Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

Month: January 2019

WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS OF THE WEEK IN REVIEW”

MEDIA-OCRITY OF THE WEEK: NO LONGER A WILD CONSPIRACY THEORY: THE POSSIBILITY OF TRUMP AS RUSSIAN AGENT“On Friday, The New York Times released a blockbuster exclusive: When U.S. President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May of 2017, law enforcement became so concerned by his behaviour that they began an investigation into whether the President was, in fact, operating as a Russian agent…unfortunately this is now a real possibility, and its implausible nature is partly to blame for how long we ignored it in the first place…Mr. Trump’s behaviour has not been strange. It’s not been outlandish or puzzling. It’s been a living and breathing narrative on our television screens. We have seen a man who plausibly shoulders a debt that may require him to be obedient and necessitate submission of our national goals and character…The possibility that the President of the United States is working for Russia is now real – and it may have worked because Americans wanted to believe in the best of people and the strength of our institutions. To return to that hope, to set that trajectory right again, we must stare the possibility of our failure in the face and name it. We simply cannot afford to look away any longer.” — Jared Yates Sexton. (Globe & Mail, Jan. 14, 2019)

 

On Topic Links

A Look at Large-Scale Extremist Attacks in Kenya: National Post, Jan. 15, 2019

Is Rashida Tlaib Guilty of Bigotry?: Alan M. Dershowitz, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 9, 2019

‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ Group Showcases Palestinian Woman With Assault Rifle, Defends ‘Right to Resist Military Occupation’: Algemeiner, Jan. 11, 2019

The Man Who Humbled Qassim Suleimani: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2019

 

WEEKLY QUOTES 

“In the past 48 hours, Israel attacked an Iranian weapons warehouse at the international airport in Damascus. This reflects our consistent policy and strong determination to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria. If necessary, we will step up these attacks…At the same time, the IDF has exposed a sixth tunnel – the largest of all – that crossed into Israeli territory. This brings Operation Northern Shield to a successful close. We will continue to monitor all activity by Hezbollah, and by Iran and its proxies. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of Israel.” — Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu visited the area where Operation Northern Shield is destroying Hezbollah tunnels. Questioned as to whether the residents of the area can live in peace, he said: “I think everyone understands that a very serious threat was averted here. Hezbollah’s operational plan was to use the tunnels weapon to infiltrate many fighters, between 1,000-2,000 terrorists, into the Galilee, to seize communities here. Everyone understands how the war would look if Hezbollah battalions were in the Galilee, and with the Iranian army opposite the Golan Heights. We have prevented this – and will continue to prevent it.” (Globe & Mail, Jan. 7, 2018)

“I can say with confidence that as we speak Hezbollah does not possess accurate [missile] capabilities except for small and negligible ones…They were hoping to have hundreds of missiles in the mid- and long-range.” — Gadi Eisenkot, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff. Eisenkot feels Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, had devised a three-pronged strategy to invade and conquer at least a part of Israel’s northern Galilee: building factories in Lebanon that could produce precision-guided missiles, excavating attack tunnels under the Israeli border and setting up a second front on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. So far, the plan has failed. The factories were publicly exposed and the tunnels destroyed. Israel continues to attack Hezbollah positions on the Golan, most recently last month against an intelligence position in the village of Tel el Qudne (previously unreported). (New York Times, Jan. 11, 2019)

“Now, as it is my turn, and I have received the responsibility of leading the army, I commit to dedicating all my energy, with a critical and demanding approach, to strengthening our defensive wall, to training for present and future threats – which focuses upon strengthening our attack capabilities towards our enemies, and presenting an army that is deadly, efficient and modern, that preserves its mission and it(s) uniqueness.” — Incoming IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. Kochavi was appointed as the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff, replacing Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. Kochavi was promoted from deputy chief of staff by Prime Minister Netanyahu in a ceremony at the Israeli army headquarters in Tel Aviv, also attended by Eisenkot. Eisenkot and Kochavi, visited the gravesites at Mount Herzl of Israeli soldiers and officers who fell in battle. This is a new tradition honoring the exchange of power within the Israeli army. (Ha’aretz, Jan. 15, 2019)

“Electing Yemen to protect women’s rights is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief… How could the UN choose Yemen, a country that tolerates female genital mutilation, denies women hospital treatment without the permission of a male relative, and counts a woman’s testimony as worth half that of a man? We remind the UN that women in Yemen cannot marry without permission of their male guardians, and face deeply entrenched discrimination in both law and practice, in all aspects of their lives, including employment, education and housing…The election of Yemen as vice-president at UN Women is an insult to women’s rights activists worldwide who struggle against the persecution exemplified by Yemen’s misogynistic laws and practices.” — Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch and former CIJR Dateline Middle East Editor. UNWatch condemned the UN’s election of Yemen, the worst-ranking country in the world on gender equality, to be vice-president of the Executive Board of UN Women, which is the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Yemen was ranked 149th out of 149 in last year’s Global Gender Gap Report, produced by the World Economic Forum. (UNWatch, Jan. 9, 2018)

“We have to be very careful as a society and as a government and as a country not to sanction this new frame around anti-Semitism and undue criticism of Israel.” — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Speaking at one of a series of election-year townhall meetings across the country, an audience member asked if Trudeau would retract his condemnation of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, sanctions movement — BDS. The Liberal leader would have none of it. The problem, he said, is that resurgent antisemitism has become widespread — much of it directed at Israel — and the BDS movement on Canadian campuses has made some students feel threatened. (City News, Jan. 15, 2019)

“I’ve been warning for many years now that Israel is backing away from confrontations it can win until it might back itself into a confrontation it can’t win, or can only win at exorbitant cost. By embarking on an ill-advised policy of restraint, Israel has allowed terrorist nuisances to evolve into strategic threats. In this regard, one of the dangers of a nuclear Iran, even if Iran doesn’t use the weapons, is that it can spread a nuclear umbrella over terrorist entities operating in the north, in the south, and if we make ill-advised territorial concessions, in the east as well.” — Martin Sherman, founder and CEO of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. Sherman, who recently spoke at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research office in Montreal, was interviewed by David Levy, author of The Zionist Entity: The Jewish State In the 21st Century (2015). (PJ Media, Jan. 15, 2019)

“I began employing Palestinian and Israeli Arab workers at the first Rami Levy location, a stall in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market that opened in 1976. Arabs were among my first employees…Those employees continue to work for Rami Levy Hashikma — our supermarket outlets — and many have seen their careers flourish with the company…Rami Levy does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, gender, or religion when hiring and promoting employees. All employees, Palestinians and Israelis, are treated equally and receive equal benefits.” — Rami Levy, owner of the third-largest Israeli supermarket chain. Levy invested $50 million in the construction of a mall northeast of Jerusalem. Despite the boycott calls, some Palestinians have rented stores in the mall, which is described as a model for coexistence between Arabs and Jews. (United With Israel, Jan. 13, 2019)

Contents

 

SHORT TAKES 

ISRAEL ATTACKED IRANIAN WAREHOUSE IN DAMASCUS (Damascus) — Missiles fired by Israeli warplanes struck a warehouse at Damascus International Airport Friday, Syrian state media reported. Israeli aircraft fired several missiles at areas near Damascus. This was the first Israeli airstrike on the Damascus area in 2019. The last time the IAF hit the same area was on December 25, 2018. (Jewish Press, Jan. 12, 2019) 

TERRORIST ATTACK IN NAIROBI LEAVES 14 DEAD (Nairobi) — All the gunmen who staged a deadly attack on a luxury hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya were killed, while fourteen “innocent lives” were lost in the attack on Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said. Al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility. The Islamic extremist group also carried out the 2013 attack at Nairobi’s nearby Westgate Mall that killed 67 people, and an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that claimed 147 lives, mostly students. While U.S. airstrikes and African Union forces have degraded the group’s ability to operate, it is still capable of carrying out violence in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s campaign against it in Somalia. (Washington Post, Jan. 16, 2019) 

CANADA GRANTS ASYLUM TO SAUDI TEEN (Vancouver) — Rahaf al-Qunun, an 18-year-old Saudi woman who said she is fleeing abuse from her family, has been granted asylum in Canada. Qunun arrived in Thailand and was initially denied entry. She soon started posting messages on Twitter after barricading herself in a room in a hotel saying her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia. Authorities eventually allowed her to enter the country. Qunun had previously expressed wanting to come to Canada on her Twitter account, which was deleted on Friday after getting death threats. The 18-year-old has said she was fleeing from her family out of fear they would kill her for renouncing Islam, something that is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. (Global, Jan. 11, 2019)

U.S. NAVY VETERAN HELD IN IRANIAN PRISON SINCE JULY (Tehran) — An American Navy veteran has been held in an Iranian prison on unspecified charges since late July. Michael R. White, 46, was detained in Iran after visiting his Iranian girlfriend. Joanne White said her son was scheduled to return to the U.S. from Iran through Dubai, but her son never boarder his flight. According to the New York Times, there are at least three other Americans currently being detained in Iran. Two of them are of Iranian descent while the other Americans have been missing in Iran for over a decade. (Fox News, Jan. 8, 2019)

DNC DROPS PARTNERSHIP WITH WOMEN’S MARCH (Washington) — The Democratic National Committee has dropped its partnership in the Women’s March over antisemitism concerns, according to a Democratic source. This development comes amid accusations of antisemitism within the movement’s leadership. There have been calls for firms to back out. A number of progressive groups have withdrawn their support for the march, including the National Council of Jewish Women, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign, and Greenpeace. Moreover, local marches, such as in Chicago and New Orleans, have been cancelled. (JNS, Jan. 16, 2019)

PRO-HEZBOLLAH ACTIVIST POSTS PHOTOS WITH TLAIB (Washington) — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, was called out after Palestinian activist Abbas Hamideh, a staunch defender of Hezbollah, posted photos of the two of them posing at her swearing-in ceremony in Detroit. Hamideh tweeted a photo of himself with Tlaib along with the caption, “I was honored to be at Congresswoman @RashidaTlaib swearing in ceremony in #Detroit and private dinner afterward with the entire family, friends and activists across the country.” Critics were quick to point out that Hamideh, a co-founder of the pro-Palestinian group Al-Awda, which means “right of return,” has a history of praising Hezbollah leaders and declaring that Israel has no right to exist. (Washington Times, Jan. 14, 2019)

TRUMP WARNS TURKEY OF ECONOMIC DEVASTATION IF IT ATTACKS KURDS (Washington) — President Trump warned Turkey that it faces economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria after a planned U.S. pullout. Trump said his government was starting the “long overdue pullout” from Syria while “hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard,” and would attack it again if the jihadists regroup. Turkey has been massing troops on its border for weeks in preparation for an operation to eradicate Kurdish forces that the U.S. has vowed to protect. The U.S. outsourced much of the fighting against I.S. to a group called the YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the PKK, a separatist group that both Turkey and the U.S. consider terrorists. (Bloomberg, Jan. 13, 2018)

POLL: 58% OF ISRAELIS FEEL SYRIA WITHDRAWAL HARMED THEIR COUNTRY’S SECURITY INTERESTS (Jerusalem) — A majority of Israelis — 58% — believe that Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria harmed their country’s security interests, a survey found. However, 72% of Israelis also feel the Jewish state can defend itself “very well,” according to Israel Democracy Institute. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot called the move “significant” but noted there was “no need to overstate it.” On Friday, a US military spokesperson confirmed the drawdown of the U.S. force — consisting of more than 2,000 soldiers who had been working in northeastern Syria with an alliane of Kurdish and Arab militias in areas once held by I.S.— had begun. (Algemeiner, Jan. 11, 2019)

BOMB-LADEN REBEL DRONE KILLS 6 IN YEMEN (Aden) — A bomb-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Shiite rebels exploded over a military parade for the Saudi-led coalition, killing at least six people. The Houthi attack near the port city of Aden with a new drone variant also raised more questions about Iran’s alleged role in arming the rebels with drone and ballistic missile technology, something long denied by Tehran despite researchers and U.N. experts linking the weapons to the Islamic Republic. (Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2019)

HUNDREDS RALLY IN KHARTOUM FOR AL-BASHIR’S OUSTER (Khartoum) — Hundreds of protesters marched in and around Sudan’s capital Khartoum, the fourth week of unrest that began over skyrocketing prices and a failing economy but which now calls for the ouster of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur. An Islamist who has been in power since he led a military coup in 1989, he has said those seeking to oust him can only do so through elections, and he is running for another term in office next year. He has insisted that the protests are part of a foreign plot to undermine Sudan’s “Islamic experiment” and blamed the country’s worsening economic crisis on international sanctions. (Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2019)

IRAN EXPLORING NEW URANIUM ENRICHMENT: NUCLEAR CHIEF (Tehran) — The head of Iran’s nuclear program said Sunday that Iran has begun “preliminary activities for designing” a modern process for 20% uranium enrichment for its 50-year-old research reactor in Tehran. Restarting enrichment at that level would mean Iran had withdrawn from the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that Trump already pulled America out of in May. However, Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments appeared aimed at telling the world Iran would slowly restart its program. If it chooses, it could resume mass enrichment at its main facility in the central Iranian town of Natanz. (Arutz Sheva, Jan. 14, 2019)

ELDERLY COUPLE FOUND STABBED DEAD IN JERUSALEM (Jerusalem) — A couple in their seventies were found dead from stab wounds in their apartment on Mordechai Elkehai street in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem on Sunday. Police do not yet have a motive for the attack. On January 9th, a 14-year-old girl was stabbed by an unknown assailant on that same street as she made her way to school in the morning. The terrorist who attacked her was not found. It is unknown if there is a connection between the two attacks. The Armon Hanatziv neighborhood is adjacent to several Arab neighborhoods, and has been the site of a number of terror attacks, some of them lethal. (Jewish Press, Jan. 13, 2019)

CANADIANS TARGETED IN THWARTED 2018 TERROR PLOT IN ISRAEL (Jerusalem) — A Canadian delegation was among a group of targets that a man planned to attack in Jerusalem last year, according to the Israel Security Agency. Muhammad Jamal Rashdeh was sentenced to 11 years in prison in connection with the plot. Shin Bet, said in a statement issued in June, 2018, that Rashdeh had also been planning to assassinate Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and attack buildings belonging to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem (which has now been converted into the new U.S. embassy). The statement said Rashdeh, a resident of a Palestinian refugee camp in eastern Jerusalem, received orders from a Syria-based terrorist group. (Globe & Mail, Jan. 10, 2019)

‘TRADITIONAL MASCULINITY’ DEEMED HARMFUL, APA SAYS (Washington) — For the first time, the American Psychological Association (APA) released guidelines concerning men and boys, saying that so-called “traditional masculinity” not only is “harmful” but also could lead to homophobia and sexual harassment. “The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression – is, on the whole, harmful,” reads the news release. It notes that “traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly.” The document goes on to coin “masculinity ideology,” and claims that it harms boys and men. (Fox News, Jan. 9, 2019)

US PURCHASES ISRAELI MISSILE-DEFENSE SYSTEMS (New York) — The U.S. military has completed an $80 million purchase of the Israeli-developed missile-defense system Trophy to protect tanks and armored-personnel carriers. As part of the agreement, the U.S. is expected to pay an additional $120 million for more defense systems, bringing the sum of the two contracts to around $400 million, according to a Rafael spokesperson. The Trophy consists of a radar-detection system that recognizes incoming missiles and projects their trajectories, with launchers that shoot metal pellets, causing the incoming missile or rocket to explode away from the tank. (Jewish Press, Jan. 12, 2019)

FRANCE JOINS US, WARNS IRAN TO STOP WORK ON BALLISTIC MISSILES (Paris) — France has called on Iran to immediately cease all work on ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload. The move comes in the wake of an announcement that Iran will send two satellites (space launch vehicles) into orbit in the coming weeks. Iran responded by telling France to avoid repeating “irresponsible and incorrect” claims about Tehran’s missile work made by other nations who opposed the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. The United States issued a warning to Iran earlier this month on its violations of UN Security Council resolution 2231 after the Iran Ministry of Defense announced its plans to launch three space launch vehicles in the coming months. (Jewish Press, Jan. 11, 2019)

LAST NAZI IN US DIES AFTER DEPORTATION (New York) — The last known Nazi in the U.S. has died at the age of 95 in the town of Ahlen, Germany, months after being deported from his home in Queens. Former concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij, an ethnic Ukrainian, entered the U.S. in 1949 under the Displaced Persons Act and told officials he worked during the war in a woodshop and farm in occupied Poland. In 2003, he was stripped of his U.S. citizenship for “participation in acts against Jewish civilians” and ordered deported. Germany, Poland, Ukraine and others refused to accept him. It wasn’t until 2018 that Germany finally acceded. (Jewish Press, Jan. 13, 2019)

EX-PM PAUL MARTIN RECOMMENDS IRWIN COTLER FOR A NOBEL PRIZE (Montreal) — Former Prime Minister Paul Martin and former Jewish Agency chair Natan Sharansky have endorsed Irwin Cotler for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Cotler was nominated by Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO Monitor, an Israeli-based academic research institute. Cotler served as justice minister and attorney general in Martin’s Liberal cabinet from 2003 to 2006. Steinberg cites Cotler’s lifelong human rights advocacy, especially on behalf of political prisoners. After leaving politics in 2015, Cotler founded the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. (CJN, Jan. 10, 2019)

On Topic Links

A Look at Large-Scale Extremist Attacks in Kenya: National Post, Jan. 15, 2019—Here is a look at large-scale extremist attacks in Kenya over the years…

Is Rashida Tlaib Guilty of Bigotry?: Alan M. Dershowitz, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 9, 2019 —If Congress were considering legislation prohibiting boycotts directed against gays, women or Muslim owned companies, would Senator Bernie Sanders be arguing that such a ban would violate the First Amendment?

‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ Group Showcases Palestinian Woman With Assault Rifle, Defends ‘Right to Resist Military Occupation’: Algemeiner, Jan. 11, 2019—An anti-Zionist Jewish group shared a drawing on Wednesday of a Jewish woman holding hands with a Palestinian counterpart who was armed with an assault rifle and bullets, before defending what it described as “the right to resist military occupation.”

The Man Who Humbled Qassim Suleimani: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2019—“We struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit.”

IN IRAQ, IRAN’S INFLUENCE GROWS, CHRISTIANS FACE EXTINCTION; IN SYRIA, KURDS FEEL ABANDONED BY WEST

Is Iran’s Influence in Iraq Growing, or Has it Reached a Plateau?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 2, 2019— The leader of Iraq’s second largest party, Hadi al-Amiri, called on foreign forces to leave Iraq over the weekend.

Why US Forces Must Step in to Save Iraqi Christians from Extinction: Kenneth R. Timmerman, New York Post, Dec. 15, 2018— Pink bollworms are the scourge of cotton farmers.

America’s Loyal Syrian Kurdish Allies Evade Annihilation While US forces in Iraq Face Expulsion: Malcolm Lowe, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2018— In April 2018, we warned that President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria would be a repetition of President Obama’s worst mistake, the precipitate withdrawal from Iraq that facilitated the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State (ISIS).

The West Cannot Abandon Kurds: Con Coughlin, Telegraph, Jan. 12, 2019— Throughout the course of the West’s long and bitter campaign to destroy Daesh, the Kurds have proved themselves to be one of the most effective allies.

On Topic Links

Israeli Intelligence: Tehran’s Influence in the Region – a Growing Threat: Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 2018

Trump’s Rubicon Moment in Iraq: Praising America’s ‘Warriors,’ Ending Wars: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018

Trump Makes First Trip to Iraq as President: Rebecca Morin & Wesley Morgan, Politico, Dec. 26, 2018

Life Returning Slowly to Christian Homeland in Iraq: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 1, 2018

 

IS IRAN’S INFLUENCE IN IRAQ GROWING,

OR HAS IT REACHED A PLATEAU?

Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 2, 2019

The leader of Iraq’s second largest party, Hadi al-Amiri, called on foreign forces to leave Iraq over the weekend. Slamming US President Donald Trump’s visit, in which Trump did not meet Iraqi officials, he intimated that the US should also draw down its forces. This comes at the same time as Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman, head of Israel’s military intelligence, warned at a conference in Tel Aviv that Iraq is under growing influence of Iran.

Iran’s role in Iraq is multi-layered. It suffered a slight setback in the elections in 2018 as Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shi’ite cleric and Iraqi nationalist, came in first. Amiri, leading a party supported by former and current Shi’ite militias, some of them closely connected to Iran, came in second.

Iran’s influence may have peaked under former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was the most powerful man in Iraq from 2006 to 2014. Maliki not only presided over the period when US troops left but, according to former officials, the US under the Obama administration saw him as a strongman who would help lead Iraq as the US presence diminished. Oddly, even as the US saw him as helping preserve Iraq, he railed against the Americans. In Washington’s calculations at the time this was acceptable because a certain amount of populist anti-Americanism nevertheless meant Iraq would be unified under one leader, rather than sink into instability and allow a place for extremism to grow.

Instead, the opposite happened. Maliki’s authoritarianism alienated the Sunni minority and the Kurdish region. ISIS and its genocidal extremism entered the vacuum created in Sunni areas by Maliki’s thuggish bureaucracy. After ISIS took over a third of Iraq and he was forced out in Baghdad, Maliki claimed that the Obama administration was “behind the creation of ISIS in order to bring down the government.” Nothing could be further from the truth, but blaming America was the easiest way to excuse Baghdad’s problems.

These were the kind of conspiracy theories and anti-American rhetoric that were common among segments of the pro-Iranian leadership angling to run Iraq. Under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who replaced Maliki in 2014, Iraq had to have a kind of Janus face when it came to the US and Iran. The US would help train Iraq’s army and carry out airstrikes, but the rank and file of anti-ISIS fighters would often be more sympathetic to Iran, some even carried photos of Ayatollah Khamenei with them into battle. Khamenei even warned against Iraq allowing the US to return and aid its fight.

To fight ISIS, the Iraqi government also partnered with tens of thousands of Shi’ite militias that cropped up after a 2014 fatwa against ISIS. This was the natural response to the ISIS threat. ISIS was massacring people across Iraq and Iraq’s army was disintegrating. Militias, imbued with religious zeal and often looking to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for inspiration, helped defeat ISIS. Some of these were extremely hostile to the US.

Groups like Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq were even led by men like Qais Khazali, who had been detained by the US. Hezbollah Brigades leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis had been sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2009. He was close to IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Men like Muhandis, Khazali and Amiri were also influential in 2009 and 2015. Amiri’s Badr Organization runs the interior ministry of Iraq and funnels its resources to former Shi’ite militia members. The Shi’ite militias were even rebranded as the “Popular Mobilization Units” and made an official paramilitary force, like the IRGC or Basij in Iran.

This is the Iranification of Iraq and it has gone on slowly for more than a decade. The pro-Iranian factions have always been close to power in Iraq since 2003. One of the necessary blind spots of US policy, and by extension other Western governments, is to pretend that these pro-Iranian individuals, some of them former militants or violent extremists, do not make up the rank and file of individuals close to power in Baghdad. It’s also unsurprising they have such influence. They resisted Saddam Hussein, with many of those like Amiri going to Iran in the 1980s to fight against Saddam alongside the Iranians.

To create an illusion of an Iraqi government that is not entirely an ally of Iran, the US has sought to encourage Baghdad to reach out to Saudi Arabia and sought to push for more Gulf investment in Iraq. In 2017, Iraq and Saudi Arabia began to improve relations after decades in which they had been broken after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The US has sought to balance relations with Baghdad with its outreach to Sunni areas of Iraq and also the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The KRG has been staunchly pro-Western over the years, an island of stability in an Iraq that has suffered terribly.

Yet, the US relationship with the Kurdish region was strained in 2017 when the KRG had an independence referendum. The US worked with Baghdad and supported Baghdad sending tanks into Kirkuk, along with Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, to punish the Kurdish region. Kurdish peshmerga had defended Kirkuk from ISIS from 2014 to 2017. With the war over, Washington thought the KRG could be pushed aside in favor of a Baghdad strategy. This strategy hasn’t reduced Iran’s role or presence. This is not because Iran is necessarily playing a greater role.

In fact, there is evidence that many Iraqis are tired of Iran. In protests in Basra, people have attacked the headquarters of various Iranian-linked militias. They think Iran is partly responsible for economic problems, as Iraq’s resources are plundered by Iranians. As sanctions kick in, Iran has even more reason to plunder Iraq for its economic interests. Iraqis also complain that there is a drug trade from Iran. Some of these claims are exaggerated, but there are serious questions about the degree to which Iran sees part of Iraq as a “near abroad,” a kind of colony that it can dump its products on. Is the relationship equal or does Iraq do the work for Iran?

Now the US once again faces questions about whether it will remain in Iraq. From the point of view of those who are concerned about Iran’s role in the region and its attempt to create a “land corridor” to the sea via Iraq and Syria, the US role is unclear. Do US forces help block Iranian influence? So far they haven’t. Trump said that US forces in Iraq will continue to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran. But Iran is also keeping an eye on US forces…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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WHY US FORCES MUST STEP IN TO SAVE

IRAQI CHRISTIANS FROM EXTINCTION

Kenneth R. Timmerman

New York Post, Dec. 15, 2018

When ISIS fighters burst into Father Afran Sony’s monastery in northern Iraq in June 2014 wielding machine guns and knives, he and his brothers rushed to protect their most precious possessions. They weren’t gold, relics or even their own lives, but some of the oldest surviving manuscripts in the Christian world. For nearly two months, the terrorists held the handful of monks prisoner and openly discussed whether or not to kill them because they refused to renounce their faith. But Father Afran was more focused on saving the ancient Christian texts than himself.

At one point, he and a few brothers managed to escape to a nearby village under the cover of darkness, carrying away the most precious of the ancient scrolls under their cloaks. But ISIS caught them at a checkpoint and took them back to the monastery. That’s when they came up with a daring plan. “We built a fake wall in a small windowless closet right under their noses and sealed the books in barrels inside,” he said. “Some of them date from the 4th century. In all, we saved 750 ancient books and scrolls.” ISIS released the monks on July 20, 2014, and stayed another two years in the monastery without ever finding the manuscripts. But every other Christian relic they found, every cross and every grave, they smashed or defaced, including the tomb of Saints Behnam and Sarah, martyrs who lived more than 1,600 years ago.

Most Americans have had enough of our 15-year effort to bring peace, stability and, yes, some modicum of representative government to Iraq. President Trump repeatedly blasted President George W. Bush for going to war in 2003, calling it “the single worst decision ever made.” And yet, the United States does have lasting interests in Iraq beyond eradicating weapons of mass destruction. Prime among them is one that until now we have neglected: ensuring the survival of Iraq’s Christian minority and, more generally, the Christians of the East.

Why should we care? America is fundamentally a Judeo-Christian nation. More than 70 percent of Americans self-identify as Christians, and if that statistic has any meaning, then we must take seriously the passage of St. Paul in I Corinthians 12:26, when he describes the body of Christ. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” There can be no doubt: The Body of Christ in northern Iraq is suffering. It has been suffering for the past 15 years in ways never before imaginable. And until recently, Americans and the US government have done little to help.

These are our people. This is our duty. Through 1,400 years of Muslim domination, these communities have remained faithful, their monasteries and ancient churches largely intact. Until ISIS. Today, 150,000 Christians at most remain in Iraq, a scant 10 percent of the community that once thrived before 2003. And every day brings them closer to extinction. Merved is a 32-year old Christian woman from Bartella, east of Mosul, who was driven out of her home by the ISIS invasion in 2014. She lost four family members to ISIS barbarity and today lives with her four young children in a refugee camp sponsored by the Assyrian Aid Society. Asked if she was ready to return home, she shook her head violently. “I am afraid!”

While ISIS lost its occupying power after a brutal, year-long battle with Iraqi, Kurdish and US-led coalition forces in 2017, members of the terrorist group have gone underground and are forming new cells just outside of Mosul, many of them led by women. “In recent months, we have arrested 40 women just in our sector,” said the national police chief for East Mosul, Gen. Aref al-Zebari. “They told our interrogators that they were protected and aided by the Turkish government,” he added.

In October this year, I returned from a 10-day fact-finding mission to Mosul and the surrounding Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain, which was evangelized by St. Thomas in the 1st century AD. Many of the churches here still conduct Mass in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. But ISIS’s presence lingered throughout. “Look at this grave,” local councilman Luis Markos Ayoub told me, as we walked through the cemetery of Saint Georges church in Karamlesh, a Christian village just east of Mosul. “It is fresh — not because the person just died, but because the family came back here to rebury their loved one. ISIS had dug up the dead body and decapitated it, because it was Christian.”

Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury called the “daily threats of murder” Christians face today “the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.” “Many have left,” wrote the Most Reverend Justin Welby in the UK’s Sunday Telegraph. “Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted. Even those who remain ask the question, ‘Why stay?’ Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction.”

You don’t have to be a Christian to believe it’s in our national interest to ensure the survival of Iraqi Christians. Congress has determined that the three-year ISIS effort to eradicate the Christian and Yazidi populations under their control amounted to “genocide.” Max Primorac, the top USAID official in Iraq, said genocide is a very specific crime that calls for a specific response. “We’ve made 27 grants in three months, probably the fastest ever,” Primorac said. “We didn’t just get the memo, we are reading it.” The “memo” came from Vice President Mike Pence. Just over one year ago, Pence pledged that the Trump administration would change the way the US distributed aid, to ensure it directly reached Christian and Yazidi communities…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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AMERICA’S LOYAL SYRIAN KURDISH ALLIES EVADE

ANNIHILATION WHILE US FORCES IN IRAQ FACE EXPULSION

Malcolm Lowe

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2018

In April 2018, we warned that President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria would be a repetition of President Obama’s worst mistake, the precipitate withdrawal from Iraq that facilitated the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State (ISIS). We perceived that the immediate consequence of abandoning Syria would be a Turkish-led campaign to annihilate America’s Syrian Kurdish allies, who heroically bore the brunt of defeating the ISIS in Syria and capturing its capital, Raqqa.

The conclusion drawn was that the Syrian Kurds would have no choice but to appeal to Iran for help. For it was only Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman who had protested vehemently against the Turkish-facilitated capture of Afrin, a Kurdish town in northwest Syria, in March by an Islamist militia. In the meantime, Turkey has sent many thousands of Kurds fleeing, who have been replaced with “displaced Syrian Arabs from East Ghouta.” The Islamist militia has subjected Christians to Sharia-style dhimmitude and forced Yazidis to convert to Islam on pain of death. Amnesty International has also reported on rampant offences against property and individuals; it mentions the thousands of refugees who have fled from Afrin.

In these recent December days, the scenario then foreseen has been playing itself out rapidly. On December 14, in a telephone conversation with Turkey’s President Erdogan, President Trump not merely made a final decision to remove US forces from Syria but invited Erdogan to replace them with Turkish forces. The invitation has terrified not just the Syrian Kurds but also other militias in the Syrian Democratic Forces that fight alongside them against ISIS. An example is the Syriac Military Council, a Christian militia that has issued its own appeal to Trump to reconsider: “The outcome of the invasion of Afrin makes visible what will happen to us. Churches will be destroyed. Christians and Yazidis, designated ‘infidels’ by Turkey’s mercenaries, will be killed and massacred … Women of all ethnicities, now free, will be raped, enslaved and veiled.”

Trump overruled the objections of all his advisors, generals and supporters in Congress, assuring them that Erdogan had promised to deal with any remnants of ISIS in the area. Apparently, Trump is the only person among them all who ignored — or maybe does not even understand — that Erdogan had eagerly accepted Trump’s invitation not on account of ISIS but in order to inflict his Afrin operation upon the entire population of America’s loyal allies in Syria. The prospect of such a US withdrawal from Syria — and such a betrayal — has even provoked articles with almost the same title as ours, such as Mark A. Thiessen in the Washington Post and Boston Herald on December 23: “Trump repeating Obama’s mistake in the Middle East.” Search for those words on internet and you will now find others coming to the same conclusion.

Events rolled on with Trump’s unannounced arrival at a US base in Iraq on December 26. Trump declined to meet first in Baghdad with Adil Abdul Mahdi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, but invited Mahdi to join him at the base. Apparently, Trump did not realize that he had humiliated Abdul Mahdi, as if the latter were a lackey at his beck and call. There were furious protests in the Iraqi Council of Representatives (the parliament), both from the Iran-friendly Bina Bloc – with calls for the expulsion of US forces — and from the more independent-minded Islah Bloc. The two blocs command respectively 73 and 126 seats in the 329-seat Council, thus a decisive majority. They had come together to ratify the appointment of Abdul Mahdi in October. The parliamentary leader of Islah, Sabbah al-Saadi, called for an emergency session of the Council “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: the US occupation of Iraq is over.” Oblivious, possibly, that he was far from welcome in Iraq, Trump told US military personnel that — as he was planning to keep them in Iraq – there was no problem in abandoning Syria: “If we see something happening with ISIS [in Syria] that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard they really won’t know what the hell happened. We’ve knocked them silly.”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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THE WEST CANNOT ABANDON KURDS

Con Coughlin

Telegraph, Jan. 12, 2019

Throughout the course of the West’s long and bitter campaign to destroy Daesh, the Kurds have proved themselves to be one of the most effective allies. In an age when western governments on both sides of the Atlantic are reluctant to commit large numbers of ground troops, the fact that the Kurds have been prepared to fulfil the role of capturing vital territory from Daesh has made a significant contribution to the success of the United States-led coalition’s operation against Daesh’s self-styled Caliphate.

Working in conjunction with American and British special forces, militias such as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been instrumental in helping to liberate more than 99 per cent of the territory that Daesh once controlled in northern Iraq and Syria. The two British SAS soldiers who were reported to have been seriously injured by a Daesh missile strike in Syria recently were taking part in a joint operation with the Kurds, in which a Kurdish fighter was killed. For, while the main military campaign against Daesh is winding down, coalition forces are still carrying out operations against the last remaining pockets of Daesh resistance, which are now mainly confined to remote areas of Syria not controlled by the Al Assad regime.

There is therefore much that still needs to be done if we are to ensure that Daesh is not able to regroup, and the Kurdish groups clearly have a vital role in tackling the last remnants of Daesh’s ‘Caliphate’. Whether the Kurds will be minded to maintain their support for the coalition cause is a moot point following US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement over the Christmas break that he intends to withdraw the 2,000 American troops based in Syria. Trump has reached the conclusion that Syria is “lost” so far as Washington is concerned, and that Russia and Iran have emerged as the dominant foreign powers in post-conflict Syria. This is certainly true — neither America nor Britain are involved in the negotiations over Syria’s future.

But the prospect of American forces being withdrawn before the fighting is over, and before the negotiations over Syria’s future are concluded, has been received with dismay by the Kurds, who fear that they are about to be abandoned to their fate by their erstwhile Western allies. It would not be the first time the Kurds have found themselves in such a predicament. Kurdish hopes of creating an independent homeland, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, were thwarted after they failed to secure effective western support.

Now many Kurds fear that history is about to repeat itself as, deprived of the protection that the presence of American troops in the region affords, they will find themselves at the mercy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is fiercely opposed to any notion of Kurdish independence. Erdogan certainly pulled no punches when he addressed the issue at a recent session of the Turkish parliament, where he warned that he would “not make concessions” to the Kurds, and that preparations for an offensive against Kurdish groups based in northern Syria were nearly complete.

The Turkish leader was responding to remarks made by John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, who was in Ankara to discuss the arrangements for the US withdrawal, and wants assurances that the Kurds will not be subjected to Turkish aggression. This is a big ask for Ankara, which regards the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the group that has overseen the operations conducted by Kurdish opposition fighters, as an offshoot of the PKK, the Syrian-based Kurdish group that has carried out numerous attacks against Turkey…

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

 

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On Topic Links

Israeli Intelligence: Tehran’s Influence in the Region – a Growing Threat: Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 2018—Iran could use its growing clout in Iraq to turn the Arab country into a springboard for attacks against Israel, the top Israeli intelligence official said on Monday.

Trump’s Rubicon Moment in Iraq: Praising America’s ‘Warriors,’ Ending Wars: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018—“We like to win; we are going to win,” US President Donald Trump told the troops at Al-Asad airbase in central Iraq.

Trump Makes First Trip to Iraq as President: Rebecca Morin & Wesley Morgan, Politico, Dec. 26, 2018—President Donald Trump visited U.S. troops in Iraq for the first time during his presidency, the White House said Wednesday, after he came under criticism for not going earlier and during a tumultuous period for his national security team.

Life Returning Slowly to Christian Homeland in Iraq: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 1, 2018— Christians are gradually returning to their historic homeland in northern Iraq, after three years of ISIS occupation.

 

ISRAEL, THE INNOVATION NATION, HOPES TO LAUNCH A SPACECRAFT TO THE MOON IN 2019

Israeli Moon-Bound Craft to Carry Holocaust Survivor Story, and Best of Humanity: Times of Israel, Dec. 17, 2018— Israel’s Declaration of Independence and national anthem.

How Silicon Makes Israel’s Desert Bloom: Economist, Jan. 12, 2019— Pink bollworms are the scourge of cotton farmers.

Why This New Innovation Hub In Israel Decided To Welcome Startups And Enterprises: Jennifer Kite-Powell, Forbes, Dec. 18, 2019— Israel’s position as a startup nation has been on the rise since 2009.

How Israel is Turning its High-Tech into Global Political Power: David Rosenberg, Fathom, Nov. 2018— Israelis are justifiably proud of their country’s high technology industry.

On Topic Links

NASA Reveals First-Ever Image From Inside Sun’s Atmosphere Snapped With Israeli Tech: NoCamels, Dec. 19, 2018

Swords to Plowshares: Israel Makes a Farm Out of a Minefield: Matan Tzuri, Ynet, Jan. 10, 2019

New Israeli Technology Could Revolutionize Surveillance: Media Line, Dec. 7, 2018

Wisdom From 70 of Israel’s Tech Wizards: Inbal Arieli, Times of Israel, Apr. 19, 2018

 

ISRAELI MOON-BOUND CRAFT TO CARRY HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR STORY, AND BEST OF HUMANITY

Times of Israel, Dec. 17, 2018

Israel’s Declaration of Independence and national anthem. The Bible. The memories of a Holocaust survivor. Children’s drawings of space and the moon; art, science, literature and technology; the Traveler’s Prayer and a note from former president Shimon Peres containing a verse from the Book of Genesis. All of these — three discs containing hundreds of digital files — were inserted Monday in a time capsule scheduled to head to the moon sometime next year, when Israel hopes to launch and land its first ever spacecraft to the moon.

If all goes well, the unmanned spacecraft worked on by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will give Israel entry into the exclusive club of just three nations that have so far achieved a controlled landing on the moon’s surface. The capsule was the last component to go into the vehicle, before it is shipped to Florida to be launched from Cape Canaveral in the coming months.

The pictures, along with art, science and history books, “we will be taking with us to the moon,” said Yonatan Winetraub, one of three engineers who founded SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization set up in 2011 with the aim of landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. “It is quite symbolic that the people of the book are going to take this library and put it on the surface of the moon,” he said, speaking at IAI’s Space Division in Yehud, some 40 minutes from Tel Aviv, at an event as the capsule was loaded onto the spacecraft. The craft was scheduled to originally launch this month and land on the moon in February 2019, but was delayed.

“Today, we are putting all those dreams in the spaceship, like you would take an note and put it in the Western Wall, wishing for a bright future,” Winetraub added. The cracks between the stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, considered the holiest site Jews can pray at, are filled with notes conveying the requests of its visitors.

In early 2019, the spacecraft, recently named Beresheet — the Hebrew word for Genesis — will launch alongside other satellites as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The precise launch date remains undetermined, as SpaceIL awaits final confirmation from the launch company, said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby at the event. “The Israeli public chose the name Beresheet,” said Anteby. “It expresses the hope of the start of a new stage of Israel’s space industry.”

After the launch, the craft is expected to first orbit the earth and then the moon, where it is expected to land four to five months after the launch. Winetraub said that the team that built the spacecraft, which, if successful will be the first ever commercial landing on the moon, was inspired by Ilan Ramon, a 48-year old Israeli fighter pilot and the first Israeli astronaut for NASA, who died in 2003 on the Columbia space mission in a re-entry accident.

“He went where no Israeli had gone before. Therefore, the first picture that we are going to take of the Earth will be dedicated to Ilan, a true Israeli pioneer venturing into the unknown,” said Winetraub. “This is a very emotional moment,” he added. “We do not know how long the spacecraft and the time capsule will remain on the moon. It is very possible that future generations will find this information and want to learn more about this historic moment.”

SpaceIL is a nonprofit organization established in 2011 aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. It was founded by three young Israeli engineers, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub, competing for the international Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge to build, launch and land an unmanned lunar spacecraft. The project has been conducted together with IAI.

SpaceIL’s vehicle is two meters (6.5 feet) in diameter and 1.5 meters tall standing on four legs. It weighs 600 kilograms, which would make it the smallest craft to touch down on the moon. Carrying the Israeli flag, the spacecraft will conduct a Weizmann Institute of Science experiment to measure the moon’s magnetic field, finishing its mission within two days.

The landing mission will be “very challenging,” complicated and risky, said SpaceIL’s Anteby at the event. To save costs and energy, the craft will not fly directly to the moon, but take a circuitous way. Once launched, the spacecraft will disengage from the SpaceX launch rocket when it reaches 60,000 kilometers from Earth’s surface and begin orbiting the Earth in elliptical orbits. It will circle the Earth, widening its circumference each time, while saving fuel by only starting its engines at the end of each cycle. Then, at the right time, it will leave Earth’s gravity and enter the gravity of the moon…

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

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HOW SILICON MAKES ISRAEL’S DESERT BLOOM                                                                Economist, Jan. 12, 2019

Pink bollworms are the scourge of cotton farmers. The insect is less than an inch long, but it has a voracious appetite for the plant’s seeds. As a child living on Kibbutz Ginosar, in Israel’s north, Ofir Schlam would wake up at dawn to inspect leaves for the pest. “They were really hard to find,” he recalls.

Spotting the enemy has become much easier. Four years ago, Mr Schlam co-founded Taranis, a company that uses high-resolution imagery from drones, planes and satellites to diagnose problems in the field—among them bollworms, diseases, dryness and nutrient deficiencies. Investors are joining the effort: in November, Taranis raised $20m.

Faced with unfriendly neighbours and an arid climate, Israel has had to innovate to survive. Taranis is the poster child of its stunning rise in agritech. Over 500 companies operate in the field, nearly twice as many as in the better-known cyber-security sector. A third of them did not exist five years ago. Israeli agritech firms attracted $171m in equity investment in 2017, according to Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit organisation, considerably more than those in bigger farming countries, such as Australia and Brazil.

Other countries have bet big on agritech, but Israel is ahead of all but America, say investors. Large countries with big appetites are taking notice. When Wang Qishan, China’s vice-president, visited Israel in October, he toured agritech exhibits. “Agricultural parks” using Israeli technology have mushroomed across China. Indian and African officials have also made recent trips to Israel seeking inspiration.

Because it trades little with its neighbours, Israel long relied on the kibbutzim and other collective farms to grow food for its rising population. That heritage is providing rich pickings today: 54% of Israel’s agritech ventures are managed by someone who grew up in a kibbutz. Conditions forced them to be creative. The southern part of the country often receives less rainfall in a year than England gets in a day. That led to an early breakthrough in water management. In the 1950s Simcha Blass and his son, Yeshayahu, greatly reduced water use by applying it directly to the roots of plants. They helped form Netafim, the world’s leading maker of drip-irrigation systems, worth nearly $1.9bn.

Newer companies are exploiting technological advances in areas such as plant biology and artificial intelligence. Startups founded in Israel last year include Sufresca, which is developing edible coatings that extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables; Beewise, which uses artificial intelligence to automate beehive maintenance; and Armenta, which is working on new therapies to treat sick dairy cows. Other firms are targeting trendy sectors like pharmaceutical crops and alternative proteins.

The new firms benefit from an oversupply of produce worldwide, which has led to lower margins for farmers and greater demand for tools that increase productivity and boost profits. After an unprecedented round of mergers in 2016, farming giants have been looking to cut costs. Shareholders are also looking for new ways of doing things (six out of the ten biggest food companies have replaced their CEOs in the past three years). Many firms see external innovation as faster and cheaper than in-house research and development (R&D).

Israel’s overall civilian R&D spending, measured as a share of GDP, is more than that of any European country. Agritech gets a chunk of this cash. The government supports universities and labs; it has also invested in venture-capital funds and directly in startups. The country is good at turning ideas into profits. The Israel Institute of Technology (known as Technion) earns over half as much licensing patents as MIT in America, despite spending much less on research. Next year, for the first time, the government plans to sponsor pilot projects that connect startups with farmers, so that technology can be tried and tested locally before being introduced to international markets.

The state also helps in other ways. Military service is mandatory in Israel, where bright young conscripts spend years developing equipment or software that does well in unpredictable environments. Such skills have direct applications in agritech. Nadav Liebermann, the chief technology officer of CropX, a company that uses wireless sensors to measure soil moisture, served in a unit that created hardware for special forces, including devices placed underground in enemy territory to gather intelligence. His software chief, who learned to code in the army, ran a team of 50 developers at the age of 23. Two branches are particularly good at churning out tech entrepreneurs: Unit 8200, the army’s signals-intelligence arm, and Unit 9900, which specialises in gleaning intelligence from geospatial imagery.

Small is not always beautiful

The next challenge for Israel’s agritech firms will be scaling up. Limited farmland means they must look for partners abroad early on. So does the need to understand distant export markets with a different climate, like Brazil or the American Midwest. Founders of startups are often quick to sell up, rather than building their ventures into big global companies. Many reinvest their riches in new startups and buyers often continue to use Israel as their base for R&D. The danger is that, without bigger home-grown firms, many less-skilled Israelis—including kibbutzniks—will be cut off from the booming tech industry.

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WHY THIS NEW INNOVATION HUB IN ISRAEL

DECIDED TO WELCOME STARTUPS AND ENTERPRISES

Jennifer Kite-Powell

Forbes, Dec. 18, 2019

Israel’s position as a startup nation has been on the rise since 2009. In 2017, in addition to more than 350 multi-national research and development centers, there were also more than 6,000 startups, more than 70 VC funds and more than 200 startup accelerators. OurCrowd Founder and CEO Jon Medved says Israel’s startup ecosystem is set to achieve new records this year, with an estimated $6.5B invested in Israeli startups in 2018.

“Over 80% of this capital comes from overseas, and Israeli venture funds are performing well, even in comparison with Silicon Valley,” said Medved. “The venture market here has grown considerably in size and in quality, with Israel regularly producing market-leading companies emerging in a variety of exciting investment sectors. These companies are not just growing fast, and have tons of promise, but are actually out ahead of their competitors worldwide.”

On October 9, 2018, Amazon Web Services (AWS) opened a new office in Tel Aviv, Israel which encompasses the teams working across Alexa Shopping, AWS, Prime Air, and Annapurna Labs. It also happens to be the location of Floor 28, a unique co-working space designed to help both enterprise companies and early-stage startups accelerate the process of building a minimum viable product that is ready for scale and enable venture-backed companies to achieve their next technological milestone or launch a new product.

Harel Ifhar, Head, AWS Israel said that when AWS launched in 2006, Israeli technology companies were among the first to adopt the services and leverage the AWS cloud to support their inventions, accelerate growth, and reach global markets. “After rapidly acquiring customers in the early days, in 2014 we opened the first office in Israel to support the growing customer base of start-ups and enterprises. Some of the ‘early adopters’ of AWS in Israel operate in a variety of areas, such as AdTech, web applications, analytics and business intelligence, and include LivePerson, My6Sense, Sisense, Viber and Wix,” said Ifhar.

Ifhar emphasizes he believes that AWS cloud has opened up new opportunities for Israeli companies of all sizes pointing out the global success of Amdocs and startup IronSource, a monetization platform with $105 million in funding. Ifhar notes that the new office also has a research and development side. “In this space, our engineers are working on cameras for mobile devices, technologies for Amazon PrimeAir working how to safely get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less, and the Alexa Shopping group which is working on technology that is core to the Alexa Shopping experience, solving problems in areas of natural language and high-precision search,” said Ifhar.

But Ifhar always circles back to startups and the strength of the Israeli startup scene. “In 2009, in Israel, Information and communication technology (ICT) sector amounted to $19 billion, contributing 17.3% of the business sector GDP and the demand for high bandwidth was rising [..] which drove the introduction of new mobile, social, and internet applications, such as instant messaging, VoIP, video conferencing, IPTV, and content apps,” said Ifhar. “Ten years later, leading the high tech sector are two main areas, cybersecurity, in which Israeli companies have shown a wealth of services and applications, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), [..] with more than 950 active startups in Israel utilizing or developing AI technologies.”

On the healthcare front, Israeli startup MobileODT has raised $9.9 million in funding to create a small, intelligent smartphone-enhanced medical diagnostic tool that enables point-of-care (POCT) diagnosis of cervical cancer which the company believes will simplify the diagnostic process. According to Ariel Beery, CEO, MobileODT, cervical cancer screening involves typically a visit to the gynaecologist for a Pap or HPV test to detect abnormal cells, and if pre-cancerous changes are detected, a more thorough examination of the cervix is performed, using a unique optical system.

“Early detection leads to easy and inexpensive treatment, hence the importance of enabling access to screening tests and treatment options in the precancerous stages of the disease to women everywhere,” said Beery. “Using MobileODT’s solution allows any health professional, anywhere in the world, to perform an initial cervical cancer screening via a mobile device, and immediately determine the need for biopsy, saving precious time for patients. Beery says that AWS makes it possible for them to deploy their solution in more than 29 countries around the world.

On the agricultural front, startup ConsumerPhysics, which has $19.7 million in funding, makes one of the smallest spectrometers which enables the agriculture and food industries to collect and act upon real-time data in dairy farms, coffee fields, and in factories. Netafim, founded in 1965 and acquired by Mexichem in 2018, uses AWS Internet of Things (IoT) technology to create a precision irrigation and fertigation management system. The irrigation system provides farmers with real-time recommendations through all stages of the lifecycle of the crop and helps to improve profitability by increasing yield while saving water, fertilizers, and other inputs.

Ran Maidan, CEO and President, Netafim says that the system uses an intelligent decision support algorithm which processes real-time data from multiple sources (plant, soil, weather conditions and more) that help farmers optimize their irrigation and fertigation planning. “We are using Amazon Redshift data warehouse and the AWS IoT system that collects data from devices deployed in the field, and analyzes it in the cloud to develop our state of the art Digital Farming system,” said Maidan. “By the end of 2018, we hope to have deployed our new system in farms in Israel, USA, India, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Australia, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and China.”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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HOW ISRAEL IS TURNING ITS HIGH-TECH

INTO GLOBAL POLITICAL POWER

David Rosenberg 

Fathom, Nov. 2018

Israelis are justifiably proud of their country’s high technology industry. It is a testament to their entrepreneurial abilities and a source of well-paid employment. It has attracted tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment and is environmentally friendly. It’s the industry of the future in which Israel is not only globally competitive but, in terms of pure innovative prowess, one of the world’s leading countries. ‘Start-Up Nation,’ as the sector has come to be called, is the envy of much of the world.

What most Israelis don’t appreciate is that technology is also a source of global political power in a way that was unimaginable a decade or two ago. That is most obviously manifested in Israel’s growing relationships with the world’s up-and-coming powers, including China and more recently India. In addition, Israel’s research and development capabilities, and the presence of some 300 multinational companies in Israel, has put the country in a central position in the global technology supply chain that makes the efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement all but hopeless. Israel’s powerful technology assets are also expressing themselves in military terms – a role will only grow as cyber-warfare becomes a bigger and bigger component of a country’s offensive and defensive capabilities – and intelligence gathering.

Technology and Power

Technology has played a role in power relationships since the dawn of civilisation. David’s slaying of Goliath aside, the Philistines were able to prevail over the Israelite tribes because they had access to iron weapons. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the (mostly European) countries that had the ability to mass produce were able to dominate and even conquer more traditional societies still reliant on agriculture and handicrafts. It wasn’t just the ability of industrialised countries to deploy more effective weaponry but to create a material culture, infrastructure and level of wealth that overwhelmed rivals.

By the second half of the 19th century, the role of technology – or more precisely industry, as it was seen in those days – was well understood by world leaders. Understanding its dangerous weakness vis-à-vis the Western world, Meiji Japan undertook a massive industrialisation drive starting in 1868. The Ottoman Empire in its waning days sought to do the same by importing Western experts, weaponry, and machinery – alas only with the idea of strengthening its armed forces rather than to foster an industrial or technological revolution. In more recent times, a major element of the Cold War was the race for a technological edge – a process that in the US led to the space programme, the internet and, via government contracts, the first Silicon Valley companies.

In the 21st century, technology has become even more important and is changing more rapidly than ever before, leaving countries perpetually at risk of falling behind. It has penetrated all aspects of economic life and in an interconnected world has become increasingly unavoidable. One small though critical example is the automobile industry, which was focused on technologies whose core was the internal combustion engine, a late 19th-century technology. Digital technology was marginal to the workings of an automobile. Now, however, between the demand for electric vehicles and the advent of autonomous cars, digital technology is becoming a key focus of automotive development. Veteran car makers don’t have that expertise and so they have turned to the high-tech industry to fill the gap in the form of partnerships and mergers and acquisitions. The revolution in auto-making is so deep that Israel, a country with no automotive industry but powerful innovative capabilities, has drawn vast interest from the world’s automakers…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

NASA Reveals First-Ever Image From Inside Sun’s Atmosphere Snapped With Israeli Tech: NoCamels, Dec. 19, 2018—NASA has released the first image from inside the sun’s atmosphere and it is ground-breaking. The photo was taken by the Parker Solar Probe, which is fitted with Israeli-engineered sensors that are helping capture these first-ever high-resolution images.

Swords to Plowshares: Israel Makes a Farm Out of a Minefield: Matan Tzuri, Ynet, Jan. 10, 2019—Israeli farmers from communites bordering Gaza will have some 16,000 dunams of agricultural land allocated to them once the IDF clears landmines from an area, dubbed “firezone,” from landmines and unexploded bombs. Swathes of Israeli farmland has been scorched by incendiary airborne devices launched into Israel by the militants in Gaza.

New Israeli Technology Could Revolutionize Surveillance: Media Line, Dec. 7, 2018—Imagine jumping out of a helicopter, seeing what an outfit looks like before trying it on, or becoming a leading character in a favorite video game. The latest technology from high-tech companies Photuro and Mantis Vision is bringing consumers one step closer to realizing these visions

Wisdom From 70 of Israel’s Tech Wizards: Inbal Arieli, Times of Israel, Apr. 19, 2018—In recent years, we keep celebrating and admiring the success of the Israeli tech entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, and its position as a global leader.

 

 

UN’S BIASED AND HYPOCRITICAL OBSESSION WITH ISRAEL ENDURES IN NEW YEAR

No Palestinian-Israel Peace in 2019 — But Here Are Some Developments We Can Expect: Abraham Cooper, Algemeiner, Dec. 31, 2018— For Israel, 2019 will likely bring great achievements but also great disappointments.

Thank Heaven We’re Done With UNESCO: Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, Jan. 2, 2019 — Thank God, it’s over.

The UN’s Obsession With Israel Makes Peace Harder to Achieve: Nikki Haley, New York Post, Dec. 18, 2018— When I first came to the United Nations two years ago, I was taken aback a bit by this monthly meeting.

The Late Moshe Arens: A Noble Spirit, a Truthful Man: Benjamin Netanyahu, JNS, Jan. 9, 2019— The life story of my faithful teacher and close friend, the late Moshe (“Misha”) Arens, ended after he had the privilege of seeing Israel celebrate 70 years of independence.

On Topic Links

First Ethiopian Jewry Research Hub Aims to Preserve Community’s Traditions: Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel, Jan. 8, 2019

UN Elects Yemen, Worst on Gender Equality, as VP at UN’s Gender Equality Agency: UNWatch, Jan. 9, 2019

Maybe UNESCO Will ‘Learn a Lesson’ From US and Israeli Withdrawals, Ex-Envoy Says: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Jan. 1, 2019

French Resistance Hero Who Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children Dies Aged 108: Alexandra Topping, Guardian, Dec. 30, 2018

 

NO PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL PEACE IN 2019 —

BUT HERE ARE SOME DEVELOPMENTS WE CAN EXPECT

Abraham Cooper

Algemeiner, Dec. 31, 2018

For Israel, 2019 will likely bring great achievements but also great disappointments. The achievements will include: continued growth of Israel’s innovation economy; increased tourism; and development of a broad range of new inventions, along with drugs and devices to help people deal with many severe health issues.

The disappointments will include: continued Iranian-induced terrorist attacks and looming threats of war; endless hostility from the halls of the United Nations and the European Parliament; and the continued Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — waging asymmetrical economic and cultural warfare – seeking to demonize, isolate, and ultimately eliminate the Jewish state.

Despite the best efforts of President Trump, his senior advisers and son-in-law Jared Kushner to come up with a peace plan acceptable to the Palestinians and Israelis, they are taking on an impossible task at a time of new elections and political upheaval in Jerusalem, and an aging, corrupt, and unrepresentative Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

Make no mistake: Israelis yearn for the day when their 18-year-olds no longer have to devote two years of their young lives to put themselves in harm’s way. They want to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. Israel today provides its Arab citizens, who comprise nearly one-fifth of the population, with more rights and a higher living standard than are enjoyed in Arab nations. But continuing Palestinian terrorism at its southern and northern borders — and in the West Bank — forces Israel to take significant security precautions, as any nation would when faced with similar threats.

Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) is holding out for impossible demands in any peace treaty, including the “right of return” for any Palestinian who left Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948 – plus all their millions of descendants. No Israeli government will ever accept the “right of return” poison pill that would create an Arab majority overnight  and spell the end of the lone, democratic Jewish state.

The PA also demands the return of every square inch of territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, leaving Israel with what Abba Eban, the late Israeli foreign minister, called indefensible “Auschwitz borders” — and without much of its historic capital and its holiest sites in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad Palestinian terrorist groups and their patron state Iran go even further, calling for Israel’s destruction through violence and terrorism.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas both use a school curriculum that denies Israel’s existence, and teaches children to venerate terrorists. As a result, there will be no peace breakthrough with the Palestinians in 2019, no matter how innovative President Trump’s peace plan may be — or how much Israel wants peace. It’s not about money, it’s not even so much about borders. It’s about psychology.

Many Palestinians — even those who claim to want to live in peace side by side with Israel — are opposed to the very concept of a Jewish state. But Jews, inspired by a vision of a return to Zion, founded Israel specifically to be a Jewish state, a refuge for Jews fleeing antisemitism and genocide; Israel was envisioned as a modern democracy — protecting the rights of all — in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.

Still, in the year ahead, we can expect continuous Iranian threats to drive greater cooperation between Gulf States and Israel. This could lead that one or more of them finally recognizing Israel 70 years after its creation. Having personally met Bahrain’s King Hamad and hosted two dozen Bahrain interfaith leaders in Jerusalem, my best hope and prayer is that the king will lead the way in normalizing relations with Israel. Other Arab states will follow and so eventually will a new generation of Palestinian leaders — but don’t look for that to happen anytime soon.

Not only does peace seem to be a distant dream, but Israel’s raucous political battles have yielded a December surprise and not a happy one: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his coalition government was dissolving and that snap elections would be held in April. So is the Jewish state, a failing state? Quite the contrary. Indeed, there must be other aspects of Israel’s 2018 that help explain why 89 percent of its 8.9 million citizens have reported that they are happy with their lives…

Here’s some good news about Israel you rarely hear in the US and international media: First, Israel actually experienced a huge increase in global tourism this year, led by Asia. Whatever tourists may have been hearing from biased media, there is nothing like experiencing the only Middle Eastern democracy and its holy sites firsthand to debunk the Big Lie that Israel is an “apartheid state.”

Nowhere was the tourist boom more in evidence than in Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital. An estimated four million tourists have visited the Holy City this year. This came as President Trump was true to his word and announced that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The actual move of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem took place in business-like (not diplomatic) speed, and I was honored to witness the opening of the embassy on May 14.

Secondly, the “I” in Israel really does stand for innovation. Despite the fact that young Israelis have to serve in the IDF and can be called up to the reserves for decades – and despite the barbs, hatred, and violence flung their way — Israelis are committed to making a difference in ways that are impacting the lives of friends and enemies the world over.

Here’s a tiny sample of the world-changing innovations that emerged from Israel this year: The world’s first 3D- printed vegan steak — which will help address how the planet can feed its exploding population; Research to create tissue implants of any kind by using patients’ own cells; A new tool to better assess pain that patients experience in the intensive care unit; A new device to detect problems in lesions before cancer develops; and promising research on the inner ear that could help address hearing loss. And this spring, Israel is expected to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in April. Furthermore, we can all expect to see more spectacular innovation from Israel that will improve our economies, our lives, our health, and our iPhones in the near future.

We can only hope and pray that someday a new generation of Palestinian leaders will realize their people are better off cooperating with their neighbors and living in peace than entrusting their children to corrupt leaders who reward young people not for innovation and education, but for murdering Jews — thus ensuring a never-ending conflict.

It’s unfortunate that this will not happen in 2019 — unless the Messiah himself intervenes. To hasten real change on the ground in the New Year, nations like Germany, France, and Japan should follow President Trump’s lead by snapping shut their checkbooks to the Palestinians unless and until they can prove that “humanitarian aid” doesn’t go to build terror tunnels or financially reward families whose sons murder and main Jews.

 

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THANK HEAVEN WE’RE DONE WITH UNESCO                                                    

Nadav Shragai

Israel Hayom, Jan. 2, 2019

Thank God, it’s over. When 2018 ended, Israel’s withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization took effect. Don’t feel bad. Under existing conditions, there was no reason to keep our place at the table with the gang of hypocritical liars that every few months rewrote another chapter of the history of the land of Israel and the Jewish people, and coopted it for the Palestinians. Rather than thrilling at the glorious cultural, religious, historic, and archaeological legacy of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, the organization chose time and again to adopt “fake history” and give its seal of approval to more fabrications from the Palestinian pack of lies.

UNESCO questioned Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. It treated us as if we were occupiers in our own capital, even though Jerusalem in all its holiness was never a capital – in terms of either politics or conscience – for any Arab or Muslim ruling entity. Even the Jordanians, who together with the Palestinians prompted UNESCO to pass resolutions hostile to Israel – never used Jerusalem as their capital in the years in which they occupied the city. They desecrated the places that are holy to Jews, and in violation of agreements we signed with them, even denied us access to those places. Back then, the Jordanians and the Palestinians – before they invented themselves as a “people” – cited the Temple Mount as the location of Solomon’s Temple on their maps and in their writings. Today, they boldly deny ever doing so and UNESCO is helping them by partly adopting their denial.

But UNESCO has more than Jerusalem in its sights. Rachel’s Tomb, which UNESCO decided to call, as the Palestinians term it, Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque, was never traditionally called that. Ibn Rabah, of Ethiopian descent, was one of the first muezzins who served the Prophet Muhammad. He was killed in Syria and buried in Aleppo or Damascus. Only when the Palestinian Authority realized it had failed to capture the site from Israel during the Second Intifada did they link Ibn Rabah to “Kubat Rachel,” the Arabic name for the site that had been used for generations. In the case of Rachel’s Tomb, UNESCO supported an attempt to take over people’s minds in place of a physical occupation of the site which failed.

The Palestinians also biased UNESCO on everything having to do with the Cave of the Patriarchs. The cave, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite, was long ago stolen from us by Muslims. The fact that the two religions co-own it today is a generous compromise we forced the Muslims to accept about 50 years ago. Israel, with help from the forces of history, rectified a few colossal absurdities that the Muslims thought would remain in place forever. The Palestinians appealed to UNESCO so that at least as far as people’s thinking went, they could regain full ownership of the Cave of the Patriarchs, and UNESCO helped them with that, as well.

With each delusional resolution, UNESCO made itself more ridiculous and less relevant. But every cloud has a silver lining. Despite the total absurdity of the organization’s decisions, they carried one main advantage for Israel – they held up a mirror. They forced us to go back to our roots, to study them, to delve into them and understand that we are not passersby in this land. We weren’t just born here and we didn’t just move here. The UNESCO resolutions helped us reach the vital recognition that the land of Israel is not just a haven, it’s also a destination; that its many holy sites are the cradle of our people’s birth and still correspond to our present and our future here, which rests on more than “security needs.” Now, without UNESCO, we’ll need to remind ourselves of that from time to time.

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THE UN’S OBSESSION WITH ISRAEL MAKES PEACE HARDER TO ACHIEVE

Nikki Haley

New York Post, Dec. 18, 2018

When I first came to the United Nations two years ago, I was taken aback a bit by this monthly meeting. The fact that the UN would consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not striking. It is, after all, a matter of international peace and security. What was striking was the frequency of the discussion and the one-sidedness of it. Members of the Security Council have heard me say this many times. The problems of the Middle East are numerous, and yet we spend a vastly disproportionate amount of time on just one of them. And the UN has shown itself to be hopelessly biased, as we witnessed again just two weeks ago when the General Assembly failed to condemn Hamas’ terrorist activity against Israel.

Over the past two years, I have attempted to provide more value in this monthly meeting by using my time to speak about other pressing problems in the Middle East. I have spoken about Iran’s illegal weapons transfers and destabilizing support for terrorism throughout the region. I have spoken about the barbarism of the ­Assad regime in Syria. I have spoken about Hamas’ illegal and diabolical use of human shields. I have done this for two reasons. I’ve done it to illustrate that most of the region’s problems have absolutely nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And I’ve done it to encourage the UN to move away from its obsession with Israel.

This UN obsession has sent a loud and false message to the Palestinians that they just might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the UN, rather than through direct negotiations. And it has sent a loud and accurate message to the Israelis that they can never trust the UN. This biased obsession is not the path to peace. It is the path to an endless stalemate.

Today is my last time addressing this monthly session as the United States ambassador. Because it is, I’m going to deviate from my practice of the last two years. Today, I will directly address the Israel-Palestinian issue. Given my record, some may mistakenly conclude that I am unsympathetic to the Palestinian people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s how I see it. Israel is a thriving, strong, prosperous country. It has always wanted peace with its neighbors. It has clearly demonstrated its willingness to make big sacrifices for peace, including giving up large ­areas of land.

But Israel will not make a peace agreement at just any price, and it shouldn’t. No UN resolutions, anti-Semitic boycotts or terrorist threats will ever change that. Throughout its existence, and even today, Israel has been surrounded by threats to its security. It would be foolish for it to make a deal that weakened its security. And yet, even in the face of constant threats, Israel has become one of the leading nations in the world. Israel wants a peace agreement, but it doesn’t need one.

And then there are the Palestinian people. Like the Israelis, they are a deservedly proud people. They, too, do not need to accept a peace agreement at any price. But the condition of the Palestinian people is very different. Economic opportunity, health care, even electricity are all scarce in the Palestinian territories. Terrorists rule much of the territory, undermining the safety of all civilians. The Palestinian people are suffering terribly while their leadership clings to 50-year-old demands that have only become less and less realistic.

It is time we faced a hard truth: Both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more. Ultimately, as always, the final decisions can only be made by the parties themselves. Israelis and Palestinians will decide their own futures. They will decide what sacrifices they are willing to make. And they will need leaders with real vision to do it.

As for the American people, we have demonstrated time and again our commitment to peace in the Middle East. We will continue to offer our hand in friendship to the Palestinian people, whom we have financially supported by far more than any other country has done. The Palestinians have everything to gain by engaging in peace negotiations. But whatever it is that others decide, the world must know that America will remain steadfast in our support of Israel, its people and its security. That is an unshakeable bond between our two peoples. And it is that bond — more than anything else — that makes peace possible.

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THE LATE MOSHE ARENS: A NOBLE SPIRIT, A TRUTHFUL MAN

Benjamin Netanyahu                            

JNS, Jan. 9, 2019

The life story of my faithful teacher and close friend, the late Moshe (“Misha”) Arens, ended after he had the privilege of seeing Israel celebrate 70 years of independence. That national peak filled Misha’s heart with great satisfaction. As one who followed our struggle for freedom, and even wrote glowing pages about our founding as a state, he was always astounded at the country’s achievements, which proved the justice of the Zionist vision. Misha was a vital leg in the Zionist relay race. He was raised on the theories of Revisionist thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky and wanted to implement them.

I was happy to accept his invitation to join the Israeli Embassy delegation in Washington in 1982. Even before that, our two families had formed deep ties because of the help Misha gave my father, Professor Benzion Netanyahu, in his Zionist activity — and at the time, I was aware of how privileged I was to continue that work. As Israel’s ambassador to the United States and as foreign minister, Misha was eloquent in representing our diplomatic positions. In accordance with Jabotinsky’s theory on pressure, he waged an unflagging diplomatic battle for our vital interests. As defense minister, Misha strengthened the iron wall that defends us. His contribution to the development of Israel’s air defenses, as well as the steps he took to bolster its ground forces and homefront, stemmed from his correct appraisal of the dangers in the Middle East.

Misha also encountered struggles and disappointment. That is natural in a career of public service that spanned more than four decades. He felt that the cancellation of the decision to develop the Lavi aircraft in Israel was a missed opportunity. In our in-depth discussions, I tried to convince him that when it came down to it, he had been very successful — our military might in the air, at sea, and on land; military intelligence; and cyber capabilities are the equivalent of an iron fist. Our enemies know that they will pay a heavy price for any attempt to attack us.

Misha was a great gentleman, a noble spirit, and, no less important, a truthful man. In the name of the truth, he devoted himself to retelling the story of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He could not rest at the fighters from the right-wing Betar movement being left out of the tale of the heroic stand against the Nazis. His exciting book Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto rights that wrong. Misha gave Pavel Frenkel and his Betar comrades the honor they deserved. They led the uprising, along with Mordechai Anielewicz and his people, and set a path towards the future — a strong stance against those who seek to kill us and ensuring our ability to defend ourselves.

Moshe Arens, the beloved Misha, was part of some of the decisive moments in the history of the new State of Israel. The personal, unique stamp he put on building sovereignty in the homeland will stay with us for generations to come. May his memory be a blessing.

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporter: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents

On Topic Links

First Ethiopian Jewry Research Hub Aims to Preserve Community’s Traditions: Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel, Jan. 8, 2019—Ethiopian Israeli religious leaders are hoping a new academic center will “create a new language” to talk about the richness of Ethiopian culture and traditions, after decades of discrimination dismissing the contribution of Ethiopian Judaism.

UN Elects Yemen, Worst on Gender Equality, as VP at UN’s Gender Equality Agency: UNWatch, Jan. 9, 2019— A human rights watchdog organization today condemned the UN’s election of Yemen, the worst-ranking country in the world on gender equality, to be vice-president of the Executive Board of UN Women, which is the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Maybe UNESCO Will ‘Learn a Lesson’ From US and Israeli Withdrawals, Ex-Envoy Says: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Jan. 1, 2019—“Maybe they will learn a lesson,” a former Israeli ambassador to UNESCO told The Algemeiner on Tuesday as the Jewish state officially left the global cultural institution.

French Resistance Hero Who Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children Dies Aged 108: Alexandra Topping, Guardian, Dec. 30, 2018—Georges Loinger used all his skill and cunning – and a large dash of chutzpah – to rescue Jewish children from deportation and near-certain death during the second world war.

 

QUEL AVENIR POUR LES KURDES ?

SYRIE: LE RETRAIT AMÉRICAIN DOIT SE FAIRE EN “ASSURANT” LA DÉFENSE DES ALLIÉS DES USA (BOLTON)

I24, 6 jan., 2019

Le conseiller pour la sécurité nationale de la Maison Blanche John Bolton a affirmé dimanche à Jérusalem que le retrait américain de Syrie devait se faire de telle sorte que la défense d’Israël et “d’autres amis” de Washington dans la région soit “absolument assurée”.

“Nous allons discuter de la décision du président Donald Trump sur le retrait, mais il faut faire cela (…) de telle sorte que l’Organisation de l’Etat islamique soit défaite (…) et que la défense d’Israël et d’autres amis dans la région soit absolument assurée”, a affirmé M. Bolton au journalistes à l’occasion d’entretiens avec le Premier ministre israélien Benyamin Netanyahou.

  1. Bolton a également souligné que le retrait militaire américain de Syrie annoncé le mois dernier par le président Trump tiendra également compte “de ceux qui ont combattu avec nous contre l’Organisation de l’Etat islamique et d’autres groupes terroristes”.

 

  1. Bolton avait auparavant affirmé que des conditions devaient être réunies avant le retrait des troupes américaines de Syrie, telle que la sécurité de leurs alliés kurdes.

En visite en Israël depuis samedi, M. Bolton a annoncé devant les journalistes que les États-Unis souhaitaient que la Turquie garantisse la protection des Kurdes en Syrie, selon la chaîne de télévision américaine NBC News.

Ankara ne cache pas son intention de lancer une offensive contre eux pour éviter la formation, à ses portes, d’un embryon d’Etat kurde susceptible de raviver le séparatisme des Kurdes de Turquie.

“Souveraineté israélienne sur le Golan”

Jusqu’ici alliés de Washington dans la lutte contre les djihadistes, les combattants kurdes en Syrie craignent que le retrait américain ne les laisse démunis face à la Turquie.

Depuis son annonce, qui a ébranlé de nombreux alliés de Washington, Donald Trump a assuré que le retrait se ferait “sur un certain temps” et pas “du jour au lendemain”, semblant avoir pris acte des appels à éviter un départ précipité.

  1. Netanyahou s’est pour sa part engagé à poursuivre ses efforts pour empêcher l’Iran de s’implanter militairement en Syrie.

Il a également appelé de nouveau les Etats-Unis a reconnaître l’annexion israélienne du plateau syrien du Golan conquis en 1967.

“Demain si le temps le permet nous allons monter sur le plateau du Golan (…) qui est extrêmement important pour notre sécurité, et je pense que lorsque vous y serez vous serez en mesure de comprendre parfaitement que nous ne quitterons jamais le plateau du Golan et pourquoi il est important que tous les pays reconnaissent la souveraineté israélienne sur le Golan”, a affirmé M. Netanyahou en s’adressant à M. Bolton.

Selon la chaîne israélienne Channel 10, Netanyahou a récemment demandé à la Maison Blanche de reconnaître officiellement la souveraineté israélienne sur le plateau du Golan, en guise de compensation pour le retrait des troupes américaines de Syrie,

L’annexion du Golan n’a jamais été reconnue par la communauté internationale y compris les Etats-Unis.

Israël a lancé des centaines de frappes aériennes en Syrie contre des cibles de l’armée iranienne et des livraisons d’armes perfectionnées au Hezbollah, soutenu par Téhéran.

“Notre position est claire”, a déclaré dimanche M. Netanyahou. “Nous continuons à agir pour le moment contre le renforcement de l’armée iranienne en Syrie et contre quiconque saperait ou tenterait de menacer la sécurité d’Israël.”

 

LES KURDES DE SYRIE APPELLENT DAMAS À L’AIDE

Le Temps, 28 dec., 2018

Les zones du nord-est de la Syrie que les unités à dominante kurde regroupées au sein des Forces démocratiques syriennes (FDS) contrôlent sont en effet menacées par une offensive d’Ankara qui pourrait survenir une fois effectif le retrait états-unien. Chasser ces forces de Manbij est par ailleurs une priorité formulée de longue date par le président turc, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ces derniers jours, l’armée turque avait commencé à amasser des forces à la frontière syrienne en prévision, semble-t-il, d’un éventuel assaut. Ankara considère les YPG comme une force apparentée au PKK, la guérilla kurde qui est en guerre contre la Turquie.

Peu après l’appel des forces kurdes, le porte-parole de l’armée syrienne a annoncé à la télévision que le drapeau syrien avait été hissé à Manbij, laissant entendre que les forces du régime de Damas étaient entrées dans la ville. Il n’en est cependant rien sur le terrain. Sur Twitter, Yusha Youssef, qui dirige le média en ligne Muraselon, très proche du régime, affirme que les forces gouvernementales ne sont pas entrées dans la ville, où des militaires américains sont toujours présents.

Un accord en train d’être négocié

Un début d’accord serait toutefois en cours de négociation afin d’organiser le retour progressif du gouvernement syrien dans des zones contrôlées par les forces à dominante kurde. D’après des témoignages, une délégation du régime serait entrée dans la ville de Manbij pour parlementer avec les autorités locales. A l’ouest de Manbij, les forces du régime se sont par ailleurs renforcées au cours des derniers jours dans des localités rurales dont elles partagent le contrôle avec les Forces démocratiques syriennes depuis deux ans.

Notre récent reportage: Dans la «démocratie modèle» des Kurdes de Syrie

De son côté, le président turc a qualifié les déclarations du régime syrien d’«opération psychologique». Dans un communiqué, le Ministère turc de la défense a par ailleurs affirmé que les forces à dominante kurde qui contrôlent toujours Manbij n’avaient «pas le droit ou le pouvoir de parler au nom de la population locale ou d’inviter une quelconque partie».

L’armée syrienne de Bachar el-Assad absente durant six ans

Donald Trump a ordonné il y a quelques jours le départ dès que possible des quelque 2000 militaires états-uniens stationnés dans le nord-est de la Syrie, où ils luttaient contre les djihadistes aux côtés des milices arabo-kurdes. Il a estimé que ces troupes n’étaient plus utiles car l’Etat islamique était «en grande partie vaincu». Le Pentagone a expliqué dimanche dernier que l’ordre de retrait des soldats états-uniens de Syrie avait été signé. Dans la foulée de cette décision, le secrétaire à la Défense, James Mattis, a annoncé sa démission.

A ce sujet: L’ordre de retrait des forces américaines de Syrie a été signé

Cela faisait six ans que l’armée syrienne de Bachar el-Assad ne pénétrait pas dans les régions contrôlées par les forces kurdes. Cependant, sur le terrain, les YPG ont parfois collaboré activement avec les forces du régime contre certains groupes armés de l’opposition. Au moins officiellement, les forces kurdes ont toujours écarté l’idée de former un Etat indépendant dans le nord de la Syrie, même si la région a parfois semblé en prendre la direction sous la forme d’un «Rojava» formé de trois enclaves. Ce Kurdistan syrien dispose de sa propre administration autonome depuis 2013.

 

RETRAIT DE SYRIE: L’AMÉRICAIN JOHN BOLTON TANCÉ PAR ERDOGAN

RFI, 8 jan., 2019

Cela ressemble fort à un camouflet diplomatique. Après un passage par Israël, le conseiller à la Sécurité nationale de la Maison Blanche, John Bolton, se trouve à Ankara, en Turquie, ce mardi 8 janvier, pour des entretiens sur le retrait annoncé des troupes américaines de Syrie. Le président turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan, excédé par le soutien des Etats-Unis aux forces kurdes syriennes, a refusé de rencontrer John Bolton, poussant le conseiller américain à quitter Ankara plus tôt que prévu, après avoir rencontré des officiels turcs de rang moins élevé qu’annoncé, sans faire la conférence de presse qui était programmée. Un camouflet que la presse turque n’a pas manqué de relever.

De notre correspondante à Istanbul, Anne Andlauer

John Bolton a été reçu pendant près de deux heures par le porte-parole du président turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ainsi que par de hauts responsables des ministères de la Défense, des Affaires étrangères et du renseignement… mais ni par un ministre, ni par Recep Tayyip Erdogan lui-même.

S’agissait-il d’une formule de politesse, ou le directeur de la communication du président turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan a-t-il taclé John Bolton sur Twitter ? Fahrettin Altun a ainsi espéré que le conseiller américain à la sécurité nationale avait « pu goûter à la célèbre hospitalité turque ». Un message partagé juste après le départ de John Bolton, départ précipité, car le président Erdogan a refusé de le recevoir comme l’avait demandé – et annoncé – le responsable américain.

Erdogan n’a pas apprécié les déclarations de Bolton en Israël

Le président turc s’est toutefois exprimé sur la visite de John Bolton, usant d’un ton très offensif. Visiblement, le président turc n’a pas du tout apprécié les déclarations de John Bolton ce week-end dernier, lorsque le conseiller de Donald Trump se trouvait en Israël. John Bolton avait expliqué que les soldats américains ne quitteraient la Syrie que si la Turquie promettait de ne pas attaquer les forces kurdes présentes sur place, les YPG, alliés de Washington dans la lutte contre le groupe Etat islamique.

Réponse cinglante de Recep Tayyip Erdogan devant son groupe parlementaire :« Nous ne pouvons pas accepter le message que Bolton a donné en Israël. Nous ne pouvons pas l’avaler. L’organisation terroriste des YPG ne pourra jamais représenter mes citoyens ou mes frères kurdes. Si les Etats-Unis pensent le contraire, ils commettent une très grave erreur. »

Quant aux menaces d’intervention turque à l’est de l’Euphrate, qui semblaient en suspens depuis les annonces de Donald Trump sur un prochain retrait des Etats-Unis de Syrie, Recep Tayyip Erdogan a été clair. « Nous passerons à l’action très bientôt », a prévenu le dirigeant turc, affirmant que son armée avait terminé ses préparatifs à la frontière turco-syrienne.

Le chef de la diplomatie américaine Mike Pompeo qui débute également une tournée au Moyen-Orient a de son côté déclaré que le président Recep Tayyip Erdogan s’était engagé auprès de son homologue américain Donald Trump à « protéger » les combattants kurdes en Syrie, des propos démentis par la présidence turque. Le porte-parole de la présidence turque, Ibrahim Kalin, a également ajouté : «Ce que nous attendons, c’est que toutes les armes livrées [NDLR : aux milices kurdes syriennes soutenues par Washington] soient récupérées».

La presse turque partage le constat d’un camouflet diplomatique

« La réponse cinglante d’Erdogan à Bolton », titre le quotidien Karar, plutôt proche du pouvoir, rappelant le refus d’Ankara de s’engager à ne pas attaquer les forces kurdes de Syrie, comme le demande Washington. Recep Tayyip Erdogan a au contraire réitéré ses menaces d’intervention. Des menaces pour « pousser les Etats-Unis à prendre une décision nette et rapide » au sujet de leur retrait, avance l’expert Murat Yesiltas dans le quotidien Star, pro-Erdogan. Le journal Sözcü, d’opposition nationaliste, estime de son côté qu’après quelques mois de réchauffement, les relations turco-américaines sont à l’aube d’une nouvelle crise.

 

APRÈS UN ARRÊT EN IRAK, MIKE POMPEO ARRIVE EN ÉGYPTE

La Presse, 9 jan., 2019

Le secrétaire d’État américain Mike Pompeo est arrivé mercredi soir au Caire après un arrêt en Irak pour rassurer les responsables locaux sur le soutien de Washington et sur le sort des milices kurdes après le retrait américain de Syrie.

Plus tôt dans la journée, il avait atterri à Bagdad pour une visite surprise, avant de se rendre à Erbil, au Kurdistan irakien.

Depuis que le président Donald Trump a annoncé, à la surprise générale, le retrait de quelque 2000 soldats américains de Syrie, les interrogations se multiplient sur le sort des Unités de protection du peuple (YPG), principale milice kurde syrienne et fer de lance du combat contre le groupe djihadiste État islamique (EI).

Ankara, qui considère les YPG comme une organisation « terroriste », menace de les attaquer.

Il est « important de faire tout ce que nous pouvons pour nous assurer que ces gens qui ont combattu avec nous soient en sécurité », a déclaré M. Pompéo.

S’exprimant depuis Erbil, il a encore assuré que le président turc Recep Tayyip « Erdogan a pris des engagements, il comprend […] que nous voulons en être sûrs ».

« Nous allons faire de vrais progrès dans les jours à venir », a-t-il ajouté, alors que mardi Ankara a catégoriquement démenti s’être engagé auprès de Donald Trump à garantir la sécurité des YPG.

Il y a deux semaines, M. Trump avait suscité les critiques en Irak en rendant visite à des soldats américains stationnés dans le pays, sans rencontrer aucun dirigeant irakien.

  1. Pompeo, lui, a été reçu par les dirigeants kurdes à Erbil et des autorités fédérales à Bagdad.

 

Soutien américain

Il leur a promis « le soutien des États-Unis […] pour assurer la stabilité et la sécurité ».

Et il a plaidé pour « la poursuite de la coopération » entre armées « pour s’assurer que la défaite du groupe État islamique soit durable ».

« L’EI est défait militairement, mais la mission n’est pas accomplie », a renchéri le président irakien Barham Saleh, estimant avoir « besoin du soutien américain ».

Le conseiller américain à la sécurité nationale John Bolton, en visite mardi en Turquie, avait affirmé que les États-Unis allaient s’assurer que l’EI avait vraiment été vaincu avant un départ de Syrie.

Mike Pompeo s’est refusé à évoquer un calendrier, alors que l’administration américaine s’emploie à rassurer ses partenaires régionaux et occidentaux, déjà ébranlés par la stratégie parfois illisible du président américain au Moyen-Orient.

La question de la présence de l’EI en Syrie, qui partage avec l’Irak plus de 600 km de frontières, désertiques et propices à l’installation de cellules djihadistes clandestines, est majeure pour Bagdad.

Même s’il a annoncé en décembre 2017 la fin de trois années de guerre contre l’EI, des djihadistes continuent de mener des attaques. Mardi, deux personnes ont ainsi été tuées par une voiture piégée au nord de Bagdad.

Fin décembre, M. Trump avait bien assuré que, s’il retirait les troupes américaines de Syrie, il ne prévoyait « pas du tout » de retirer celles d’Irak, qui pourrait servir de « base » pour éventuellement « intervenir en Syrie ».

Mais cette présence même fait débat dans le pays, pris en étau entre ses deux grands alliés eux-mêmes ennemis, l’Iran et les États-Unis.

Ainsi, le bloc pro-Iran qui gagne en puissance militaire et surtout politique en Irak avait de nouveau poussé pour un calendrier de retrait des forces américaines au lendemain de la visite de M. Trump.

« Pression sur l’Iran »

L’Irak occupe une place centrale dans un Moyen-Orient en recomposition, où, selon les experts, l’Iran commence à voir se réaliser un scénario souvent évoqué : un corridor terrestre qui lui permettrait d’atteindre la Méditerranée à travers l’Irak, la Syrie et le Liban.

Au coeur de cet axe qui pourrait servir au transit de biens et de personnes, l’Irak joue désormais les intercesseurs auprès de Damas.

Selon un haut responsable irakien, Bagdad – en plus de se ménager le terrain pour investir dans la reconstruction de la Syrie – joue les médiateurs pour le rétablissement des liens entre Damas et le Qatar, où MM. Saleh et Hakim se sont rendus en soirée.

Mais alors que la priorité numéro un de Washington dans la région est de contrecarrer l’influence de l’Iran que les Américains jugent « déstabilisatrice », Bagdad cherche à défendre ses bonnes relations avec son voisin iranien.

L’Irak a déjà obtenu des exemptions face aux nouvelles sanctions américaines en s’engageant à réduire sa dépendance énergétique à l’Iran.

Bagdad entend obtenir leur prolongation même si M. Pompeo a promis mardi de « redoubler » « les efforts diplomatiques et commerciaux pour mettre vraiment la pression sur l’Iran ».

À Bagdad, il a répété « l’importance d’avancer vers l’indépendance énergétique de l’Irak ».

Après l’Égypte, M. Pompeo doit se rendre à Bahreïn, aux Émirats arabes unis, au Qatar, en Arabie saoudite, à Oman et au Koweït.

 

 

Actualité

 

 

ISRAËL: DÉCÈS DE L’ANCIEN MINISTRE MOSHÉ ARENS À L’ÂGE DE 93 ANS

i24NEWS, 7 jan., 2019

L’ancien ministre israélien de la Défense, Moshé Arens, est décédé lundi à l’âge de 93 ans.

Il avait commencé sa carrière à la Knesset en 1973 et avait été ministre de la Défense des gouvernements de Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir et de Benyamin Netanyahou.

En tant qu’ambassadeur d’Israël aux États-Unis, Moshé Arens avait recruté Netanyahou comme attaché, puis l’avait nommé ambassadeur auprès des Nations Unies. Il était considéré comme la personne qui a découvert l’actuel Premier ministre et qui l’a amené vers le monde de la diplomatie et de la politique.

“Nous comptons d’abord sur nous-mêmes et je pense que nous sommes tout à fait capables de faire ce que nous voulons faire nous-mêmes”, déclarait-il il y a plusieurs mois à i24NEWS.

En 1983, il a remplacé Ariel Sharon après la publication du rapport Cohen sur le massacre de Sabra et Chatila.

Face aux nombreuses pertes enregistrées par Tsahal sur le front libanais, Moshé Arens avait décidé plusieurs retraits, notamment sur les hauteurs du District du Chouf. Il a également initié la libération de 4300 prisonniers palestiniens contre celle de six soldats de l’unité Nahal faits prisonniers par l’OLP.

Des décisions prises, qui ont fait l’objet d’une opposition stratégique observée aussi durant son deuxième mandat au ministère de la Défense lors de la Première Guerre du Golfe en Irak. Partisan d’une ligne dure, il avait présenté son plan censé impliquer les forces israéliennes dans le conflit.

Or, les appareils militaires et politiques avaient fait le choix de la retenue malgré les tirs de Scuds irakiens contre le territoire de l’Etat Hébreu.

Par ailleurs, Moshé Arens n’avait pas hésité à critiquer les choix stratégiques opérés par Benyamin Netanyahou notamment face aux tirs de roquettes du Hezbollah avant d’être nommé à nouveau au poste de Ministre de la Défense en 1999.

Il poursuivit sa politique de retrait des avants postes de Tsahal positionnés au Liban, offrant une période d’accalmie de quelques mois aux habitants de la partie Nord du pays.

Cette voix discordante, l’ex soldat de l’armée américaine l’a fait entendre durant toute sa carrière politique. Retraité de la vie politique, Moshé Arens s’est également opposé au plan de désengagement de Gaza décidé par Ariel Sharon en 2005.

 

LA LISTE ARABE UNIE SE SCINDE APRÈS LE DÉPART DE AHMAD TIBI ET DE SON PARTI TAAL

Adam Rasgon

Times of Israel, 8 jan., 2019

Le député Ahmad Tibi de la Liste arabe unie a annoncé mardi que son parti Taal romprait ses liens qui l’unissait à la Liste arabe unie, indiquant que son parti pourrait se présenter indépendamment aux élections nationales d’avril.

Dans une lettre adressée au président de la Commission de la chambre de la Knesset, le député Miki Zohar, Tibi a demandé l’autorisation de retirer sa fraction Taal, dont le nom signifie « Mouvement arabe du renouveau », de la Liste arabe unie.

La Liste arabe unie réunissait quatre factions politiques arabes qui s’étaient regroupées lors des élections en 2015, les partis Hadash, Balad, Taal et la Liste arabe unie.

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Si la Commission approuve la demande de Tibi, la Liste arabe unie resterait une coalition de trois factions principalement arabes.

Dans sa lettre, Tibi n’a pas fourni d’explications à propos de sa décision.

Ni Tibi ni son porte-parole n’ont répondu aux demandes de commentaires.

Un porte-parole de la Knesset a déclaré qu’il examinait la demande de Tibi et qu’il ferait le point ultérieurement.

La Liste arabe unie a été constituée en janvier 2015 après que la Knesset a relevé le seuil électoral, faisant passer de 2 à 3,25 % le pourcentage de voix qu’un parti doit obtenir pour obtenir un siège au Parlement de 120 sièges.

La Liste arabe unie, coalition de communistes, de nationalistes palestiniens, de religieux musulmans et de féministes, a remporté 13 sièges aux élections de la Knesset en mars 2015, devenant l’une des factions les plus importantes de l’opposition.

Ayman Odeh, le chef de la Liste arabe unie, a suggéré mardi qu’en dépit de l’intention de Tibi de quitter le parti, il aimerait garder Hadash, Balad et la Liste arabe unie sur un seul ticket.

« Netanyahu veut voir la Liste arabe unie se désagréger plus que quiconque. L’extrême droite veut diviser et conquérir les Arabes », a déclaré Odeh, qui est également à la tête de Hadash, peu après que Tibi lui a fait part de sa demande de retirer son parti de la Liste arabe unie.

« Je suis fier de faire partie d’un mouvement qui sait faire passer l’idéologie avant les intérêts personnels », a ajouté Odeh.

Tibi a déposé sa demande de quitter la Liste arabe unie environ trois mois avant les élections à la Knesset qui doivent avoir lieu le 9 avril.

Un sondage Hadashot TV réalisé il y a deux semaines a révélé que la Liste arabe unie remporterait 12 sièges à la Knesset, si des élections avaient lieu le jour où la chaîne d’information a réalisé le sondage.

Aida Touma-Sliman, députée de la Liste arabe unie, a déclaré qu’elle ne s’attendait pas au départ de Tibi.

« J’ai été surprise de la décision d’Ahmad Tibi. C’est précisément le moment de renforcer l’unité et de consolider les forces démocratiques », a déclaré Touma-Sliman, une membre de Hadash, à la radio militaire mardi soir. « La Liste arabe unie continuera de fonctionner. En fin de compte, le public fera payer un prix à celui qui envisage de la quitter. »

Tibi devrait se présenter seul aux élections du 9 avril après l’échec de sa candidature à la tête de la Liste arabe unie.

 

SONDAGE: LE LIKOUD AUGMENTE SON SCORE

Shraga Blum

LPH, 8 jan., 2019

Si la déclaration “dramatique” du Premier ministre lundi soir a été descendue en flèche par l’opposition et les grands médias généralistes, elle semble avoir au contraire resserré le rangs de ses partisans autour de lui.

Le prermier sondage réalisé par l’Institut Panels Politics après son intervention accorde au Likoud plus de sièges qu’il n’en a à l’heure actuelle. Autre bonne nouvelle, Habayit Hayehoudi sort la tête de l’eau, mais uniquement dans le cas où il était dirigé par Betzalel Smotritch. Il faut préciser que ce sondage a été réalisaé avant que le député Ahmad Tibi n’annonce son départ de la Liste arabe qui ne se présentera donc probablement pas sous sa forme actuelle:

Likoud 32 (+2); Yesh Atid 13 (+2); Liste arabe unifiée 12 (-1); ‘Hossen LeIsrael 12 (+12); Nouvelle Droite 8 (+8); Parti travailliste 8 (-16); Yahadout Hatorah 7 (+1); Shass 5 (-2); Koulanou 5 (-5); Meretz 5 (-); Habayit Hayehoudi 5 (-3); Israël Beiteinou 4 (-2) et Gesher 4 (+4).

Le parti HaTenoua de Tsipi Livni ne passe pas le seuil d’éligibilité, pas plus que les partis Telem (Moshé Yaalon), Yahad (Elie Ishaï); Zehout (Moshé Feiglin) et Otsma Yehoudit (Dr. Michaël Ben-Ari).

Nous vous souhaitons Shabbat Shalom!

WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS OF THE WEEK IN REVIEW”

On Topic Links

Rashida Tlaib Casually Dives Into Anti-Semitism: Editorial, New York Post, Jan. 7, 2018

Unkosher Ban: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 6, 2019

2018 Was Horrible, and this Year Isn’t Looking Great, Either: Terry Glavin, National Post, Jan. 2, 2019

BESA’s Top Ten of 2018: BESA, Jan. 4, 2019

 

WEEKLY QUOTES 

“I think this is the reality setting in that you got to plan this out…the bottom line here is we want to make sure we get this right, that ISIS doesn’t come back. And I applaud the president for re-evaluating what he’s doing…He has a goal in mind of reducing our presence. I share that goal. Let’s just do it smartly.” — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. U.S. troops will not leave Syria until I.S. is defeated and fighters are protected, a top White House aide said. The President did not offer a timetable in the announcement last month about the approximately 2,000 U.S. forces. But officials said at the time they expected U.S. forces to be out by mid-January. (Globe & Mail, Jan. 7, 2018) 

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops — but also so that they meet the President’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.” — National Security Adviser John Bolton. The U.S. will pull out of Syria only with assurances Turkey will not attack Kurdish allies there, Bolton said. Bolton described the pullout as a “cause-and-effect mission,” demanding assurances from players in the region. Trump said that the US effort to withdraw troops is continuing, and “I never said we’re doing it quickly, but we’re decimating ISIS.” (CNN, Jan. 7, 2019)

“(Austrians) understand that Israel is an occupying force and Palestine is occupied and enslaved…One thing I am concerned about is Austria’s voting record at the United Nations. I hope that Austria won’t vote with Israel there. For us, Israel is in many respects a rogue state. It continues to violate international humanitarian law. Whoever votes for Israel votes for violations of global humanitarian right(s).” — Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi. In an interview with an Austrian radio station, Ashrawi said that she believes the Austrian people still support the Palestinian cause, citing former chancellor Bruno Kreisky, who was born Jewish but was criticized by Israel and Austria’s Jewish community due to his close ties with the Arab world, including the PLO. (Times of Israel, Jan. 2, 2019) 

“Why does one have to give such a platform to a hater of Israel? Hanan Ashrawi used her invitation to Vienna to once again demonize Israel…Both Israelis and Palestinians suffer from this Palestinian leadership. What Mrs. Ashrawi calls a pro-Israel position is certainly more pro-Palestinian than the terror-promoting policy of Fatah and Hamas…In Israel, every person enjoys equal rights. Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists and others have the right to elect parliamentarians, judges, and so on…Standing for European values would mean not to invite Israel haters such as Hanan Ashrawi to the New Year’s concert.”— Oskar Deutsch, head of Austria’s Jewish community. The Austrian Jewish community criticized the country’s foreign minister for inviting Hanan Ashrawi to Vienna’s prestigious New Year’s concert. (Times of Israel, Jan. 2, 2019)

“Opinions of French Jews about the Jewish situation in their country were, on many issues, the most negative in Europe. In France, almost all respondents saw anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem. A somewhat smaller percentage saw racism in France similarly. Almost all French respondents said that anti-Semitism had increased during the past five years. The survey specifically asked about anti-Semitic graffiti, desecration of Jewish cemeteries, vandalism of Jewish buildings or institutions, expressions of hostility toward Jews as well as in the media and political life, and on the internet (including social media). In France, the majority of respondents rate almost all these manifestations of anti-Semitism as a big problem. Virtually all French respondents considered the expressions of hostility toward Jews in the street and other public places a big problem. The majority of French respondents — a higher percentage than elsewhere — worried about being confronted with anti-Semitic verbal insults and physical attacks in the coming twelve months. An even higher percentage of those polled were concerned that family members or close friends might become victims of anti-Semitic insults and harassments in the next twelve months. Again this percentage was higher than in any other country surveyed.” — Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld. (Arutz Sheva, Jan. 6, 2019)

“This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line…#BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel.” — Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio is pushing a bill that would protect states that penalize Israel boycotters, spurring a freshman congresswoman to question his loyalties. On Monday, Rubio decried the statement from Rep. Rashia Tlaib, D-Mich., as antisemitic. Tlaib in the earlier tweet had attacked a Senate bill initiated by Rubio and Sen. James Risch. One of the measures protects states that pass anti-BDS bills, including those that ban work with contractors who boycott Israel, from lawsuits. “They forgot what country they represent,” Tlaib said in her tweet. “This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality.” (JTA, Jan. 7, 2019)

“Another of the (Women’s) March leaders, Linda Sarsour, is a controversial figure in her own right as an Islamist sympathizer and a BDS supporter who has accused American Jews of dual loyalties (an old anti-Semitic canard) and called Israelis “white supremacists.” All three — Mallory (black), Perez (Latina) and Sarsour (Palestinian) — were accorded visibility and power to de-whiten the March’s original brand and provide an “intersectional” lamination to the movement, without any thought given to the personal biases they might be bringing to the table.” — Barbara Kay, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research Academic Fellow. (National Post, Jan. 2, 2018)

“Once again columnist Barbara Kay demonstrates courage and great insight by exposing the blatant, outrageous anti-Semitism of Women’s March leaders, Tanika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour. The fact that they were given “visibility and power,” ignoring their public personal biases, is becoming more and more commonplace in the U.S. and Canada. The number of antiSemitic and hate crimes perpetrated against Jews has risen precipitously over the past couple of years. These people go unchecked, despite the rule of law that is supposed to protect vulnerable groups from people like them. This dangerous trend of events is bad for everyone. It may start with the Jews but as we know it never ends with just the Jews.” — Doris Epstein, Co-Chair Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, Toronto. (National Post, Jan. 4, 20118) 

Contents

 

SHORT TAKES 

DEMS BLOCK SENATE BILL ON ISRAEL BOYCOTTS (Washington) — Democrats are split over Sen. Marco Rubio’s “Combating BDS Act,” which seeks to counter the BDS movement against Israel. For now, the package has stalled on a vote of 56-44, not enough to clear the 60-vote hurdle needed to advance. Coming amid the partial government shutdown, Democrats said they will block the bill until government is reopened. Senate Minority Leader Schumer opposed proceeding to the legislation. Rubio’s bills would affirm the legal authority of state and local governments to restrict contracts and take other actions against those “engaged in BDS conduct.” Several states are facing lawsuits after taking action against workers supporting boycotts of Israel. Opponents say Rubio’s measure infringes on free speech. (Ynet, Jan. 9, 2019)

MAN FACING HATE CHARGE TOLD TO STAY AWAY FROM JEWISH SCHOOLS, SYNAGOGUES (Montreal) — A Montreal man charged with inciting hatred online against Jews had his bail conditions tightened to ensure he stays away from Jewish schools and synagogues. 55-year-old Robert Gosselin was charged with two counts of uttering threats and one count of inciting hatred in relation to posts on the Facebook page of the Journal de Montreal. Among the messages was one that threatened to “eliminate Jews by killing an entire school of Jewish girls.” (CTV, Jan. 7, 2018) 

BELGIUM BANS KOSHER AND HALAL SLAUGHTERING (Brussels) — Belgium has banned kosher and halal animal slaughtering methods. Jewish and Muslim traditions require animals to be in perfect health when slaughtered, a requirement that clashes with some EU laws that require animals to be incapable of feeling pain when they are killed. Most countries offer exemptions that allow for the production of halal and kosher meat. But Belgium instituted a ban on ritual slaughter, which was promoted both by animal advocates and nationalists. Jewish and Muslim communities will now likely have to import meat. There are around 30,000 Jews and 500,000 Muslims in Belgium. (The Hill, Jan. 6, 2019)

KOSHER MISREPRESENTATION COULD CAUSE ‘SPIRITUAL TRAUMA’: COURT (Toronto) — A Mississauga company has been ordered to pay $25,000 for misrepresenting a cake mix as kosher, after an Ontario court said the move could cause “spiritual trauma” to consumers who bought the product for religious reasons. A court found that Adee Flour Mills breached its contract with the Kashruth Council of Canada, one of the country’s biggest kosher certification agencies, by misusing its logo on a devil’s food cake mix that was not, in fact, certified as kosher. The judge ordered the company to pay the council $20,000 for the breach and the harm it caused to the council’s reputation, as well as $5,000 in punitive damages for the potential harm to consumers. (Toronto Sun, Jan. 3, 2018)

‘PEACE DEAL OF THE CENTURY’ ONLY AFTER APRIL ELECTIONS (Washington) — The U.S. peace plan will probably be publicized only after the Israeli elections, April 9, 2019, according to ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Friedman indicated that the challenge before the plan’s authors is to deal more soberly with realities in the Middle East. He reminded the reporters that the last time a significant agreement was signed between Israel and the PLO was in 1993. (Jewish Press, Jan. 7, 2019)

TLAIB ON TRUMP: WE’RE GOING TO IMPEACH THAT MOTHERF**KER (Washington) — Hours after being sworn in as the first-ever Palestinian-American to serve in Congress, Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib used an expletive to describe President Trump and vowed to push for his impeachment. Speaking at an event, Tlaib recounted a conversation she had with her son. “‘Momma look you won. Bullies don’t win,’” she said he told her. “And I said, ‘Baby they don’t, because we’re going to go in there and impeach the mother**ker,” Tlaib continued. Tlaib is one of the first-ever lawmakers to support the BDS movement. A reporter in Tlaib’s office noted the world map hanging on her wall with a minor change. On top of Israel was a post-it note that said “Palestine.” (Times of Israel, Jan. 4, 2018)

US WARNS IRAN ON BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT (Washington) — The U.S. issued a warning to Iran on its violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 after Iran announced plans to launch three space launch vehicles (SLV) in the coming months. The Iranian regime has launched ballistic missiles numerous times since UNSCR 2231 was adopted and continues to do so. On December 1, the Iranian regime test-fired a medium range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads, both routine and nuclear-armed warheads, according to Israeli sources. The commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force later said Iran tests 40 to 50 ballistic missiles every year. (Jewish Press, Jan. 4, 2018)

EU SANCTIONS IRANIAN INTELLIGENCE UNIT (Tehran) — The EU froze the assets of an Iranian intelligence unit and two of its staff, as the Netherlands accused Iran of two killings on its soil and joined France and Denmark in alleging Teheran plotted other attacks in Europe. The move marks the first time the EU has enacted sanctions on Iran since lifting a host of sanctions three years ago following the 2015 nuclear deal. The decision, which includes designating the unit and the two Iranians as terrorists, follows last year’s disclosure by Denmark and France that they suspected an Iranian government intelligence service of pursuing assassination plots on their soil. (Arutz Sheva, Jan. 9, 2018)

USS COLE BOMBING SUSPECT JAMAL AL-BADAWI KILLED IN U.S. AIRSTRIKE (Sanaa) — Jamal al-Badawi, the Yemeni al-Qaida operative accused of organizing the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, has been killed in a U.S. airstrike, President Trump said. 17 U.S. sailors were killed and more than 40 were injured in the attack, in which al-Qaeda suicide bombers pulled up to the refueling destroyer in an explosives-laden boat and blasted a hole in its hull. Badawi was sentenced to death by a Yemeni court in 2004, then had his sentence reduced to 15 years in prison. He made two successful jailbreaks in 2003 and 2006; after he surrendered in 2007, authorities in Yemen secretly made a deal to allow him to remain free in exchange for aiding in the capture of other al-Qaida operatives. (National Post, Jan. 7, 2018)

EGYPT TRIED TO BLOCK BROADCAST OF CBS INTERVIEW WITH SISI (Cairo) — Egypt tried to block the broadcast of an interview by CBS with President Sisi about his covert military cooperation with Israel. The network refused and broadcast the interview on Sunday. Sisi’s interview, with the program “60 Minutes,” appears to be the first time that he has publicly acknowledged or even addressed the Israeli military cooperation with Egypt. In its statement, CBS said that an interviewer had asked Sisi if the military cooperation between Egypt and Israel was closer than ever, and he had replied, “That is correct…We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis.” (New York Times, Jan. 4, 2018)

ISRAEL SAYS IT STOPPED PALESTINIAN BID FOR FULL UN MEMBERSHIP (Tel Aviv) — Israel announced it had blocked an upcoming bid by the Palestinians to gain full membership at the UN. It was just last month that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said he would seek full membership this month to the world body. However, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon started lobbying U.N. member states and several Security Council members in recent weeks to prevent such a push. Danon had made it clear to those with whom he spoke that the Palestinians did not meet the conditions of full U.N. membership, in part due to its payments to terrorists. (Fox News, Dec. 7, 2018)

EISENKOT: WE THWARTED THE SMUGGLING OF SOME 20,000 ROCKETS INTO GAZA (Jerusalem) — The IDF thwarted the smuggling of thousands of rockets into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, outgoing Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. Despite this, 2018 has seen the most serious peak of violence between Israel and terrorist groups in the Strip since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, with over 1,000 rockets fired. Israel struck targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza 865 times over the past year in response to rockets fired towards southern Israel. The targets struck by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) included headquarters, tunnels, military positions, technological facilities, training camps, weapons caches and the growing naval arm of Hamas. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 8, 2018)

GIVAT ASAF SHOOTER ARRESTED (Jerusalem) — Israeli security captured a terrorist responsible for a deadly shooting attack outside of Givat Assaf, north of Jerusalem. Israeli forces apprehended Asam Barghouti, who had opened fire on a group of Israelis on December 13th, killing two IDF soldiers, and wounding two more Israelis. Asam Barghouti carried out the attack just days after his brother, Saleh Omar Barghouti, shot seven Israelis just north of Givat Assaf. One newborn child, who was delivered prematurely as a result of the attack, died three days after the shooting. (Arutz Sheva, Jan. 8, 2018)

POLICE RAID SETTLEMENT YESHIVA (Jerusalem) — Police raided the West Bank yeshiva attended by the five high school students suspected of a fatal stone-throwing attack in October that killed a Palestinian woman. Earlier this week, Shin Bet announced that three students from Pri Haaretz had been arrested in late December in connection to the killing of 47-year-old Aisha Rabi, and another two students were arrested last weekend. Rabi, a mother of eight, was struck on the head by a rock on the evening of October 12 as she traveled to her West Bank home with her husband and daughter. She died of her injuries at a Nablus hospital a short time later. (New York Times, Jan. 6, 2018)

ADL CONDEMNS HUMAN SWASTIKA FORMED BY MIDDLE SCHOOLERS (Los Angeles) — Several middle school students in California were photographed while forming a human swastika, prompting a Jewish civil rights group to express concern over the “chilling” act. In a letter sent to parents at Matilija Junior High School in Ojai, administrators said a dozen pupils were found to have participated in a group chat that included “racist, sexually inappropriate and threatening commentary including a comment by a student to bring knives to school.” Photos shared in the chat showed nine students laying positioned in the shape of a swastika. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called the incident “chilling,” but applauded the school for addressing the issue. (Algemeiner, Jan. 4, 2018)  

NAZI MURDER RATE FAR HIGHER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT (Tel Aviv) — Nearly 1.5 million Jews were murdered in just three months in 1942, a new study found. The expedited murder rate was part of Nazi Germany’s Operation Reinhard for annihilating the Jews of Poland, according to the study by biomathematician Lewi Stone of Tel Aviv University. In August and September, around half a million victims were killed each month. The majority of the murders were done in three large death camps in western Poland, either by gassing victims or shooting them. According to Yad Vashem, Israel’s main state museum for the genocide, at least 6 million people died in the Holocaust. (JTA, Jan. 4, 2018)

ISRAEL TO DEMAND COMPENSATION FOR JEWISH REFUGEES (Tel Aviv) — The Israeli government is seeking $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran as compensation for property left behind by the estimated 850,000 Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel. Included in the demand will be $35 billion dollars from Tunisia and $15 billion dollars from Libya. Also included will be Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran. The Israeli claim counters a demand by the PA for over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arabs who fled at the time of the establishment of Israel. (Breaking Israel News, Jan. 6, 2018)

MOSHE ARENS DIES AT 93 (Tel Aviv) — Moshe Arens, 93, who was minister of defense and minister of foreign affairs in Likud governments between 1983 and his retirement in 2003, died Monday. Since his retirement, Arens wrote op-eds in Ha’aretz. For many years he was the political patron of Netanyahu, whom Arens brought into the public eye after hearing him speak in the US. Arens was born in Lithuania in 1925 and grew up in the US. He was the Beitar representative in the US, and immigrated to Israel in 1949. Arens was first elected to the Knesset in 1973. He chaired the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was one of the opponents of the peace agreement with Egypt, and later also opposed the Oslo Accords. (Globes, Jan. 7, 2018)

On Topic Links 

Rashida Tlaib Casually Dives Into Anti-Semitism: Editorial, New York Post, Jan. 7, 2018 —Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib may take great pains to deny she is anti-Semitic, but she’s just launched her congressional career by resorting to one of the oldest and most blatantly anti-Jewish canards.

2018 Was Horrible, and this Year Isn’t Looking Great, Either: Terry Glavin, National Post, Jan. 2, 2019— The brave young activists of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, hounded in the courts, ruthlessly bullied but not yet broken in spirit, ushered in the new year this week in diminished ranks.

BESA’s Top Ten of 2018: BESA, Jan. 4, 2019 —What Might an Israel-Iran War Look Like? — Prof. Hillel Frisch argues that in the not unlikely event of an Iranian-Israeli war triggered by Tehran’s military entrenchment in Syria, Israel has one advantage Iran doesn’t: a public that is firmly behind its democratically elected government.

Unkosher Ban: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 6, 2019—Last week, a new law went into effect in Flanders, the northern region of Belgium, banning shechita, kosher slaughter.

 

ISRAEL EXPLORES NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN LATIN AMERICA, ASIA, AND AFRICA

Brazil Finds More Than a Friend in Israel: Allison Fedirka, Real Clear World, Jan. 6, 2018 — The friendly relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, made headlines at the end of 2018.

Israeli-Japanese Friendship: A Potential Yet to Be Realized: Shaun Ho, JCPA, Dec. 25, 2018— In the past few years, Israel has begun to tilt toward the East.

Israel and North Korea: A New Opportunity?: Dr. Alon Levkowitz, BESA, Dec. 31, 2018— In the early 1990s, Eitan Ben-Zur of the Israeli foreign office tried to explore the possibility of a deal with North Korea to halt its missile shipments to states in the Middle East that pose a threat to Israel.

China is at a Crossroads: Brahma Chellaney, Globe and Mail, Jan. 1, 2019— Four decades ago, the Chinese Communist Party, under its new leader Deng Xiaoping, decided to subordinate ideology to wealth creation, spawning a new aphorism, “To get rich is glorious.”

On Topic Links

A Golden Opportunity: Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom, Dec. 30, 2018

How the African-Israeli Rapprochement is About Poetic Justice: Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 2019

East Mediterranean Partnership Signals an Energy Revolution: Dr. Emmanuel Navon, JISS, Dec. 2, 2018

The U.S. is Right to Worry About Co-Operation Between its Adversaries: Kori Schake, National Post, Nov. 15, 2018

 

BRAZIL FINDS MORE THAN A FRIEND IN ISRAEL

Allison Fedirka

Real Clear World, Jan. 6, 2018

The friendly relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, made headlines at the end of 2018. This “budding brotherhood,” as they’ve called it, started when Bolsonaro, then the president-elect, announced plans to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Though he has since revised that promise, relations between the two countries continue to flourish. Netanyahu even attended Bolsonaro’s inauguration Jan. 1, becoming the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Brazil. More than a bromance, the close ties between the two leaders are a testament to their countries’ foreign policy strategies.

Alignment with Israel, while often framed as a new development, is a return to form for Brazil. In the late 1940s, Brazil supported the creation of an Israeli state and was among the first countries to recognize the Israeli government. Ties between the two grew closer during Brazil’s military dictatorship, from 1964 to 1985, as they cooperated in areas such as security and nuclear energy. The relationship continued through the 1990s; in fact, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso received several awards from Israel, including an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, while in office. It was only when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took power in Brasilia in 2003 that Brazil-Israel relations became strained. Diverging from Cardoso’s neoliberal economic policies, da Silva espoused more direct government control of the economy and ushered in a populist era of government in Brazil.

Changes in foreign policy accompanied the economic shifts: Brasilia turned against the United States – and, by extension, against Israel. Brazil formally recognized the Palestinian state, according to the 1967 border, in 2010. Even then, its relationship with Israel persisted. In 2010, Brazil also ratified the free trade agreement that the Common Market of the South, a regional trade bloc better known as Mercosur, had struck with Israel three years earlier. And despite its decision to recognize Palestine, Brazil never upgraded its diplomatic mission there to embassy status. The moves didn’t exactly please Israel, but neither did they derail its relations with Brazil.

Bolsonaro wants to reverse course from the populist policies of Brazil’s recent history. To that end, he’s pledged to roll back government interference in the economy and to reach out once more to the developed countries da Silva eschewed in a bid to promote industrialization and growth among fellow developing economies. And Bolsonaro’s market reforms, like those of his predecessors, will come with foreign policy changes. Where da Silva looked to other countries in the Southern Hemisphere – namely states in South America and Africa, as well as China – for support and cooperation, the new Brazilian president is turning back toward wealthier northern states like the U.S., countries in Northern Europe and, of course, Israel.

For Israel, meanwhile, Bolsonaro’s interest is well-timed. Israel, a relatively small country, depends on trade and collaboration with other states to keep its economy humming. Surrounded as it is by rivals, however, it must look beyond the Middle East to find suitable partners. Latin America is a natural choice. The region’s many developing markets and trade potential make it an attractive destination for Israel, which, according to the latest World Bank figures, derives 30 percent of gross domestic product from exports. South America remains a largely untapped market for Israel, and it boasts a wealth of natural resources and numerous opportunities for investment, technology development and military modernization. Over the past couple years, Netanyahu has paid official visits to Colombia, Argentina and Chile, along with several countries in Central America. But Brazil is a standout in the region. Not only does it have a $1.93 trillion economy – the world’s ninth-largest, by the World Bank’s most recent data – but it also has recently pulled itself out of recession. Now that Bolsonaro has taken office, promises of deregulation and more open markets have made Brazil even more enticing.

The focus on economic ties in Latin America is something of a departure for Israel. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Israel built its relationships with regional states, including Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Argentina and Colombia, on military backing and support for various armed groups. Its ties with Brazil and nearby countries today are broader in scope by comparison. Nevertheless, military equipment still has a role to play in the partnerships.

In Brazil’s case, technology transfer and development are the priority. Brazil began talks with Israel in March 2018 to acquire and exchange scientific and defense technologies, an arrangement that would at once satisfy Israel’s desire to export military goods and services, its area of expertise, and Brazil’s need to acquire more advanced technology. The two also have reached nascent agreements over defense technology, such as missiles, radar and high-tech surveillance cameras, that could help modernize Brazil’s military and law enforcement. (Some recent Brazilian governments have shied away from making these kinds of deals, but Bolsonaro, a champion of the military and security forces, will welcome them.) Space exploration and satellites are other points of mutual interest. Brazil can benefit from Israel’s know-how on the subject, while Israel takes advantage of Brazil’s strategic launch sites near the equator…

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

 

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ISRAELI-JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP:

A POTENTIAL YET TO BE REALIZED                                                                     

Shaun Ho

JCPA, Dec. 25, 2018

In the past few years, Israel has begun to tilt toward the East. Prompted by declining political support from Europe, Jerusalem gradually turned to non-Western powers such as Russia and China for support. While Israel’s growing relationship with China, in particular, has gained widespread attention in recent years, little attention has been paid to Israel’s relationship with the other Asian economic superpower—Japan. Despite being the third largest economy and one of the most powerful countries in the world, Japan has often been below the radar in Israel’s foreign relations and vice versa. Until the 1990s, Japan avoided trade with the Jewish state because of its strong reliance on oil and gas imported from the Arab states and hence its compliance with the Arab League boycott of Israel. As a result, most Japanese firms were unwilling to trade with Israel until the Arab League boycott ended in the 1990s.1 Although relations between Israel and Japan have improved significantly, especially in trade and economic cooperation, these two countries have yet to develop a close political and economic relationship to the extent that Israel has with its Western allies and even China. Yet there is great potential for the two countries to develop deeper economic and even geopolitical ties, as both Japan and Israel would benefit considerably from increasing economic and technological cooperation, particularly in the field of innovation, and political cooperation on the international stage.

Despite both being developed nations, Japan and Israel have very different economic structures. The former has an enormous and mature economy dominated by conglomerates and other large corporations, while the latter has a relatively small but innovative economy whose growth is largely dependent on the myriad start-ups in “Silicon Wadi.” Additionally, corporate cultural differences between the two countries cannot be any starker. Japanese corporations are known globally for their rigid hierarchical structures and meticulous attention to detail, while Israelis are averse to vertical hierarchies and prioritize innovation over detail. Although it may seem that two countries with such contrasting cultures would not be able to work together effectively, these differences, in fact, would allow Japan and Israel to complement each other and alleviate each other’s structural weaknesses. As Glenn Newman wrote in the Japan Times in August 2018, “Israel and Japan are the yin and yang of countries. And yet, despite — or maybe because of — their differences, they have much to offer each other. Marrying their respective geniuses, Japan and Israel could be a killer combination.”

Following decades of economic boom in the post-war period, Japan’s asset price bubble burst, and its economy slumped into a period of stagnation known as the “Lost Decades” from the 1990s until well into the early 2010s. To reinvigorate the Japanese economy and make it more competitive on the world stage, in 2012 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe initiated a set of economic reforms known as “Abenomics,” which consists of three “arrows” (overarching policies): monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and structural reforms. As part of the third “arrow” to reform the economic structure, the government is seeking to use innovation and technology to increase Japan’s competitiveness and economic growth. Although Japan is often regarded as one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, it has been falling behind in innovation in recent years and losing its technological edge over countries such as the United States, South Korea, and China. Many critics contend that one major reason for the lack of innovation is that the rigid hierarchical structure of Japanese corporations and the cultural aversion to risk stifle innovation of new technologies and discourage entrepreneurship.

This is where Israel can potentially complement and play a role in Japan’s economy. In contrast to Japanese culture, which values structure, consensus-making, and meticulousness, Israeli culture is more egalitarian, more individualistic, and less risk-averse. As a result, Israelis are much more willing to develop new technologies and to engage in creative entrepreneurship, allowing Israel to become one of the most innovative countries and to have the highest number of start-ups per capita in the world. By investing in and cooperating with Israeli high-tech firms and start-ups, Japanese firms would be able to gain access to Israeli technology. Already, several Japanese corporations, such as Panasonic, NEC, and Ricoh have begun cooperation with Israeli companies in research and development (R&D) programs and plans to establish R&D centers in Silicon Wadi. Japanese automobile giants like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have also started to invest in and cooperate with Israeli start-ups to improve their automotive technologies.789 Japan’s investments in Israeli start-ups would be immensely beneficial to the Japanese economy, not only because it would gain access to technology that it would not have otherwise, but also because many of these technologies would be potentially crucial to the Japanese government’s effort to create sustainable economic growth through innovation.

As part of the Abenomics reforms, for example, the Japanese government has launched an initiative called “Society 5.0,” which aims to shift Japan to an “innovative society” based on the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and big data. [See glossary below for definitions.] As a world leader in AI and big data technology, Israel can contribute toward many areas of this initiative.

One area toward which Israeli firms can contribute is health care. With its rapidly aging population, Japan is seeking ways to increase people’s access to health care, particularly in rural areas where the elderly are concentrated. The “Society 5.0” initiative aims to utilize AI and big data to improve people’s access to medical services and data. Having developed some of the top medical technologies in the world, Israeli firms can play a big role in Japan’s effort to innovate its medical data technologies. For example, Israeli startups such as Genoox and Aidoc, which have revolutionized the use of big data in health care, can complement Japan’s current medical data technology.

Another area in which Israeli technology would assist Japan’s transition into an innovative economy is financial technology (fintech). As one of the largest and most important financial markets in the world, Japan is surprisingly backward in fintech, falling behind most other advanced economies and even China and India. Furthermore, a high proportion of transactions in Japan are still conducted in cash, making Japan one of the most cash-dependent societies in the developed world. Because of the high transaction costs that come with cash payments, the Japanese government is promoting cashless payments and money transfers based on blockchain technology [See glossary below for definitions.] as part of the “Society 5.0” initiative…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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ISRAEL AND NORTH KOREA: A NEW OPPORTUNITY?

Dr. Alon Levkowitz                    

BESA, Dec. 31, 2018

In the early 1990s, Eitan Ben-Zur of the Israeli foreign office tried to explore the possibility of a deal with North Korea to halt its missile shipments to states in the Middle East that pose a threat to Israel. The deal would have included indirect Israeli economic assistance to Pyongyang to compensate it for the financial losses it would incur from the cessation of those sales. The Ben-Zur initiative was supported by Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister.

In the end, the deal was not concluded due to a disagreement between the Israeli foreign office and the Mossad about its feasibility. Another barrier to the initiative was Washington’s objection to Jerusalem’s involvement with Pyongyang at a time when the US was trying to reach its own agreement with North Korea on the nuclear issue. Washington was disturbed by the Jerusalem-Pyongyang contacts despite the fact that Israel’s sole focus – missile shipments to the Middle East – was not perceived by the Americans as a critical issue.

Almost three decades later, Washington is negotiating with Pyongyang on an agreement that will include complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of its nuclear and long-range missile programs. Again, as occurred during the 1990s negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, the agreement is not expected to view military exports to the Middle East as a core issue.

The current improvement in relations among Seoul, Pyongyang, and Washington does not include any mechanisms to verify and prevent the continuation of military exports, such as missiles, from North Korea to Syria and Iran. Israel does not have any leverage over Washington or Pyongyang to force them to prevent the continuation of North Korean military exports to the Middle East. That is why Jerusalem should take the opportunity to try an updated Ben-Zur initiative towards North Korea.

While Moon Jae-in might support such an initiative because it would be congruent with his own North Korea policy, Washington might object on the grounds that it would evade international sanctions and decrease Washington’s pressure on Pyongyang. Israel should therefore offer economic assistance to North Korea in agriculture, medical technology, and green energy on condition that Pyongyang starts to disarm itself. In so doing, Jerusalem could mitigate Washington’s objections and might be able to gain both American and South Korean support.

Israeli economic assistance to North Korea in exchange for a verified cessation of military exports would compensate Pyongyang for the losses it might face as a result of the decrease in military exports to the Middle East. This would help Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in legitimize their request to ease the sanctions on North Korea in order to pursue further joint economic projects.

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CHINA IS AT A CROSSROADS

Brahma Chellaney                                  

Globe and Mail, Jan. 1, 2019

Four decades ago, the Chinese Communist Party, under its new leader Deng Xiaoping, decided to subordinate ideology to wealth creation, spawning a new aphorism, “To get rich is glorious.” The party’s central committee, disavowing Mao Zedong’s thought as dogma, embraced a principle that became Mr. Deng’s oft-quoted dictum, “Seek truth from facts.” Mr. Mao’s death earlier in 1976 had triggered a vicious and protracted power struggle. When the diminutive Mr. Deng – once described by Mr. Mao as a “needle inside a ball of cotton” – finally emerged victorious at the age of 74, he hardly looked like an agent of reform.

But having been purged twice from the party during the Mao years – including once for proclaiming during the 1960s that “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice” – Mr. Deng seized the opportunity to usher in transformative change. The Four Modernizations program under Mr. Deng remarkably transformed China, including spurring its phenomenal economic rise. China’s economy today is 30 times larger than it was three decades ago. Indeed, in terms of purchasing power parity, China’s economy is already larger than America’s.

Yet, four decades after it initiated reform, China finds itself at the crossroads, with its future trajectory anything but certain. To be sure, when it celebrates in 2019 the 70th anniversary of its communist “revolution,” China can truly be proud of its remarkable achievements. An impoverished, backward country in 1949, it has risen dramatically and now commands respect and awe in the world.

China is today the world’s largest, strongest and longest-surviving autocracy. This is a country increasingly oriented to the primacy of the Communist Party. But here’s the paradox: The more it globalizes while seeking to simultaneously insulate itself from liberalizing influences, the more vulnerable it is becoming to unforeseen political “shocks” at home. Its overriding focus on domestic order explains one unusual but ominous fact: China’s budget for internal security – now officially at US$196-billion – is larger than even its official military budget, which has grown rapidly to eclipse the defence spending of all other powers except the United States.

China’s increasingly repressive internal machinery, aided by a creeping Orwellian surveillance system, has fostered an overt state strategy to culturally smother ethnic minorities in their traditional homelands. This, in turn, has led to the detention of a million or more Muslims from Xinjiang in internment camps for “re-education.” Untrammelled repression, even if effective in achieving short-term objectives, could sow the seeds of violent insurgencies and upheavals.

More broadly, China’s rulers, by showing little regard for the rights of smaller countries as they do for their own citizens’ rights, are driving instability in the vast Indo-Pacific region. Nothing better illustrates China’s muscular foreign policy riding roughshod over international norms and rules than its South China Sea grab. It was exactly five years ago that Beijing began pushing its borders far out into international waters by pressing its first dredger into service for building artificial islands. The islands, rapidly created on top of shallow reefs, have now been turned into forward military bases.

The island-building anniversary is as important as the 40th economic-reform anniversary, because it is reminder that China never abandoned its heavy reliance since the Mao era on raw power. In fact, no sooner had Mr. Deng embarked on reshaping China’s economic trajectory than he set out to “teach a lesson” to Vietnam. The February-March 1979 military attack occurred just days after Mr. Deng – the “nasty little man,” as Henry Kissinger once called him – became the first Chinese communist leader to visit Washington.

A decade later, Mr. Deng brutally crushed a student-led, pro-democracy movement at home. He ordered the tank and machine-gun assault that came to be known as the Tiananmen massacre, according to a British government estimate, at least 10,000 demonstrators and bystanders perished. Yet, the United States continued to aid China’s economic modernization, as it had done since 1979, when president Jimmy Carter sent a memo to various U.S. government departments instructing them to help in China’s economic rise.

Today, a fundamental shift in America’s China policy, with its broad bipartisan support, is set to outlast Donald Trump’s presidency. This underscores new challenges for China, at a time when its economy is already slowing and it has imposed tighter capital controls to prop up its fragile financial system and the yuan’s international value…

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

Contents

On Topic Links

A Golden Opportunity: Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom, Dec. 30, 2018—The crowds of people waving Brazilian flags to welcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are just one reason for excitement. That President-elect Jair Bolsonaro bestowed Netanyahu – the first foreign leader to officially visit the country since Bolsonaro’s election – with his country’s highest honor is also just part of the story.

How the African-Israeli Rapprochement is About Poetic Justice: Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 2019—In the beginning the British had the Bible and the Africans had the land, said once Jomo Kenyatta, the father of modern Kenya. Then, he said, missionaries arrived, had the Africans close their eyes, and when they opened their eyes they saw the Africans had the Bible and the British had the land.

East Mediterranean Partnership Signals an Energy Revolution: Dr. Emmanuel Navon, JISS, Dec. 2, 2018—The announcement in November that Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy have agreed to build a natural gas pipeline (the longest in the world) from Israel’s offshore gas fields to Europe, clearly indicates that Israel has chosen the Greek option over the Turkish one.

The U.S. is Right to Worry About Co-Operation Between its Adversaries: Kori Schake, National Post, Nov. 15, 2018—President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy puts much greater emphasis on the return to great power competition than other American post-Cold War strategy documents.

 

 

DESPITE ISRAELI POLITICAL SHAKE-UP, BIBI REMAINS ON TOP AHEAD OF APRIL ELECTION

Announcement of Early Israeli Elections Leads to Political Frenzy: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Tundra Tabloids, Jan. 3, 2019— On December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided to disperse the Knesset.

Five Questions About Israel’s Political Musical Chairs: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Jan. 4, 2018— The old expression is that for every two Jews, there are three political opinions.

Why Should Israelis Vote if their Vote is Meaningless?: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018— In a recent conversation with a European ambassador, I asked about the possible consequences of the elections to the European parliament, which are scheduled to take place in May 2019.

A Crystal Ball on 2019: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2018 — The peril of predicting political and diplomatic developments has been made crystal clear over the past topsy-turvy week.

On Topic Links

Legendary Defender of Israel Passes Away: Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Jerusalem Online, Jan. 7, 2019

Labor’s Demise is Bad for Israeli Democracy: Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom, Jan. 3, 2019

Bibi’s Formidable Challenger: Jerusalem Online, Dec. 28, 2018

Why I am Running for Knesset with Shaked, Bennett: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2019

 

ANNOUNCEMENT OF EARLY ISRAELI

ELECTIONS LEADS TO POLITICAL FRENZY

Manfred Gerstenfeld

Tundra Tabloids, Jan. 3, 2018

On December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided to disperse the Knesset. They announced that elections for the 21st Knesset would be advanced from November 2019 to April 9, 2019. Two days later the Knesset approved this. It had been increasingly impossible for Netanyahu’s 61 MK coalition to function properly after the five member faction of the Israel is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) party decided to leave the coalition on 14 November 2018 preceded by the resignation of its leader Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defense.

Within a few days, a pandemonium of announcements and rumors followed. Former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz has founded a new party named Israel Resilience (Chosen L’Israel). Gantz’ detailed political views are unclear. He has said that he could be “right-wing on security issues, left-wing on socioeconomic issues and liberal on economic goals.” Recent polls give his new party between 13-15 seats.

It remains also unclear who the candidates of his party will be. A few names have been mentioned in the media. One of these, Brig. General Professor Yitshak Kreiss, a former IDF chief medical officer, now a senior director of the Sheba Medical Center, has denied that he will run for the Knesset. There are rumors that former Chief of Staff and former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will join Gantz’ list. Ya’alon who left the Likud and the Knesset has a clear right of center position on security issues. At this point it seems that Gantz’ list will run alone in the elections, though he is being courted by other parties to join forces.

One of the many rumors is that Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay had offered Gantz the top spot of his list in the upcoming elections and that he had turned this down. Gantz running with his own list alone will heavily affect the prospects of the There is a Future party (Yesh Atid), led by Yair Lapid. In earlier polls this party was considered the main opponent to Netanyahu’s Likud. Recent polls give it around the same 11 seats as it holds in the current Knesset.

When advanced elections were announced Gabbay declared that the choice for Prime Minister would be between Netanyahu and himself. Yet, all polls at the time indicated that if Gabbay were to head the Zionist Union list it would lose at least half of the 24 seats it received in the 2015 elections under the leadership of his predecessor, Yitzchak Herzog. On January 1, 2019, Gabbay suddenly announced that the Labor party would run alone in the elections. He thus disbanded the Zionist Union, a coalition with Tzipi Livni’s The Movement (Hatnua). He did so in an extremely humiliating way in Livni’s presence without consulting other Labor MKs.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett leader of the Jewish Home (Habayit HaYehudi) and its popular Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, decided to leave their party. They have called their new party the New Right, (Hayemin Hehadash). This party intends to be represented in the Knesset by both religious and non-religious members. Polls vary greatly on how many seats it will receive. The remaining Jewish Home party — now exclusively religious — may be at risk of not passing the 3.25% election threshold to enter the Knesset.

In the previous Knesset, the Kulanu party was the successful newcomer. It is led by Finance Minister Mosher Kahlon who split off from the Likud. Of Kulanu’s 10 current MK’s, four have announced that they have left it. One of these, retired General Yoav Galant, resigned as Minister of Housing and Construction. Netanyahu then named him as acting Aliyah and Integration Minister. Galant has announced that he will join the Likud. He may well be its only former general running in the next election. Another MK leaving the Kulanu party is the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Michael Oren. He was formerly ambassador to the United States. Kulanu is doing poorly in the polls and is expected to receive four to five seats.

Orly Levy-Abekasis, a long term Knesset member of the Israel is Our Home party was expelled from it in the outgoing Knesset. She has created her own party, called Bridge (Gesher). She has said that she intends to focus on socioeconomic issues. Polls indicate that this new party has a good chance to pass the election threshold. The splintering of parties on the right has led to a concern that some of the parties may not pass the election threshold and thus create a situation where many votes for the right may be lost. There are thus rumors that efforts will be made to lower the election threshold.

Due to this landscape of ongoing movement, polling results change from one day to the next, and have lost much of their meaning. As far as voters’ preference for the position of Prime Minister is concerned Netanyahu still leads the field, closely followed by Gantz.

All this is taking place against a background in which Attorney General Avichay Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision as to whether indict Netanyahu for corruption before the elections. A possible indictment before April 9 would bring with it accusations that the Attorney General is interfering in the elections.  From now on attention on the structures of parties are likely to decrease and information as well as rumors about possible candidate MKs will become more frequent. Matters will clarify partly at the beginning of February 2019 when several parties will hold primaries to determine their candidates for the elections.

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FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ISRAEL’S POLITICAL MUSICAL CHAIRS                                                   Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, Jan. 4, 2018

The old expression is that for every two Jews, there are three political opinions. In Israel, that cliché can be extended to also include four or five political parties. That’s never been truer than now as preparations for the Jewish state’s next Knesset elections in April have gotten underway. Israel’s proportional system for electing its parliament is responsible for the plethora of political parties. Based on pre-state ideas about the need for consensus and inclusion, the system has never produced a clear majority for any single party in Israel’s relatively short history.

That trend has been exacerbated in recent decades as each of the two major parties that have led most of the governing coalitions since Israel’s birth — Labor and Likud — have splintered with more ideological factions sprouting on the left and the right. In addition to that are sectarian parties representing the various religious sectors and Israeli Arabs. Centrist parties as an alternative to the left and right have been a regular feature of Israeli politics since 1977, when the desire for a non-ideological alternative to Labor resulted in the first Likud-led government headed by Menachem Begin. The centrists have followed a pattern of initial success, followed by collapse within one or two election cycles as these factions — often led by non-ideological former generals with little political experience — crashed and burned once they proved incapable of governing.

But the process of splintering has accelerated with parties on both ends of the spectrum imploding. On the left, the Zionist Union, which matched the remnants of Labor with supporters of veteran party-switcher Tzipi Livni, has broken up after Labor leader Avi Gabbay ditched Livni in a humiliating public smackdown. Meanwhile, ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who had grown tired of being chained to their more far-right religious and settler supporters, blew up their HaBayit HaYehudi party. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party is also coming apart. In the center, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is poised to be the bright new star of 2019. Keeping track of all of these competing egos isn’t easy, even for Israeli political junkies, let alone Americans. So for the sake of clarifying what’s at stake, I’ve come up with five key questions about what’s happening right now with Israeli politics. First, why are the parties on the right splitting?

The implosion of HaBayit HaYehudi, which had been the strongest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners, is a function of its leaders. The pair were forced out of the Likud by personal antagonism with Netanyahu, and profited from an awkward alliance with the rump of the old National Religious Party and other even more extreme personalities. But if Bennett is to ever achieve his ambition to succeed Netanyahu, he’s got to get back to the Likud. His goal is for his new party, which will attempt to bring together religious and secular voters, to do well enough to be part of the next government and then merge with Likud whenever Netanyahu falls.

Kahlon’s party is suffering the usual downturn new parties’ experience in their second go round. It will likely be diminished this time, as will Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which represents the interests of voters from the former Soviet Union. Even if some voters cast ballots for the smaller parties to keep Netanyahu honest, most voters on the right don’t want to diminish the Likud’s chances of winning the most seats and forming the next government.

Second, why are the parties of the left splitting? The problem on the left is that as long as Israeli politics is still dominated by security concerns, advocates for more concessions to the Palestinians will remain in the minority. That puts pragmatists like Livni, who wants to join forces with Gantz or Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid to defeat Netanyahu, at a distinct disadvantage. The left sees no reason to water down its message in pursuit of an illusory chance of power. Third, can the centrist and left-wing factions unite in order to stop Netanyahu? As things currently stand, the answer is no. In every poll, the parties currently in Netanyahu’s coalition are shown winning a majority in the next Knesset. And that’s ignoring the fact that some of the centrists like Gantz may wish to join the next government, rather than sulking in opposition with the left.

Fourth, is there a real alternative to Netanyahu? Not a chance. Lapid is currently the runner-up in the polls, but he trails Netanyahu by a huge margin. Yet even after more than five years in the Knesset, few consider the former television personality to have the gravitas to run the country or deal with security threats on multiple regional and global levels. Gantz is viewed positively because he is fresh out of the army, though like other generals before him, the shine on his reputation will quickly evaporate. No one takes Livni, Gabbay or anyone on the left seriously when they talk about replacing Netanyahu.

Fifth, who is Netanyahu’s real foe? The only person who can stop Netanyahu from continuing in office is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. If Mandelblit goes ahead with hearings to consider the recommendations of the police and the state prosecutor’s office to indict the prime minister on one or all three corruption charges currently pending against Netanyahu, it might lead to political chaos even if Netanyahu runs and wins the election. Armed with the public’s endorsement at the polls, the prime minister might stay in office while he fights the charges, but he will be severely diminished and would be unlikely to survive for long.

At that point, the lack of a natural successor in the Likud (Netanyahu chased away all potential successors like Bennett and Kahlon) will lead to another reshuffling of the political deck. But unless and until that happens, what American observers really need to know about Israeli politics is that Netanyahu is almost certainly going to win a fifth term as prime minister in April.

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WHY SHOULD ISRAELIS VOTE IF THEIR VOTE IS MEANINGLESS?

Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018

In a recent conversation with a European ambassador, I asked about the possible consequences of the elections to the European parliament, which are scheduled to take place in May 2019. According to current polls, rightist, pro-Israel parties from a host of EU member nations are projected to win the vote in May. I was curious about the impact the projected results may have on European Union policies towards Israel.

His answer was straightforward. “European parliamentary election results aren’t particularly significant,” he said with a shrug. “It’s true that pro-Israel rightist parties are expected to do very well. But their victories won’t impact the EU’s foreign policies or any of its substantive policies. All the substantive policy decisions are made by the European Commission in Brussels.”

“The European parliament doesn’t have influence over what happens in Brussels. Its decisions are basically declarative resolutions and opinions. They have no force of law,” he explained. Formally, the situation in Israel is quite different from the situation in the EU. Unlike the European parliament, the Knesset has the power to legislate laws. And the government, which is comprised mainly of members of Knesset, implements policies it was empowered to adopt by the mandate it received from the voters at the polls. But in practice, with each passing day, the situation in Israel is becoming more and more similar to the situation in the EU. Every day, Israel’s bureaucracy, led by the legal system, seizes more and more powers from the country’s elected leaders.

THIS WEEK, we received a glimpse of how this seizure of powers takes place behind closed doors, far from the eyes of the public. On Sunday, Jerusalem District Police commander Maj.-Gen. Yoram Halevy abruptly submitted his resignation to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Halevy was the likeliest candidate to serve as the next inspector general, after Erdan’s first choice, Police Maj.-Gen. Moshe Edri’s candidacy was rejected by the Appointments Committee run by former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg.

On Monday, Hadashot news reported that Halevy resigned following a meeting last week with attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit. Also in attendance at the fateful encounter were Erdan, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber. Halevy had been under the impression that Mandelblit would defend his appointment before the Goldberg Committee, and if necessary, before the Supreme Court. In his legal opinion regarding Halevy’s suitability for the job, Mandelblit concluded that there is no legal basis for preventing Halevy from serving as Police inspector general.

At the meeting, Mandelblit explained to Halevy that law was not the issue. Despite the absence of legal justification for rejecting his appointment, Mandelblit said he would not defend Halevy both before the Goldberg Committee and before the Supreme Court. What do you mean? Erdan and Halevy asked. How can you reject Halevy’s nomination when there are no legal grounds for doing so? Mandelblit’s reasoning should distress all Israelis who care about democracy.

MANY YEARS ago, Halevy committed a serious disciplinary infraction. An inspector general, Mandelblit argued, needs to be “as pure as the driven snow.” Halevy’s past infraction made him impure. So no dice. There is a legitimate debate to be had about the sort of character you would want in a police chief. On the one hand, you could argue that it is better to have a chief of police with a checkered past. The chief law enforcement officer is well served with some bad behavior in his rearview mirror. It makes him more likely to treat accused lawbreakers with humility.

An equally legitimate argument can be made for having a straight-as-an-arrow lawman fill the top spot in the police. If you want the law enforced without prejudice, hire a chief with unstinting respect for the law who cuts no corners with crooks. However you come down on the question of the suitable character for a police chief, the question itself has nothing to do with the law. Israeli law is devoid of any mention that the inspector general of police must be as “pure as the driven snow.” The issue of character is a normative matter, not a legal one…

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

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A CRYSTAL BALL ON 2019

David M. Weinberg                                

Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2018

The peril of predicting political and diplomatic developments has been made crystal clear over the past topsy-turvy week. Nevertheless, my forecasts of one year ago were accurate: that there would be no elections and no big wars in 2018. Can’t say the same for 2019.

Fate of Prime Minister Netanyahu: He will form his fifth coalition government after the April elections, with Benny Gantz as defense minister and Yaacov Litzman (again) as health minister. But the expected indictments against Netanyahu will sooner or later force him into a plea deal to leave politics and avoid jail. Which makes the current election somewhat of a temporary, counterfeit campaign. Everybody in the arena smells the big shakeup in Israeli politics coming just around the bend – a post-Netanyahu era. They are maneuvering for pole position for the next campaign, perhaps in 2020. That is why so many political parties are splintering and clustering in the search for the holy grail: something “new” for the ravenous Israeli voting public.

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett: Their “New Right” political party is merely a springboard to Likud leadership, say, in 2020. I believe that when Shaked runs in post-Netanyahu Likud primaries she will win the party leadership hands down – roundly defeating all likely contenders including Gideon Saar and Yisrael Katz.

The vaunted Israeli center: Expect more new political parties to pop-up over the next month, all promising “renaissance,” “togetherness,” “brotherhood,” “resilience,” “strength,” and fealty to “Jewish, Zionist and democratic values” along with commitment to fight “corruption” – but with no clear policies relating to economy, diplomacy and defense. These parties will boast carefully calibrated lists with candidates who supposedly bridge all divides: Ashkenazi and Sephardi, secular and religious, men and women, center and periphery, young and experienced (– with “experienced” being a code-word for vapid politicians with flip-flop multi-party records like Tzipi Livni); plus Arab, Bedouin, Circassian, Druze, Ethiopian, LGBTQ and even Haredi talent. This mode of synthetic and cynical politics reminds me of James Watt’s notorious quip that forced his resignation in 1983 from Ronald Reagan’s cabinet. Mocking affirmative action in composition of a government panel, Watt said: “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.”

Supreme Court over-interventionism: Court President Esther Hayut is getting ready to declare the Jewish Nation State Law “unconstitutional,” even though the law itself is meant to be a constitutional anchor and thus the court has no real jurisdiction. That is the meaning of her recent decision to hear petitions against the law before an expanded 11-justice panel. This is outrageous buttinsky behavior, making it even more necessary that the next Knesset pass a law allowing for override of out-of-bounds court decisions. The court also has been domineering and unhelpful about haredi draft exemptions, striking-down the Tal, Plesner and Shaked plans successively – which were intelligent political-societal compromises that could have worked. Unfortunately, there are no better arrangements in the offing, given the rigidity in haredi society and Israel’s convoluted coalition politics.

War in the north: Israel has conducted over 200 known strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and acted against Iranian-Shiite targets in Iraq, yet the Iranians seem to be digging-in for the long term and are further weaponizing Hezbollah with precision arms too. Therefore, a full-scale Israeli military operation to degrade enemy capabilities is just a question of time; perhaps this summer. “Operation Northern Shield” against Hezbollah’s attack tunnels was the warm-up act…

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

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On Topic Links

Legendary Defender of Israel Passes Away: Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Jerusalem Online, Jan. 7, 2019—Another of the fast-dwindling number of Israel’s “old guard” passed away today. Moshe Arens was 93-years-old when he died at his home on Savyon in central Israel.

Labor’s Demise is Bad for Israeli Democracy: Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom, Jan. 3, 2019—There are those who are filled with joy at the Labor party’s demise and the humiliation of Hatnuah Hatnuah party chief Tzipi Livni. I am not one of those people

Bibi’s Formidable Challenger: Jerusalem Online, Dec. 28, 2018— Benny Gantz, a former Israeli armed forces chief who according to recent polls is the runner-up to current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, formally established a political party on Thursday to join the 2019 election race.

Why I am Running for Knesset with Shaked, Bennett: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2019— When I was 12 years old, my family took our first trip outside the United States. We came to Israel on a two-week family tour. It was July 1982. The Lebanon War had just begun. In retrospect, it was the first step on what has become my lifelong Zionist journey.

MALGRÉ LA RECOMPOSITION POLITIQUE À GAUCHE COMME À DROITE, LE LIKUD RESTE HÉGÉMONIQUE

SONDAGE ÉLECTIONS 2019 : LE LIKOUD LARGEMENT EN TÊTE

Shmouel

Kountrass, 25 dec., 2018

Faut-il le préciser, les élections sont dans plus de trois mois et beaucoup de choses peuvent survenir pour brouiller les cartes d’ici là. Mais il était intéressant de savoir quelles sont les intentions de vote “à chaud” après l’annonce par le Premier ministre de la dissolution de la 20e Knesset et de la tenue d’élections anticipées pour le 9 avril prochain.

Le sondage publié mardi matin par Maariv a été réalisé par l’institut Panels Politics et donne les résultats suivants:

Likoud 30 (-)

Benny Gantz 13 (+13)

Yesh Atid 12 (+1)

Liste arabe unifiée 12 (-1)

Habayit Hayehoudi 11 (+3)

Camp Sioniste 9 (-15)

Yahadout Hatorah 7 (+1)

Meretz 6 (+1)

Koulanou 6 (-4)

Orly Lévy-Abecassis 6 (+6)

Israël Beiteinou 5 (-1)

Shass 4 (-3)

Quelques enseignements:

Le Likoud de Binyamin Netanyahou maintient le nombre de députés actuels, ce qui est exceptionnel pour un parti au pouvoir après quatre ans.

La coalition souhaitée par Binyamin Netanyahou après les élections – s’il les remporte – serait très large car il a déclaré lundi que la coalition actuelle devra être la base du futur gouvernement mais n’a pas exclu un élargissement vers le centre. Un ralliemement de Benny Gantz ou même du parti d’Orly Lévy-Abecassis pourrait permettre une coalition de près de 80 députés.

Avi Gabbaï, qui assurait lundi être le prochain Premier ministre réalise “l’exploit” de faire passer le Camp Sioniste sous la barre des 10 députés, un record historique négatif pour le Parti travailliste. Des tensions en prévision au sein du parti.

Le parti Shass dirigé par Arié Dery est menacé de disparition.

Sur le plan idéologique, la droite reste majoritaire avec 46 sièges, le centre (auquel on adjoint Benny Gantz et Orly Lévy-Abecassis) obtient 37 sièges, la gauche tombe à 15 sièges (27 avec les députés arabes) et les orthodoxes baissent légèrement à 11 sièges.

Le rêve éveillé d’Ehoud Barak, Avi Gabbaï et Tsipi Livni de créer un bloc alternatif ou même une minorité de blocage est pour le moment voué à l’échec.

 

BENNY GANTZ CRÉE UN NOUVEAU PARTI

À L’APPROCHE DES ÉLECTIONS D’AVRIL

Times of Israel, 27 dec., 2018

L’ancien chef d’Etat-major Benny Gantz a enregistré son nouveau parti politique, faisant officiellement son entrée en politique à l’approche des élections législatives anticipées, prévues pour avril 2019.

Le nom de son nouveau parti est Hossen LeYisrael, ce qui signifie Résilience pour Israël.

Un certain nombre de sondages placent Gantz à la seconde place, derrière le Likud de Benjamin Netanyahu, et même loin derrière dans la projection du nombre total de sièges.

Gantz, qui a été chef d’Etat-major entre 2011 et 2015, a maintenu un silence radio sur ses positions politiques.

« L’Etat d’Israël et la politique israélienne ont besoin de gens biens à la Knesset. Bienvenue et bonne chance », a écrit Yaïr Lapid, le chef de Yesh Atid, sur Twitter.

L’enregistrement du nouveau parti de Gantz a mis fin à d’intenses spéculations sur ses projets politiques en plein contexte de dissolution de la Knesset.

Un allié politique du Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu a déclaré jeudi que le parti au pouvoir, le Likud, ne croit pas que le nouveau parti de Benny Gantz, l’ancien chef d’état-major de Tsahal, puisse se faire élire au mois d’avril.

« Nous ne sommes pas inquiets au sujet de Benny Gantz. Il n’est même pas sur les radars de Netanyahu et selon les sondages [le Likud] obtient le double des sièges qui lui sont attribués », a déclaré le ministre de la Coopération régionale Tzachi Hanegbi à la radio israélienne.

La mère d’un soldat israélien dont le corps a été capturé par le Hamas lors de la guerre de Gaza en 2014 s’en est pris à Benny Gantz, l’ancien chef d’état-major de Tsahal après son entrée officielle sur la scène politique.

« J’ai entendu parler aujourd’hui d’un nouveau parti, « Hossen leYisrael ». Je vous demande, Benny Gantz, de quelle résilience parlez-vous, a déclaré Zehava Shaul lors d’une conférence de presse.

Mme Shaul a pris la parole à l’occasion du 25e anniversaire de son fils Oron Shaul, un fantassin de la brigade Golani qui a été tué pendant la guerre de 2014 et dont la dépouille est retenue par le Hamas.

« Vous avez dirigé Barrière Protectrice – qu’en avons-nous retiré ? », a demandé Zehava Shaul à Gantz en se référant à la guerre par son nom en Israël.

Elle a également critiqué Moshe Yaalon, qui était ministre de la Défense pendant la guerre. Il a annoncé cette semaine qu’il allait créer son propre parti pour les prochaines élections.

 

ISRAËL: LE NOUVEAU PARTI “NOUVELLE DROITE”

OBTIENDRAIT ENTRE 6 ET 14 SIÈGES (SONDAGE)

I24, 30 dec., 2018

Le nouveau parti “HaYamin HaHadash” (la Nouvelle droite) du ministre de l’Education Naftali Bennett et de la ministre de la Justice Ayelet Shaked, qui a été lancé samedi soir obtiendrait entre 6 et 14 sièges à la Knesset si des élections se tenaient aujourd’hui, et dépasserait le Foyer juif, dont il est issu, selon des sondages publiés dimanche.

Lors d’une conférence de presse à Tel Aviv, Bennett et Shaked ont annoncé samedi qu’ils quittaient le parti nationaliste religieux Foyer juif (HabaYit Hayehudi) pour créer un nouveau parti qui, selon eux, sera destiné à égalité à des électeurs religieux et non religieux “dans un vrai partenariat” et qu’ils dirigeront conjointement.

Le “Foyer juif”, un parti sioniste religieux créé en 2013, qui compte 8 députés sur 120 à la Knesset et stagne dans les sondages, n’a jamais réussi à atteindre le but que son chef Naftali Bennett, membre de la mouvance sioniste religieuse, s’était fixé au départ d’attirer un public non religieux.

Un sondage publié par Hadashot TV dimanche soir attribue six sièges au nouveau parti, tandis que selon Channel 10, il en obtiendrait huit. Enfin, un sondage réalisé par le diffuseur public Kan prévoit qu’il remporterait 14 des 120 sièges parlementaires aux prochaines élections.

Selon les analystes, les dirigeants de ce nouveau parti tentent de présenter une nouvelle option de droite, non religieuse, afin d’attirer des électeurs du centre droit.

Naftali Bennett a en effet laissé entendre que les électeurs sionistes religieux, base électorale du Foyer juif, ne pourraient pas faire progresser électoralement le parti, en raison de l’allégeance d’un grand nombre d’entre eux au Likoud de M. Netanyahou.

Si Bennett a été officiellement désigné président du parti lors de son inscription auprès du Comité central des élections, le logo de la Nouvelle droite qui a été dévoilé dimanche indique les noms des deux dirigeants, Shaked étant même placée devant Bennett.

Selon le sondage de Walla, le parti au pouvoir, le Likoud de Benyamin Netanyahou, obtiendrait 28 sièges, soit deux de moins que ce qu’il détient aujourd’hui.

L’enquête indique que la Nouvelle droite siphonnerait surtout des électeurs chez le nouveau parti de l’ancien chef d’état-major Benny Gantz, “Résilience pour Israël” qui passe de 14 sièges dans un sondage précédent à 11 sièges.

Selon Walla, le parti de Benny Gantz pourrait par ailleurs fusionné avec un nouveau parti annoncé par un autre ancien chef d’état-major et ex-ministre de la Défense, Moshe Ya’alon.

Par ailleurs, l’enquête montre que le principal parti d’opposition, l’Union sioniste, alliance politique entre le parti travailliste (gauche) et le part Kadima (centre) chuterait de 24 à 9 sièges, tandis que le deuxième parti d’opposition, Yesh Atid, obtiendrait 15 sièges, contre 11 actuellement.

Dans l’ensemble, la création de la Nouvelle droite ne renforcerait pas spécialement le bloc de droite, qui obtiendrait 62 sièges, soit une baisse par rapport à un sondage précédent, selon Walla.

 

 

UNION SIONISTE :

GABBAY MET BRUSQUEMENT FIN À SON PARTENARIAT AVEC LIVNI

Times of Israel, 1 jan, 2019

Dans le cadre du dernier rebondissement visant à secouer la scène politique israélienne au début de la campagne électorale d’avril, le président de l’Union sioniste, Avi Gabbay, a annoncé par surprise mardi la fin de son partenariat avec Tzipi Livni, présidente de Hatnua, et que les deux ne se représenteraient plus ensemble.

Au grand choc des 24 députés de son parti, et de Livni elle-même, lors d’une réunion de faction à la Knesset, Gabbay a déclaré qu’il avait « espéré et cru que le nouveau partenariat conduirait à notre croissance commune, à une véritable connexion et à un soutien mutuel. Mais le public intelligent a vu que ce n’est pas le cas, et il est parti. »

Cette décision fait suite à l’appel lancé la semaine dernière par Livni aux partis centristes et de gauche du pays pour qu’ils « mettent leurs ego de côté » et s’unissent en vue de renverser le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu. Dans une pique apparente à Gabbay, qui aurait refusé d’envisager une union avec un autre parti dans lequel il n’était pas numéro un, elle a dit qu’elle serait la première à renoncer à sa place de choix sur une nouvelle liste unifiée.

Depuis, la rumeur court qu’elle cherche à s’associer au nouveau parti politique Hossen LeYisrael, fondé par l’ancien chef d’état-major de Tsahal Benny Gantz.

Gabbay a souligné mardi qu’il voulait lui aussi former un front uni contre Netanyahu, mais qu’il ne pouvait pas continuer à travailler avec Livni et a remis en question sa « loyauté » par rapport à sa conduite.

« Je crois toujours à la coopération, à l’union des forces et à l’unification d’un grand camp engagé dans le changement, mais le succès des pactes exige l’amitié, l’accord et la loyauté envers la voie choisie », a-t-il dit, avec une Livni abasourdie assise à ses côtés.

« Cela n’existe pas dans ce partenariat », a-t-il accusé, refusant d’établir un contact visuel avec la chef de Hatnua.

Lors de sa rencontre avec ses députés de l’Union sioniste après l’annonce choc, Gabbay a continué à dénigrer Livni, selon des sources du parti. « Je n’ai eu que des merdes avec elle. Je l’ai laissée diriger l’opposition, et elle n’avait rien de positif à dire à mon sujet », ont déclaré les sources aux médias israéliens.

Il leur a également dit que « l’union sioniste est finie », et que le parti reprendrait son nom de parti travailliste (Avodah).

Les députés de l’Union sioniste ont répondu férocement à Gabbay, a indiqué une source du parti au Times of Israel, lui reprochant de ne pas avoir discuté de la décision avec eux en premier.

« Ce n’est pas seulement sa décision. Il aurait dû nous le dire « , ont-ils dit. « Cela a été fait de la manière la plus agressive possible tout en nous laissant dans l’ignorance. »

Livni, qui devait prendre la parole après Gabbay mais n’était pas au courant de son annonce, a dit qu’elle ne répondrait pas avant d’avoir « pris sa décision ».

En réponse à l’annonce plus tard sur Twitter, Mme Livni s’est déclarée heureuse que « les doutes aient été dissipés et que nous – tous ceux qui croient vraiment en la réalisation d’un véritable changement lors des prochaines élections – puissions nous concentrer sur le défi national important auquel nous sommes confrontés ».

Mme Livni a affirmé, lors d’une conférence de presse mardi après-midi, avoir été surprise par l’annonce de M. Gabbay et a rejeté les accusations de ce dernier sur son manque de loyauté.

« Gabbay a eu raison sur un point, il n’y a jamais eu de partenariat réel entre nous car il n’en a jamais voulu », a-t-elle accusé.

« Ce qui est vraiment important c’est de se concentrer sur les élections et le combat pour le sionisme, pas sur la dissolution (du parti) Union sioniste », a ajouté Mme Livni.

Le Parlement israélien a voté en faveur de sa dissolution, provoquant des élections anticipées fixées au 9 avril.

Dans un communiqué de son parti, Benjamin Netanyahu a rappelé : « Je n’interviens pas dans le partage des voix au sein de la gauche ».

« Ce qui compte pour moi est que la droite forme le prochain gouvernement et pour cela, il faut voter pour le Likud », a-t-il ajouté.

Ce coup de théâtre n’est pas le premier de la campagne électorale. D’autres pourraient encore survenir d’ici au scrutin.

Samedi, deux ministres du parti national religieux HaBayit HaYehudi, Naftali Bennett et Ayelet Shaked, ont annoncé la création d’un nouveau parti ouvert à l’électorat non religieux.

La semaine précédente, l’ancien chef d’état-major Benny Gantz, dont les opinions politiques n’ont pas encore été dévoilées, a annoncé la création de son propre parti.

 

Actualité  

 

PREMIÈRE VISITE OFFICIELLE D’UN

DIRIGEANT ISRAÉLIEN AU BRÉSIL

I24, 28 dec., 2018

Le Premier ministre israélien Benyamin Netanyahou est arrivé vendredi à Rio de Janeiro pour une visite de cinq jours au Brésil, dont le point d’orgue sera l’investiture du président élu d’extrême droite Jair Bolsonaro, le 1er janvier.

“Le Brésil est un immense pays, avec un énorme potentiel pour Israël du point de vue de l’économie, de la diplomatie et de la sécurité”, a déclaré M. Netanyahou à des journalistes lors de son vol vers Rio.

“Nous sommes heureux d’entamer une nouvelle ère (pour les relations) entre Israël et cette grande puissance qu’est le Brésil”, a-t-il ajouté.

  1. Netanyahou a été accueilli à l’aéroport par le fils de Jair Bolsonaro, avant de retrouver le président élu pour déjeuner dans un fort militaire de la célèbre plage de Copacabana.

“C’est une visite historique”, a déclaré Eduardo Bolsonaro.

  1. Netanyahou a également laissé entendre qu’il comptait réclamer au président élu une annonce officielle concernant le transfert de l’ambassade du Brésil en Israël de Tel Aviv à Jerusalem, comme les Etats-Unis l’ont fait en mai.

Jair Bolsonaro avait déclaré début novembre vouloir suivre les traces du président américain Donald Trump, avant de rétropédaler quelques jours plus tard, affirmant que ce transfert “n’avait pas encore été décidé”.

Le Premier ministre israélien sera l’un des principaux leaders mondiaux présents lors de l’investiture lundi, aux côtés du président chilien Sebastian Pinera ou du Premier ministre hongrois Viktor Orban.

Donald Trump, dont Jair Bolsonaro est un fervent admirateur, ne fera pas le déplacement, mais va envoyer son Secrétaire d’Etat Mike Pompeo, qui doit s’entretenir avec M. Netanyahou le 1er janvier, à Brasilia.

Cette rencontre devrait porter sur la décision de Washington de retirer les 2.000 soldats américains déployés en Syrie.

  1. Netanyahou aura également des entretiens avec les présidents du Chili et du Honduras, ainsi qu’avec des membres de la communauté juive brésilienne et un groupe chrétien pro-israélien.

Les échanges actuels entre Israël et le Brésil s’élèvent à 1,2 milliard de dollars, soit un milliard d’euros. Jair Bolsonaro a notamment annoncé mardi des négociations sur l’utilisation de technologies israéliennes pour la production d’eau dans le nord-est du pays, frappé par de longs épisodes de sécheresse.

 

“AMOS OZ ÉTAIT L’UN DES PLUS GRANDS

ÉCRIVAINS DE L’ÉTAT D’ISRAËL”

JForum, 31 dec., 2018

Le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahou a exprimé sa peine en apprenant la mort du célèbre écrivain, ajoutant : “Oz a exprimé avec talent et émotion d’importants aspects de l’expérience israélienne”.

Amos Oz, l’auteur le plus célèbre et reconnu internationalement d’Israël, est décédé vendredi à l’âge de 79 ans des suites d’un cancer.

Le président Reuven Rivlin et son épouse Nehama ont exprimé leur chagrin, après la mort d’Oz : “Une histoire d’amour et de lumière et maintenant, de grandes ténèbres. La tristesse s’abat sur nous au moment du chabbat. Un géant littéraire. La gloire de nos créateurs. Un titan spirituel. Repose en paix, notre cher Amos. “

Le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu a repris à son compte les sentiments de Rivlin et de sa femme: “Amos Oz était l’un des plus grands écrivains de l’Etat d’Israël. Il a contribué au renouvellement de la littérature hébraïque, à travers laquelle il a exprimé avec talent et émotion des aspects importants de l’expérience israélienne.

“Malgré le fait que nous ne nous soyons pas toujours entendus, j’ai profondément apprécié sa contribution à la langue et à la littérature hébraïques. Ses paroles et son écriture continueront de nous accompagner pendant de nombreuses années. Que sa mémoire soit une bénédiction”, a déclaré Netanyahu.

Le président de Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, a tweeté “Amos Oz a écrit:” Il est permis de toucher, de bouger, de se rapprocher, de changer, de laisser une trace. Touchez la pierre, touchez ce qui est vivant, touchez les gens. ‘ Oz a réussi à le faire et nous a tous touchés. “

L’écrivain AB Yehoshua, ami intime du célèbre auteur, a déclaré : “Je viens de quitter l’hôpital après lui avoir dit au revoir. Notre amitié de 60 ans était profonde et authentique. Au fil des ans, Amos a exprimé ses opinions et ses réflexions, mais pas parce qu’il cherchait à s’opposer à quelque chose, mais parce que c’était sa vérité. C’était un honnête homme et un grand auteur. C’était un bon ami et l’un des plus grands hommes qu’Israël ait connu. “

Oz a consacré une grande partie de sa vie à l’activité publique et appartenu à la gauche sioniste. L’ancien président du Meretz et ami proche d’Oz a déclaré : “Nous nous séparons d’un grand auteur et d’un intellectuel, qui avait la capacité d’exprimer avec précision la vision de générations entières qui avaient un amour infini pour ce pays, tout en suscitant des critiques et aspirer à un Israël meilleur et plus juste. “

La ministre de la Culture et des Sports, Miri Regev, a également rendu hommage au regretté écrivain. “J’ai été désolée d’apprendre le décès du lauréat du prix Israël, Amos Oz, qui avait remporté des dizaines de prix littéraires en Israël et à l’étranger pour ses œuvres qui ont inspiré des générations entières”.

“Vos créations continueront de retentir à la fois en Israël et dans le monde entier. Vous pouvez reposer en paix, notre esprit courageux (Oz en hébreu)”, a ajouté Regev.

 

LE GRAND RÉSISTANT JUIF GEORGES

LOINGER EST DÉCÉDÉ À L’ÂGE DE 108 ANS

RFI, 30 dec., 2018

Le grand résistant juif Georges Loinger, qui avait sauvé des centaines d’enfants juifs pendant l’Occupation en France et a été associé à l’épopée de l’Exodus, est décédé vendredi à l’âge de 108 ans, a annoncé ce samedi 29 décembre la Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah sur son site.

« Ancien résistant durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Georges Loinger nous a quittés vendredi 28 décembre à l’âge de 108 ans. Avec lui s’éteint un homme d’exception dont les combats resteront dans les mémoires », écrit la Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah dans un communiqué.

Georges Loinger est né à Strasbourg en août 1910 dans une famille juive orthodoxe. En 1940, alors qu’il est prisonnier de guerre en Bavière, il reçoit une lettre de son épouse qui dirige une maison abritant 125 enfants juifs allemands, dont les parents avaient été arrêtés en 1938 en Allemagne. Il s’évade et rejoint La Bourboule (Puy-de-Dôme) en zone libre où elle s’est repliée avec les enfants.

Comme ils risquent d’être arrêtés, le couple les sauve en les dispersant, d’abord dans des maisons de l’Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) puis dans des familles ou institutions chrétiennes ou laïques. Par la suite, Georges Loinger fera passer quelque 350 enfants juifs en Suisse, via Annemasse. Certains convois connaîtront des fins tragiques.

Après la guerre, il œuvrera pour faciliter le passage des rescapés du nazisme en Palestine et jouera un grand rôle dans l’affaire de l’Exodus lorsqu’il fera escale en France.

Celui qui était le doyen de la Résistance juive en France a aussi participé à la création de « la Fraternité d’Abraham » qui prône le rapprochement des trois religions monothéistes.

Interrogé en 2005, alors qu’il recevait les insignes de commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, il avait répondu qu’il estimait avoir fait simplement « ce qu’il avait à faire ». Il a écrit plusieurs livres racontant son expérience, notamment : Les Résistances juives pendant l’occupation; L’odyssée d’un résistant : témoignage d’un centenaire, enfant d’Alsace.

Nous vous souhaitons Shabbat Shalom!

U.S. SYRIA WITHDRAWAL COULD CREATE IRAN- & I.S.-FILLED SECURITY VACUUM

In Syria, Iran Sees a New Opportunity to Build a War Machine: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Dec. 31, 2018— If it goes ahead, Iran likely will view President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from eastern Syria as a green light to build a new war machine in the region.

Let’s Make Sure ISIS Fighters Stay Locked Up – Even After Our Syria Pullout: Marc Thiessen, New York Post, Dec. 28, 2018— President Trump’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Syria is already having unintended consequences.

The US Withdrawal from Syria: A Blessing in Disguise?: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Dec. 30, 2018— The Oslo process took place under unique global circumstances.

America’s Loyal Syrian Kurdish Allies Evade Annihilation: Malcolm Lowe, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2018— In April 2018, we warned that President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria would be a repetition of President Obama’s worst mistake, the precipitate withdrawal from Iraq that facilitated the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State (ISIS).

On Topic Links

The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria: Implications for Israel (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Jan. 1, 2019

Donald Trump is Right to Pull U.S. Troops out of Syria: Andrew Preston, Globe and Mail, Dec. 31, 2018

Syria’s Kurds, Feeling Betrayed by the U.S., Ask Assad Government for Protection: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, Dec. 28, 2018

House of Assad: Inside Syria’s Dangerous Dynasty: Nick Green, Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2018

 

IN SYRIA, IRAN SEES A NEW

OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD A WAR MACHINE

Yaakov Lappin

IPT News, Dec. 31, 2018

If it goes ahead, Iran likely will view President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from eastern Syria as a green light to build a new war machine in the region. But Iran also received a red light recently, apparently reminding it that Israel is standing guard against Tehran’s takeover plans. That red light came Dec. 25 in the form of an alleged Israeli air strike on an Iranian weapons depot in Syria. The strike looks like the latest signal of Israel’s determination to block Iran’s path into Syria, with or without an American ground presence.

According to media reports, including a report by the Israeli satellite image company ISI, the strike destroyed a warehouse that contained Iranian Fajr-5 rockets. The warehouse was just 40 kilometers – about 25 miles – away from Israel. Israel’s military says Fajr 5 rockets are produced in Iranian weapons factories and have a range of 75 kilometers, or just under 50 miles. In past years, Iran smuggled these types of rockets to terrorist organizations that are ideologically committed to attacking Israel, including Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Now, Iran is trying to flood Syria with them.

So far, the Fajr 5s that have been in the inventory of Israel’s enemies were unguided rockets. That does not stop them from posing a serious threat. Hamas fired a Fajr 5 rocket in November 2012 in the midst of an eight-day conflict, severely damaging an apartment building in Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv. Residents survived due to an air raid siren, which sent them scurrying into a safe room before the rocket struck. In February 2017, reports emerged saying that Iran’s defense industry has begun manufacturing a new, guided version of the Fajr 5. These can be fired quickly and in succession from a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS). The arrival of such weapons would present terrorists in Syria seeking to attack Israel with new precision abilities.

It remains unclear whether the Fajr 5 rockets destroyed in the alleged Israeli strike were guided, but Israel has drawn a clear red line that forbids the arrival of Iranian guided projectiles in the area. Once in Syria, precision weapons can be given to Shi’ite militias under Iran’s command, or be used by Iranian military forces themselves, which are operating on Syrian soil. That’s what happened last May, when Islamic Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) used a truck-mounted rocket launcher to fire on the Golan Heights. In other cases, batches of Iranian weapons that have made their way into Syria are subsequently smuggled into neighboring Lebanon, where Hizballah has built up one of the world’s largest arsenals of surface-to-surface projectiles. Hizballah’s estimated 130,000 rockets and missiles are pointed at Israeli cities, power plants, ports, airports, and military installations.

Thus, Iran has already turned Lebanon into a forward military post against Israel. Its goal now is to do the same in Syria. Although the U.S. forces stationed in Syria are there exclusively to combat Salafi-jihadist Sunni ISIS terrorists, their presence in the strategically important Al-Tanf region, on the Syria-Iraq border, also helps block the expansion of the radical Iranian-Shi’ite axis. The U.S. presence has helped stop Iran from trying to use the Al-Tanf border crossing as a gateway for land convoys carrying Iranian weapons and Shi’ite militias, from Iraq into Syria. The Al-Tanf border area is one of two ground corridors that Iran is hoping to use in its Syrian expansion project.

The second main land ‘entrance’ to Syria is located further north, at the Albu Kamal border crossing. This area has been the scene of repeated Iranian and Hizballah-controlled traffic of militias and weapons. But this site also drew at least one major alleged Israeli strike in June, resulting in dozens of casualties, including Iranian military officers and Iraqi Shi’ite militia members. Currently, Israel and Iran remain locked in a shadow war over Syria’s future. Israel is employing preventative force to stop Iran from converting Syria into second front, alongside Lebanon. Tehran’s takeover efforts are being led by the IRGC, which acts as the ‘long arm’ of Iran across the region, particularly through the overseas expeditionary elite unit, the Quds Force, commanded by the notorious General Qassem Soleimani.

With Israel ‘covering’ the northern Albu Kamal crossing, the U.S. had been ‘covering’ the southern Al-Tanf crossing, meaning that Iran’s ground expansion scheme had run into some difficulties. Iran was forced to rely on its more traditional trafficking method – cargo flights – though this too had become increasingly difficult, with Israel monitoring suspicious flights around the clock, and reportedly taking action when intelligence called for it…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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LET’S MAKE SURE ISIS FIGHTERS STAY LOCKED UP –

EVEN AFTER OUR SYRIA PULLOUT                                                              

Marc Thiessen

New York Post, Dec. 28, 2018

President Trump’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Syria is already having unintended consequences. The American departure could lead to the release of 1,100 Islamic State fighters now held in ­detention camps in northeastern Syria, creating a dangerous new terrorist threat to the West.

The Syrian Democratic Forces — the Kurdish and Arab proxy forces whom the US armed and trained to fight the Islamic State — don’t have the capacity to guard and feed so many terrorists without American support. And The Washington Post reports that their home countries “are refusing to repatriate their citizens, citing the risk that they would spread radical ideology or perhaps carry out attacks back home.” If Washington abandons the SDF, the group might have no choice but to release the Islamists.

How much damage could these terrorists cause? To put it in perspective, the Islamic State had only about 700 fighters left when President Barack Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq in 2011 — yet from that tiny nucleus, the group grew into the world’s largest, most powerful terrorist network, until Trump unleashed our military to beat the fanatics back. Now imagine what destruction 1,100 terrorists could wreak across the globe. The Islamic State detainees hail from 32 countries, including many believed to be from Europe. As a Syrian Kurdish foreign affairs official noted, the US withdrawal would create “a security vacuum that these criminals could exploit to escape and pose a danger to all of us,” adding that “they could make their way back to their home countries and carry out bombings.”

The optimal solution would be for Trump to reconsider his withdrawal plan so that we can keep these detainees in Syria under the watchful eye of US intelligence and Special Operations forces. But there is also another possible solution — one that would help the president keep another campaign promise: Send them to Guantanamo Bay. In January, Trump issued an executive order that authorized the US military and intelligence community to “transport additional detainees to US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay when lawful and necessary to protect the Nation.”

During his State of the Union address, Trump asked Congress “to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda, we continue to have all the necessary power to detain terrorists. . . . And in many cases for them it will now be Guantanamo Bay.” In March, Congress responded by approving more than $200 million in new construction for Guantanamo Bay as part of the omnibus spending bill. The Pentagon followed up by formally authorizing the station to receive new detainees who pose a “continuing, significant threat.”

There is little doubt that a number of the Islamic State fighters now held in Syria would make excellent candidates for detention at Guantanamo Bay. Trump should order the intelligence community to conduct a threat assessment for each of the detainees, to see which ones would qualify for transfer. No doubt, a decision to move some of the prisoners from Syria to Guantanamo would create an ­uproar in Europe. These would be the very same countries currently refusing to take custody of their citizens who went to fight for the Islamic State.

Trump should give any complaining countries an ultimatum: Either take your nationals back, or they are headed to Guantanamo. Transfer to Guantanamo is a less than optimal solution, because right now high-value detainees held on the battlefield in Syria don’t have access to lawyers and can’t challenge their detentions in court — which means they can be effectively interrogated for intelligence purposes. But once transferred to Guantanamo, they would immediately get lawyers and the right of habeas corpus — which dramatically ­reduces their intelligence value.

Instead of transferring these terrorists, we should keep them where they are — and continue supporting the SDF until the estimated 30,000 Islamic State fighters still at large in Iraq or Syria are all killed or captured. The Islamic State is not defeated — not even by a long shot. But this much is clear: We can’t allow more than a thousand dangerous terrorists to be released into the world so that they can return to the fight.

 

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THE US WITHDRAWAL FROM SYRIA: A BLESSING IN DISGUISE?

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

BESA, Dec. 30, 2018

The Oslo process took place under unique global circumstances. The Soviet Union had just collapsed and the Cold War had come to an abrupt end with the West’s clear victory. The US became “the only remaining superpower” and the “End of History” loomed over the horizon.

Since then, far-reaching changes have taken place. Russia has reemerged as a major global force and has reassumed its great-power status through direct military interventions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria. The US, by contrast, has substantially reduced its global involvement over the past decade and has lost its hegemonic position in the Middle East. In this respect, President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is but the continuation of the disengagement policy begun by his immediate predecessor. It is arguable, of course, that the withdrawal casts serious doubt on the credibility of the US as a strategic ally. Yet for all its attendant flaws, this step gives Israel a chance to reconsider its longstanding belief in seemingly unshakable US backing.

For quite some time, the Jewish state has found itself in a strategic quandary. On the one hand, the more omnipotent the American image, the stronger Israel’s reputation as a major military and political player. On the other hand, the widespread belief in Washington’s ostensible ability to guarantee any Arab-Israeli peace agreement has placed Jerusalem under constant pressure to take the risks associated with withdrawal from areas vital to its national security. Thus, for example, by way of paving the way for the IDF’s total withdrawal from the West Bank as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the Obama administration proposed a complex security package that substituted the deployment of US forces in the Jordan Valley for Israel’s longstanding demand for defensible borders (accepted by Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967).

But to what extent can foreign military forces operating in a wholly alien environment provide an adequate substitute for the IDF in enforcing the West Bank’s demilitarization? Judging by the experience of international forces in the Middle East in recent decades, the answer is far from satisfactory. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border since 1978, for example, has miserably failed to prevent the transformation of the area under its jurisdiction into an unreconstructed terrorist entity – first by the PLO (until 1982), then by successive Shiite terrorist organizations. As starkly demonstrated by the recent exposure of Hezbollah’s attack tunnels penetrating Israel’s territory, UNIFIL has totally failed to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 11, 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, which stipulated the disbanding of all armed militias in Lebanon and prohibited arms supplies to any group without government authorization, as well as the presence of armed forces south of the Litani River. Nor does the West’s experience in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decades inspire much confidence in the ability of external powers to cope effectively with sustained subversive, terrorist, and jihadist insurgencies.

These operational constraints notwithstanding, the idea of international supervision suffers from an inherent political-constitutional flaw, namely its total dependence on the consent of the host government, which can demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from its territory (as happened with the removal of UN forces from Egypt in May 1967). To this must be added the numerous instances where international supervisory and/or intervention forces were withdrawn from countries they were supposed to protect as a result of unilateral decisions by the sending governments: from the evacuation of the American-French-British-Italian force from Lebanon following Hezbollah’s bombing of its Beirut headquarters in October 1983, to the hasty withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011 with the attendant rise of ISIS and its takeover of large swaths of Iraq and Syria, to President Trump’s latest decision.

According to Israeli security experts, the US withdrawal has left Israel alone in the battle against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. True enough, but this setback can potentially entail an important silver lining. For the sooner Israel recognizes the precariousness of a regional “Pax Americana,” the sooner it will grasp the futility of “painful territorial concessions” in the West Bank, let alone on the Golan Heights.

What Israel needs most from the US at the present time is political and diplomatic backing in support of its vital national interests, primarily 1) support for its continued hold of the Golan as a vital condition for its defense; and 2) cessation of pressure for further territorial withdrawals in the West Bank. With luck, Trump’s Syria turnaround might catalyze a shift in US regional strategy in this direction.

 

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AMERICA’S LOYAL SYRIAN KURDISH ALLIES EVADE ANNIHILATION

Malcolm Lowe                                          

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2018

In April 2018, we warned that President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria would be a repetition of President Obama’s worst mistake, the precipitate withdrawal from Iraq that facilitated the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State (ISIS). We perceived that the immediate consequence of abandoning Syria would be a Turkish-led campaign to annihilate America’s Syrian Kurdish allies, who heroically bore the brunt of defeating the ISIS in Syria and capturing its capital, Raqqa.

The conclusion drawn was that the Syrian Kurds would have no choice but to appeal to Iran for help. For it was only Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman who had protested vehemently against the Turkish-facilitated capture of Afrin, a Kurdish town in northwest Syria, in March by an Islamist militia. In the meantime, Turkey has sent many thousands of Kurds fleeing, who have been replaced with “displaced Syrian Arabs from East Ghouta.” The Islamist militia has subjected Christians to Sharia-style dhimmitude and forced Yazidis to convert to Islam on pain of death. Amnesty International has also reported on rampant offences against property and individuals; it mentions the thousands of refugees who have fled from Afrin.

In these recent December days, the scenario then foreseen has been playing itself out rapidly. On December 14, in a telephone conversation with Turkey’s President Erdogan, President Trump not merely made a final decision to remove US forces from Syria but invited Erdogan to replace them with Turkish forces. The invitation has terrified not just the Syrian Kurds but also other militias in the Syrian Democratic Forces that fight alongside them against ISIS. An example is the Syriac Military Council, a Christian militia that has issued its own appeal to Trump to reconsider: “The outcome of the invasion of Afrin makes visible what will happen to us. Churches will be destroyed. Christians and Yazidis, designated ‘infidels’ by Turkey’s mercenaries, will be killed and massacred … Women of all ethnicities, now free, will be raped, enslaved and veiled.”

Trump overruled the objections of all his advisors, generals and supporters in Congress, assuring them that Erdogan had promised to deal with any remnants of ISIS in the area. Apparently, Trump is the only person among them all who ignored — or maybe does not even understand — that Erdogan had eagerly accepted Trump’s invitation not on account of ISIS but in order to inflict his Afrin operation upon the entire population of America’s loyal allies in Syria. The prospect of such a US withdrawal from Syria — and such a betrayal — has even provoked articles with almost the same title as ours, such as Mark A. Thiessen in the Washington Post and Boston Herald on December 23: “Trump repeating Obama’s mistake in the Middle East.” Search for those words on internet and you will now find others coming to the same conclusion.

Events rolled on with Trump’s unannounced arrival at a US base in Iraq on December 26. Trump declined to meet first in Baghdad with Adil Abdul Mahdi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, but invited Mahdi to join him at the base. Apparently, Trump did not realize that he had humiliated Abdul Mahdi, as if the latter were a lackey at his beck and call.

There were furious protests in the Iraqi Council of Representatives (the parliament), both from the Iran-friendly Bina Bloc – with calls for the expulsion of US forces — and from the more independent-minded Islah Bloc. The two blocs command respectively 73 and 126 seats in the 329-seat Council, thus a decisive majority. They had come together to ratify the appointment of Abdul Mahdi in October. The parliamentary leader of Islah, Sabbah al-Saadi, called for an emergency session of the Council “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: the US occupation of Iraq is over.” Oblivious, possibly, that he was far from welcome in Iraq, Trump told US military personnel that — as he was planning to keep them in Iraq – there was no problem in abandoning Syria: “If we see something happening with ISIS [in Syria] that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard they really won’t know what the hell happened. We’ve knocked them silly.”

Strategic wisdom would dictate the opposite. In December 2017, the then Iraqi government led by Haider al-Abadi declared ISIS defeated in Iraq. The remaining pockets of ISIS fighters are not seen by Iraqis as a serious threat. They are smaller than in Syria, while Iraq’s army is now battle-hardened and will not repeat its disgraceful flight from Mosul upon the arrival of ISIS fighters in June 2014. Also, although the mainly Shiite militias that fought fiercely alongside the army have now been largely disbanded, they could be remobilized at any time. In eastern Syria, by contrast, the local Kurdish and Arab population begged the Americans to stay and help them defend themselves. The remnants of ISIS are substantial. The area also contains most of Syria’s oilfields, the only major source of income left undamaged by the civil war, so a presence there would give the US a powerful card to play in determining the country’s post-war future.

It would be strategic wisdom, therefore, to maintain the small US presence in Syria (about 2,000 personnel) while reducing the US profile in Iraq in order to forestall a looming demand by the Iraqi parliament for a total US withdrawal. Now it is probably too late because the Syrian Kurds have decided to abandon the US before the US abandons them. It seems that US forces will leave Syria not on American and Turkish terms but on Russian and Iranian terms. For months, Turkey has been planning to repeat its Afrin operation in Manbij, a Kurdish town further east, where Erdogan was deterred only by the US and French forces stationed inside the town. In recent weeks, thousands of Turkish-backed Islamists gathered for this purpose. Two days after Trump’s confident address to US forces in Iraq, the Kurds of Manbij invited the Syrian army to deploy west and north of the town in a protective shield on December 28….

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

Contents

 

On Topic Links

The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria: Implications for Israel (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Jan. 1, 2019—There are two basic approaches for understanding the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria for Israel.

Donald Trump is Right to Pull U.S. Troops out of Syria: Andrew Preston, Globe and Mail, Dec. 31, 2018—On Dec. 19, Mr. Trump abruptly announced he would be withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria, where they have been fighting a slow-burning but intense war against the Islamic State.

Syria’s Kurds, Feeling Betrayed by the U.S., Ask Assad Government for Protection: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, Dec. 28, 2018—Feeling betrayed by the United States, its Kurdish allies in Syria asked the Syrian government on Friday to protect them from possible attack by Turkey.

House of Assad: Inside Syria’s Dangerous Dynasty: Nick Green, Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2018—Many have wondered how Bashar al Assad and his British born wife, Asma, a couple once heralded as the force to modernise the Middle East, ended up running a regime accused of war crimes.