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IDF Raids Seek an American and Two Israelis Allegedly Abducted by Hamas

Saturday night, the IDF and Shin Bet arrested more than 80 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad activists in Hebron in the disputed territories. This is in connection with the abduction of three youths, one American and two Israelis. The IDF has committed a paratroop brigade to the operation sealing off the area of the abduction. The IDF and Israel’s General Security Service (Shin Bet) launched a massive manhunt last Thursday for the alleged Hamas abductors of 16 year old American Naftali Frenkel and two Israelis, Gilad Shaar, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19. They were allegedly abducted while hitchhiking home from religious school in the Gush Etzion bloc between Bethlehem and Hebron.  According to a Washington Post report, one of the abductees got off a cell call saying, “we’ve been kidnapped”.

Hamas is believed to be behind their abduction.  At a Sunday Cabinet meeting, Israeli PM Netanyahu said:

Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas; the same Hamas that Abu Mazen (Abbas) made a unity government with. This has severe repercussions.

The WaPo report cited Israeli American Naftali Bennett, economics minister in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, saying: “We will respond with an iron fist to terror.”  Thousands of Israeli prayed for the safe return of the three youths at the Kotel, Western Wall, of the Temple in Jerusalem. The National Council of Young Israel in New York issued a call for a Prayer Service for the safe return outside the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan on Monday, June 16th. The announcement used the Twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurBoys.

Hamas issued a statement praising the abduction.   According to an updated report by The Daily Mail, Senior Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza called the accusation by PM Netanyahu “silly”. Really?   While cooperating with the Palestinian security service, Israel also relies on their own resources in the West Bank to identify the abductors and the possible location of the three teens. This despite PA senior official Hanan Ashrawi cited  by The Daily Mail saying , “this is something we have no information on”.  However, what can you expect from the Palestinian unity government with Hamas.  Its Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah acknowledges that it has no control over Gaza.

Secretary of State Kerry issued a statement today saying:

The United States strongly condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate release. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. We hope for their quick and safe return home. We continue to offer our full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and we have encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services. We understand that cooperation is ongoing.

We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas’ involvement. As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past.

Three Israelis? Frankel is a US citizen. The Daily Mail noted Frankel’s mother’s   public message to her son that reflected the concerns of many Israelis and Americans:

Mommy and Daddy and your brothers love you until the end of the world and you should know that the people of Israel are doing all they can to bring you back home.

Israelis and Americans are more than concerned about the fate of three abductees given prior occurrences, including former IDF Sgt. Gilad Shalit snatched during a cross border raid in 2006 and released in an exchange for more than 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.

Then there is the case of 13 year old Israeli American Koby Mandell and Israeli Yosef Ishran abducted and murdered while on a hike in the disputed territories near the Israeli settlement of Tekoa in May 2001. Mandell’s family had made Aliyah to Israel in the mid-1990’s. The US Congress passed the Koby Mandell Act in 2004 that authorized the Justice Department to arrest foreigners, including Palestinians, who had murdered Americans overseas.  The Koby Mandell Foundation was established in his memory to provide bereavement counseling to the parents and widows of terrorist victims.

In 2012, 52 members of Congress signed a letter sponsored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) urging the Department of Justice’s Office for Justice of Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OJVOT), which was formed in 2005, to implement The Koby Mandell Act.  Sarah Stern of EMET said that the letter was to “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against American citizens overseas remain a high priority within the Department of Justice.”  Z Street, of which this writer is a board member, was one of several sponsors of the EMET letter to prod Attorney General Holder to recognize the responsibilities of OJVOT.

Sherri Mandell in a Jerusalem Post oped during the EMET 2012 campaign cited the dismal OJVOT track record since the law’s enactment in 2004:

The OJVOT is supposed to investigate, apprehend, indict, extradite and punish terrorists. At least 54 American citizens have been killed, and 83 wounded here in Israel. Neither the OJVOT nor the Department of Justice has done anything to enforce American law in these cases. The only terrorist prosecuted under the law was the killer of a Christian missionary in Indonesia. I’m happy that the killers were prosecuted, but still one wonders. Why is there no communication, investigation, prosecution, or indictment here in Israel? The OJVOT is supposed to protect us. Instead it neglects us.

We sincerely hope the massive IDF-Shin Bet dragnet can free American Naftali Frenkel, Israelis Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and capture their abductors. In view of the abject failure of the US government to pursue justice for the families of the US victims in Israel and the disputed territories, we trust the Israeli government can bring these perpetrators to justice.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Will Marc Rich rise from the grave to topple Hillary?

On the very day that  tax evader and renegade oil speculator Marc Rich died  on June 26, 2013 in Lucerne, Switzerland, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) request. Rich was pardoned on the very last day of former President Clinton’s second term in January 2001 in a series of pardons shepherded  by current US Attorney General Eric Holder. President Clinton had been entreated by Rich’s, ex-wife, Denise, a major Democrat fundraiser, aided by representations from ADL director, Abe Foxman, who was reported to have earned a large fee for facilitating the pardon. Despite Marc Rich engaging in back door oil deals with the late Saddam Hussein, the apartheid South African government and the Palestinian Authority, President Clinton had signed off. He has subsequently rued granting Rich’s pardon.

Judicial Watch finally received the results of the FOIA request and published the redacted copy on its website, yesterday.  Reading it, one can only surmise whether this  might prove to be a problem for several people; former US Ambassador to Israel during the Clinton era, Martin Indyk and then Israeli Foreign Minister, now President , Shimon Peres.and possibly ex-Mossad head, Efraim Halevy.

Peres assumed  the Israeli Premiership after PM Rabin’s tragic assassination by an Israeli extremist in November 1995.The period referenced in the Judicial Watch post followed  the arrival back of the PLO-Fatah under the late Yassir Arafat  in furtherance of the ill-fated Oslo Accords signed in September 1993 at the  White House under Clinton’s auspices. Arafat became the first President of the PA and, in 1996 began a series of attacks on Israeli joint patrols in the disputed territories the period of a near decade long  Palestinian violence against Israel. Indyk is currently  Secretary Kerry’s Special Envoy facilitating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on a purported final status agreement. This redacted cable could be problematic for Hillary Clinton’s possible candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016?

Here is the Judicial Watch report:

Clinton’s Marc Rich Pardon – the Tell-Tale Cable

For years, there has been conjecture as to why Bill Clinton, in the waning moments of his presidency, suddenly and unexpectedly granted a full pardon to fugitive financier Marc Rich. Even the New York Times, normally a shameless cheerleader for the Clintons, excoriated the president, saying “Bill Clinton’s last-minute pardon of Marc Rich … was a shocking abuse of presidential power … Mr. Clinton’s irresponsible use of his pardoning authority has undermined the pursuit of justice.” And Clinton himself later described the pardon as “terrible politics. It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation.”

Questions about the scandal are resurfacing in light of Judicial Watch’s obtaining a confidential cable from the U.S. Department of State that had been under tight wraps since 1995. The cable – from Clinton’s ambassador to Israel to his high-ups at State – reveals high-level Israeli efforts to persuade State Department officials to intercede with Department of Justice (DOJ) to enable Rich to conduct Israeli business affairs worldwide directly relating to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Specifically, the cable, obtained through a Judicial Watch June 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, provides details of 1995 efforts by apparently top Israeli officials to pressure their counterparts at the State Department to intervene with the DOJ to withdraw outstanding arrest warrants against Rich on charges he had violated America’s 1981 domestic oil-price along with 64 other crimes, including racketeering and “trading with the enemy.” Israel, it turns out, had recruited Rich, then living in Switzerland, to travel internationally in order to raise funds to finance economic deals between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Rich died on June, 26, 2013, and Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about him with the Department of State on the same day.

While the Israeli official who interceded on Rich’s behalf is not identified in the cable obtained by Judicial Watch, he or she was in a sufficiently high-level position to confer directly with then-U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk and Clinton administration Middle East envoy Dennis Ross. The official was also able to persuade Indyk to meet with Rich’s lawyer, Isaac Herzog, just three days after requesting that he do so. The confidential classification of the cable was extended by the State Department on February 10, 2014 for an additional 15 years, following the Judicial Watch FOIA request, in an apparent effort by the State Department to keep the names of the Israeli official confidential. Ambassador Indyk is now President Obama’s Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.

In the cable, entitled “[REDACTED] REQUEST FOR INTERVENTION WITH DOJ ON BEHALF OF MARK [SIC] RICH,” Indyk writes:

•    During August 29 [1995] meeting with Dennis Ross and I, [REDACTED] raised the issue of Mark Rich, a wealthy businessman now resident in Switzerland, whom [REDACTED] has recruited to head up an effort to promote private sector involvement in Palestinian economic development. [REDACTED] asked me to see Rich’s lawyer, Isaac Herzog, to be briefed on the subject. He further requested that Dennis and I follow up in Washington to try to resolve the problem.

•    Rich paid a large fine and according to Herzog, DOJ is no longer pursuing the matter … Nevertheless, there are still international warrants outstanding for Rich’s arrest. This severely restricts his travel … [REDACTED] request is that State consider the project and, if it is regarded as worthwhile, contact DOJ and communicate its interests in enabling Rich to engage in these activities – specifically that:  … The GOI [Government of Israel] has notified State that it is in the GOI’s interest to facilitate the travel on behalf of Marc Rich to advance the ‘Economic Solution’ … The U.S. has a legitimate interest in fostering these objectives.

Interestingly, the Indyk confidential memo claims that the U.S. ambassador, who at the time had been a key figure in American-Israeli affairs for more than a decade, had no knowledge of Rich or the activities that had led to the commodities trader’s 1983 indictment. According to Indyk’s confidential memo, “We have never heard of Mark [sic] Rich and have no way of evaluating his ability to contribute to this effort by bringing in foreign investors.” The ambassador added, “However, [REDACTED] is pushing him hard.”

On January 20, 2001, just hours before leaving office, President Clinton granted Rich a highly controversial presidential pardon. It was widely alleged at the time that Rich’s pardon had been the result of Denise Rich having given more than $1 million to the Democratic Party, including more than $100,000 to the Senate campaign of Hillary Clinton and $450,000 to the Clinton Library foundation. As far back as 2009, journalist Joe Conason, writing in Salon had conjectured, “Winning the pardon was a top priority for Israeli officials because Rich had long been a financial and intelligence asset of the Jewish state …” But the confidential cable obtained by Judicial Watch is the first solid evidence of close ties between the Israeli government and the fugitive financier.

The bottom line is that the cable raises salient new questions about the depth and breadth of the relationship between Marc Rich and the Israeli government. And they suggest possible new insights into the motivations behind the scandalous last-minute pardon granted by Bill Clinton. Ambassador Indyk should now disclose what he knows about the Rich pardon. As should John Podesta, Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton – all high-level Obama appointees embroiled in the Rich pardon scandal.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured photo is courtesy of Ionel141. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.