Month: January 2019


Iran’s Violent Influence Threatens Israel and its Arab Neighbors: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Jan. 29, 2019— Wherever violence and aggression flare up around Israel’s borders, Iran or one of its proxies can be found. Iran’s persistent subversion and promotion of terrorism is not only a threat to Israel, but also to its Arab Sunni neighbors, who stand in the way of Tehran’s radical designs for the Middle East.                                                                                                                  

Iran Continues with its Nuclear Activities Unabated: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, January 23, 2019— Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has stated that Iran will transfer 30 tons of “yellow cake” (a raw material used to produce nuclear fuel) from the production site in Ardakan to Isfahan. Salehi did not mention the name of the installation, but it seems that he was referring to the UCF (uranium conversion facility) in Isfahan.

Terrorism is Making Europe Think Again About Appeasing Iran. Benny Avni, New York Post, Jan. 22, 2019 — Et tu, Angela? Tehran must be quite confused this week, as Germany, until now the most enthusiastic Iran enabler among the Western powers, hopped on the sanctions wagon. So, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government adopting President Trump’s sensibilities?

Time’s Up for the EU’s Appeasement Policy on Iran. Struan Stevenson, UPI, Jan. 23, 2019— It is time for the EU to pull out of the nuclear deal with Islamic Republic of Iran.

On Topic Links

Russian Deputy FM Reiterates Commitment to Israel’s Security: Ariel Kahana & Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom, Jan. 30, 2019

Nearly all of Iran’s Advanced Nuke Centrifuges Failing, Top Expert Reveals: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2019

Cyber Firm Says Iranian-Linked Espionage Group Targeting Telecom, High-Tech Industries: Olivia Beavers, The Hill, Jan. 29, 2019

Sunni and Arab Opposition Attack the Iranian Regime’s Security Forces and Critical Infrastructure: JCPA, Jan. 31, 2019



ISRAEL AND ITS ARAB NEIGHBORS                                                                  

Yaakov Lappin                                                                                 

IPT News, Jan. 29, 2019

Wherever violence and aggression flare up around Israel’s borders, Iran or one of its proxies can be found. Iran’s persistent subversion and promotion of terrorism is not only a threat to Israel, but also to its Arab Sunni neighbors, who stand in the way of Tehran’s radical designs for the Middle East.

This pattern was on display in recent days. On Jan. 21, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a number of targets in Syria belonging to the Quds Force, the elite Iranian expeditionary force, led by General Qassem Soleimani. The Quds Force has been trying to build an Iranian-run terrorist army in Syria, and missile bases, to threaten Israel. But Israel has been able to thwart many of these efforts. In an attempt to change the “rules of the game,” and deter Israel from continuing to defend itself, a Quds Force cell fired a missile at Israel’s Golan Heights region, threatening civilian lives, before Israeli air defenses shot down the threat.

Iran emerged from this round of fighting fairly poorly, losing valuable assets, including weapons storage facilities that it built at Damascus’s International Airport. Yet just a few days later, Iran’s chief proxy in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), began gun attacks on the Israel-Gaza border, threatening to plunge the Strip into a new conflict. A new Gaza war would endanger the security of Gazan and Israeli civilians alike. “In recent weeks, we have monitored increasing attempts by the Islamic Jihad movement to destabilize the security situation in the Gaza Strip,” an Israel Defense Forces statement said. When a PIJ sniper fired a shot at an IDF officer, striking his helmet, Israel responded with tank fire on Hamas outposts, killing a Hamas operative. Israel’s message to Hamas was simple: Get PIJ under control.

But it isn’t just Israel that delivered a warning to Hamas, itself a radical Islamist regime that has partnered up with Iran. According to a recent report that appeared in the Israel Hayom Hebrew daily newspaper, Egypt delivered the very same message to Gaza’s rulers. “Cairo has made it clear that [Hamas political chief Ismail] Haniyeh must decide whether Hamas takes its orders from Tehran or continues to implement the understandings for calm formulated by the head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamel,” the report, quoting an Egyptian intelligence official, said.

Egypt’s message represents a larger struggle for influence in Gaza. It is a struggle being waged between radical Shi’ite Iran and its terror proxies, and moderate Sunni Egypt. Iran is seeking to set Gaza alight with conflict, while Egypt is seeking to douse the flames, and counter-balance Iran’s destabilization efforts. In this struggle, Israel and Egypt’s interests align – both are threatened by Iran’s activities. Hamas, for its part, cannot casually ignore Egypt’s demands, since the Arab regional power is right on its doorstep, and controls the Strip’s sole crossing to the outside world.

After sealing it shut during the latest border violence, Egypt will reportedly open the Rafah Crossing with Gaza, giving Gazans who wish to travel out of their repressive Hamas-run enclave an outlet, and allowing the movement of goods. Such a move is good for Gaza’s economy, and takes the pressure off Hamas. When open, Rafah is a carrot that Egypt can offer Hamas as a reward for following Cairo’s directives. When it is shut, it turns into a stick, or a chokehold, reminding Hamas that Iran is geographically distant and that Cairo’s influence is far more immediate. Still, all of these efforts represent short-term push back against Iran. The Islamic Republic continues to wield a significant influence on Gaza through its financial support of Hamas and PIJ, and the knowledge sharing it conducts with them on weapons manufacturing and combat doctrines. These have helped turn Hamas into a mass rocket and urban warfare base. In Syria, Iran has not given up its takeover ambitions.

The situation was well described by a senior Israeli military source last year, during a briefing to journalists.

“The risks are all around us. Whether it is instability in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon – also a forward Iranian division – or Hamas, which gets its support from Iran. Iran is all over, offensively trying to operate against Israel, and we have to weigh and assess the risks constantly as we operate against this aggression.” The officer described a large-scale shadow war, saying, “We are operating around the Middle East against the Iranian buildup up force. The aim of our line of operations and our decisiveness is to deter and dissuade and counter Iranian activities in the region. What we see is very dangerous to regional stability.”





Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

JCPA, January 23, 2019

Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has stated that Iran will transfer 30 tons of “yellow cake” (a raw material used to produce nuclear fuel) from the production site in Ardakan to Isfahan. Salehi did not mention the name of the installation, but it seems that he was referring to the UCF (uranium conversion facility) in Isfahan.

Salehi suggested that Iran would continue to “discover and mine” uranium, construct two additional nuclear power reactors in the Bushehr province as planned, and continue with its activities at the heavy water reactor in Arak. Iran has purchased new equipment for the facility and did not even fill in the core of the reactor with cement in January 2016 in accordance with the nuclear deal (also known as the JCPOA) because “if we had done that, there would not be a reactor.” In accordance with the JCPOA, Iran was required to fill the calandria, or reactor core, at the Arak facility with cement to render it unusable. On January 16, 2016, the IAEA Board of Governors released a report by the Director General, which confirmed that Iran had removed and “rendered inoperable” the Arak facility’s calandria. Salehi clarified that Iran under JCPOA removed the calandria from the Arak reactor and poured cement into metal tubes contained within fuel bundles.

In January 2016, several other reports of the removal of the core of the reactor and filling it in with cement were also published. Some of these have since been denied, and the issue continues to arouse dispute within Iran among the supporters and the opponents of the nuclear agreement.

During an interview (on January 22, 2019) on the Face to Face program5 (Channel 4, TV-IRIB) that was part of commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the Revolution, Salehi criticized claims by the conservative camp that Iran had completely sealed the core of the reactor. He claimed that images published at the time were photo-shopped, and Iran was never required (in the agreement) to seal the core of the reactor with cement. Instead, this applied to other parts of it. He added that construction on the heavy water reactor in Arak was not completed during the time of the debates on the nuclear deal. Salehi emphasized throughout the interview, which discussed the achievements of the Iranian nuclear deal, its progress also during the implementation of the nuclear agreement.

In the same context, Behrooz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stated that Iran is redesigning the heavy water reactor in Arak with Chinese aid, but it can also do so without any assistance. The partnership with China is supposed to speed up the completion of the program. He defined Iran’s nuclear plan as “logical” and said that even with the cancelation of the nuclear agreement, there would not be any change.

Salehi said that, “as one who is responsible for all technical aspects (of the nuclear program),” he was “thankful to Allah for the way in which the discussions relating to the technical aspects of the nuclear talks were conducted, as they left so many breaches in the agreement that Iran was able to exploit, doing things that the other side could not claim were a violation of the nuclear agreement. [Emphasis added.] We can manufacture UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) and continue with the technical work.”

“Iran has lost nothing as a result of signing the agreement,” Salehi continued, “and history will prove this. We have preserved our capabilities in the field of enrichment. We are providing products for other industries and are continuing to manufacture new centrifuges. We are doing everything we need to do, but this time in the right way.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Benny Avni                                                

New York Post, Jan. 22, 2019


Et tu, Angela? Tehran must be quite confused this week, as Germany, until now the most enthusiastic Iran enabler among the Western powers, hopped on the sanctions wagon. So, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government adopting President Trump’s sensibilities? Sort of.

On Monday, Berlin announced a complete ban against Mahan Air, a “civilian” airline that doubles as an adjunct to the Iranian regime’s nefarious activities across the Middle East. The decision came, reportedly, after months of US efforts to persuade the Germans that Mahan is no ordinary carrier. As the US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, told me in an email, “Mahan Air has flown terrorists, weapons, equipment and funds to international locations to support Iranian terrorist proxy groups,” including Syria’s murderous Assad regime. He thanked Germany for imposing the ban.

Denying American pressure, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told Reuters: “It cannot be ruled out that this airline could also transport cargo to Germany that threatens our security. This is based on knowledge of past terrorist activities by Iran in Europe.” Germany’s move may signal a wider souring of Europe’s love affair with Iran, which culminated in the 2015 nuclear deal. The European Union also recently imposed sanctions on Iran, which, however symbolic, were a first since the deal.

Why? Terrorism. Copenhagen recently stopped a planned attack on Iranian dissidents in Denmark, and last summer European authorities unraveled a major bombing plot in Paris that targeted Iranian regime opponents. So the march to normalize ­Europe’s relations with Tehran is slowing down. In addition to detecting a new uptick in Iranian terror plots on the continent, Europe is frustrated as Iran experiments with ballistic missiles of ever-longer range. Last week saw the launch of a satellite on an ICBM-like platform that could reach over the Atlantic.

Europe has long advocated engagement with Tehran in the hope of strengthening regime “moderates.” Now Iran seems increasingly intent on not letting the Europeans help it. As Reuters put it in a recent headline, “Europe’s patience with Iran wears thin, tiptoes toward Trump.” The German about-face is especially remarkable. Berlin has been among the most adamant European advocates of ending Iran sanctions. Closely working with EU foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini, Merkel has even sought to create a banking mechanism for the sole purpose of helping the mullahs thwart the US-imposed sanctions.

Germany would help run the proposed European “special-purpose vehicle” to preserve the mullahs’ access to financial markets. While Iranian officials recently boasted that the SPV is already up and running, EU officials keep saying it will be ready, well, very soon. Problem is, even top Iran ­apologists and European industrialists eager to make deals with the mullahs can’t turn a blind eye to Tehran’s misbehavior. And while Ambassador Grenell is hotly criticized in Germany for pressuring Merkel, facts are on his side.

Grenell, incidentally, has pushed Germany on other issues beyond Iran. He has been a withering critic of Nord Stream 2, a proposed pipeline that would bring Russian natural gas directly into Germany, isolating the Kremlin-endangered states of Central and Eastern Europe. “More Russian gas in Europe only increases Putin’s leverage at a time when the international community is concerned about the growing Russian offense,” Grenell tells me.

Germany, however, has long vied to become an impartial mediator ­between America and its European partners, on the one hand, and Russia and China, on the other. As a ­result, it has often been hard to tell which side Berlin is on. Perhaps we will learn more next month, when high-level diplomats meet in Warsaw to discuss Iran and other Mideast questions. Russia announced it won’t show up. Iran wasn’t invited.

And Germany? Merkel has yet to announce whom she plans to send. Will it be Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart? If, alternatively, Merkel sends a low-level ­official, she would signal that this week’s sanctions against Mahan Air were a one-off. Merkel is unpopular at home and plans to step down in 2021, ending 16 years at the helm. America can’t wait until her successor changes course. Efforts to nudge Germany — and the rest of Europe — to America’s side on Iran and other issues are beginning to bear fruit. Trump should intensify them.




Struan Stevenson

UPI, Jan. 23, 2019

It is time for the EU to pull out of the nuclear deal with Islamic Republic of Iran. The appeasement policy of the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, has been an abject failure, simply emboldening the mullahs to order assassination attempts against opposition figures in Europe and brazenly to fire ballistic missiles into Syria. Mogherini was one of the main proponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was signed in Vienna on July 14, 2015 and involved five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: China, Russia, France, the U.K. and the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the JCPOA the worst deal in history, pointing out that it led to the release of over $150 billion in frozen assets, enabling the theocratic state to redouble its funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq.

Last October, the U.S. State Department published a 48-page report titled “Outlaw Regime: A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities.” In a foreword, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained why Trump had decided to withdraw from Obama’s nuclear deal, calling it “a failed strategic bet that fell short of protecting the American people or our allies from the potential of an Iranian nuclear weapon.” He pointed out that Barack Obama’s deal had “plainly failed to contribute to regional and international peace and security.” In fact, he said, “Iran’s destabilizing behavior has grown bolder under the deal.” Pompeo said, “We are asking every nation who is sick and tired of the Islamic Republic’s destructive behavior to join our pressure campaign. This especially goes for our allies in the Middle East and Europe, people who have themselves been terrorized by the violent regime’s activity for decades.”

Pompeo’s remarks followed a rash of terror events sponsored by the mullahs in Europe. On July 1, German police arrested Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat from the Iranian Embassy in Vienna, and charged him with terrorist offenses. The day before, Belgian police had arrested an Iranian-Belgian couple from Antwerp after 500 gm of high explosives and a detonator were found in their car. They admitted Assadi had given them the bomb and instructed them to detonate it at the Iranian democratic opposition rally being held in Villepinte, France, near Paris, that day. President Emmanuel Macron of France declared his outrage at this attempted terrorist atrocity on French soil and imposed immediate sanctions on Iran.

Undeterred by this embarrassing setback, in October, Iran sent another diplomat to assassinate an opposition figure in Denmark. He was also arrested and is now facing trial. Similar terror plots were uncovered in Albania, where Iran’s newly appointed ambassador and first secretary were found to be leading Ministry of Intelligence & Security agents, plotting attacks on the 2,500 Iranian dissidents from the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI or MEK) who have set up a compound near Tirana. Albania’s courageous Prime Minister Edi Rama did not hesitate. He announced the expulsion of both so-called Iranian “diplomats” last December, on the grounds that they posed a threat to Albania’s national security.

Despite clear evidence that Iranian embassies in Europe were being used as terrorist bomb factories, EU lawmakers on July 5 — less than a week after the Iranian diplomat from Vienna was arrested — approved plans for the European Investment Bank to do business with the ruling theocracy in Iran, in a desperate bid to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive. Europe’s leading appeaser, Mogherini, has been a frequent visitor to Tehran, where she pays homage to the ayatollahs, donning a headscarf to offer submission to the clerical regime’s misogyny, even posing for selfies with the mullahs. Now she has decided to snub an anti-Iran conference organized by Pompeo in Warsaw, Poland, in mid-February.

But Mogherini’s efforts at conciliation appear to have fallen on deaf ears in Europe. It has been reported that a delegation of leading EU diplomats from France, the U.K., Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands had a volatile meeting earlier this month in Tehran. They told senior Iranian officials that the EU could no longer tolerate ballistic missile tests in Iran and assassination attempts on European soil. Apparently, in an unprecedented breach of protocol, the Iranian officials stormed out of the room, slamming the door.

Clearly, the mullahs are deeply perplexed. A state of total confusion has persisted ever since Trump tore up the nuclear deal and reimposed tough sanctions. For many EU countries, assassination attempts on their own soil were the last straw. Sanctions approved now by France, Denmark and the Netherlands and threats of further action by a widening range of EU member states, have isolated Mogherini and her disastrous policy of appeasement. The time is right for the EU to follow America’s example and pull the plug on the nuclear deal.



On Topic Links

Russian Deputy FM Reiterates Commitment to Israel’s Security: Ariel Kahana & Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom, Jan. 30, 2019

Although the Kremlin has contradicted itself about its relations with Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a delegation of senior Russian officials in Jerusalem on Tuesday to discuss the situation in neighboring Syria.

Nearly all of Iran’s Advanced Nuke Centrifuges Failing, Top Expert Reveals: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2019Nearly all of Iran’s advanced centrifuges used for enriching uranium potentially towards a nuclear bomb are failing, one of the world’s leading nuclear weapons experts revealed to The Jerusalem Post this week.

Cyber Firm Says Iranian-Linked Espionage Group Targeting Telecom, High-Tech Industries: Olivia Beavers, The Hill, Jan. 29, 2019 A cyber espionage group linked to Iran has targeted telecommunications and high-tech industries in order to steal personal information, according to a new report.

Sunni and Arab Opposition Attack the Iranian Regime’s Security Forces and Critical Infrastructure: JCPA, Jan. 31, 2019Toward the end of January 2019, two terror attacks were carried out in Iran by Sunni (the Army of Justice – Jaish ul-Adl) and Arab (the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, or ASMLA) opposition movements. Both of these opposition movements, as well as other opposition organizations, have increased their attacks on the security forces of the Iranian regime in recent months, as well as on the regime’s energy and economic infrastructures.




Time to Tell the Truth About the Palestinian Issue: Alan Dershowitz, The Hill, Jan. 22, 2019  — The front page of the New York Times Sunday Review featured one of the most biased, poorly informed, and historically inaccurate columns about the conflict between Israel and Palestine ever published by a mainstream newspaper.

Preparing for Peace – The Palestinian Way: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 29, 2019— While the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to arrest and intimidate Palestinian journalists in the West Bank, its loyalists are also waging a campaign against Arab journalists who dare to visit Israel.

Palestinian Authority Still Pays Millions to Terrorists and Uses Foreign Aid to Do So: Steven Emerson, Algemeiner, Jan. 27, 2019 — The Palestinian Authority (PA) transferred over $135 million to imprisoned terrorists in 2018, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports.

Peace: The Missing Israeli Election Issue: Evelyn Gordon, Commentary, Jan. 10, 2019 — Israel’s election campaign has only just begun, but one key issue is already notable by its absence: peace with the Palestinians.

On Topic Links

The Palestinian Civil War: T Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 24, 2019

Most Palestinians Killed in Gaza Protests Have Terrorist Ties: IPT News, Jan. 22, 2019

Israel Blocks Palestinian Bid to Get Observer Status at UN Disarmament Panel: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Jan. 22, 2019

The Palestinian Jihad Against Peace: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 28, 2019


TIME TO TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE                                                               

Alan Dershowitz                                                                                                            

The Hill, Jan. 22, 2019

The front page of the New York Times Sunday Review featured one of the most biased, poorly informed, and historically inaccurate columns about the conflict between Israel and Palestine ever published by a mainstream newspaper. Written by Michelle Alexander, it is entitled, “Time to break the silence on Palestine,” as if the Palestinian issue has not been the most overhyped cause on campuses, at the United Nations, and in the media.

There is no silence to break. What must be broken is the double standard of those who elevate the Palestinian claims over those of the Kurds, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Chechens, the Tibetans, the Ukrainians, and many other more deserving groups who truly suffer from the silence of the academia, the media, and the international community. The United Nations devotes more of its time, money, and votes to the Palestinian issue than to the claims of all of these other oppressed groups combined.

The suffering of Palestinians, which does not compare to the suffering of many other groups, has been largely inflicted by themselves. They could have had a state, with no occupation, if they had accepted the Peel Commission Report of 1938, the United Nations Partition of 1947, the Camp David Summit deal of 2000, or the Ehud Olmert offer of 2008. They rejected all these offers, responding with violence and terrorism, because doing so would have required them to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, something they are unwilling to do even today.

I know because I asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that question directly and he said no. The Palestinian leadership indeed has always wanted there not to be a Jewish state more than it has wanted there to be a Palestinian state. The Palestinian issue is not “one of the great moral challenges of our time,” as Alexander insists in her column. It is a complex, nuanced, pragmatic problem, with fault on all sides. The issue could be solved if Palestinian leaders were prepared to accept the “painful compromises” that Israeli leaders have already agreed to accept.

Had the early Palestinian leadership, with the surrounding Arab states, not attacked Israel the moment it declared statehood, it would have a viable state with no refugees. Had Hamas used the resources it received when Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to build schools and hospitals instead of using these resources to construct rocket launchers and terror tunnels, it could have become a “Singapore on the Sea” instead of the poverty stricken enclave the Palestinian leadership turned it into.

The leaders of Hamas as well as the Palestinian Authority bear at least as much responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians as do the Israelis. Israel is certainly not without some fault, but the “blame it all on Israel” approach taken by Alexander is counterproductive because it encourages Palestinian recalcitrance. As Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once observed, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

One striking illustration of the bias is the absurd claim by Alexander that “many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights” because of “McCarthyite tactics” employed by pro-Israel groups. I have taught on many campuses, and I can attest that no international cause is given more attention, far more than it deserves in comparison with other more compelling causes, than the Palestinians. It is pro-Israel students who are silenced out of fear of being denied recommendations, graded down, or shunned by peers. Some have even been threatened with violence. Efforts have been made to prevent from speaking on several campuses, despite my advocacy of a two state solution to the conflict.

Alexander claims that there is legal discrimination against Israeli Arabs. The reality is that Israeli Arabs have more rights than Arabs anywhere in the Muslim world. They vote freely, have their own political parties, speak openly against the Israeli government, and are beneficiaries of affirmative action in Israeli universities. The only legal right they lack is to turn Israel into another Muslim state governed by Sharia law, instead of the nation state of Jewish people governed by freedom and secular democratic law. That is what the new Jewish nation state law, which I personally oppose, does when it denies Arabs the “right of self determination in Israel.”

Alexander condemns “Palestinian homes being bulldozed,” without mentioning that these are the homes of terrorists who murder Jewish children, women, and men. She bemoans casualties in Gaza, which she calls “occupied” even though every Israeli soldier and settler left in 2005, without mentioning that many of these casualties were human shields from behind whom Hamas terrorists fire rockets at Israeli civilians. She says there are “streets for Jews only,” which is a categorical falsehood. There are roads in the disputed territories that are limited to cars with Israeli licenses for security. But these roads are in fact open to all Israelis, including Druze, Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, and people of no faith.

The most outrageous aspect of the column is the claim by Alexander that Martin Luther King Jr. inspired her to write it. But he was a staunch Zionist, who said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.” It is certainly possible that he would have been critical of certain Israeli policies today, but I am confident that he would have been appalled at her unfair attack on the nation state of the Jewish people and especially on her misuse of his good name to support anti-Israel bigotry.




Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 29, 2019

While the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to arrest and intimidate Palestinian journalists in the West Bank, its loyalists are also waging a campaign against Arab journalists who dare to visit Israel. This month alone, the PA security forces have arrested nine Palestinian journalists, according to the Palestinian Committee for Supporting Journalists.

One of the journalists, Yousef al-Faqeeh, 33, a reporter for the London-based Quds Press News Agency, was taken into custody on January 16. On January 27, a PA court ordered al-Faqeeh remanded into custody for 14 days. His family said that they still do not know why he was arrested. Al-Faqeeh’s wife, Suhad, said that PA security officers raided their house; when Yousef asked whether they had a search warrant, they proceeded to arrest him. “They took him to an unknown destination and did not provide a reason for his arrest,” she said. “They also confiscated his computer and mobile phone.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrest of al-Faqeeh and called on the PA to release him immediately. The other journalists targeted by the PA in the past few weeks are: Mu’tasem Saqf al-Hait, Ayman Abu Aram, Mahmoud Abu Hraish, Mahmoud Abu al-Rish, Zeid Abu Arra, Hazem Nasser, Mohammed Dkeidek and Amir Abu Istaitiyeh.

In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, only three Palestinian journalists were detained in the past few weeks: Luay al-Ghul, Executive Director of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Salah Abu Salah, an independent reporter, and Huda Baroud, a female investigative reporter who was summoned for interrogation after she prepared a story about “rape within a single family.” The Committee for Supporting Journalists said that the crackdown on Palestinian journalists was aimed at restricting freedom of the media under the PA and Hamas.

These condemnations, however, do not seem to bother Palestinian leaders, who do not tolerate any form of criticism. The Palestinian leaders clearly seem emboldened by the fact that the international community and media are oblivious to the plight of Palestinian journalists. Or, more accurately, the international community does not care when a Palestinian journalist is arrested or harassed by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. The only stories that attract the world’s attention are those in which Israel is involved.

The silence of the international community has inspired Palestinian leaders to the point where they have now extended their campaign of intimidation to non-Palestinian Arab journalists. When a group of Arab journalists, who hail from Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria and Morocco, recently visited Israel, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information issued a strongly-worded statement accusing the reporters of promoting normalization with Israel. “Normalization [with Israel] is an unacceptable and unjustified disgrace,” the ministry said. “The ministry affirms its rejection of media normalization with the occupation and considers it an unacceptable crime under all circumstances.”

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a body dominated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas loyalists, said it is now preparing a blacklist that will include the name of any Arab journalist suspected of engaging in normalization with Israel. The syndicate expressed “shock” over the visit and called for ending all forms of normalization with Israel, including in the media. “What happened was a huge political and national sin.” The journalists, who work in France and Belgium, are now being accused by many Arabs of treason.

The Paris-based magazine Kul Al-Arab said it has terminated all relations with Egyptian journalist Khaled Zaghloul, who was among the group of journalists who visited Israel in December 2018. The editor of the magazine said that his staff, which is “committed to the just and legitimate Arab causes, particularly the Palestinian cause, categorically condemns this unacceptable visit.” Abdel Muhsen Salameh, Chairman of the Egyptian Journalists Union and CEO of Al-Ahram, said that Zaghloul had been fired from the paper in 2011. Ala Thabet, editor in chief of Al-Ahram, distanced himself from the journalist and called on all Arab media outlets to follow suit.

Another prominent Egyptian journalist, Abou Bakr Khallaf, is also facing criticism for visiting Israel. Khallaf, who is based in Turkey, is facing severe criticism after he posted a photo of himself during a visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. His Egyptian colleagues have called for legal and administrative measures against him for engaging in normalization with the “Zionist entity.” Kuwaiti writer Fajer Al-Saeed is also facing condemnations after she took the brave step of calling on Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.

The Palestinian crackdown on reporters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is aimed at silencing critics and deterring journalists from reporting on sensitive issues such as financial corruption and human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. For now, it seems that this crackdown has achieved its goal, as most Palestinian journalists living under the PA and Hamas are afraid publicly to voice any form of criticism of their leaders.

The Palestinian incitement against Arab journalists who visit Israel or maintain relations with Israeli colleagues is part of a wider campaign to prevent the Arab countries from normalizing ties with Israel. The Palestinians attach significant importance to their “anti-normalization” campaign, mainly because they believe that US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East envisages normalization between the Arab countries and Israel. By waging a smear campaign against Arabs for allegedly promoting normalization with Israel, the Palestinian leaders are hoping to thwart Trump’s upcoming peace plan. If, in the eyes of the PA leadership, normalization with Israel is an act of “treason,” a “crime” and a “big political and national sin,” the Trump administration may well be wasting its time and prestige on a peace plan that envisions peace between the Arab countries and Israel, at least at this time.

To achieve peace with Israel, Palestinian leaders need to prepare their people — and all Arabs and Muslims — for peace and compromise with Israel, and not, as they are now doing, the exact opposite. Shaming and denouncing Arabs who visit Israel is hardly a way to prepare anyone for peace, or the possibility of any compromise. Meanwhile, the Trump administration and the international community would be doing a real service to the Palestinians if they start paying attention to assaults on public freedoms, including freedom of the media, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Holding Palestinian leaders accountable for their systematic abuses of public freedoms, assaults on journalists and incitement is the only way to encourage badly needed moderate and pragmatic Palestinians and Arabs to speak out.





Steven Emerson

Algemeiner, Jan. 27, 2019

The Palestinian Authority (PA) transferred over $135 million to imprisoned terrorists in 2018, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports. Based on open-source information and the PA’s own budget, PMW broke down PA terror payments into various categories. More than $62 million was sent to terrorists while they were in jail, while almost $48 million was paid to released prisoners. Roughly $26 million was used to pay other terrorist-related salaries and additional benefits.

PA security personnel jailed on terrorism charges continue to receive higher salaries from a different budget than other prisoners, which underestimates the overall figure of payments transferred to jailed terrorists. Payments are a function of the severity of the attack and prison sentence. The more brutal the attack or murder, the more money a Palestinian prisoner receives. Prisoners with previous arrests receive more money as well. These figures do not include other forms of PA support to Palestinian terrorists, such as payments to the families of “martyrs,” or dead terrorists.

Israel’s Knesset passed legislation last July to impose structured sanctions targeting the PA for its financial incentives to murder program, which promotes violence against Israelis. The PMW report was sent to Israel’s Ministry of Defense to help the government with their annual assessment of the PA’s terror payments. Last year, senior Palestinian officials, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas, issued defiant assurances that they would not end the payments.

Qadri Abu Bakr, who directs the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs “emphasized that the leadership … will continue to support the resolve of the prisoners and their families and will not succumb to the Israeli and American pressures calling to stop the Martyrs’ (Shahids) and prisoners’ salaries (rawatib) and allowances (mukhassasat).”

“By Allah, even if we have only a penny left, it will only be spent on the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people,” Abbas said on official PA TV last July, adding that “martyrs and prisoners” are “stars in the sky,” and these terrorists “have priority in everything.” These statements reaffirm that the PA places more emphasis on taking care of Palestinians convicted of attacking Israelis than other sectors of Palestinian society. In fact, terrorists and their families receive far higher payments than welfare recipients. Despite international pressure to halt this practice, roughly half of the foreign aid that the PA receives is allocated for payments to terrorist inmates and the “families of martyrs.”




Evelyn Gordon

Commentary, Jan. 10, 2019

Israel’s election campaign has only just begun, but one key issue is already notable by its absence: peace with the Palestinians. To many Americans—especially American Jews, who overwhelmingly consider this the most important issue facing Israel—the fact that almost none of the candidates are talking about the peace process may seem surprising. But several recent incidents help explain why it’s a very low priority for most Israeli voters.

Not so long ago, of course, the peace process was Israel’s top voting issue, almost its only one. But in a poll published last month, self-identified centrists and rightists both ranked the peace process dead last among six suggested issues of concern. Even self-identified leftists ranked it only third, below corruption and closing socioeconomic gaps.

There are many well-known reasons why Israelis have stopped believing peace is possible anytime soon. They range from the failure of every previous round of negotiations, to Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate at all for most of the last decade, to the fact that every bit of land Israel has so far turned over to the Palestinians—both in Gaza and the West Bank—has become a hotbed of anti-Israel terror. Yet the root cause of all the above receives far too little attention overseas: Israel’s ostensible peace partner, the Palestinian Authority, educates its people to an almost pathological hatred of Israel.

I’ve discussed the way this plays out in Palestinian textbooks and the Palestinian media many times. But nothing better illustrates the problem than three incidents over the past two months. The most shocking occurred in November when a Palestinian accused of selling real estate to Jews in eastern Jerusalem was denied a Muslim burial by order of the imams of Jerusalem’s Muslim cemetery, religious officials at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem’s PA-appointed grand mufti. He was finally buried, with approval from Jerusalem’s chief rabbi, in the non-Jewish section of a Jewish cemetery.

Of course, selling land to Jews is a crime in the PA, for which the maximum penalty is death. Just last month, a Palestinian-American was sentenced to life in prison for it. But in Islam, like in Judaism, proper burial is a religious commandment. Consequently, even the most heinous crime—for instance, killing fellow Muslims—does not preclude someone from burial in a Muslim cemetery, just as Jewish criminals are entitled to Jewish burial.

Thus, PA clerics effectively ruled that a major religious commandment was less important than opposing a Jewish presence in Judaism’s holiest city (to which, not coincidentally, the PA adamantly denies any Jewish connection). Grand Mufti Ekrima Sabri even justified his decision by saying that “whoever sells to the Jews of Jerusalem is not a member of the Muslim nation.” But if PA-appointed clerics claim that selling even a single plot of land to Jews makes one an apostate, how exactly is the PA supposed to sign a peace deal that formally grants the Jews even pre-1967 Israel, which Muslims consider to be no less a part of “historic Palestine” than Jerusalem?

That same month, the PA suspended Hebron’s police chief after social media posts showed him trying to help Israeli soldiers fix a stalled jeep (the original posts said he changed the jeep’s tire, but Palestinian sources denied that, and it’s highly unlikely that none of the soldiers could change a tire). Col. Ahmed Abu al-Rub was just doing his job: The jeep was stalled on a Palestinian road and blocking Palestinian traffic so, as a policeman, it was his duty to try to remove the obstacle and get traffic moving again.

But ordinary human interaction with Israelis, aka “normalization,” is anathema to many Palestinians, including many PA officials. Though the PA will (usually) cooperate with Israel on hunting down Hamas terrorists, since it views Hamas as an existential threat to itself, preventing person-to-person contact with Israelis has been official PA policy for over seven years. So how exactly is Israel to make peace when the PA’s hatred runs so deep that a normal neighborly act like helping Israelis with car trouble—for the sake of unsnarling a Palestinian traffic jam—can endanger a policeman’s job?…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links

The Palestinian Civil War: T Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 24, 2019—The tension between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas Organization in Gaza is approaching the boiling point, as a result of several factors…

Most Palestinians Killed in Gaza Protests Have Terrorist Ties: IPT News, Jan. 22, 2019— The vast majority of Palestinians killed in response to weekly violent protests on the Israel-Gaza border are affiliated with Hamas and other terrorist groups, reports the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

Israel Blocks Palestinian Bid to Get Observer Status at UN Disarmament Panel: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Jan. 22, 2019— Israel on Monday thwarted the Palestinians’ attempt to obtain observer state status at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD).

The Palestinian Jihad Against Peace: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 28, 2019— Palestinian leaders have recently stepped up their efforts to stop Arab countries from normalizing their relations — or even signing peace agreements — with Israel. The campaign comes against a backdrop of reports about the warming of relations between Israel and some Arab countries, including a recent visit to Oman by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Political Dysfunctionality and Electoral Chaos: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019— Setting aside the Gaza confrontations, 2018 was one of Israel’s best years since the establishment of the state.

The ‘New Bibi’ Lashes Out As Israel’s AG Continues to Dilly-Dally: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, Jan. 9, 2019— It was all very suspenseful.

Why are There so Many Parties, and is There Anything Wrong with That?: Israel Democracy Institute, Times of Israel, Jan. 27, 2019 — Why does Israel have so many political parties — and what’s wrong with that?

Heads of State vs. Ministers of Defense: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Jan. 17, 2019— The recent resignations of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shed light on the age-old professional tension between heads of state…

On Topic Links

Your Guide to the Obscenely Complicated World of Israeli Elections: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Jan. 23, 2019

Key Document on Bezeq Could Clear Netanyahu in Case 4,000: Israel Hayom, Jan. 25, 2019

Israeli Arabs Seek to Turn Netanyahu’s Controversial ‘in Droves’ Comment From 2015 Election Against Him in Next Vote: Algemeiner, Jan. 22, 2019

Remembering Moshe Arens: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 10, 2019



Isi Leibler                                                                                 

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019

Setting aside the Gaza confrontations, 2018 was one of Israel’s best years since the establishment of the state. President Donald Trump’s administration has become the most Israel-friendly US government in history, appointing pro-Israeli officials in the administration, reinstating sanctions on Iran, championing Israel’s cause at the UN by stating the truth for the first time, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, terminating funding for fictitious UNESCO refugees, demanding an end to payment of Palestinian Authority-sponsored financial incentives to terrorists and their families, and rejecting the Palestinian demand for the right of return of five million “refugees.” In short, a stark reversal from Obama, who appeased the Iranians while treating Israel almost like a rogue state.

But now storm clouds are gathering and we face serious new and intensified threats. We are at a loss to anticipate where Trump is heading after his precipitous and totally unexpected decision to withdraw US forces from Syria. Although the precise scope of the withdrawal has been qualified in recent days, Trump’s allies now fear that with the Russians effectively controlling the region, it will be a boon for the Iranians.

The IDF is probably at its highest level of preparedness and claims it would ably defeat an attack from all its adversaries, but concedes we would face heavy civilian casualties from missiles. We cannot become complacent and should remind ourselves of the disastrous events preceding the Yom Kippur War exacerbated by our hubris and note that the IDF Ombudsman warned of weaknesses on the ground and the need for additional supplies.

Notwithstanding deployment of Russian anti-aircraft missiles, the Israel Air Force is continuing its sorties in Syria while the Iranians remain engaged in preparing for a war to destroy us. In addition, Israel continues to face intensified terror from Hamas on the Gaza border. Israel is also concerned at the recent signs indicating that Russia has downgraded the warm relationship hitherto displayed by Putin. While there is military coordination of sorts still prevailing with the Russians, it is a highly fragile relationship which could easily break down.

In the context of these new threats, the burden of leadership falls primarily on our prime minister, who, aside from holding four ministerial portfolios, is diverted virtually every day by police interrogations and the imminent announcement by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit poised to indict him for corruption. Yet, despite the immense pressure, he remains in control and is effectively the only person capable of making the necessary decisions that could determine war.

At times like this, the focus of the government should be to concentrate on the current security threats. Alas, in lieu of this we have been thrust into an election season where most politicians are bent on seeking votes rather than serving the national interest. What a contrast today to the personalities of yesteryear, like that of recently deceased Moshe Arens, a man of unquestioned integrity and political stature, a diplomat and leader who was utterly dedicated to the national interest.

Despite being more powerful militarily than we have ever been, it is the height of irresponsibility to be engaged in self-seeking electoral issues at a critical time when we should be uniting. We remain saddled with a proportional preference system, which may be the most democratic, but gives disproportionate power to smaller parties, enabling them to hold the balance of power and extort the majority for its own sectoral objectives.

We are in a period of political chaos. With the total collapse of Labor following Avi Gabbay’s ousting of his partner Tzipi Livni, there is no coherent mainstream opposition party. Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked defected from Bayit Yehudi to form a new party, and individuals like Benny Gantz decided to join the political fray and create yet another new party (Israel Resilience), but as of now have disclosed no policy beyond claiming to be centrist.

However, on the crucial issue of security and foreign affairs, if in government the centrist parties would undoubtedly promote the path supported by the vast majority of Israelis who believe that the goal should be to separate ourselves from the Palestinians – if we could achieve this and still retain security. They would emphatically oppose the creation of another terrorist state on our borders which would serve as a launching pad for the Iranians against us. Until that happens, the consensus is that the status quo must be maintained until the emergence of a Palestinian leadership willing to accept our existence and co-exist peacefully.

This approach, given minor nuances, is that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The current prediction is that, despite his bitter personal adversaries and the demonizing media, Netanyahu will be reelected prime minister. Of course, with the present confusing proliferation of small parties and the impending indictment there is always the risk that opposition parties will merge and form a non-Likud government. There is also a genuine chance that many mandates of the Right shall be lost by votes cast for parties not passing the minimal electoral threshold.

However, on the assumption that Netanyahu does form the next government, it will likely be his final term. If he were to publicly announce this, it would be admired by the entire nation. He should then appoint ministers capable of fulfilling the vital jobs to enable him to concentrate exclusively on his role as prime minister.

Then he should approach the opposition and invite those willing to join a national unity government to deal with security issues and relations with the Palestinians. It should be noted that Menachem Begin despite his perpetual venomous relationship with the Labor Party, managed such a move before the Six Day War. Today, one could only dream that most opposition leaders – aside from the Arab Joint List and probably Meretz – could set aside their short-term personal and political ambitions and come to a consensus in supporting the government in relation to security issues and foreign affairs. Whatever his failings, few could deny that for the immediate future there is nobody who would be remotely as effective as Netanyahu in leading the nation at these levels.

In the highly unlikely event that such an arrangement could be achieved with the leading opposition parties, Israelis may begin to respect their political leaders, contrary to what is currently the case when most of them are despised as selfish opportunists rather than lawmakers concerned with the national interest. Aside from creating a sense of real unity in the nation, it will also have a major positive impact on Diaspora Jews who would be incentivized to support the State of Israel rather than identifying with partisan political groups.

It could also have a constructive influence on the many nations which currently distance themselves or oppose us. Alas, the probability of this becoming a reality is slim because most politicians are more concerned with their short-term personal ambitions. The likely outcome is that Netanyahu will be reelected, but there are many unpredictable factors that could deny voters their preference. Sadly, the next government is likely, once more, to be dominated by small parties led by egotistical individuals pursuing their own partisan self-serving interests, often at the expense of the national interest.





Vivian Bercovici

National Post, Jan. 9, 2019

It was all very suspenseful. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu let it be known…that he would be making a “dramatic” statement. Live. From his official residence in Jerusalem. The hour of the main nightly newscast in Israel.

As anticipated and choreographed, the television stations beamed up Bibi to allow the public to hear the urgent statement directly. Just over a month ago, Netanyahu resorted to the same high-tension tactic to announce the destruction of Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. A serious matter, to be sure, but. Commandeering the airwaves on an urgent basis for anything other than the most serious circumstances — like the outbreak of war — is problematic and ill-advised.

This is the new Bibi. Some say the “panicked” Bibi. For almost three years now the PM has soldiered on as the police have investigated multiple corruption allegations involving him and other close associates. Among those who have turned state witness, presumably proffering evidence against Netanyahu, are three former senior aides who worked in his office.

Several months ago, the police handed the investigation files over to the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, with a recommendation that the prime minister be indicted. And there the matter sits, as Mandelblit ponders: “To indict or not to indict?” The process requires that the police investigate and recommend to the AG whether or not to indict. The most senior prosecutors then review the evidence and recommendation to determine whether to further the process and hold a hearing, which must conclude before a final criminal charge is laid.

Last week Netanyahu lashed out, questioning the integrity of the most senior law-enforcement institutions in Israel. “For years now, left-wing protesters and media have levelled thuggish, inhumane pressure at the attorney general to get him to file an indictment against me at any cost,” he said, ”even when there’s nothing there. This pressure is now reaching a climax. They’re trying to force the attorney general to brazenly intervene in the elections by ordering me to a hearing, despite knowing that it won’t be possible to conclude the hearing process by election day. It’s unconscionable to start a hearing process before elections that can’t be concluded by the elections.”

These comments and others by fellow Likudniks have earned public rebukes from Mandelblit and the chief prosecutor for questioning the integrity of the justice system and irresponsibly undermining public trust in the professionalism of senior public officers. “Such utterances seek to harm the deepest foundations of the rule of law,” Mandelblit warned, adding: “They are irresponsible.” Wildly so. As is this unseemly and ongoing public brawl engaging such high office holders.

Netanyahu has become an increasingly polarizing leader in Israel, enjoying unwavering loyalty from his political base — comprised largely of Israeli Jews from North Africa and Middle Eastern countries. They are hardline on security and resentful of the historical control of all aspects of national and cultural life, including the media, by Jews of Eastern European descent, who tend to be more liberal.

As the polls bear out, the Likud base believes Netanyahu, whom they revere as “King Bibi.” The resolute, tough Bibi who came out swinging on TV Monday night is their guy. Under Israeli law, in circumstances where there is doubt regarding the credibility of certain evidence, the accuser and accused may meet in the presence of police, before indictment, in order to facilitate discussion and allow law enforcement to more carefully assess the evidence.

In his prime time Monday-night statement, Netanyahu blasted the police for refusing his requests that they exercise this discretion and arrange such meetings. “During the investigations, I demanded a confrontation with the state’s witnesses,” Netanyahu stated. “I wanted to look them in the eyes and show them the truth. I asked twice and was rejected.”

At the outset of his remarks, Netanyahu was careful to acknowledge the critical importance of an independent judiciary and law-enforcement function in a democracy, but also reminded the public that no branch of government is immune from criticism. And he pulled no punches in directly attacking the competence of the police and other law-enforcement personnel. “What do they have to be afraid of? What are they hiding? I am not afraid. I do not have anything to hide. Therefore, tonight, I repeat my demand for a confrontation with state’s witnesses. I am certain that I am right.”

It’s a bizarre spectacle. The prime minister at once taunting and deriding the law-enforcement establishment while professing respect for this independent function of democracy.

Whether Netanyahu is guilty or innocent, a central issue that is deeply disturbing is why Mandelblit continues to sit on his brief and indulge his Hamlet-like tendencies. Once he received the police recommendations it was his duty to act swiftly and decisively and either dismiss the matter for lack of sufficient evidence or indict the prime minister. His indecision has been grossly unfair to the prime minister and the nation. Indeed, his review must be done painstakingly, but he’s been waiting for those files for years now, and has been sitting on them for several months. If the matter is so egregious and urgent, one wonders, why the dilly-dallying?





Israel Democracy Institute

Times of Israel, Jan. 27, 2019

Why does Israel have so many political parties — and what’s wrong with that? Israeli society is extremely diverse, with multiple political divisions that run along ideological, ethnic and religious fault lines. Israel also has an extreme proportional system of government, which grants representation in the Knesset to any party that clears a 3.25% threshold in general elections that take place in a single, nationwide district.

The result of these two factors is political fragmentation. On the one hand, this is a good thing because minorities in Israel are adequately represented in parliament. However, representation comes at a price in terms of political stability and good governance. In order to form a coalition in Israel, the prospective ruling party has to attain a majority of at least 61 seats out of the 120 seats in the Knesset. Because of the proliferation of political parties, this task is impossible without cobbling together an alliance of several smaller parties.

In the last elections, held in 2015, ten electoral slates (representing 16 political parties) passed the electoral threshold and made it into the Knesset. The largest party (Likud) won a mere 30 seats — a quarter of the seats in the parliament and less than half the majority needed to form a coalition. It took Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seven weeks to form a coalition — made up of 21 ministers coming from six parties, each of which has its own worldview, constituency and demands. This fragmentation has been typical of election results of the last several decades. As a consequence, Israeli prime ministers worry constantly about political stability, and sometimes cater more to the demands of small sectoral parties than to the national interest.

“The current system grants small parties disproportionate power, leads to excessive preoccupation with coalition management, does not provide strong incentives for creating an effective opposition, and leads to the allocation of over-sized budgets to sectoral interests,” says Prof. Gideon Rahat, Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. His solution? “We need to create a system of incentives which will solidify the political system into two main blocs. The task of forming the next government should be given to the head of the largest faction. This will encourage politicians to forge alliances before the elections, and will encourage citizens to cast their vote for the largest electoral list.”




Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

BESA, Jan. 17, 2019

The recent resignations of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shed light on the age-old professional tension between heads of state, who are charged with running a country’s national affairs, and their defense ministers, who are tasked with overseeing national security.

From time immemorial, the successful conduct of wars has been considered the ultimate test of kings and kingdoms. The tribes of Israel, when demanding a monarchy, asked the prophet Samuel for “a king like all other nations, who will lead us to battle and enable us to fight our wars.” It is true that even warlike monarchs, like King David, were assisted by able military commanders. But from the point of view of ordinary people, it was always the monarch to whom they looked for deliverance from wars and their horrendous consequences. This primordial yearning for heroic leadership to save the day in stark moments remains as abiding as ever in the modern nation state.

The recent British movie Darkest Hour, which articulated Winston Churchill’s heroic leadership at the gravest moment in Britain’s modern history, aroused tacit yearnings for leadership of similar stature. As long as security affairs run their normal course, entrusting them to an appointed minister does not cause complications. But in times of grave national crisis that require fateful decisions, public hopes and expectations are pinned on the head of state. At such critical junctures, when prime ministers and presidents take matters into their own hands, defense ministers often find themselves steamrolled, their views ignored.

In the US, the issue is less problematic given the president’s position as Commander-in-Chief, operating directly vis-à-vis arena commanders within a well-defined chain of command. But in Israel it is the government, not the prime minister, which is Commander-in-Chief. This not only constrains the PM’s ability to conduct wars but also raises questions about the true role of the minister of defense, who enjoys no superiority over fellow ministers in the war cabinet (or security cabinet, as it is known in Israel). Are ministers of defense guardians of security affairs during routine times alone, only to surrender their powers and responsibilities at critical moments?

To be sure, this dilemma exists even in the well-regulated US system, where at key moments secretaries of defense may find themselves stripped of the influence they would have expected to wield. There have, of course, been influential defense secretaries, such as Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld, who had a huge impact on the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars. But this was due to the deep mutual trust they enjoyed with their respective presidents. The moment these factors weaken and the president sees matters in different light, the secretary’s resignation is often a foregone conclusion.

Aware as they are of this inherent tension, Israeli prime ministers, from David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol to Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, have preferred to serve concurrently as defense ministers. Indeed, the separation of the two functions can become highly problematic, not only at times of war but also in situations where the prime minister is trying to uphold a strategic outlook on key issues that is best kept undisclosed. Were the PM forced to act in full coordination with a defense minister of a fundamentally different outlook or political agenda, this hidden strategic logic might be exposed, to the detriment of the national interest.

This was probably the dilemma confronting PM Netanyahu when he decided to avoid an all-out confrontation with Hamas in the summer and autumn of 2018 against the view of his seemingly more belligerent minister of defense. Some seventy years ago, at the height of Israel’s War of Independence, PM and defense minister Ben-Gurion found himself in a similar situation when deciding to forego the capture of East Jerusalem. In such circumstances, it is preferable for the national leader to serve concurrently as minister of defense.



On Topic Links

Your Guide to the Obscenely Complicated World of Israeli Elections: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Jan. 23, 2019—In 2015, Canadians complained about having to endure a two-month federal election. Right now, Israelis are in the midst of an election campaign that will last more than three months and feature the usual dizzying array of new parties, new splinter factions and new alliances.

Key Document on Bezeq Could Clear Netanyahu in Case 4,000: Israel Hayom, Jan. 25, 2019—A newly unearthed document could undermine a key premise in Case 4,000, a corruption case in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considered a suspect.

Israeli Arabs Seek to Turn Netanyahu’s Controversial ‘in Droves’ Comment From 2015 Election Against Him in Next Vote: Algemeiner, Jan. 22, 2019—Israel’s Arab lawmakers plan to commandeer Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim in the last election that Arabs were heading to the polls “in droves” to encourage their own voters in April’s election.

Remembering Moshe Arens: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 10, 2019—In the course of working on my master’s thesis in 1999, I had opportunity to interview Yitzhak Shamir and Moshe Arens regarding Israel’s decision not to retaliate against Iraq during the First Gulf War. I also had the privilege of knowing Arens, who passed away this week, through the security think tank I ran for 25 years at Bar-Ilan University. (Arens served on the institute’s board and spoke at many of our conferences).



Distortion of the Holocaust Mars Another Holocaust Remembrance Day: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Algemeiner, Jan. 24, 2019 — Many people equate Holocaust distortion exclusively with its denial and minimization.

To Combat Holocaust Ignorance, We Must Empower Teachers: Naomi Azrieli, Globe & Mail, Jan. 24, 2018— On Jan. 27, the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau…

Canary in the Mine: Yad Vashem’s Holocaust-Awareness Programs Tackle 21st-Century Anti-Semitism: Deborah Fineblum, JNS, Jan. 8, 2019— It’s American teachers like Lori Fulton who, with their commitment to Holocaust education, are poised to be potent forces for holding back the current tidal wave of anti-Semitism for the next generation.

Making It: Lee Smith, Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019— The most famous first line in 20th-century American literature set in Kings County, New York, must be incomprehensible to many current residents of that highly literary territory.

On Topic Links

Holocaust Survivor’s Book a Story of Perseverance: Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban, May 2, 2018

20% of Canadian Young Adults Say Never Heard of the Holocaust: Ilanit Chernick, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 24, 2019

Hitler Book Maps ‘Final Solution in Canada,’ Library and Archives Canada Curator Says: CBC, Jan. 23, 2019

Top Nazi Hunter Blasts Visiting Ukraine Leader for Ignoring Holocaust Complicity: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Jan. 24, 2019




Manfred Gerstenfeld

Algemeiner, Jan. 24, 2019

Many people equate Holocaust distortion exclusively with its denial and minimization. This is incorrect. The latter two examples are only one category of Holocaust distortion — and they aren’t even the most abusive. Indeed, Holocaust inversion is worse, because it claims that Israel behaves toward the Palestinians the same way that the Nazis did towards the Jews.

There are also a variety of other categories of Holocaust distortion that can only be mentioned briefly here. Holocaust justification refers to the claim that Jews were the cause of their enemies’ antisemitism, and bore responsibility for their own murder. Blaming Jews for the hatred against them is a common antisemitic theme to this day.

Another important distortion category is Holocaust deflection, which admits that the Holocaust happened, but denies the complicity or responsibility of specific groups or individuals. In this way, blame for the Holocaust can be placed on others. One example is Austria, which for many years portrayed itself as the first victim of the Nazis, while in reality it was a major Holocaust perpetrator.

Holocaust whitewashing consists of many techniques and requires profound understanding. It aims at cleansing individuals, groups of people, or nations from blame without necessarily accusing others. For decades in West Germany, false claims were made that the Wehrmacht — the German army — did not participate in the atrocities that took place. But at the end of the last century, the claims about the Wehrmacht’s involvement in mass killings of Jews became irrefutable. Understanding whitewashing techniques of the Holocaust is important because they relate to many contemporary whitewashing techniques of antisemitism. A well-known case concerns the British Labour party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Another Holocaust distortion category — de-Judaization — has several variants. For instance, one can broaden the term Holocaust in order to include people other than Jews who were murdered, but not part of the genocide. A second type of de-Judaization is to avoid or minimize to a large extent the Jewish character of the victims. A major example of the de-Judaization of the Holocaust is the way in which Anne Frank’s life has been presented over the decades. In many places, she became a universal icon, and her Jewish identity was minimized.

The distortion category of Holocaust equivalence manifests itself in a number of ways. For example, pre-war and wartime Holocaust equivalence consists of claims that Germany did not do anything different from what other nations had done earlier. Post-war Holocaust equivalence alleges that certain actions or attitudes of others since the end of World War II are the same as those of the Germans during the war. This includes claims of the double genocide, which refers to the supposed symmetry between Nazi and communist crimes.

Holocaust trivialization is partly a tool for some ideologically or politically-motivated activists to metaphorically compare phenomena that they oppose to the industrial scale of the extermination of the Jews. Frequent examples are the “animal Holocaust,” referring to the mass slaughter of animals. Another is the “abortion Holocaust.” A very different type of trivialization happens in commercial activities. For instance, one sometimes finds images of Hitler used to promote companies or products.

Yet another category of distortion is the obliteration of Holocaust memories. This has many aspects. One facet is the destroying or besmirching of memorials. Another is disrupting memorial ceremonies. The Muslim Council of Britain tried to void the content of Holocaust ceremonies. In 2005, this organization wrote to a British minister that it would not attend the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz unless it included the “Holocaust” of the Palestinians. Sunday, January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On that occasion, we should also focus our attention on the many categories of Holocaust distortion.




Naomi Azrieli

Globe & Mail, Jan. 24, 2018

On Jan. 27, the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, individuals throughout the world will commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day – reflecting on the six million Jewish people killed during the Holocaust, as well as the millions of other victims of Nazi atrocities.

But the disturbing results from a new study show that reflecting once or twice a year is simply not enough. The report, conducted by Schoen Consulting on behalf of The Azrieli Foundation in partnership with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, exposed critical gaps when it comes to Holocaust awareness and knowledge among Canadian adults.

When we probed beyond baseline knowledge – such as familiarity with the term “the Holocaust,” ability to identify Adolf Hitler as the leader of the Nazi Party responsible for initiating the Second World War and the Holocaust, and the awareness that Germany was a country where the Holocaust began – our findings uncovered a fundamental lack of detailed knowledge.

Among all those surveyed, more than half of Canadian adults (54 per cent) did not know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. These numbers are worse among millennials: 62 per cent were ignorant of the fact. Ninety per cent of Poland’s Jewish population was murdered during the Holocaust; the killing centres of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor were all located there. Yet fewer than half of Canadians surveyed (43 per cent) could identify Poland as a country in which the Holocaust occurred.

Too many Canadians are also worryingly unaware of our country’s own Holocaust legacy. Indeed, only 19 per cent of those surveyed knew that Canada employed a “none is too many” stance toward Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. Almost one-third of those surveyed (32 per cent) believed that Canada had an open-border policy at that time. If we want our next generation to successfully uphold a tolerant, thoughtful and democratic society, it is our duty to ensure that they know our history, even when it is problematic and seemingly unaligned with what we as a country stand for today.

Our survey shows clearly and unambiguously that the more Canadians know about the Holocaust, the less likely they are to think that neo-Nazi beliefs and actions are acceptable. Among those respondents with knowledge of the Holocaust, only 4 per cent believe that neo-Nazi beliefs are acceptable. Conversely, 16 per cent of those who never heard of the Holocaust say it is acceptable to hold neo-Nazi beliefs.

The consequences of this ignorance are alarming. The number of anti-Semitic incidents has ballooned: In 2018, Canada saw a record number of incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence against its Jewish population. It suggests that, even though the two pillars of Holocaust remembrance are “Never Forget” and “Never Again,” it appears that many of us Canadians have forgotten – or perhaps, never knew. And Canada is not alone. These findings are consistent with those found in another Schoen study on Holocaust awareness and knowledge in the United States. Conducted last year on behalf of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the report found that when Americans are educated about the Holocaust in a meaningful way, the percentage of people holding neo-Nazi views drops dramatically to a potentially negligible number.

What both studies show is that a broad-scale strategy to optimize Holocaust education at the high-school level can fundamentally combat the increase in neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism we are seeing. Currently, each province sets its own school curriculum. They can include study of the Holocaust in courses such as history, social studies, modern history and Canadian law. Then it is up to each individual teacher to decide how they want to teach the Holocaust. But it’s clear this laissez-faire approach is not working. Every province needs to ensure that the Holocaust is included in their curriculum in a comprehensive way. Critically, teachers must be supported by receiving sufficient training, strategies and resources so that they have an appropriate comfort level and knowledge in teaching this sensitive material.

The survey showed overwhelming support for Holocaust education. Eighty-two per cent of Canadian adults believe all students should learn about the Holocaust in school, and 85 per cent say it is important to keep teaching about the Holocaust.

In a way, the declining level of personal connection to the Holocaust isn’t surprising. The population of first-person survivors and witnesses to the atrocities is dwindling, and 69 per cent do not know or know of a Holocaust survivor. As time inexorably passes, a comprehensive and compulsory Holocaust education curriculum in each province is needed more than ever.

By meaningfully supporting Holocaust education, we can do our part in reducing ongoing anti-Semitism, eliminating neo-Nazism and increasing respect for diversity. As Canadians come together to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz, we cannot allow the Holocaust to be forgotten. We owe that to the men and women who survived, as well as to the millions who perished – and, crucially, to future generations.





Deborah Fineblum

JNS, Jan. 8, 2019

It’s American teachers like Lori Fulton who, with their commitment to Holocaust education, are poised to be potent forces for holding back the current tidal wave of anti-Semitism for the next generation. Many of the tools for empowering Fulton and thousands of other teachers in striving to accomplish this Herculean task come from a hillside in Jerusalem, thousands of miles from her classroom in Mattawan, Mich.

Fulton, a high school English teacher who discovered the Holocaust as a teen when she happened upon The Diary of Anne Frank in her local library, spent two weeks last summer at Yad Vashem: the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. That’s where, together with dozens of other teachers, she learned how to bring these terror-filled years alive for her students. “I thought I knew about the Holocaust, but I realized I was missing something,” she says. “Sure, we can read Wiesel’s Night and watch ‘The Pianist,’ but only when you have the human stories—what it was really like to live through that hell—does everything change.”

Not only does Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies host 7,000 teachers annually in its Jerusalem center, but its programs train thousands more in 50 countries. And it provides a full menu of online teacher resources, including survivor testimonies, photos, rare film footage and lesson plans in 20 languages, destined for classrooms around the globe, in addition to resources for adults.

These offerings could not be more timely, given the uptick in anti-Semitism in Europe (where recent studies report a widespread increase in anti-Semitic behavior) and around the world. It’s coming from the right and increasingly, the experts say, from the left as well, marked by the demonization of Israel on many campuses and in the media, its fires fanned online by Holocaust-denial websites, and on Facebook and other social media.

In light of 21st-century anti-Semitism, the Holocaust is humanity’s canary in the mine. Its lesson: The unimaginable horror born when “garden variety” anti-Semitism is permitted to fester, turning murderous while the world’s global powers turn a deaf ear to 6 million screams. And that puts Fulton and thousands of other teachers on the front line, armed with an arsenal of weapons, much of it supplied by Yad Vashem, where, since its creation by order of the Knesset in 1953, every day is Holocaust Awareness Day.

The 1 million visitors each year who move through the powerful Moshe Safdie-designed structure—that seemingly threatens to close in on the viewer, conveying the feeling of being hunted down and even trapped—may not realize that the adjacent school is a veritable beehive of activity.

In the last two decades, 50,000 teachers from 12,000 schools have returned home inspired and ready to share what they’ve learned with their peers, impacting more than 5 million students over the years. Fulton, for one, is organizing a Holocaust-education training symposium in March for 50 teachers from across Michigan, each one destined to influence hundreds or thousands of students through the course of a career. “Our job is to tell the historical truth based on documentation,” says Avner Shalev, who for a quarter-century has been Yad Vashem’s chairman. “And the most important thing we do here is train teachers.”

“My students have no clue what Yad Vashem is, but after hearing survivor testimony and reading about their lives and the world they lived in, each one is going to own someone’s story,” says Fulton. “There’s nothing like looking over my football player with tears in his eyes watching ‘Schindler’s List.’ I told my principal that this is important enough to devote a semester to, and you know what? He agreed.”

Braxton French says learning about the Holocaust in Fulton’s class changed the way he sees the world. “We read books and watched videos, and we visited a survivor. I don’t know what it’s like to be in her situation, but it’s crazy to think about how this could have happened,” he says. “I’m a Christian, but when my friends say history isn’t important, I say, ‘Yes, it is’ or ‘It could happen again.’ ” One of the tools Fulton and her fellows use is “Echoes and Reflections: Teaching the Holocaust, Inspiring the Classroom,” a curriculum Yad Vashem created in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and the USC Shoah Foundation, with the North American teacher in mind.

“We’re helping teachers convey the important truth that the Holocaust is both an historical event and the result of human factors—something that can happen anywhere and anytime,” says project director Sheryl Ochayon. To get this key message across, the course introduces such foundational concepts as stereotypes, propaganda, dehumanization, hate crimes and anti-Semitism, along with the deadly Nazi ideology, and the real-life stories of survivors and heroes like Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

“We also invite them to look carefully at the role of the bystander in anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, and in the unit on contemporary anti-Semitism, at their own culture for signs of these things. Stereotypes like ‘Jew you down,’ when they see what it really means, they won’t be as likely to perpetuate it. Something they will take with them when they get to campus or out in the world.” (To learn more about the program, teachers are invited to visit “The net is where we all look now for information,” says Futon. “But when my students go online to research Holocaust topics, they find lots of sites saying it never happened.”

When they return to class thoroughly confused, Fulton says, “Yes, there are Holocaust-deniers, and there are people who think the world is flat. You have to be careful who and what you believe. And when they ask why the Poles didn’t realize what was going on, I say, ‘Of course, they knew: The stink of burning bodies 24-7, the ashes, the trains full of people.” And that, she says, leads naturally to a discussion of the “innocent” bystander…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Lee Smith

Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019

The most famous first line in 20th-century American literature set in Kings County, New York, must be incomprehensible to many current residents of that highly literary territory. “One of the longest journeys in the world,” writes Norman Podhoretz in the opening of his 1967 autobiography, Making It, “is the journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan.”

Podhoretz was of course speaking figuratively, referring to cultural and class differences separating the two boroughs that were infinitely wider than the East River. Today’s Brooklyn is different—apartment hunters are likely to find it less expensive to live off Park Avenue than in Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, or Fort Greene, where rents have soared due to the constant influx of tech-savvy millennials.

But back in the day, the price you paid to get from a working-class Jewish enclave in Brownsville to Columbia University and then the literary salons of the Upper West Side was constant re-invention, repeatedly shuffling off old selves and girding on new ones. That journey, as well as Podhoretz’s political transformations, from liberal to leftist to conservative, maps the last six decades of American society and culture and the Jewish community, and where and how they intersect. Today, he turns 89.

We’ve met several times over the last few years, first at lunch close to his home on the Upper East Side. “Here’s where Madonna lives,” he told me on the sidewalk, pointing to a large fortress-like structure, as if to note how the neighborhood of white-shoe lawyers and Wall Street financiers had morphed into something from Page Six.

I wanted to speak with Podhoretz for the same reason I’ve read and reread his work over the years—especially, in addition to Making It, Why We Were in Vietnam, The Bloody Crossroads: Where Literature and Politics Meet, and his two other autobiographies, Breaking Ranks and Ex-Friends. He seemed to me to hold the keys to the vault that contains the blueprint for how we as Americans, how I as an individual, got here, and where we’re going.

He’s taken up the struggle between liberal and conservative politics that re-generates our public life, and tells the truth about the drives of the ethnic New York through which much of the country passed before fanning out to fill and build America. Maybe most importantly to me, it’s because his political and cultural sensibility is shaped by his experience of literature. He takes texts, from the Bible to the modern novel, seriously. It’s easy to forget that the writer perhaps best known for his essay “My Negro Problem and Ours” and one of the intellectual fathers of neoconservatism, especially in foreign policy, studied with Lionel Trilling and F.R. Leavis, two of the greatest literary critics of the 20th century. He wanted to be a poet. Making It is a song of self filtered through a Brooklyn idiom: Here’s who I am—take it or leave it.

We spoke most recently on the phone after I visited him last year in his apartment on the Upper East Side shortly after the New York Review Books re-issued Making It in their classics imprint. He greeted me at the door with his wife, the writer Midge Decter, and daughter Ruthie Blum, an Israeli-American journalist. Their other children are Naomi Decter, the late Rachel Abrams, and son, John, editor of Commentary magazine. Norman edited the magazine from 1960-1995, leading it through at least two political and cultural transformations, first taking it from liberal to leftist and then swinging it back the other way to conservatism…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends and Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!



On Topic Links

Hillel Neuer Visits Hezbollah Terror Tunnels Ahead of UNSC Meeting: Breaking Israel News, Dec. 19, 2018—UN Watch’s Director Hillel Neuer visits Hezbollah terror tunnels crossing over the Israel-Lebanon border.

Ex-Government Agent Discusses Using AI to Battle Hezbollah Rockets: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018—Amit Meltzer is not only a former chief technology officer for a key Israeli government agency and a top cyber security consultant, he is also a master strategist.

Israeli Official Briefs Italian MPs on Hezbollah, Iran: Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom, Dec. 20, 2018—Head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs tells Italian parliament session on Middle East that Hezbollah is helping Iran export the Islamic revolution across the region, disputing Italian MPs’ claim that Hezbollah operatives are not terrorists.

What Real Border Security Looks Like: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 10, 2019—What I saw on Wednesday while traveling along the Blue Line was … a fence. A fence studded with sensors, to be sure, but by no means an imposing one. As the accompanying photos show, here is what a long stretch of the border between two sworn enemies looks like.




I24, 21 jan. 2019

Au lendemain du tir de roquette de Syrie contre Israël imputé à l’Iran, le Premier ministre israélien Benyamin Netanyahou a une nouvelle fois prévenu la République islamique qu’Israël ne tolérerait aucune agression iranienne dans la région.

“L’armée de l’air a durement frappé des cibles iraniennes en Syrie”, a déclaré Netanyahou lundi après-midi lors de l’inauguration du nouvel aéroport d’Eilat.

“Nous agissons contre l’Iran et contre les forces syriennes qui les aident à nous attaquer. Celui qui essaie de nous atteindre, nous le frappons. Celui qui menace de nous exterminer en subira les conséquences”, a ajouté le Premier ministre.

Plus tôt lundi, un porte-parole de l’armée israélienne avait confirmé que les forces iraniennes présentes en Syrie étaient à l’origine du tir de roquette qui a visé la région du mont Hermon dimanche.

“Hier (dimanche), la force iranienne Al-Qods opérant en territoire syrien a lancé un missile sol-sol depuis le territoire syrien”, a affirmé l’armée israélienne dans un communiqué.

En représailles, l’armée israélienne a ciblé cette nuit des positions iraniennes en Syrie.

“Nous mettons en garde les forces armées syriennes contre toute tentative de nuire aux forces ou au territoire israéliens”, a précisé Tsahal.

Des avions de combat israéliens ont frappé des cibles militaires des forces iraniennes Al-Qods ainsi que des batteries de défense aérienne syriennes, a ajouté l’armée de l’Etat hébreu.

Des sites de stockage de munitions, de renseignement iranien et un camp d’entraînement militaire situés à l’aéroport international de Damas ont été visés par Tsahal.

Cette dernière a indiqué que des dizaines de missiles sol-air syriens avaient été tirés pendant le raid et qu’en réponse des batteries de défense locale avaient été visées par l’armée israélienne.

L’armée russe, alliée du régime syrien, a confirmé que des frappes israéliennes avaient touché la Syrie. Selon Moscou, quatre soldats syriens ont été tués et six blessés.

L’Observatoire syrien des droits de l’Homme (OSDH) qui dispose d’un vaste réseau de sources dans la Syrie en guerre, a donné un bilan de 11 combattants tués dont au moins deux Syriens.

“En tirant vers le territoire israélien hier, l’Iran a de nouveau offert la preuve définitive de ses véritables intentions de s’implanter en Syrie, mettant en danger l’État d’Israël et la stabilité de la région”, a indiqué Tsahal dans un communiqué.

L’armée israélienne a ajouté qu’elle allait continuer ses opérations “avec détermination pour contrecarrer l’enracinement de l’Iran en Syrie”.

“En outre, les forces de défense israéliennes tiennent le régime syrien pour responsable de tout ce qui se passe en Syrie et le mettent en garde de ne pas prendre Israël pour cible”, a continué l’armée israélienne.

Tsahal a en outre précisé qu’Israël était prêt “à tout scénario” et que l’armée continuerait “à opérer pour défendre les civils israéliens”.

Si le système de défense anti-aérien Dôme de fer a réussi a intercepter le missile iranien tiré dimanche au-dessus du mont Hermon, face à la situation, la station de ski israélienne ne sera pas ouverte aux visiteurs lundi.



Times of Israel, 24 jan., 2019

Le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu a conseillé mercredi au général iranien Qassem Soleimani d’examiner « l’état des bases iraniennes qu’il tente d’établir en Syrie » plutôt que « d’interférer dans les élections israéliennes ».

Netanyahu a semblé répondre à des informations non confirmées et parues dans un journal koweïtien selon lesquelles Soleimani, qui est à la tête des forces al-Quds des Gardiens de la révolution iraniens, aurait indiqué aux responsables de la république islamique que des frappes à l’intérieur du territoire israélien pourraient faire tomber Netanyahu lors du scrutin du 9 avril.

Selon l’article paru dans al-Jarida, Soleimani aurait déclaré au cours d’une réunion avec le conseil de sécurité nationale suprême organisée lundi à Téhéran que Netanyahu cherchera probablement à attiser les tensions le long de la frontière entre l’Etat juif et la Syrie pour renforcer sa popularité lors des élections.

Il aurait également appelé à lancer trois missiles en réponse à chaque frappe aérienne israélienne en Syrie.

L’article a cité une « source informée » en Iran.

« Plutôt que d’intervenir dans les élections, Suleimani devrait regarder l’état des bases iraniennes qu’il s’efforce d’établir en Syrie », a écrit Netanyahu sur Twitter, se référant aux frappes récentes de l’armée de l’air israélienne qui ont pris pour cible des infrastructures iraniennes en Syrie.

Netanyahu a juré de « continuer à combattre l’Iran aussi longtemps que je serai Premier ministre ».

Dimanche, l’Etat juif aurait commis une rare attaque diurne contre des cibles iraniennes en Syrie. En réponse, l’Iran a lancé un missile sol-sol en direction du nord du plateau du Golan, qui a été intercepté par le système de défense anti-aérienne du Dôme de fer au-dessus de la station de ski du mont Hermon, selon l’armée israélienne.

Quelques heures après, lundi avant l’aube, les avions israéliens ont lancé des frappes de représailles contre des cibles iraniennes aux abords de Damas et contre les batteries de défense ayant ouvert le feu sur les appareils israéliens à l’origine des attaques, a indiqué l’armée.

Vingt-et-une personnes ont été tuées lors des raids israéliens, lundi au petit matin, dont 12 combattants iraniens, a indiqué mardi un observatoire de la guerre syrienne basé au Royaume-Uni.

Selon l’Observatoire syrien des droits de l’Homme, 12 personnes tuées appartenaient aux Gardiens de la révolution islamique iraniens, six étaient des combattants militaires syriens et les trois autres étaient des ressortissants non-syriens.

Israël a mené, ces dernières années, des centaines de frappes aériennes en Syrie contre des cibles liées à l’Iran qui, aux côtés de ses groupes mandataires et de la Russie, se bat pour défendre le président syrien Bashar al-Assad.



Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, 21 janvier 2019

L’attaque israélienne sur le territoire syrien tôt lundi matin a été l’une des plus importantes de ces dernières années, et certainement la plus importante depuis la frappe aérienne de Tsahal en septembre dernier, au cours de laquelle les défenses aériennes syriennes ont abattu un avion espion russe et tué ses 15 membres d’équipage.

La tension que cet incident a suscitée entre Moscou et Jérusalem a conduit à limiter les activités israéliennes sur le territoire syrien, et toute action dans l’espace aérien syrien attribuée à Israël à la suite de cet incident a été vigoureusement condamnée par le Kremlin.

L’opération de lundi, donc, n’était pas juste une autre attaque aérienne. Israël envoyait un message non seulement à Damas mais aussi à Moscou pour faire savoir que les attaques à la roquette comme celle de dimanche contre la station de ski du Hermon (qui a été contrecarrée par le Dôme de fer) ne resteraient pas sans réponse.

La roquette syrienne, que l’armée a attribuée à l’Iran, a été tirée par l’un des groupes pro-iraniens opérant en Syrie, probablement une milice chiite soutenue par les Gardiens de la Révolution islamique et son bras expéditionnaire, la Force Al-Qods, commandé par Qassem Soleimani. L’attaque a été menée à la suite d’un raid aérien dans la région de Damas, le dimanche matin, attribué à Israël.

Certains experts israéliens ont soutenu que l’attaque iranienne était une réponse à la fin apparente de la politique d’ambiguïté de longue date d’Israël, en vertu de laquelle les responsables israéliens se sont abstenus de revendiquer explicitement des attaques aériennes et autres opérations militaires menées au cours des années dans ce pays.

Mais c’est peut-être une vision naïve. Il n’y a aucune raison de supposer que les tirs de roquettes en provenance de Syrie ont été déclenchés simplement par l’interview d’un chef d’état-major sortant ou par un commentaire du Premier ministre à propos des frappes en Syrie.

Les Syriens eux-mêmes ont rendu publique chaque frappe israélienne dans leurs propres médias, et la supposée politique d’ambiguïté d’Israël (un vestige de la frappe du réacteur nucléaire syrien en 2007) ne constitue plus depuis un bon moment qu’un slogan. Il ne façonne certainement plus la réponse de Damas aux attaques israéliennes. La réalité de la couverture de l’actualité en ligne a radicalement changé au cours des 12 dernières années, et il n’est plus possible de dissimuler des frappes aériennes importantes, en particulier celles effectuées à Damas, la capitale syrienne.

Les tirs de roquettes sur Israël depuis la Syrie sont vraisemblablement une tentative iranienne de créer un nouvel équilibre des forces sur le front israélo-syrien – en espérant qu’une attaque israélienne en territoire syrien entraînera des tirs sur le territoire israélien. En d’autres termes, il s’agirait d’un nouvel effort de dissuasion à l’encontre d’Israël.

Pourtant, ceux qui ont tiré la roquette essayaient clairement d’éviter d’être entraînés dans une guerre plus vaste, sinon ils auraient lancé des dizaines de projectiles. L’objectif, semble-t-il, était de commencer à construire une nouvelle architecture de dissuasion, tout en limitant les risques de provoquer une confrontation plus large.

Lundi après-midi, il restait à voir comment les Syriens ou les Iraniens réagiraient, à leur tour, à la réaction inattendue et forte d’Israël. Bien que les observateurs des droits de l’homme affirment que 11 personnes ont été tuées lors des frappes israéliennes lundi matin, quatre d’entre elles seraient des soldats syriens et le reste peut-être des Iraniens, et bien que le chef des forces aériennes iraniennes eut juré la « destruction » d’Israël lundi, il est encore trop tôt pour savoir si Bashar el-Assad et ses alliés iraniens comptent réagir.

La télévision russe, quant à elle, a rendu compte de la frappe et expliqué comment elle s’est déroulée. Mais à partir de lundi midi, il n’y a pas eu de condamnation du Kremlin. C’est un changement radical par rapport aux attaques précédentes attribuées à Israël ces derniers mois. Il se peut que la Russie tente à présent de réduire la tension avec Jérusalem qu’elle s’efforce depuis des mois d’attiser. Les deux armées ont même échangé des délégations récemment, des responsables israéliens se rendant à Moscou et une délégation militaire russe se rendant en retour en Israël la semaine dernière. Moscou semble essayer de remettre ses relations avec Israël sur les rails.

La réponse limitée de la Syrie, jusqu’à présent, à la frappe aérienne israélienne se comprend mieux en prenant en compte les problèmes stratégiques plus larges auxquels elle est confrontée.

Premièrement, malgré l’annonce récente du président américain Donald Trump concernant le retrait des forces américaines de Syrie, il semble que Washington n’ait pas l’intention de retirer complètement ses troupes dans l’est du pays au cours des prochains mois. Il est possible que ce retard soit dû à l’opposition du secrétaire d’État Mike Pompeo et du conseiller à la sécurité nationale John Bolton. Quoi qu’il en soit, pour l’instant, les forces américaines continueront d’opérer dans la zone d’al-Tanef, où les frontières syrienne, irakienne et jordanienne se rejoignent.

Ce fait limite toute réponse iranienne, car il laisse en place un obstacle majeur à l’achèvement par l’Iran de son corridor terrestre de Téhéran à la côte méditerranéenne du Liban, et limite ainsi le transfert vers la Syrie d’équipements iraniens importants dont il aurait besoin pour faire face à un conflit avec Israël. Jusqu’à présent, ni les Gardiens de la Révolution ni la force Al-Qods n’ont réussi à amener en Syrie des avions, hélicoptères, chars ou missiles avancés destinés aux forces iraniennes. Les efforts se poursuivent pour expédier des armes de précision à la Syrie, mais un important retranchement iranien sur le territoire syrien a, pour le moment du moins, été repoussé.

Le deuxième élément limitant la réponse à Israël est le conflit croissant en Iran, où la lutte entre les conservateurs du régime et le camp relativement modéré du président Hassan Rouhani pour le contrôle de la politique du pays à l’égard de la Syrie.

Le premier groupe, qui comprend les dirigeants des Gardiens de la Révolution et de la force Al-Qods, appelle à un approfondissement et à un élargissement de l’engagement de l’Iran en Syrie, tandis que le second appelle à une politique « Iran d’abord » alors que de nouvelles sanctions américaines risquent d’affaiblir encore davantage une économie déjà fragile.

Une troisième question concerne la Turquie. Après l’annonce par Trump d’un retrait américain imminent, le président turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan a préparé ses forces à une attaque terrestre contre les milices kurdes du nord-est de la Syrie qui avaient été protégées parce qu’elles étaient alliées aux Etats-Unis dans la guerre contre l’Etat islamique.

Mais la politique américaine a brusquement changé, une fois de plus – et, bien sûr, peut encore changer sans préavis, étant donné l’imprévisibilité du président américain – et Erdogan a dû faire face non seulement à un retard dans le retrait américain promis, mais aussi à une rhétorique agressive de Washington condamnant une attaque turque contre les groupes qui ont combattu loyalement aux côtés des États-Unis pendant toute la guerre civile syrienne.

Erdogan hésite. Il a compris, et pour l’instant semble encore comprendre, qu’une attaque contre les Kurdes est une chose ; une confrontation directe avec les forces américaines dans la région en est une autre.

La réaction ferme d’Israël aux tirs de roquettes de dimanche suggère qu’Israël croit que ses opposants en Syrie sont limités par tous ces facteurs, ce qui donne à Israël une excellente occasion de faire en sorte que les moyens militaires dont dispose l’Iran si près de la frontière du Golan soient démantelés. Le silence de la Russie et le soutien manifeste des États-Unis, sans parler de la lenteur de la Syrie et de l’Iran à fournir leurs propres réponses, donnent à penser que l’évaluation est peut-être correcte.







I24, 23 jan, 2019

Le président de l’Agence juive, Isaac Herzog, a averti mercredi le Parlement européen à Bruxelles que, malgré les efforts déployés pour lutter contre l’antisémitisme, la haine des Juifs était en hausse et que les Juifs n’étaient plus en sécurité dans les rues d’Europe.

“Nous ne pouvons plus ignorer le fait que les Juifs sont une fois de plus menacés dans les rues d’Europe”, a déclaré Herzog à l’occasion de la Journée internationale de la commémoration de la Shoah organisée par le Parlement européen.

“L’antisémitisme en Europe est aujourd’hui une crise qui fait rage. Une fois de plus. Et cela doit s’arrêter (…) Nous sommes confrontés à l’une des périodes les plus sombres de l’histoire juive en Europe de ces derniers années. Il y a beaucoup trop d’exemples à citer”, a déclaré Herzog.

“Lorsque 90% des Juifs européens déclarent que l’antisémitisme a augmenté dans leur pays d’origine, nous comprenons qu’il s’agit d’un fléau”, a-t-il ajouté, faisant allusion à un rapport de l’Union européenne publié en décembre 2018.

Isaac Herzog a exhorté l’Europe à s’unir dans la lutte contre l’antisémitisme, et invité tous les États à se joindre aux 18 membres qui ont déjà adopté la définition de l’antisémitisme de l’Alliance internationale pour la mémoire de l’Holocauste.

Le président du Congrès juif européen, Moshe Kantor, dont le discours a été lu lors de la cérémonie (il n’a finalement pas pu assister à l’événement), s’est également montré pessimiste sur le présent et l’avenir des Juifs européens, évoquant la possibilité que des Juifs quittent l’Europe face à la montée des extrémismes.

Kantor a lui aussi évoqué le sondage réalisé en décembre auprès des Juifs vivant au sein de l’Union européenne, qui indiquait que 38% d’entre eux avaient envisagé d’émigrer parce qu’ils ne se sentaient pas en sécurité, du fait qu’ils soient juifs.

“Si les Juifs quittent l’Europe, la question n’est pas de savoir ce que deviendront les Juifs”, a déclaré Kantor, notant que l’existence d’Israël garantissait leur survie, “mais ce que deviendra l’Europe”.





Times of Israel, 24       jan., 2019

Le président israélien Reuven Rivlin a déploré mercredi que l’antisémitisme « relève la tête » en France, lors d’une rencontre avec Emmanuel Macron qui l’a assuré de sa « détermination » à « poursuivre le combat » contre ce fléau.« Sur notre territoire, nous ferons tout pour que l’antisémitisme recule », a déclaré le président français devant la presse après avoir reçu à l’Elysée son homologue israélien au deuxième jour de sa visite en France.

Il a affirmé sa « détermination » à « poursuivre (notre) combat contre l’antisémitisme, qui constitue la négation même des valeurs de notre République ».

  1. Rivlin a brièvement évoqué ce sujet en déclarant que « malheureusement, nous sommes témoins » que « l’antisémitisme relève la tête hideuse » en France.

Le gouvernement français s’était alarmé à l’automne d’un bond de près de 70 % des actes antisémites sur les neuf premiers mois de 2018, ce qui avait poussé les institutions juives à réclamer des « moyens spécifiques » contre ce « cancer qui gangrène la société ».

Les deux présidents ont loué la solidité des relations entre Israël et la France, qui assument toutefois « leurs désaccords sur certains sujets », selon Emmanuel Macron. Il a notamment cité le nucléaire iranien ou la « progression » de la présence israélienne en Cisjordanie, qui nourrit « des cycles de violence sans fin ».

« Je suis très ému de vous accueillir ici dix ans après le dernier accueil officiel d’un président israélien ici en France. Lors de la création de l’État d’Israël, sous la forte direction de sa génération fondatrice, la France est devenue le puissant défenseur du droit de l’État d’Israël d’exister en toute sécurité et nos deux pays ont construit une confiance mutuelle fondée sur des valeurs de pluralisme. »

« Israël est un terrain fertile pour la technologie qui est admirée dans le monde entier et montre la voie à de nombreuses autres. Ce succès pourrait donner à penser que les grands défis sont derrière nous et pourtant, je suis sûr que nous ne sommes en réalité qu’au début. Le monde d’aujourd’hui est confronté à des défis extrêmement difficiles et nous devons créer un monde plus stable face à la terreur djihadiste et unir nos forces pour la combattre. »

Le chef de l’Etat français a par ailleurs exprimé sa « préoccupation » après la récente découverte de tunnels creusés par le groupe terroriste chiite libanais du Hezbollah à la frontière entre le Liban et Israël.

« Si nous sommes menacés depuis le Liban, nous ne pourrons rester silencieux », a averti M. Rivlin, pour qui ce pays « doit savoir qu’il ne pourra pas se sentir innocent si des missiles étaient lancés » vers Israël. « Nous le disons clairement : il faut freiner l’agressivité du Hezbollah », a-t-il ajouté.

« Vous ne le savez peut-être pas, mais à l’heure actuelle, un satellite franco-israélien innovant et révolutionnaire survole l’espace. Le satellite – Venus – est le résultat d’une coopération entre l’Agence spatiale israélienne et l’Agence spatiale française. Il étudie les effets du changement climatique et de l’activité humaine sur notre planète. Aujourd’hui, mes amis, la coopération entre nous, à l’instar de Venus, fait tomber les barrières et aide non seulement nos pays, mais l’ensemble de l’humanité.”

« La véritable amitié est la capacité de continuer à approfondir le discours et la coopération, et à accepter de ne pas être d’accord parfois. Je suis venu ici au nom du peuple israélien pour vous remercier de cette amitié et pour moi-même et mon épouse Nechama, je voudrais vous remercier, Monsieur le Président, et vous, Madame la Première Dame, pour votre chaleureuse et amicale hospitalité, » a conclu le président israélien.

Rivlin avait plus tôt dans la journée prôné le dialogue interreligieux auprès de représentants de la communauté musulmane de France.

Sa visite à Paris marque le 70ème anniversaire des relations diplomatiques franco-israéliennes et intervient quelques jours avant la journée internationale à la mémoire des victimes de la Shoah, le 27 janvier.

  1. Rivlin doit notamment visiter une base de l’armée de l’air française et sera accompagné du commandant de l’armée de l’air, le Major-général Amikam Norkin.

Il rencontrera la maire de Paris, Anne Hidalgo, et assistera à un événement marquant les 70 ans d’Israël.

Il inaugurera l’exposition « Au-delà du devoir : des diplomates reconnus Justes parmi les nations » aux côtés du chef de la diplomatie, Jean-Yves Le Drian.



I24, 23 janvier 2019

Les obsèques d’Aya Masarwa, l’Israélienne de 21 ans assassinée en Australie la semaine dernière, ont eu lieu mercredi dans le village arabe de Baqa al-Gharbiyye dans le nord d’Israël.

Cet assassinat, qualifié d'”horrible” par la police australienne, a soulevé une vive émotion en Australie et des veillées ont été organisées pour honorer la mémoire d’Aiia Maasarwe qui y étudiait depuis un an.

“J’apprécie le soutien de tous ces gens, dans le monde entier et aussi dans ma ville, je vois ainsi toute l’humanité”, a affirmé le père d’Aiia, Saeed Maasarwe, très ému, alors que l’ambassadeur d’Australie en Israël Chris Cannan se trouvait à ses côtés.

Aya Masarwa a été violée et assassinée près de son Université à Melbourne, où elle suivait un cursus pour apprendre l’anglais.

“Elle avait de grands rêves”, a déclaré sa soeur Nur, qui avec Aya, avait remporté une bourse pour étudier en Chine.

Aya a par la suite participé à un échange d’un an à l’Université de La Trobe à Melbourne et était au téléphone avec sa sœur lorsqu’elle a rencontré son agresseur vers minuit en rentrant d’un spectacle.

De jeunes garçons vêtus de mauve ont déployé de grandes banderoles noires sur lesquelles se détachaient en lettres blanches des messages en arabe et en anglais comme: “Il est temps de dire: ++arrêtez de tuer les femmes++” ou “Les femmes ont le droit de vivre en paix”.

La foule a ensuite suivi le cercueil jusqu’à la mosquée puis au cimetière.

Quelques heures auparavant, le maire de la ville Khaled Abou Moukh et le député arabe israélien Ahmad Tibi avaient accueilli le cercueil à l’aéroport avec le père de la jeune fille.

Dans une vidéo postée sur les réseaux sociaux, Ahmad Tibi a déclaré qu’Aiia Maasarwe était désormais la fille de tous les Arabes israéliens.

La police australienne avait lancé un appel à témoin afin de rassembler un maximum d’éléments pour faire avancer l’enquête.

Les diplomates israéliens à Canberra et le département du ministère pour les Israéliens à l’étranger s’étaient efforcés de ramener le corps de la jeune femme en Israël pour l’enterrer au plus vite.


Nous vous souhaitons Shabbat Shalom!


Are Hezbollah’s Attack Tunnels the Future of Warfare?: Michael Peck, National Interest, Jan. 20, 2019 — Israel has faced many threats during its tumultuous seventy-five-year existence: ballistic missiles, tanks, hang-gliding terrorists, suicide bombers.

How Did Israel’s Enemies Become Experts in Tunnel Warfare?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018— In April 2017, a lumbering MC-130 with its four whirring propellers flew over a mountainous area in eastern Afghanistan.

A League of Their Own, as Few Arab Leaders Attend Summit: Vivian Yee, New York Times, Jan. 20, 2019— The eyes of the world were nowhere near Beirut, where the kings and presidents of the Arab world had been ceremoniously summoned to a summit of the Arab League over the weekend and had, in all but two cases, ceremoniously declined.

What is the U.S. Policy Towards Lebanon?: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2018— According to the Israeli media, during his meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for the U.S. to impose an economic embargo on Lebanon.

On Topic Links

Hillel Neuer Visits Hezbollah Terror Tunnels Ahead of UNSC Meeting: Breaking Israel News, Dec. 19, 2018

Ex-Government Agent Discusses Using AI to Battle Hezbollah Rockets: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018

Israeli Official Briefs Italian MPs on Hezbollah, Iran: Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom, Dec. 20, 2018

What Real Border Security Looks Like: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 10, 2019



Michael Peck

National Interest, Jan. 20, 2019

Israel has faced many threats during its tumultuous seventy-five-year existence: ballistic missiles, tanks, hang-gliding terrorists, suicide bombers. But now Israel faces a new threat that doesn’t go through Israeli defenses, but under them.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militant group, has dug tunnels under the border between Lebanon and the Galilee region of northern Israel. Israel says the tunnels have a deadly purpose: to allow Hezbollah fighters to enter Israel in a surprise attack to capture Israeli border communities, a feat that Arab armies have not been able to accomplish since 1948. “The plan entails fighters from Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit infiltrating Israel from Lebanon, entrenching themselves in Israeli communities near the border while taking hostages and using Israeli citizens as human shields,” according to Israel’s Ynet News. The tunnels were sophisticated, with electricity and ventilation systems.

This is not the first time that Israel has faced tunnels. Hamas tunneled from Gaza into southern Israel, most famously emerging to capture Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, who was held captive for five years until exchanged for Hamas prisoners in 2011. This has spurred the Israel Defense Forces to develop new technology and techniques for detecting tunnels.

The work seems to have paid off. Last month, Israeli troops began destroying the Hezbollah tunnels. So far, Israel has destroyed five tunnels, though given the nature of subterranean warfare, there may very well be more. Which raises the question: Are Hezbollah’s tunnels a template for the future of warfare? It’s not that tunnels are a new weapon. The Viet Cong used them to hide from and ambush American soldiers, while North Korea is famous for building numerous tunnels under the DMZ as invasion routes into South Korea, with some wide enough for tanks to cross. Hezbollah cannot be under any illusions that it could hold the Galilee against Israeli firepower (though such firepower would kill Israeli hostages). Hezbollah “conquering” the Galilee would not be conquest in the conventional sense. It would be more like terrorists or bank robbers taking hostages.

But if Israel’s estimation is correct, then permanent conquest doesn’t matter. Hezbollah would use these tunnels to capture enemy territory in a surprise attack, to seize territory, humiliate the enemy and demonstrate their impotence before the world. Hezbollah has always displayed a keen sense of public relations, like almost destroying an Israeli warship with a missile on live television. Capturing a few Israeli towns would be even more impressive, reminiscent of the Tet Offensive, which sought to demonstrate the powerlessness of the Saigon government and its American backers by mounting a nationwide offensive across South Vietnam.

So is Hezbollah’s tunnel strategy the future of warfare? It could be—if certain conditions are met. For starters, you would need a non-state organization that’s actually more powerful than the army of the state it resides in (such as Lebanon.) That actor would be so powerful because of generous military and financial assistance from a foreign nation (such as Iran), including access to advanced weapons such as ballistic missiles.

That organization would also need to control a border territory (such as southern Lebanon), so that it would be free to build tunnels with minimal interference from a cowed central government or UN peacekeepers too weak and timid to interfere. It would also help to face an enemy such as Israel, which is sensitive to losing the lives of its citizens. If these conditions exist, then any guerrilla or militia organization could do what Hezbollah does. The problem is finding places where these conditions apply. Syria or Yemen are not conflicts where the lives of hostages seem to matter much. Muslim rebels in the Philippines don’t have ballistic missiles. The Iraqi government wouldn’t give political cover to ISIS if it dug attack tunnels into Iran. In other words, Hezbollah’s tunnels are a clever idea because of the unique conditions along the Israel-Lebanon border. Which doesn’t mean they would work anywhere else.





Seth Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018

In April 2017, a lumbering MC-130 with its four whirring propellers flew over a mountainous area in eastern Afghanistan. Just before eight in the evening, the plane dropped a 9,797 kilogram bomb, known as a GBU-43, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, on a tunnel network used by Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Thirty-six ISIS members were killed in the massive explosion that followed, according to US estimates. The ISIS tunnel network was more complex than the one that Hezbollah has built in southern Lebanon, but just as the US has had to contend with terrorist tunnels, Israel and all countries facing terrorism are increasingly forced to fight an underground war.

The complexity of caves and tunnels is one of many used by terrorist groups in Afghanistan. ISIS, like many terror groups, have become experts in tunnels. They didn’t invent this on their own. They graduated from what other terror groups have used, and used tunnels that have existed in places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan for decades. Some of these are bunker complexes that various regimes built, improved upon by terrorists, or they may be terror tunnels built by other groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In Douma in Syria, the Syrian rebels built a massive complex of tunnels. BBC called it “quite a work of engineering.” It was excavated from solid clay and stones, and was big enough to “drive a vehicle down.” One reporter who went down into the tunnels in Douma called it was a “subterranean life.”

Hezbollah’s tunnels into Israel have now been revealed in a recent video after Israel began operation Northern Shield. So far, the tunnels under the border have not consisted of such massive complexity and are not equipped with places for vehicles. To understand their origin and the kinds of difficulty in confronting this issue, we must look back at the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

Hezbollah spent decades improving its terror infrastructure in southern Lebanon. After Israel withdrew in 2000 from Lebanon the leaders of Hezbollah planned an extensive network of what were labeled “nature reserves” by Israel, complex tunnels and bunkers designed to conceal the growing arsenal of the group. They attempted to make them not only difficult to find but also difficult to bomb, according to a 2016 article by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. According to the report, they built fortified areas in 200 villages. In an article published by the US Army Combined Arms Center in 2008, the authors looked at Hezbollah’s tunnel expertise.

According to this study, which quoted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officer, Hezbollah had “North Korean advisors [who] had assisted Hezbollah in building tunnel infrastructure.” One tunnel was supposedly 25 kilometers long. This extraordinary claim, printed in Asharq Al-Awsat, may not be accurate. One IDF soldier remarked that after the 2006 war, he found a bunker near Maroun al-Ras. It was 25 feet deep, linked several rooms, and had a camera that Hezbollah used to monitor outside movement.

The US army report suggests that Hezbollah – which was born in the 1980s – might have been inspired by the Viet Cong who used tunnels to confront the US military in Vietnam in the 1960s. The Viet Cong dug massive tunnel systems. One at Cu Chi was 250 kilometers long. Hezbollah might have sought to copy the Vietnamese, but it also wanted to exploit modern technology. Tunnels that were found in 2006 included some with hydraulic steel doors.

Considering Hezbollah’s close relationship with Iran and also the Syrian regime it should be expected that Hezbollah’s expertise in tunneling has more similarities with the kind of network a state might be able to create, and not just a terrorist organization. This means that tunnels have levels of technology, depth and ability to go through difficult terrain. However, as has been shown in the Syrian civil war context, any group that has even limited resources and devotion, can build impressive tunnels.

Confronting tunnels is a complex task. Militaries and law enforcement agencies, such as those dealing with drug trafficking and smuggling, have to monitor tunnels. In Gaza, the tunnels built under the border with Egypt were used to smuggle people, infrastructure and weapons. Militaries can bomb tunnel networks, like the US did in Afghanistan, but only if they aren’t located in civilian areas. ISIS, for instance, festooned civilian areas with tunnels so that its fighters could pass unnoticed under houses and roads. They were able to hold out against a 70-nation Coalition and the Iraqi army in Mosul for 9 months by using these tunnels.

Armies don’t like to send men down into tunnels because naturally the enemy has advantage in its own tunnel system and can neutralize a modern army’s technological advantage. In 2016, The New Yorker noted that Israel had developed a kind of “underground Iron Dome” to confront tunnels. But Brig.-Gen. (res) Danny Gold, who helped pioneer the above ground Iron Dome and said that “since the Vietnam War it [tunnel threats] hasn’t been solved. Between Mexico and the United States it isn’t solved. Sometimes it’s even harder than finding oil in the ground.” An Israeli system, according to this report, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, some of which the US supposed was to “field some four hundred different ideas for the detection and destruction of tunnels.”

But for countries fighting tunnels, detection is only one issue. Armies can listen for the tunnel or postulate on where it might be, but don’t want any threats or find any surprises when trying to unearth it. This may not be such an easy challenge to confront in an environment with civilians around. Once detected the goal would be to stop the tunnel if it is a threat. But a country might want to monitor what the enemy is doing before interdicting the tunnel. Also a means to dig a counter-tunnel has to be developed and used without alerting the adversary that the counter-tunnel is moving toward the original. Different countries have employed different means. Egypt flooded the tunnels along the border. The most important aspect of confronting tunnels may also be mapping their point of origin to know what threats may be lurking where they begin. Tunnels in warfare have not only been used to hide men and material, but sometimes to store explosives. Israel, by necessity, has become proficient at confronting tunnels. Hezbollah, like other terror groups and like its allied regimes, has also likely increased its skills. The subterranean war will continue to be a layer of the modern battlefield.




Vivian Yee

New York Times, Jan. 20, 2019

The eyes of the world were nowhere near Beirut, where the kings and presidents of the Arab world had been ceremoniously summoned to a summit of the Arab League over the weekend and had, in all but two cases, ceremoniously declined. Government jets disgorged only underlings and minor ministers onto the red carpet rolled out for them at the airport.

Libya was boycotting, and just about everyone was in a fight over whether to invite Syria at all. Nonetheless, the city puffed out its chest, put its downtown on lockdown and hoisted the flags of the 22 member states under a mercifully rainless sky. The fourth economic and social summit of the Arab League — or most of it, anyway — was hereby called to order. “We wished for this summit to be an occasion to bring together all the Arabs, leaving no vacant seats,” the host, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon, lamented in a speech that kicked off Sunday’s gathering. “Yet the hurdles were unfortunately stronger.”

As if on cue, the TV cameras panned to an empty dais on which a small Libyan flag was wilting, and an eloquent gap between the Egyptian delegation and the Lebanese one. Members of a Lebanese political party had threatened to physically block the Libyans from leaving the airport if they showed up. Syria’s empty seat was just across the vast hall, a bone of contention in the form of a large wooden desk — and a reminder that, with a few member states reopening embassies in Damascus in recent months, Syria’s pariah government appeared to be progressing toward rejoining the league.

That, of course, might first require unearthing some kind of Arab League consensus. Formed at the suggestion of the British during World War II, the league was supposed to strengthen ties among Arab countries from Morocco to Oman, with the Palestinian cause their most important shared mission. It united its members in shaking off colonialism and confronting Israel, helped broker an end to Lebanon’s 15-year civil war and developed a significant Israel-Palestine peace plan.

But by now, enfeebled by regional rivalries and disagreements, the league has acquired an all-too-mockable reputation for dysfunction. Its aged leaders have been known to fall asleep during meetings. In one recent year, one leader mused that the only thing the members had in common was the Arabic language. In 2016, the league hit what was perhaps a modern low point when Morocco announced that it would not be bothering to host the annual leaders’ summit. It dismissed it as “just another occasion” to “pronounce speeches that give a false impression of unity.” When Mauritania stepped up to host instead, only seven leaders attended.

“It’s constitutionally incapable of addressing the real problems that are facing the Middle East,” said James Gelvin, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of California, Los Angeles. “That’s everything from bad governance and political violence to climate change, population growth, bad health care and bad educational systems.”

Matters have not improved much since 2016. “Half these countries are fighting each other in wars or undermining each other,” said Rami G. Khouri, a Beirut-based political columnist who has covered several Arab League summits. It is only a slight exaggeration. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia and its partners in the United Arab Emirates are mired in a war against the Houthis, a rebel group, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and thrust millions to the edge of famine. (Representatives of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government attended the summit, but the league took no action to address the humanitarian crisis.)

There are hostilities between the Saudis and Emiratis and the Qataris, whom the Saudis and Emiratis have tried to ostracize politically and isolate economically, and between the Saudis and anyone linked to Iran. There is bad blood between Lebanon and Libya. No one has entirely forgotten that Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, a move seen as such a historic betrayal of the bloc that Egypt was voted out for a decade.

And when it comes to Syria and the several countries that have funded rebel groups taking on President Bashar al-Assad’s government, water is only just beginning to trickle under the bridge. Soon after the Syrian war broke out, the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership, and it later welcomed representatives from the Syrian opposition. Almost eight years later, Mr. Assad has all but re-clinched control of the country. The league’s membership has had to wrestle with questions about how to rebuild Syria’s shattered infrastructure and economy — an undertaking that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars — and what to do about the more than five million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

Those questions were always going to be extra-fraught at a summit meeting in Lebanon, where the three major political and religious camps — Christian, Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim — have been so deadlocked, in part over Lebanese-Syrian relations, that they have failed to form a government for eight months and counting. Mr. Assad’s government enjoys the support of Shiite-dominated factions in Lebanon and beyond, and in the weeks before the summit, Lebanon’s Parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, a Shiite, called for the whole event to be postponed until Syria was invited. What was the point of discussing Syrian reconstruction and refugees, Mr. Berri asked, if Syria was absent? He earned nothing but irritated shushings from Lebanon’s Christian president and Sunni prime minister, who were anxious to present the host country in a good light…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Caroline Glick

Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2018

According to the Israeli media, during his meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for the U.S. to impose an economic embargo on Lebanon. Pompeo reportedly rejected Netanyahu’s request. The meeting between the two men took place on the eve of Israel’s initiation of Operation Northern Shield last Tuesday. The operation is a military effort geared towards sealing Hezbollah’s offensive subterranean attack tunnels. It follows Israel’s stunning revelation that it had discovered the locations of Hezbollah’s attack tunnels, perhaps Hezbollah’s most secret undertaking.

According to Netanyahu, Hezbollah launched its offensive tunnel project in 2014. The existence of the tunnel program was known to almost no one in the organization. Hezbollah’s tunnels traverse the border between Lebanon and Israel. Hezbollah reportedly intended to have the tunnels serve as a means to invade Israeli territory rapidly and undetected. It is the declared goal of Hezbollah to conquer northern Israel in its next war against the Jewish state.

The Trump administration’s rejection of Israel’s request to impose economic sanctions on Lebanon signals that it supports Israel’s efforts to neutralize the threat that Hezbollah poses, with its powerful army and massive arsenal of short and long range missiles. But — like the Bush and Obama administrations before it — it rejects Israel’s interpretation of the relations between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government and armed forces.

The disparity between the U.S. and Israeli positions on the nature of Hezbollah’s relationship with the Lebanese government and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) emerged during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. At that time, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded that Israel not attack Lebanese government targets. This despite the government’s open support for Hezbollah and the LAF’s assistance to Hezbollah during the war, particularly through the provision of targeting data for Hezbollah missile crews.

In the aftermath of the war, acting on the basis of its assertion that the LAF is an independent institution, the U.S. began massively arming and training the LAF. This policy, adopted by the Bush administration, was expanded substantially under the Obama administration. That owed in part to then-President Barack Obama’s desire to present Iran and its Hezbollah proxy as responsible regional actors in light of their opposition to the so-called Islamic State in Syria.

Throughout the years, Israel has maintained that the Lebanese government and the LAF are effectively controlled by Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy force. Its position is backed up by facts. The first relevant fact is that the LAF is controlled by the Lebanese government. And the Lebanese government has been effectively controlled by Hezbollah since 2008.

Buoyed by its domestic popularity after its war against Israel, in 2008, Hezbollah staged an effective coup against the government. Its forces took over Western Beirut from government-controlled forces, laid siege to government offices, and shut down government-sponsored media outlets. Hezbollah acted after the Lebanese government sought to end Hezbollah’s effective control over the Beirut International Airport. In light of their cooperation with with  Hezbollah in its war against Israel in 2006, it wasn’t surprising that in 2008, the LAF refused to defend the government from Hezbollah. The government was forced to back down…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links

Hillel Neuer Visits Hezbollah Terror Tunnels Ahead of UNSC Meeting: Breaking Israel News, Dec. 19, 2018—UN Watch’s Director Hillel Neuer visits Hezbollah terror tunnels crossing over the Israel-Lebanon border.

Ex-Government Agent Discusses Using AI to Battle Hezbollah Rockets: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018—Amit Meltzer is not only a former chief technology officer for a key Israeli government agency and a top cyber security consultant, he is also a master strategist.

Israeli Official Briefs Italian MPs on Hezbollah, Iran: Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom, Dec. 20, 2018—Head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs tells Italian parliament session on Middle East that Hezbollah is helping Iran export the Islamic revolution across the region, disputing Italian MPs’ claim that Hezbollah operatives are not terrorists.

What Real Border Security Looks Like: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 10, 2019—What I saw on Wednesday while traveling along the Blue Line was … a fence. A fence studded with sensors, to be sure, but by no means an imposing one. As the accompanying photos show, here is what a long stretch of the border between two sworn enemies looks like.



On Topic Links

Firing at Golan, Iran Seeks New Balance of Deterrence with Israel; It May Fail: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Jan. 21, 2019

Why Did Canada Let This Terrorist Off the Hook?: Clarion Project, Jan. 20, 2019

New York Times Columnist Cheers for Boycotting Israel: Ira Stoll, Algemeiner, Jan. 20, 2019

Hillel Neuer Blasts UN Human Rights Council for the “Big Lie”: Israel Unwired, Jan. 17, 2019



“Let our enemies who seek to destroy us know that Israel’s crushing fist will reach all those who seek our harm, and we will hold them accountable…We will continue to successfully develop the most advanced weapon systems in the world to ensure the security of Israeli citizens and the security of the State of Israel.” — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a visit to the Israel Aerospace Industries division that manufactures and develops the Arrow missile. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2019) 

“We’re ready for the decisive war that will bring about Israel’s disappearance from the earth. Our young airmen are prepared for the day when Israel will be destroyed.” — Iranian Brig. Gen. Aziz Nasirzadeh. Amid fears of escalation, hours after Israeli airstrikes destroyed Iranian installations and reportedly killed military personnel in Syria, Iran’s air force chief said Monday the country’s youths were “impatient” to fight a war for “Israel’s disappearance.”  (Times of Israel, Jan. 21, 2018)

“We have not changed our position on this issue, which is based on the principles of international law…The practice of arbitrarily launching strikes on the territory of a sovereign state, in this case Syria, should be simply excluded.” — Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. The comments by Zakharova came days after a flare-up between Israel and Iran on the Syrian frontier. She warned that such strikes encourage an “atmosphere of hostility in the region” and “do not serve the long-term national interests of any of the Middle Eastern states, including, of course, Israel… We urge everyone to think about the possible consequences of provoking a new round of chaos in the Middle East.” She added that Syria should not “become an arena for settling geopolitical accounts.” Israel has said repeatedly that its airstrikes on military and terror targets in the war-ravaged nation are aimed at curbing Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in the country. (Times of Israel, Jan. 23, 2019)

“At the moment, all parties are not interested in a comprehensive war. At the same time, wars break out even when neither side wants them.” — Amos Yadlin, a former general in the Israeli Air Force and former military attache to Washington. Iranian aggression against Israel is becoming more open and mounting daily, causing experts concern both over where it might end and how the pullout of US troops in Syria will affect the region. Yadlin noted the Russians have the power to prevent such an escalation in the conflict, but so far have not. Although they have sent messages to Israel not to attack the airport in Damascus, they have stood by while Israel has done so. As Yadlin commented, Israel has conducted the strikes late at night “with the intention of not harming civilian and Russian aviation.” (Clarion Project, Jan. 22, 2019)

“The Iranian regime’s obsession with Israel is not just well-known…It is expensive. Seven billion dollars annually are directed toward the never-ending attempts to destroy Israel…Follow the bloody trail of money starting in Tehran and you will arrive at the terror tunnels in Lebanon and Gaza and the weapons warehouses in Syria…It is now trying to infiltrate Judea and Samaria.” — Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon. Iran has spent $7 billion annually on terror in the Middle East, including in the West Bank, where it wants to open a fourth front against Israel, Danon told the Security Council. He blamed the 2015 Iran deal for providing the Islamic Republic with billions of dollars, which it has used to finance terror. Iran’s spending broke down was divided as $4 billion to Syria, $1 billion to Lebanon, $50 million to Hamas in Gaza and $70 million to the Islamic Jihad, Danon explained. “With the help of Saleh Al-Arouri, Hamas’s deputy political chief, and Saeed Izadi, the head of the Palestinian branch of the Iranian Quds Force, Iran is trying to turn Judea and Samaria into a fourth military front against Israel,” Danon said. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2019)

“Israel is pursuing Hamas in Sinai and is spearheading a big battle against its growing military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in this border region, by foiling dozens of arms shipments heading from Sinai to Gaza. Israel managed to destroy 15,000 advanced missiles on their way to Hamas warehouses in the Gaza Strip.” — Amir Bohbot, an expert on Israeli military affairs, citing Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot on condition of anonymity. The escalation Nov. 13 between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip revealed Hamas’ use of a Kornet missile that hit an Israeli military bus north of Gaza. Israel said one soldier was wounded. Israel considers Sinai its weak southern underbelly because Egyptian security and military control is not strong, and the security situation on Israeli borders is volatile. Israel is concerned about the ties between Sinai terrorists and Hamas in Gaza and the smuggling of weapons. (Al-Monitor, Jan. 18, 2019)

“(UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn) has been willing to sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA without preconditions but he will not meet with me to talk about Brexit.” — British Prime Minister Theresa May. May attacked Corbyn for his refusal to meet with her over Brexit, asking the Labour party chairman why he met with members of terror groups Hamas, Hezbollah and the Irish Republican Army, but not with her. May opened her speech by mentioning the upcoming International Holocaust Remembrance Day, saying: “We must all challenge prejudice and hatred.” The exchange came after the House of Commons rejected May’s withdrawal deal last week, leaving Britain on course to exit the EU on March 29 with no deal. Corbyn reportedly sat on a panel at a 2012 conference in Doha with several Palestinian terrorists sentenced for murder and shared the platform with then Hamas head Khaled Mashaal. (Times of Israel, Jan. 23, 2019)

“Linda Sarsour is an antisemite and even when she is apologizing to the Jewish community on the one hand, she is condemning it on the other. She can’t help it. This is who she is and as long as the five board members are in power you will continue to see these sharp divisions they themselves foster.” — Mercy Morganfield, former head of the DC chapter of the Woman’s March. Morganfield took to Facebook to upbraid Sarsour after the latter posted a link to an article that accused the Jewish community of waging a “profound war on black people.” Alluding to the failure of Women’s March leaders to repudiate infamous antisemite Louis Farrakhan, she added, “During this entire fiasco who has continually attacked whom? Jewish people asking you to condemn an antisemite and antisemitism is not an attack. Writing that Jewish people are waging war on black people is an attack. It is vicious. It is vile. And it is not true. They are their own worst enemy. An appalling lack of judgment on Linda’s part. On this day, during this ongoing controversy.” (Algemeiner, Jan. 20, 2019)

“Professor (Irwin) Cotler’s work in the name of civil rights defenders has no borders, and his impact is felt throughout Canada and around the world.” — Paul Martin, former Canadian Prime Minister. Cotler is chairman of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Martin. A former Canadian justice minister, attorney general, parliament member, McGill law professor and overall advocate of human rights, Cotler is one of the staunchest defenders that Israel has around the world. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 18, 2019)

“Tu Bishvat (Jan. 20-21, 2019) is not mentioned in the Bible, but in the Mishnah – the collection of Jewish oral laws, compiled by Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi around 200AD…Trees have been critical to the ingathering of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, representing longevity and permanence, underlying the inherent linkeage/bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land – the eternal attachment of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Hence, Tu Bishvat is a day of planting trees, in Israel, by school and kindergarten children, as well as by pilgrims and tourists. The 18th century Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, a Biblical, Talmudic and kabalistic genius prayed: “May God merit me to plant, with my own hands, fruit trees around Jerusalem.” During (Mussaf) prayers on Shabbat and holidays, Jews ask God that they be planted in the Land of Israel. Trees were not planted during the transient 40 years of wandering in the desert. Trees are planted in the permanent, everlasting, immutable, indestructible Jewish environment of the Jewish Homeland.” — Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators. (Jewish Press, Jan. 20, 2019)




ISRAEL STRIKES IRANIAN TARGETS IN SYRIA (Damascus) — The IDF said its jets struck Iranian military targets in Syria, an announcement that was a departure from Israel’s policy of ambiguity regarding activities in Syria. The military said the targets included munition storage facilities, an intelligence site and a military training camp. The strikes were in response to a rocket Iranian forces fired toward Israel that was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system over a ski resort in the Golan Heights. That followed a rare Israeli daylight air raid near the Damascus Airport. (Globe & Mail, Jan. 21, 2019) 

ANOTHER BOMB ATTACK TARGETS U.S. TROOPS IN SYRIA (Damascus) — An explosion has gone off in Syria’s northeast, inflicting casualties among America’s Kurdish partners. The blast reportedly targeted a convoy of the U.S.-led coalition and Kurdish-led fighters. While no U.S. forces appear to have been seriously injured, it was the second bombing aimed at a convoy including U.S. forces in Syria in less than a week. Last week, an I.S. bomber blew himself up at a restaurant in Manbij, killing four Americans. The attack renewed criticism  of President Trump’s claim that I.S. is defeated in Syria, on which he has said he based his decision to pull the remaining 2,000 troops out of the country. (CBS, Jan. 21. 2019)

ISRAEL, US TEST-FIRE ARROW 3 (Jerusalem) — Israel and the U.S. carried out a successful test of their advanced Arrow 3 missile defense system. A dummy missile was launched off the coast of Israel that was meant to simulate the type of long-range ballistic missile the Arrow 3 system is designed to intercept. The Arrow 3 system, developed as a joint project with the US, is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles — like those Israel fears Iran may one day launch at it — while the incoming projectile is still outside the earth’s atmosphere. The Arrow was launched from the Palmachim air base in central Israel and the trail it left behind was visible from as far away as Jerusalem. (Times of Israel, Jan. 22, 2019)

CANADIAN CAUGHT IN SYRIA WAS REPORTEDLY COMMANDER OF I.S. UNIT (Toronto) — The latest Canadian captured in Syria was the commander of more than a dozen fighters who clashed with U.S.-backed forces in the last remaining I.S. enclave, according to a local official. The former Toronto resident, Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed, was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun when he was detained. Mohammed allegedly told interrogators he was a 31-year-old Canadian citizen of Ethiopian origin. Under questioning, he said he had joined I.S. over the internet and left Canada in 2013 with the aim of spreading the Islamic faith in the world, a local commander said. (Global, Jan. 15, 2019) 

NASRALLAH REPORTEDLY EMBEZZLED MILLIONS FROM HEZBOLLAH FUNDS (Beirut) — Saudi news outlet Al-Watan says Iranian forces have Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah under house arrest and are pressuring him to divulge what happened to the tens of millions of dollars reportedly missing from Hezbollah bank accounts. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is suspected of embezzling millions of dollars from the terrorist organization’s coffers. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are arch enemies and are waging several proxy battles across the region. (Israel Hayom, Jan. 20, 2019)

NETANYAHU HEADS TO CHAD TO RENEW DIPLOMATIC TIES (N’Djamena) — Israel and Chad officially renewed diplomatic relations during a visit by Netanyahu to the Chadian capital. Relations between the two countries had been severed since 1972, when Chad was one of a string of African nations to break off ties with Israel after the 1967 war. Shared concerns about Iran and Islamic terrorism and the lure of Israeli technology and weaponry have made Arab and Muslim countries more amenable to ties with Israel even before a peace agreement is reached with the Palestinians. (Bloomberg, Jan. 20, 2019)

ISRAEL SET TO HOST MALI’S PM (Bamako) — Israel is preparing for an historic visit by Mali’s Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, officials said, a day after Netanyahu cemented the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Chad. The West African country, whose population is also majority Muslim, severed ties with Israel in 1973, following the Yom Kippur War. Last year, Netanyahu met with the Malian president on the sidelines of a summit in Liberia. Israel’s diplomatic push in Africa is aimed mainly at widening Israel’s circle of relations, boosting trade, improving its international status, and is also driven in part by a desire to ease air travel to Latin America. (Times of Israel, Jan. 21, 2019)

MOST PALESTINIANS KILLED IN GAZA PROTESTS HAVE TERRORIST TIES (Gaza) — The vast majority of Palestinians killed in response to weekly violent protests on the Israel-Gaza border are affiliated with Hamas and other terrorist groups, reports the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Since the end of March, when the “return marches” started, 187 Palestinians were killed – including 150 (80%) members or affiliates of terrorist organizations. About half of those killed are either associated with Hamas or are full-blown members. Hamas military wing operatives represent almost a quarter of the total fatalities. (IPT News, Jan. 22, 2019)

U.S. AIRSTRIKE IN SOMALIA KILLS 52 AL-SHABAB EXTREMISTS (Kismayo) — The U.S. says it carried out its deadliest airstrike in Somalia in months, killing 52 al-Shabab extremists after a “large group” mounted an attack on Somali forces. The airstrike occurred near Jilib. There were no reports of Americans killed or wounded. The U.S. statement did not say whether any Somali forces were killed or wounded by the al-Qaida-linked extremists. Al-Shabab asserted that its attack on two Somali army bases killed at least 41 soldiers near the port city of Kismayo. (Daily Beast, Jan. 19, 2019)

GERMANY SANCTIONS IRANIAN AIRLINE (Berlin) — Germany announced it had banned Iranian airline Mahan Air from its airports, in an escalation of sanctions adopted by the EU against Tehran. Mahan, Iran’s second-largest carrier after Iran Air, flies between Tehran and the German cities Duesseldorf and Munich. Iranian security agencies have in the past secretly transferred wounded and dead soldiers and ammunition from the battle sectors in Syria and Yemen via Mahan Air’s civilian flights. The airline was blacklisted by the US in 2011, as Washington said the carrier was providing technical and material support to an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Force. (Arutz Sheva, Jan. 22, 2019)

BDS PROTESTERS JOIN NETTA BARZILAI ON STAGE AT EUROVISION QUALIFIER (Paris) — A group of anti-Israel protesters jumped on stage during a Eurovision qualifying competition in Paris. Israeli Eurovision 2018 winner Netta Barzilai was on stage when the protesters appeared holding signs reading “No to the Eurovision 2019 in Israel.” Barzilai had just finished performing her Eurovision-winning entry ‘Toy’ for the live broadcast. BDS France took credit for the incident. The protesters were immediately removed from the stage by security officials. Musicians and other artists from at least 14 countries have called for a boycott of Eurovision because it is being held in Israel. (CJN, Jan. 22, 2019)

MALAYSIA SAYS IT WON’T LET IN ANY ISRAELI DELEGATES FOR SPORTING OR OTHER EVENTS (Jakarta) — Malaysia’s foreign minister said the government will not budge over a ban on Israeli athletes in a para swimming competition and has decided that the country will not host any events in the future involving Israel. Malaysia is among the Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The government has said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in July, which serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. (Times of Israel, Jan. 16, 2019)

ISRAEL WINS VP SPOT ON UN COMMITTEE OVERSEEING HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS (Geneva) — On Martin Luther King Day, the United Nations—in a rare move—elected Israel as Vice-Chair of the 19-nation Committee on NGOs, which oversees the work of human rights groups. It was Israel’s turn to represent the Western Group. A big defeat for Iran which tried but failed to get elected to this committee. Israeli is represented on the committee by Nadav Yesod. (UNWatch, Jan. 22, 2019)

FINLAND ORDERS ELM-2311 C-MMR RADARS FROM IAI ELTA SYSTEMS (Helsinki) — Finland is ordering ELM-2311 Compact Multi-Mission Radars (C-MMRs) from Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI’s) Elta Systems division. The Finnish Ministry of Defence announced on its website on that Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö had tasked the Defence Forces’ Logistic Command to procure counter-battery radars from IAI Elta Systems. The number of systems was not disclosed, but the ministry said they would also be used for fire observation and air surveillance. (Janes, Jan. 21, 2019)

ISRAELI DOCTOR HELPED SAVE ABBAS’S LIFE (Jerusalem) — PA President Abbas’s health had declined over the past year and his doctors feared for his life, but thanks to secret treatment by a specialist from Israel, his condition improved significantly. On May 20, 2018, Abbas was hospitalized in Ramallah with pneumonia, a complication of a severe ear infection. Doctors feared the 83-year-old Abbas would suffer a complete systems failure. Israel learned of his condition and offered to treat Abbas at an Israeli hospital. The Palestinians decided to reject the offer. Israel, in turn, sent a specialist to Ramallah, who joined the team of foreign doctors already treating the PA leader. After two days of intensive care, Abbas got better, and a week later he was discharged from the hospital. (Ynet, Jan. 23, 2019)

ISRAEL UNVEILS MEMORIAL TO PROSECUTOR WHO SOUGHT JUSTICE FOR IRAN-LINKED BOMBING (Jerusalem) — Israel marked the fourth anniversary of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s murder by unveiling a memorial plaque in his honor. Nisman’s body was discovered on Jan. 19, 2015 — hours before he was due to unveil a complaint against the former government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over its alleged collusion with Iran in effectively exonerating the Islamic Republic of responsibility for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were murdered and more than 300 wounded. (Algemeiner, Jan. 18, 2019)

ISRAEL OPENS NEW INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (Eilat) — Prime Minister Netanyahu hailed a “historic day” for Israel as the new Ramon Airport near Eilat was inaugurated on Monday. The NIS 1.7 billion ($460 million) airport, named in memory of Ilan and Assaf Ramon and located 18 kilometers north of Eilat, will replace the Eilat and Ovda airports currently serving domestic and an increasing number of international flights. Ramon Airport, the first entirely civilian airport to open since Israel’s independence, is set to welcome up to two million passengers a year, with expansion works planned to more than double its capacity to 4.2 million passengers by 2030. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2019)

AHEAD OF HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY, TRUMP SIGNS ELIE WIESEL ACT (Washington) — January 27 marks the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act is aimed at improving the US response to mass atrocities. The Act passed final votes in the Senate and the House of Representatives in December, 2018. On January 14, 2019, President Trump signed the Act into law. The Act, among other things, prioritizes the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities as a matter of national security interest and ensure that foreign service officers receive adequate training in conflict and atrocity prevention.  (Forbes, Jan. 15, 2019)


On Topic Links

Firing at Golan, Iran Seeks New Balance of Deterrence with Israel; It May Fail: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Jan. 21, 2019 —The Israeli assault on Syrian territory early Monday morning was one of the broadest in recent years, and certainly the most substantial since an IDF airstrike last September during which Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian spy plane, killing its 15-member crew.

Why Did Canada Let This Terrorist Off the Hook?: Clarion Project, Jan. 20, 2019—Rehab Dughmosh was found guilty of terrorism charges in Canada last week for an Islamist attack at a store in Scarborough, Ontario in 2017.

New York Times Columnist Cheers for Boycotting Israel: Ira Stoll, Algemeiner, Jan. 20, 2019 —“Time to break the silence on Palestine,” is the headline over New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Alexander’s article, and a pretty good indication of where it’s going, because there’s no “silence” to break on the issue, and because “Palestine” isn’t a country and never has been.

Hillel Neuer Blasts UN Human Rights Council for the “Big Lie”: Israel Unwired, Jan. 17, 2019— If you have ever heard Hillel Neuer speak for UN Watch at the United Nations, you know that he is worth listening to.


Why Hasn’t Syria Used the S-300?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2019— Russian and Syrian media emphasized that Syrian air defense “repelled” the attack by Israel on Sunday.

Should Israel Cooperate with Russia?: Robert G. Rabil, Algemeiner, Dec. 30, 2018 — Since the 1990s, Israel and Russia have enjoyed an increasingly warm relationship.

We Need to Talk About Iran and Russia in this Israeli Election: Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Ynet, Jan. 2, 2019 — It is a truism in politics that elections are about the future, and not just about the past.

Russia-Ukraine Tensions are Profoundly Dangerous. The West Must Intervene: Aurel Braun, Globe and Mail, Nov. 26, 2018— Sunday’s (Nov. 25) brazen Russian attack on three Ukrainian naval vessels, the capture of two dozen Ukrainian sailors and the wounding of several, is the first direct military incident between Moscow and Kiev forces.

On Topic Links

So in Israel’s Election, Who Are the Russians For?: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019

Syria Faces Brittle Future, Dominated by Russia and Iran: Vivian Yee, New York Times, Dec. 26, 2018

Antisemitic Attacks are a Rare Occurrence in Russia, Study Reports: JTA, Oct. 31, 2018

Pessimism Sweeps Russia: Vladislav Inozemtsev, Moscow Times, Jan. 15, 2019



Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2019

Russian and Syrian media emphasized that Syrian air defense “repelled” the attack by Israel on Sunday. According to a spokesman for Russia’s national defense management center, the Syrians used the Pantsir and Buk air defense systems. Israel struck at a Pantsir defense system in retaliation on Monday. But why wasn’t the S-300, which Russia supplied to Syria in September, used by Damascus?

The continuing quiet among the S-300 gunners is a perplexing mystery that underpins the shadowy and deadly conflict unfolding in Syria’s skies. In late September, Russia announced it would give the Syrian regime the S-300 system in the wake of Syrian air defenses mistakenly shooting down a Russian Il-20. The Syrians had used an S-200 to hit the Russian plane, mistaking it for an Israeli warplane during an Israeli raid in Latakia. New electronic warfare systems were also sent to Syria, including systems designed to control a “near zone” 50 km. from the system and a far zone “200 km.” away that would guard against Israeli attacks, according to a report at Janes.

Since the deployment of the S-300, there was a hiatus in attacks between October and late December. However, Syrian air defense was on alert, saying that its radars were jammed on November 30. This has led to speculation that Syrian air defense was tested several times between October and December.

An air strike on December 25 and then on January 12 were reported by Syrian media. Syria says it was able to shoot down Israeli missiles on January 12. Yet the three batteries of S-300s have apparently remained dormant. Part of the story with the S-300 can be realized from Russian media reports, which have emphasized that the system was not used or have pointed to other, older systems being used. Is this because the Syrians are not trained on the system? All three battalions of S-300 PMU-2 systems were active by early November, Syrian media indicated. “Russian technical specialists completed the reconfiguration of the system to replace the Russian codes and letter frequencies to the letter codes and radars of Syrian ones,” a report noted.

OBSERVERS OF Syria note that the issue is not that the S-300 is ineffective. One expert who tweets under the name Tom Cat (@TomTheBasedCat) notes “the priority [of Syrian air defense] is to intercept the majority of the projectiles to minimize risk to civilians in the surrounding suburbs.” In this analysis, Syria’s goal isn’t to use air defense to strike at Israeli jets. However, in the past Syrian air defense projectiles have strayed toward Israel. In March 2017 an S-200 reportedly was fired and intercepted over the Jordan valley by an Arrow missile. An F-16 returning from an air strike was pursued by an S-200 missile in February and crashed in northern Israel. A Syrian missile heading for Israel was targeted by Israeli air defense on December 26.

With the S-300 now in Syria, the question is why it hasn’t been used. Tom Cat argues that “the S-300 is for Theater Defense against air-breathing targets like ballistic missiles and enemy planes, not for Point Defense like tonight [January 11] and the previous times.” In this analysis Syrian air defense doesn’t use the S-300 because it’s not the right system to stop the kind of threat involved. “The game will change when the S-300 is moved southwards because then they can actually track and target the jets,” the expert tweeted on January 13.

Others have speculated that the S-300 operators are not fully trained and that they will be ready by February of this year. This joins accusations online that the S-300 has not been effective or that it hasn’t been used because of fears that if it doesn’t work as planned then it will be an embarrassment for the Syrian regime and its Russian ally which has staked some of its pride on providing the system to help deter air strikes. Another important aspect of the S-300 discussion is the public relations value of having the system work and also deterring air strikes.

AFTER THE December air strike, there was an apparent hiatus in such strikes. But then Israel took credit for the January 12 and January 20-21 air strikes. Former IDF chief of staff Gadi EIsenkot even said in an interview that “thousands of targets” had been hit and “in 2018 alone, the air force dropped a staggering 2,000 bombs” on Syria, according to The New York Times. This appears to raise serious concerns about Syrian air defense and its inability to deter the strikes, interdict them or use its more sophisticated new technology.

Syrian state media repeats claims again and again that it has intercepted Israel’s missiles. Russian media plays this up as well, with TASS claiming on January 20 that seven Israeli guided aircraft missiles were intercepted. The point here is to show that the Buk and Pantsir systems are doing their job, and the Pantsir S-1 is providing the point air defense it was designed for.

Nevertheless, the question mark about the S-300 remains. When it was deployed it was portrayed as a game changer. But Reuters had reported in 2015 and again in October 2018 that Israel had trained against the S-300 system in Greece.

Regional countries are watching, as well as world powers, because the Syrian conflict is not just a conflict but a test of two different defense and combat systems, one in Israel that is linked to Israel’s advanced technology and defense industry and the West, and one supplied by Russia. Echoes of the Cold War – when Western-supplied technology rolled into battle with Israeli forces against the Syrian army in 1967, 1973 and 1982 – overshadow what comes next.




Robert G. Rabil

Algemeiner, Dec. 30, 2018

Since the 1990s, Israel and Russia have enjoyed an increasingly warm relationship. Russian President Vladimir Putin is reputed to have said, “There is a little piece of Russia in Israel.” However, Moscow’s military intervention in the Syrian civil war and the crushing of ISIS in Syria and Iraq have changed the dynamics of the Israel-Russia relationship.

Israel is concerned about Iran’s deepening strategic military presence in Syria, which involves the building of military bases and the provisioning of Hezbollah with precision missiles. Over the past two years, and especially since the defeat of ISIS, Israel has led a systematic air campaign against Iranian assets in Syria that Russia, despite its control of Syrian airspace, has done little to stop.

Yet as Jerusalem began to align its military strategy in Syria with that of the US, Moscow apparently signaled its discontent. In February 2018, an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace. As expected, Israel retaliated by downing the drone and carrying out air strikes across Syria and against the Iranian drone’s point of origin. For the first time since 1982, an Israeli jet was then shot down by Syrian missiles. Analysts have questioned whether Syria could have anticipated and fired at the Israeli jets had it not been for Russian planning.

Nevertheless, Israel and Russia continued their coordination, concluding an agreement in late July 2018 according to which the Syrian armed forces redeployed on the Golan Heights. Despite reservations, Jerusalem accepted a Russian pledge to keep Iran and Hezbollah 80 km from Israel’s Golan Heights. However, this agreement did not stop Israel from striking Iranian and Syrian assets deemed threatening to its security. On September 17, Israel carried out air strikes against Iranian-Syrian positions near Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Latakia. Syrian regime forces fired back; in the process, they accidentally downed a Russian surveillance plane, killing all 15 Russian service members on board.

While President Putin blamed “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances,” the Russian Defense Ministry accused Israel of hiding its F-16s behind the Russian plane, thus making it a target for Syria’s anti-aircraft missiles. Moscow responded by delivering S-300 missiles to Syria. No doubt, this episode underscored Russian fears about an American-Israeli plan to undercut its presence in Syria, not least since the number of US special forces in Syria at the time was gradually increasing and Washington’s military bases in northeastern Syria appeared to be transforming into permanent bases not too far from Latakia, the seat of Russian power.

Since Russia would not give up on its investment in the Assad regime — and Iran — Washington’s strategy of ensuring the departure of Iranian forces from Syria entailed the risk of a costly confrontation. Paradoxically, in a surprising shift of policy, President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, bringing an end to the military campaign against ISIS and removing any barrier to Tehran’s military presence in Syria. This has put the onus on Israel to check Iranian power in Syria. The Netanyahu government has been steadfast in trying to prevent Tehran from entrenching itself in Syria, and has made Israel-Russia coordination in the country strategically crucial to avoiding escalation.

At this critical juncture, Jerusalem has an opportunity to prevent a regional conflagration. Russia needs Iran and Hezbollah to secure and stabilize Syria. Serious challenges lie ahead, including defeating the thousands of Salafi jihadists in Idlib. But Moscow does not want either Iran or Hezbollah to have undue influence over Syrian politics. Simply put, Syria is a Russian protectorate. This has been transmitted to Tehran, including demands to restrict its military actions from Damascus all the way south to the Golan Heights. Reportedly, Hezbollah’s strategic goal of extending its presence to the Golan has been nixed by Russia.

This divergence in strategy has created tension between the allies. This is evident in Lebanon, where former allies Hezbollah and the Syrian regime have become rivals. Hezbollah has marshaled its political forces to deny the Syrian regime reentry into Lebanese politics. Lebanon, as former Lebanese parliamentarian Basem Shabb perceptively observed, “is the only country in the region where Iran has dominated the political scene with no credible opposition, until now.” The return of Syrian influence to Lebanon could pose the only potential threat to Hezbollah’s hegemony over the country, especially now that US sanctions against both Iran and Hezbollah have begun to bite.

Breaking with past policy, Hezbollah has dismissed any cooperation with pro-Syrian candidates in the ongoing formation of the new government. As Shabb pointed out, “No effort was made to include Syria’s Lebanese allies, namely the SSNP or Baath Party, in the cabinet for the first time in 30 years.”

Taken together, these developments have ushered in a new dynamic in Syria. In these circumstances, Jerusalem could build on its recent agreement with Moscow in regard to southern Syria and institutionalize a protocol with Syria, the US, and Jordan whereby Russia would be the formal mediator and guarantor of security in that area. This model, though not ideal, could prevent a drift into open confrontation. A similar pact, the April 1996 agreement between Hezbollah and Israel, established ground rules in southern Lebanon that prevented open confrontation. Jerusalem can maintain its strategic cooperation with Moscow and prevent escalation on its border from devolving into regional war.




Dennis Ross and David Makovsky

Ynet, Jan. 2, 2019

It is a truism in politics that elections are about the future, and not just about the past. In Israel’s upcoming election, given the potential of looming indictments, many in Israel will want to consider whether a sitting prime minister can fulfill the responsibilities of the office while also devoting major time and attention to his legal difficulties. Regardless of how that question is answered, there will be other fundamental questions about national security challenges that must be addressed. And, those questions, which have understandably gone to the heart of the Israeli public’s concerns historically, should be asked of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his challengers Avi Gabbay, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, and others on the center-left.

To begin with, while the Trump’s administration support for Israel has been important diplomatically and symbolically, it has largely left Israel on its own when it comes to dealing with the challenges of Iran in Syria and Lebanon and managing the Russians. But with the Russians now adopting a tougher policy toward Israel’s freedom of action in Syria and Lebanon, how do Netanyahu and other candidates propose to deal with them?

The challenge is especially acute because the Trump administration with its withdrawal from Syria is signaling to everyone, including the Russians, that it sees no interests in Syria regardless of whether Israel and Jordan are likely to face Iranian-backed threats from there. Historically, there was an understanding between the United States and Israel: Israel handles the threats it faces in the region, the U.S. deals with threats from external powers. That apparently no longer applies with the Trump administration, so Israel’s leaders have to contend with a new reality in the region in which the U.S. intends to play a diminished role even as Russia becomes more assertive in filling the vacuum.

True, neither the prime minister nor his challengers are likely to want to acknowledge publicly the reality of a diminished U.S. role, and its implications for Israel. But they can address what Israel may need to be doing on its own, given Russia’s increased prominence in the region and its new criticism of Israeli actions in Syria and Lebanon.

The prime minister may have been the honored guest of Russian President Vladimir Putin last May in Moscow celebrating the victory over the Nazis, but now the Russians are calling the most recent Israeli strike in Syria a provocation and Israeli overflights in Lebanon a violation of UNSC Resolution 1701—this even as Israel uncovers the fifth Hezbollah tunnel dug into its territory. So the relationship with Putin looks more problematic and the Russian impulse to exert its leverage is now greater, particularly with it not having to worry about the United States.

To be sure, Syria is not the only Iran-related challenge near Israel’s borders. Amid understandable concerns about Hezbollah’s 130,000 rockets, Israel has refrained from attacking its precision-guided facilities in Lebanon that could convert these rockets into missiles with sharp accuracy. And, yet, Israel truly cannot live with Hezbollah having rockets with high accuracy and capable of launching saturation attacks on Israel’s high-value strategic economic and military targets. So what should Israel do?

Of course, the main Iran-related issue is the question of whether Tehran will renew its nuclear program. The Trump administration has withdrawn from the nuclear deal of 2015 and its approach of re-imposing sanctions is creating real economic pressures on Iran. But it has not altered any Iranian behaviors as they remain aggressive in the region—so Israel must focus on countering that where it can. But what happens if the Iranians withdraw from the nuclear deal and resume their uranium enrichment, reducing their break-out time to weeks? The Trump approach seems built essentially on sanctions and economic pressure but little more. How will each candidate approach an Iranian withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the possibility that the Trump administration will maintain its current approach?

What about Gaza? Does either the prime minister or his challengers have an alternative to the current approach? No one wants to go back into Gaza, but is the reality of periodic flare-ups over the last decade, often driving a million Israelis in the south into shelters, the new normal? Can there be a more durable ceasefire with Hamas without reconstruction of infrastructure in Gaza? It is clear that the Israeli security establishment is looking for stabilizing components like infrastructure that could avert future deterioration. What is the alternative to this approach? If there is not one, why hasn’t it gone forward?…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Aurel Braun

Globe and Mail, Nov. 26, 2018

Sunday’s (Nov. 25) brazen Russian attack on three Ukrainian naval vessels, the capture of two dozen Ukrainian sailors and the wounding of several, is the first direct military incident between Moscow and Kiev forces. It represents a profoundly dangerous escalation and a stark challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump as he prepares to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit at the end of this month.

That the Russian attack in and around the Kerch Strait was swiftly condemned by both NATO and the European Union underlines the utter gravity of the situation. The West needs to move quickly along two lines – de-escalation and deterrence – while making these two seemingly contradictory goals compatible, if long term peace is to succeed.

How much is at stake cannot be overstated. First, if Russia is able to deny Ukraine the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait, then it will be able to block Ukraine’s ability to export iron and steel from the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, which represent 25 per cent of the country’s total export revenue. With an unchallenged violation of the 2003 Russia-Ukraine treaty, which was meant to give Kiev unimpeded access to the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov, Moscow could begin to strangle the Ukrainian economy. Second, by blocking unimpeded navigation to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, Russia can also undermine the military position of Ukraine in the city of Mariupol which is quite close to the line held by Moscow-controlled rebels in eastern Ukraine. The fall of Mariupol to Moscow’s proxies would be a devastating blow to Ukraine.

Third, if Moscow is able to conduct such a direct attack on Ukraine with impunity, this may also send a signal to NATO that its periphery is increasingly at risk and that the Baltics, perhaps even Poland which borders on the vulnerable Suwalki Gap, could be at risk in the future. Any attempt to deal with the crisis at the UN Security Council, given Moscow’s veto, is likely to be fruitless as shown in the failed emergency session on Monday. In fact, Russia, reaching into the old Soviet lexicon, claimed that it was responding to a Ukrainian “provocation” – code in Soviet times for justifying aggression.

Ukraine’s move to introduce Martial law is not likely to deter Russia and may even have a deleterious domestic impact. Martial law may not appreciably increase Ukraine’s military readiness, (which after several years of supposed improvement is still relatively ineffective), but is already raising concerns about possible political manipulation by the Poroshenko government as it is preparing for elections in March, 2019.

It is therefore largely up to the West to find the right kind of balance between de-escalation and deterrence as it tries to reassure Ukraine. For a start the Ukrainian sailors have to be freed and Kiev’s right of peaceful passage through the Kerch Strait must be restored. Perhaps the latter could be done through an international monitoring regime that would ensure that Ukrainian and Russian vessels do not violate territorial waters as they navigate in the region and Moscow could claim that now its concerns about possible attacks on its bridge-link via Kerch to Crimea would be safeguarded. At the same time, the West must move quickly to boost regional deterrence against Russia and make clear the unacceptable cost of future aggression. This includes several steps that NATO and particularly the United States should take expeditiously, especially now that Mr. Trump will be meeting with Mr. Putin…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links

So in Israel’s Election, Who Are the Russians For?: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019—On Monday, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Director Nadav Argaman made front-page headlines at a Tel Aviv University press conference by saying that a foreign country is trying to influence Israel’s upcoming elections through its cyber capabilities.

Syria Faces Brittle Future, Dominated by Russia and Iran: Vivian Yee, New York Times, Dec. 26, 2018—Turkey is threatening to invade Syria to eradicate Kurdish fighters.

Antisemitic Attacks are a Rare Occurrence in Russia, Study Reports: JTA, Oct. 31, 2018—Russia saw fewer than 10 suspected hate crimes against Jews in the first half of 2018, a human rights watchdog critical of the government said in a report.

Pessimism Sweeps Russia: Vladislav Inozemtsev, Moscow Times, Jan. 15, 2019—In recent months, few topics have got as much attention from Russia analysts as popular disenchantment with the ruling elite. As many experts claim today, Russian society is beginning to show signs of discontent that the authorities should not ignore.


Iran Is Ready to Take Risks in its Struggle with Israel: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Jan. 21, 2019 — In response to an attack on qualitative Iranian targets in the Damascus, Syria, region, which was carried out on January 20, 2019, the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard fired a medium-range surface-to-surface missile at the Hermon Region.

John Bolton Is Threatening Iran. Good.: Ray Takeyh, Politico, Jan. 15, 2019— The latest news to rattle the Washington establishment is that John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has asked the Pentagon for military options against Iran.

It’s Time to Ramp up the Pressure on Iran. Here’s How: Kaveh Shahrooz, National Post, Jan. 16, 2019 — Once they reconvene in February, Canada’s senators will be presented with a unique opportunity to pursue human rights in Iran in a new and effective way…

On MLK Day, the Future of African-American and Jewish Relations Hangs in the Balance: Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman, Algemeiner, Jan. 21, 2019 — On this Martin Luther King Day, the future of African-American and Jewish relations hangs in the balance.

On Topic Links

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2019: Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 20, 2019

Arafat and the Ayatollahs: Tony Badran, Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019

Why They Stay: Roya Hakakian, Tablet, Jan. 14, 2019

A Forbidden Story Makes its Way Into Iran: Peter O’Brien, Globe and Mail, Jan. 4, 2019



Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

JCPA, Jan. 21, 2019

In response to an attack on qualitative Iranian targets in the Damascus, Syria, region, which was carried out on January 20, 2019, the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard fired a medium-range surface-to-surface missile at the Hermon Region. Apparently, the attack had been planned for a long time and approved by the Iranian regime in Tehran. The missile was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system.

This is not the first time that Iran has reacted to an Israeli aerial attack on Iranian targets in Syria. On May 10, 2018, the Qods Force fired more than 30 Grad and Fajr rockets toward Israel. Most of them fell inside Syrian territory, and some of them were intercepted by Israel without causing any casualties. However, this time, the Qods Force fired a more accurate surface-to-surface missile toward the Hermon region, rather than at the outskirts of the Golan Heights. Moreover, this missile attack occurred during daylight hours. The significance of firing the missile during the day was that it was clear to the Qods Force that there were hundreds of Israeli tourists visiting the area and a ski resort.

This attack indicated Iran’s readiness to ratchet up the level of violence and take greater risks of a strong Israeli reaction, thereby leading to a military deterioration with Israel. If reports that some of the targets attacked by Israel were close to the Qods Force command building in the Damascus region are true, from the viewpoint of Iran, it can no longer tolerate Israeli attacks. This is certainly the case after the end of Israel’s ambiguous policy of claiming the military actions and its readiness to take direct responsibility for attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

Therefore, it would seem that at this stage, we are facing a new strategic situation with regard to Israel’s dealing with Iran in Syria. At its foundation lies the risk that Iran, through the Qods Force, will intensify its reactions to Israeli attacks on Syria and is even prepared to enter into a limited conflict with Israel. By no coincidence, the Iranian press released this statement by Iran’s Air Force commander Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh: “The young people in the air force are fully ready and impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth.”        Contents



Ray Takeyh

Politico, Jan. 15, 2019

The latest news to rattle the Washington establishment is that John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has asked the Pentagon for military options against Iran. The commentariat and the Democrats in exile are aghast and insist that such bellicosity will only invite belligerence from Iran. Many former Obama administration officials fear that Bolton’s truculence may lead Iran to resume its nuclear program. But the truth is that when dealing with Iran, threats usually work while blandishments only whet the appetite of the mullahs who run the country.

No president was more concerned with the Islamic revolutionaries’ sensibilities than Jimmy Carter. Even after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostages, Carter hoped to resolve the crisis in a manner that did not jeopardize the possibility of resuming ties with the theocracy. Such deference helped prolong the crisis for 444 days and essentially doomed Carter’s presidency. However, during the long hostage saga, on one occasion, Carter took forceful action and his policy actually worked. After the storming of the embassy, there was much loose talk in Tehran that the U.S. officials would be put on trial. The administration sent a private note to Iran that any harm done to the hostages would provoke American military retaliation. Soon, all the talk of public trial was quietly shelved. This proved to be a lesson not learned, not just by Carter but by many other American statesmen who would go on to deal with Iran.

The Reagan administration may best be known for the Iran-Contra affair, whereby it traded arms for the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Iran’s Hezbollah proxy. However, the tragic and accidental shooting down of an Iranian commercial airliner in July 1988 was actually critical to ending the Iran-Iraq war. For eight years, Iran had rebuffed all entreaties and offers of diplomatic mediation, as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini held tight to his goal of deposing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein irrespective of the conflict’s human toll. By the summer of 1988, there was an ongoing conflict between American naval ships and Iranian speed boats laying down mines in the Gulf waters. As the confrontation on the high seas was taking place, an Iranian passenger plane was making its way to Dubai. As the aircraft approached, the USS Vincennes mistook it for a hostile vessel and shot it down, killing 290 passengers.

Despite days of mourning and incendiary speeches, Iran’s reaction was basically subdued, as Tehran appreciated that the asymmetry of power militated against escalation of the conflict. The one dramatic consequence of downing the passenger plane was that it finally persuaded the clerical elite that it was time to abandon the war with Iraq—they mistakenly believed the shooting down of the Airbus was a prelude to America entering the war on Saddam’s behalf with the purpose of overthrowing the Islamic Republic. Even Khomeini, who was indifferent to the loss of human life, proved too respectful of American power to persist with a war that he felt might now include the United States. So Khomeini opted for an armistice, which he famously compared to drinking a “poisoned chalice.”

The world’s handling of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is also instructive. For much of its tenure in power, the Islamic Republic has maintained a nuclear apparatus. And by late 1990s, it was busy establishing an elaborate and clandestine facility in Natanz, approximately 200 miles south of Tehran. Iran was also active in developing plutonium capabilities. The uranium conversion facility in Isfahan and the nearly completed heavy-water production plant in Arak demonstrated the scope of a program that had been effectively concealed from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Islamic Republic had carefully constructed a nuclear infrastructure that offered it multiple paths to the bomb.

All this came crashing down in 2002, when an opposition group revealed Tehran’s secrets. Ali Khamenei, Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, immediately understood that he had a serious problem on his hands. The revelations came at a time when America was feeling shock-and-awe confidence in the wake of its rapid displacement of the Taliban in Afghanistan and on the cusp of destruction of the Baathist regime in Iraq in three weeks. The latter campaign shocked an Iranian political establishment that had been confidently told by its military leaders that America could not discharge that task with such ease and speed. The fear in Tehran was that America would next turn its gaze on the Islamic Republic.

So what happened next? President George W. Bush’s inclusion of Iran in his “axis of evil” speech alarmed Iranian leaders. It was time for the clerical state to buy time and wait for the storm to pass. It was at this juncture that Iran cut a deal with the so-called EU-3—Britain, France and Germany—to suspend all aspects of its nuclear program. This suspension would last for two years. By then, America found itself in a sectarian civil war in Iraq that was inflamed by Iran and its proxies. Once America became distracted in Iraq, Iran resumed its enrichment activities. Still, the lesson of 2003 is that threats work in compelling Iran to abandon its nuclear program far more than all the diplomacy that ensued in the coming decade.

Trump and Bolton are the latest American policymakers to unsettle the Islamic Republic. The signs coming out of the White House may at times be ambiguous, but the tough talk and the tough actions have had an impact in Tehran. The U.S. has withdrawn from the flawed Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran that have knocked off nearly a million barrels from its oil exports and crippled its economy. And yet the U.S. has faced no retaliatory Iranian response. The Islamic Republic has maintained its compliance with the nuclear agreement and will likely do so during the duration of the Trump presidency. Why? Because it respects and fears the power of the United States when wielded appropriately. The lesson: American determination, forcefully expressed, usually yields Iranian retreat.

The American strategist who seems to have internalized the right lessons in dealing with Iran is John Bolton. He appreciates Iran’s history of creating chaos in the Middle East and the fallacy of an arms control agreement that was paving its way toward the bomb. More important, he seems to appreciate that threats work better than soothing words in tempering a theocratic regime destined for the ash heap of history.




Kaveh Shahrooz

National Post, Jan. 16, 2019

Once they reconvene in February, Canada’s senators will be presented with a unique opportunity to pursue human rights in Iran in a new and effective way — through a new Iran-focused motion tabled by Conservative Sen. Linda Frum, condemning the Iranian regime’s human rights violations. The motion calls for the use of Canada’s Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (the Sergei Magnitsky law) to “sanction Iranian government … entities and individuals involved in egregious human rights abuses.”

While its language is largely consistent with an earlier opposition motion adopted in the House of Commons in June 2018 (with the surprise backing of the Trudeau Liberals), the new motion’s call for the application of Magnitsky sanctions is novel. Magnitsky laws — recently adopted by a number of Western countries and named after a Russian lawyer killed by Vladimir Putin’s government — are designed to sanction foreign officials implicated in widespread corruption and human rights abuses. Once subject to Magnitsky sanctions, the assets of the listed official are frozen and the person is barred from travelling to the sanctioning jurisdiction. Such sanctions are narrowly tailored and avoid the harmful collateral damage caused by more comprehensive sanctions on regimes.

Autocrats and rights violators recognize the threat posed by these sanctions. Much like the reaction it prompted among Putin and his loyalists in Russia, the prospect of Magnitsky sanctions directed at Iranian government officials has caused the Iranian regime and its supporters to lash out at a variety of targets. For example, when noted human rights activist Irwin Cotler held a December press conference with an Iranian women’s rights activist to discuss Magnitsky sanctions on Iran, Tehran’s official news agency tweeted an attack on both Cotler and the activist, falsely claiming that the sanctions would be imposed “on Iran” and solely “in the name of human rights.” The Iranian Canadian Journal, an anonymous Canada-based publication that closely parrots the Tehran line, tweeted a verbatim attack. In a similar vein, Iran’s Etemad newspaper carried an article by Delshad Emami, a vocal Iranian-Canadian supporter of the Iranian government, that called Magnitsky sanctions a threat to Iran’s security and a form of “economic terrorism.”

The case for imposing human rights sanctions on Iranian officials is surprisingly easy, having been made repeatedly by Iranian activists over the years. It starts with acknowledging that past sanctions imposed on Iran have focused almost exclusively on Iran’s nuclear program. Critical as such efforts have been, they have overlooked the fact that the primary victims of Iran’s government are its people.

Iran has one of the worst human rights records in the world and its officials’ heretofore impunity must be rectified. As recognized by Canada’s parliament in 2013, Iran’s government is guilty of crimes against humanity (crimes which Amnesty International believes are ongoing). It has continuously targeted journalists. It has arrested and murdered environmentalists, including Iranian-Canadian professor Kavous Seyed-Emami. It has repressed religious minorities, particularly members of the Baha’i faith. It arrests women’s rights activists as well as labour unionists, torturing some “to the verge of death.” And as a symbol of its utter disregard for the rule of law, Iran’s government continues to arrest defence lawyers who dare to represent dissidents.

The list of Iranian officials responsible for these crimes is long. But a good place to start would be the report recently compiled by the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, which lays out a solid case for sanctioning 19 Iranian officials who have played a role in everything from carrying out mass murder to suppressing free speech.

Despite the clear case for such sanctions, some senators may still be hesitant to support the motion. Last year, a somewhat similar bill introduced in the Senate was rejected by all of Canada’s independent (i.e., formerly Liberal) senators. But the new motion deftly works around many of the objections previously raised by the senators — specifically, that the bill prevented engagement and restricted Canada’s ability to respond to incremental improvements in Iran’s human rights record.

The Magnitsky sanctions are a more nuanced instrument, allowing Canada to calibrate its pressure on Iran. The motion also does not stand in the way of any fruitful engagement with Iran, provided that such engagement does not include those implicated in mass crimes. In addition, the “name and shame” approach of the Magnitsky sanctions is completely consistent with the existing Canadian policy of naming and shaming Iran at the UN General Assembly through an annual human rights resolution.

Iran’s human rights activists, at home and in the diaspora, have long sought to end that country’s culture of impunity through focused pressure on human rights violators. The Magnitsky sanctions proposed in Canada’s Senate provide an opportunity to advance that admirable goal. In solidarity with the tens of thousands of human rights victims in Iran, Canada’s senators should vote for the motion. And pressure their colleagues in the House of Commons to adopt it into law. Contents




Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman

Algemeiner, Jan. 21, 2019

On this Martin Luther King Day, the future of African-American and Jewish relations hangs in the balance. The explosive controversy around National Women’s March leaders like Tamika Mallory refusing to apologize for their love of Louis Farrakhan — or to affirm Israel’s right to exist — is disturbing enough. But The New York Times’ decision to feature Michelle Alexander’s op-ed, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” signals the opening of a new line of attack against our community.

Michelle Alexander has superstar credentials. She taught the Civil Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School and clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun at the Supreme Court. Today, she teaches “social justice” at Union Theological Seminary. Her 2010 bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, argues persuasively that the post-1960s “war on drugs” cemented African-American males’ status deep in the new underclass, a condition of racial inferiority reminiscent of the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow era. But she implies that much of our current racial crisis is the result of white racists — and immoral white liberal politicians in league with them. During 2016, she urged African-Americans and white progressives not to vote for Hillary Clinton.

James Foreman, Jr., son of a civil rights icon and himself a Yale Law professor, just won a Pulitzer Prize for Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. His central thesis in may ways reinforces Alexander’s argument — as he has acknowledged. Yet Foreman has criticized Alexander for downplaying the role of exploding black violent crime during the 1960s and 1970s in creating a political crisis over drugs, for flirting with the idea of an alleged white-racist political conspiracy when many African Americans also supported a harsh crackdown on crime, and for inflaming black-white polarization at a time when cross-race and cross-class alliances are needed for prison reform.

In her New York Times broadside, Alexander paints a picture of Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories as the greatest human rights crime of our time. There is no mention of Arab armies repeatedly invading Israel, of Palestinian terrorism, of the corrupt Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate a peaceful two-state solution, or of the genocidal Hamas. Worst of all is her shameless revision of Martin Luther King’s history to re-imagine him as a late-blooming critic of Israel.

King was a man of peace and a humanitarian, sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. But he knew — from first to last — the difference between right and wrong in the Middle East. The young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956 commented: “There is something in the very nature of the universe which is on the side of Israel in its struggle with every Egypt.” King apotheosized the positive side of African-American Christian identification with Zion. In 1959, King made his only trip to the Middle East. Barred by Jordan from visiting the Old City, he was indelibly affected by Jerusalem.

In Miami Beach — to the national convention of the American Jewish Congress on May 14, 1958 — King said: “My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility. … There are Hitlers loose in America today, both in high and low places.”

Interviewed by the editor of Conservative Judaism on March 25, 1968, soon after he attended a birthday celebration for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel before 1,000 rabbis in upstate New York and just 10 days before his assassination, King declared: “I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can almost be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”

So why is Alexander’s piece so significant? Because it represents the new progressive-left “intersectional” policy of trying to demonize Israel and remove Jews from movements like the Women’s March with a powerful boost from The New York Times. This campaign recalls the 1940s, when the Times only ambivalently endorsed the 1947 UN Partition Plan for a Jewish state, and then stayed silent about Israel’s actual declaration of independence. The political narrative is different now, but the anti-Israel trend lines are analogous.

We are witnessing the opening shot in a new 21st century war to de-legitimize Israel, home to the world’s largest Jewish population and the values of our people — including our love of Zion. We now face a two-front attack — one from white supremacist antisemites responsible for Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the other from our erstwhile multi-racial progressive friends, who seem to want a Judenrein vision of equality and mutual respect. We must fight both movements vigorously.



On Topic Links

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2019: Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 20, 2019—1. The Jewish Arbor Day, Tu Bishvat (ט”ו בשבט), although essentially halakhic with regard to laws of tithes as they affect trees, highlights human gratitude for the creation of the fruit-bearing trees.  Jewish tradition stipulates a one-sentence-blessing before consuming any fruit.

Arafat and the Ayatollahs: Tony Badran, Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019—When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.”

Why They Stay: Roya Hakakian, Tablet, Jan. 14, 2019—Among the world’s endangered minorities, Iranian Jews are an anomaly. Like their counterparts, their conditions categorically refute all the efforts their nation makes at seeming civilized and egalitarian—and so they embody, often without wanting to, all that is ugly and unjust about their native land.

A Forbidden Story Makes its Way Into Iran: Peter O’Brien, Globe and Mail, Jan. 4, 2019—On a rainy day at a small outdoor bookstall, a man hides his face with a book. On the cover a girl, loosely wrapped in a sheet, lies on the floor, a pair of large men’s shoes inches away from her young, outstretched arm.