT and Harvard, have also capitalized on this growing relationship by encouraging the enrollment of more Israeli students, in the hope that these students will create bridges between the Israeli and U.S. technology sectors.6 In February 2017, the President of the ten-campus University of California system signed an MOU with Israel’s National Technological Innovation Authority to develop new technologies.7 Texas A&M and the University of Haifa are establishing an oceanographic observatory, the first of its kind in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.8 Cornell University and Israel’s Technion have partnered to establish an “innovation university”—a project that, in the words of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, “will help foster technological innovation within New York State, while creating jobs and spurring business investment.”9

The potential for creating U.S. and Israeli jobs, and many beneficial collaborations, is so great that it is unfortunate that U.S. leaders are not making the most of these opportunities. U.S. party politics, ideological divides, and geopolitical concerns have prevented Americans from viewing Israel as a business partner. It seems somehow easier for China to establish such a relationship with Israel, because there is no relevant history of disagreement over issues such as the Palestinian question. Ironically, the Chinese continue to give lip service to the Palestinian cause and, unlike the United States (most of the time), vote at the UN accordingly. To the Chinese, the connection to Israel is strictly business, not an emotional, religious, or even strategic attachment. The first three dimensions of the U.S.-Israel relationship mentioned above do not exist in China’s relationship with Israel.

The United States must develop a realistic and integrated approach to its changing association with Israel in a new era. It is possible that the Trump Administration, with its business orientation, will find it easier to move in a new direction.

Exactly how do we move beyond the current patchwork of partnerships to a broader, more centralized undertaking? There are a variety of alternatives to choose from, each having advantages and deficiencies.

One alternative would be to establish a U.S.-Israel office in the White House. This office would provide a master plan for achieving the kind of cooperation with Israel throughout the United States that we are now beginning to see in California, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, recently produced a document that provides a great number of ideas, which the White House office could implement and expand.10

Yet the attraction of locating an office in the White House is undermined by the likelihood that the program would rapidly be politicized or have its personnel decisions used for patronage purposes. The Executive Office of the President is already overcrowded, and inserting a critical U.S.-Israeli program into it might doom that initiative to failure.

A second possibility is the expansion of the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission, created in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Yet while the Commerce Department-based Commission has steadily done “good things,” it has not played a major role in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. There does not seem to be any way of successfully “growing” it, especially in its Commerce Department home.

These alternatives lead us to consider a third, more ambitious option: the creation of an Office for Global Science and Technology Innovation (OGSTI), whose purpose would be to adapt U.S.-based science and technology to partner nations’ needs and non-U.S.-based science and technology to our needs. There is a surplus of national labs, one of which could be used as the site of such an interagency office. This arrangement would be particularly well suited to rectifying the imbalance between brain-power and market size in Israel, by opening many American doors to Israeli innovation at once—an inviting prospect for both countries.

The lead agency in the OGSTI would be the Office of the Science Advisor to the President. This underutilized office would need to be refashioned for the purpose, but its bench of scientific and technological talent is unique within the government. Other participants could include: Department of Defense/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Agriculture; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as special advisers from the Justice Department to handle patent law and intellectual property rights issues. The State Department might also participate to a certain extent. The office would need to establish close relationships with universities and with private-sector actors who are likely to test and market the outcomes. (Existing or planned units such as the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission, and the Department of Energy’s potential U.S.-Israel joint energy research center would be incorporated into the Israeli branch of the OGSTI.)

The interagency group would have subcommittees, called “fusion groups,” involving other nations as well as Israel. Other fusion groups should be focused on Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and perhaps Finland or Sweden. The list of fusion groups would have to be open-ended but small, especially at the outset. This approach could also have important implications for the Middle East, as a low-profile group could be established for building discreet relationships between Israel and some Arab countries under U.S. auspices.

As exciting, innovative, and unique as this approach would be, there are caveats here, too. Congress would have to fund the office generously during the initial stages, though some programs are already underway. The coordination required is complex and would demand a degree of cooperation between various agencies that is rarely achieved. As a consequence, there would have to be strong support at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and even that might not be enough.

Perhaps it would be easier and preferable to “go private.” This would involve the establishment of an American-Israeli Commercial Exchange (AICE), a hub in the private sphere that could connect Americans and Israelis with mutual business interests.11 AICE would be a matchmaker organized in three parts: a clearinghouse, a website, and referral groups. The “brick and mortar” office would be a matchmaking service that connected potential partners in specific fields such as cyber security and agriculture. It would thus bring potential investors together with innovators to enable projects that might not have proceeded without this connection. In addition, a website would both provide relevant news updates and advertise opportunities in various areas. “Referral groups” would be networks of entrepreneurs in both countries, which would apprise members of the opportunities offered by new innovations and companies.

This organization would expose many more Americans to the benefits of working with Israeli start-ups and inventions. As with the government office, AICE could be expanded to include a limited number of other fairly small but highly innovative countries as well. Of course, the organization would eventually have to change its name as the number of countries expanded.

But there are problems here, too. AICE would not be in the government and would have to be built from scratch. That would not be easy, and it could be expensive. The possibility of uniting various groups and businesses already involved in Israeli innovations seems slim indeed.

If it would be difficult to create a new operation, then perhaps the answer is to utilize previously existing organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is already actively participating in U.S.-Israel economic interchange. AIPAC, although not primarily devoted to strengthening U.S. business ties with Israel, might well be interested in expanding its efforts. Some other Jewish organizations might be similarly prepared to generate more activities. The problem here is that each of these enterprises has pre-existing activities, foci, and baggage, and to suggest that one could emerge as the leader of an American effort seems unrealistic indeed.

It might also be possible to create both a governmental and a private mechanism for expanding U.S.-Israeli economic ties. That would be an ideal approach, but given the difficulties in both sectors, it could result in over-reach and failure.

Despite the drawbacks involved in each option, we must give them serious consideration. If one of these approaches is not adopted, other powers will likely step in to reap the economic benefits that the United States will miss. We must do more to develop our common economic, security, and diplomatic interests with Israel, because the stakes are getting higher and the opportunities more lucrative. The United States is the best positioned of all countries to take advantage of the Israeli technological revolution. It’s time to act.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Facebook sued in mega court case

From A7, 1 March 2017, by Orly Harary:

Nitzana Darshan-Leitner
Nitzana Darshan-Leitner
Courtesy Shurat Hadin

NY federal court will hear Shurat Hadin's suits against Facebook for encouraging terrorism

A huge court case will open Wednesday in the Brooklyn District Court in New York.The Shurat Hadin organization, representing families of terror victims, has submitted two federal suits against social media giant Facebook.

The suits were filed in the name of American citizens who fell victim to Hamas terror attacks. The plaintiffs claim that by providing resources, social media services and support for Hamas on Facebook site, the company has violated American anti-terrorism laws.

The two suits, submitted by attorney Robert J. Tolchin and attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner who heads the Shurat Hadin organization, deal with the illegal supply of Facebook services to Hamas and the use made by the organization of social media as a means to promote its murderous goals.

The first suit was submitted by the family of US army officer and Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force, who was murdered in an attack in Yaffo in March 2016. The second one is a class action suit representing 20,000 Israelis who are demanding that Facebook block users who encourage terror activity.

In Wednesday's hearing the judge will hear the claims of the plaintiffs and the request by Facebook to dismiss both suits and will then decide whether the suits will be adjudicated in a legal procedure.
"The terrorists who stabbed and murdered and attacked innocent Israeli and American citizens all over the state of Israel depended on the wave of incitement which swept the social media sites led by Facebook. Facebook believes that it is allowed to make billions of dollars worth of profits every year without any obligation to demonstrate responsibility, supervise and remove content calling for the murder of Jews worldwide.
"The defendants invested huge sums in developing technologies which would enable them to know every detail about their users, yet they refuse to use the very same technologies to stop the incitement to violence against Jews. Facebook has become a weapon of Hamas in its efforts to encourage terror and therefore this must be stopped by using legal means," said Darshan-Leitner.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

What's the Big Deal?

From The Hill, 24 Feb 2017, by Einat Wilf, former member of the Knesset, and Adi Schwartz is, researcher and writer in Tel Aviv:

President Donald Trump, as expressed in the press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, now aspires in the Middle East to “a much bigger deal”, “a much more important deal”, one that “would take in many, many countries" and "​would cover a very large territory.” This kind of regional deal between the Arab world – and perhaps, the entire Muslim world​​ - and the Jewish State of Israel was always the only deal to be had: a very big deal to solve a very big problem.

True peace requires addressing the deep sources of the conflict. Those lay with the Arab and Muslim reaction to the return of the Jewish people to powerful sovereignty in their ancient homeland. As far as Muslim theology and Arab practice were concerned, the Jews were non-believers, only to be tolerated, never as equals. They should have never been allowed to undermine Muslim rule over the lands, which the Jews claimed as their homeland, but the Arabs viewed as exclusively theirs since conquering them in the seventh century.

The return of the Jewish people to restored sovereignty in their ancient homeland, required Arabs and Muslims to accept that a people, whom they have for centuries treated as inferiors, worthy of contempt, were now claiming equality and exercising power in their midst.

This historical “Chutzpah” is what drove the Arab League to violently reject any kind of plan that would grant the Jewish people equal sovereignty over any part of “Muslim land”​, free from their control. This unnatural historical development, in Arab eyes, led Arab governments to take revenge and forcefully expel hundreds of thousands of Jews, living in their midst, often in communities predating the birth of Islam, just after the establishment of the State of Israel. 

It is also the reason why Arab states kept the Arabs who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their millions of descendants, ​ as perpetual “refugees” – to deprive the Jewish state of legitimacy and peace.  It is the reason that even after losing repeated military wars against the State of Israel, Arab countries have continued their diplomatic and economic war against it to this day. Even Jordan and Egypt, that have signed nominal peace agreements with Israel, have more of a ‘mutual non-attack’ agreements, rather than genuine peace. 

​The animosity to the concept of the Jewish sovereignty in the Arab Middle East is simply too big. This attitude towards the Jewish state is an Arab – and Muslim – issue, and not only a Palestinian one. The Palestinians have been at the forefront of this Arab and Muslim intolerance, but they are not its creators. They are the thin end of the wedge by which the Arab and Muslim world wages its war against a sovereign Jewish people.

If the word peace is ever to truly describe the situation between Israel and its neighbors, it requires the Arab and Muslim world to address the roots of their intolerance. It requires them to accept the Jews as their equals and as an indigenous people who have come home. This was always too large a task to be undertaken by the Palestinians. Only Arabs and Muslims together can legitimize a different theological interpretation of the Jewish presence in their midst: no longer inferiors and no longer foreigners. In doing so, they can enable and legitimize practical solutions in Jerusalem that accept the centrality of the city to the Jewish people, and to the manufactured problem of the “refugees”, by finally rehabilitating them and absorbing them as fellow Arabs.

This is a tall order, and therefore only a powerful nation, such as the United States, can create the conditions for such an agreement. This means continuing and even enhancing the American multi-layered support for Israel, so as to disavow any people or nation of the possibility of doing away with the State of Israel. But it also means finally addressing the Arab attitudes towards the Jewish state.

The problem is that for decades, the U.S. went along with Arab duplicity, and even enabled it. Washington treated several Arab governments as its allies, while allowing them to foster and spread anti-Israeli hatred. It is time for the new administration to put its money where its mouth is: if the U.S. is serious about achieving a “great deal”, it should start exacting a price on any Arab behavior contrary to that end.

There is a range of actions that the U.S. can take. In any statement regarding the conflict, the new administration must acknowledge that Arab animosity towards the sovereign Jewish state is the root cause of the conflict. 

The U.S. should put an end to its policy of providing Arab countries a carte blanch for not resettling the refugees for nearly seventy years, and cease financially underwriting this behavior through the American decades-long support of a special UN agency (UNRWA). The U.S. should also put a price tag on any Arab anti-Israeli activity in the UN and in international fora. The U.S. could also exact a financial price on the continued Arab and Muslim economic boycott of Israel as well as its boycott in a variety of fields from soccer to culture.

By doing so, the U.S. would send an unequivocal message to the Arab and Muslim world that their future is better served by accepting Israel and the Jewish people as sovereign and equal in their midst, rather than by continuing the useless war they have been waging against Israel, Zionism and the sovereign Jewish people.

Lebanon is responsible for Hezbollah

From YNet, 23 Feb 2017, by Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of Israel's National Security Council:

Alongside Nasrallah’s harsh words, we should also pay attention to the recent comments made by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, which make it clear that Hezbollah and the government of Lebanon are one and the same.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s threats have become more frequent and more aggressive. Some people say, as implied in IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s comments Wednesday, that the threats reflect distress rather than self-confidence. I am not so sure about that.

After years of rolling in the Syrian swamp, Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in Syria is expected to increasingly diminish. The fact that the organization is identified with the “winning side” will only give it more confidence in its abilities to shift the fighting towards its main enemy—Israel.

Alongside Nasrallah’s harsh words, we should also pay attention to the recent comments made by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who reiterated that Hezbollah was part of the power protecting Lebanon from Israel. Although it isn’t new, this statement only strengthens what should have been clear for years—that Hezbollah and the government of Lebanon are one and the same.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, ‘Lebanon’s defender against Israel’ (Photo: AP)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, ‘Lebanon’s defender against Israel’ (Photo: AP)

Both Western countries and Israel have been erring for years in understanding the reality in Lebanon. According to the common view, the political establishment in that country is divided into two camps. On the one side, the “good guys” camp, which includes the majority of Christians, Druze and Sunnis and represents pragmatism, moderation, a Western culture and reliance on Saudi, American and French aid. On the other side, the “bad boys” camp, which is led by Hezbollah with the support of Syria and Iran.

If this current state of affairs is true, the West should try to bolster the “good guys” by providing economic aid, building infrastructures and strengthening the army. The problem is that this description is naïve and very far from the truth and from reality.

The truth is that while there are indeed two camps in Lebanon, there is an unwritten agreement between them that each camp will use its relative advantage for a joint purpose. The “good guys” camp will present the beautiful face of Lebanon—a country with democratic institutions, a Francophile culture and a free economy—thereby obtaining political, economic and military support for the country. In return, the other camp, led by Hezbollah, will serve as the state’s significant military force, will be defined by the government as Lebanon’s defender against the Israeli aggression and will be the only one to decide if it will be quiet or noisy along the border with Israel.

In the Second Lebanon War, Israel fell into the Lebanese trap and played into the hands of the Lebanese government. Israel fought only against Hezbollah, without getting the Lebanese government, the Lebanese army and the country infrastructures involved in the battle. What will happen if we run the third Lebanon war the same way? The outcome will likely be much worse than the results of the previous war. Israel can only defeat Hezbollah at an unbearable cost to the Israeli home front.

The conclusion, therefore, should be clear. If fire is opened at Israel from Lebanese territory, Israel should declare war on the State of Lebanon. There is no one in the world who wants to see Lebanon destroyed—neither the Syrians and the Iranians on the one side, nor the West and Saudi Arabia on the other side. Hezbollah doesn’t want that either. A war against Lebanon, which will inflict heavy damage on all of the country’s infrastructures, will spark an international outcry for a ceasefire after three days, rather than after 33 days like in the Second Lebanon War. It is only from a really short war that Israel will be able to emerge victorious and without serious damage to its home front.

It’s important to remember, therefore, and to remind the world not of Nasrallah’s statements, but rather of the Lebanese president’s statements. Once the fighting breaks out, it will be too late to explain the new strategy. The diplomatic battle should be waged before, not during, a war.