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Could the Allies have Bombed Auschwitz? Controversy and Reality

Dr. Rafael L. Medoff, executive director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies once again on the eve Yom Ha Shoah 2016 raised the issue of why the allies couldn’t have bombed the death factory at Auschwitz Birkenau during 1944. A period when the USAAF 8th and 15th Air Forces were already bombing oil refineries and the Buna works less than five miles away. Medoff is the author of FDR and the Holocaust, A Breach of Faith.

Auschwitz-Burkenau Extermination Camp 8 15 1944What prompted revisiting this controversy was a Jerusalem Post article by Medoff critical of a  2015 book exonerating  FDR’s role in the decision not to bomb the Auschwitz- Birkenau, “New Whitewash of FDR;’s failure to bomb Auschwitz.”  Medoff wrote:

Alonzo Hamby is the author of a 2015 biography of president Franklin D. Roosevelt which defends FDR’ s failure to bomb Auschwitz, on the grounds that it was too far away for US planes to reach. George McGovern, the US senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, was one of the World War II pilots who actually bombed oil sites at Auschwitz – proving that it was, in fact, not out of reach at all.

Hamby is a prominent historian and the author of a biography of Harry S. Truman as well as several other well-received books [wrote]:

“The death camps were located in areas largely beyond the reach of American military power,” Hamby writes in Man of Destiny: FDR and the Making of the American Century. And: “Auschwitz was in a Soviet area of operations and at the outer limit of American bomber range.”

And yet, American bombers did repeatedly bomb German oil factories that were situated in the slave labor sections of Auschwitz.

On August 7, 1944, US bombers attacked the Trzebinia oil refineries, just 21 km. from the gas chambers. On August 20, 127 US bombers… struck oil factories less than 8 km. from the gas chambers.

A teenage slave laborer named Elie Wiesel witnessed the August 20 raid. A glance at Wiesel’s best-selling book Night would have enlightened Hamby. Wiesel wrote: “If a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners’ barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death. Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!”

There were additional Allied bombings of the Auschwitz oil factories throughout the autumn.

My late brother in law as serving officer during  WWII was involved with the planning and deployment of  US 8th Air Force B-17’s based on Poltava in the Western Ukraine less than 120 miles from Auschwitz that flew some of those missions. Another late acquaintance, who was lead navigator for Gen Ira Eaker of the 15th USAAF based at Foggia, Italy  recalled using the crematoria as aiming points for bombing missions on the I.G. Farben Buna-Monwitz  works less than five miles away.

What follows  are excerpts from my 2009  and 2012 New English Review articles  summarizing the controversy, feasibility and reality of whether USAAF bombing runs  could have destroyed the Auschwitz Birkenau complex in 1944.

The Bombing of Auschwitz controversy

On September 9, 2003, a squadron of Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-15’s flew over Auschwitz in southern Poland directly from Israel. The squadron flew the ‘missing man’ formation symbolic of the Six Million European Jewish men, women and children murdered in unspeakable ways by the Nazi death camp machinery in the Final Solution, the Holocaust, or Shoah. An Agence France Presse report noted:

The F-15s, emblazoned with the Star of David, were piloted by the sons or grandsons of Holocaust victims who perished in Poland, according to the Israeli ambassador to Warsaw.

An Israeli air force statement said that as the jets flew low across the sky the pilot leading the squadron, General Amir Eshel, said: “We pilots of the air force, in the skies over these camps of shame, have risen from the ashes of millions of victims. We are the voice for their silent calls. We salute their heroism and promise to be the shield of the Israeli homeland.”

Watch this You Tube video of the 2003 IAF flyover of Auschwitz Birkenau:

The flyover of Auschwitz by the IAF was objected to by the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum as inappropriate to venerate the 1.4 million Jews murdered at the death camp complex. It was nevertheless symbolic on several levels.

It demonstrated that a Jewish sovereign nation would not permit another existential annihilationist assault, as it had the ability to take up arms to pre-empt it. There was no Jewish nation with an Army, Navy and Air Force to prevent the madness of Hitler’s Holocaust during WWII.

It brought into question what Allied air power might have done to disrupt and destroy the killing machinery at Auschwitz Birkenau, when it had the intelligence, aircraft, and crews in Italy and the Ukraine in 1944, which could have undertaken missions that might have saved hundreds of thousands of Hungarian and other European Jews from death. Dr. David Wyman, a critic of Allied war efforts to destroy death camps, estimated that an air assault might have spared the lives of 150,000 Jews whose progeny today might number more than 2 million.

In 1998, during the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Israel, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu visited Auschwitz on another Yom Ha Shoah and criticized the Allied lack of effort to save European Jews by striking at the death camp from the air:

All that was needed was to bomb the train tracks. The Allies bombed the targets nearby. The pilots only had to nudge their crosshairs.

You think they didn’t know? They knew. They didn’t bomb because at the time the Jews didn’t have a state, nor the political force to protect themselves.

The ‘what if’ question of ‘Could the Allies have bombed Auschwitz?’ and the killing machinery to save Jews, especially the nearly 433,000 Hungarian Jews who went to their deaths between May 2nd and July 13th, 1944 has been the subject of controversy since the liberation of the death camp on January 27, 1945. It has been the subject of intensive research and debate.

In 1978 Professor David S. Wyman brought the matter to a head in an article –“Why Auschwitz was Never Bombed,” Commentary 65, May, 1978  – on the feasibility of special air operations using the ‘wonder planes’ of WWII, the British Mosquitoes and the American Lockheed P-38’s. The speedy and highly maneuverable DeHaviland Mosquitoes were made out of marine plywood.  Wyman said if the RAF could use the Mosquitoes in special ops to free European resistance fighters, why not use it to stop the killing machinery in Auschwitz. Wyman later expanded on this in his 1984 bestselling book,The Abandonment of the Jews.” Wyman further said:

 …there is no question that bombing the gas chambers and crematoria would have saved many lives. ….without gas chambers and crematoria, the Nazis would have to reassess the extermination program.

Within a year after the publication of the Wyman article, the first archival aerial photos of the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp complex were released based on an analysis by photo intelligence expert Dino Brugioni of the CIA. They clearly indicated that British and U.S. Air Forces had targeting information in their files as early as the spring of 1944 with which to develop possible missions.

In 2000, the National Holocaust Memorial published a symposium on the ‘what if’ question of “The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted it?’ edited by Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum pulling together the contending arguments and supporting data and information.

NSA Historian Hanyok’s conclusion, in a 2005 study, “Eavesdropping on Hell, was that institutional anti-Semitism in both London and Washington, DC, despite Churchill’s instructions to his Air Minister ‘to do everything possible’ and the overarching objective of destroying the Nazi war fighting capabilities led responsible officials to consider proposals for bombing the railway marshaling and, railway lines and the Birkenau killing center gas chambers and crematoria as a ‘diversion.”

Washington officials, especially Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy considered such requests as ‘impossible” and ‘risky,’ given the air war commitments in the European Theater of Operations. Later McCloy put the onus on FDR for making the decision not to bomb Auschwitz.

McCloy was quoted by Miller as saying:

bombing the camp would involve a diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations.”

A Mission to Auschwitz would be an Eight Air Force operation, a highly risky ‘round trip flight unescorted of approximately 2000 miles over enemy territory.

A 2012 study by the US  Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC reveals the opposition by WWII American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) to bombing the Auschwitz Birkenau death complex in Southern Poland in the summer of 1944.  The findings of the USHMM study on wartime allied and Jewish Zionist leaders over the decision not to bomb Auschwitz were the subject of an EnerPub article, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Sin of Omission: Auschwitz” by former US diplomat, Martin Barillas.  Barillas noted the contrast with Britain’s wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill:

 Churchill appeared interested in a military strike against the camps. He told Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden that Hitler’s war against the Jews was “probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world,” adding, “Get everything out of the Air Force you can, and invoke me, if necessary.” In July 1944 Churchill was told that U.S. bomber pilots could do the job best, but that it would be “costly and hazardous.”

The Feasibility of Bombing Auschwitz

In contrast to McCloy’s misleading statements, the reality was we could have done that and more. The resources involved-aircraft sorties, bomb ordnance and air crew losses were a finite fraction of overall air war capabilities of both the 8th and 15th USAAF. Moreover, if the bombing campaign had begun in June, 1944 for example, the weather and meager fighter aircraft and flak gun threats were most favorable to such a mission that could have destroyed the killing machinery at Auschwitz Birkenau.

The fact was that bombing Budapest on July 2nd by the heavy bombers of the 15th USAAF and intercepts by Hungarian intelligence of Jewish Agency requests from Geneva for bombing Auschwitz brought the death transports to a halt sparing the remainder of Hungary’s besieged Jews – approximately 300,000 – until Swedish businessman diplomat and hero Raoul Wallenberg arrived with the aid of the U.S. War Refugee Board and Joint Distribution Committee funds to put many Jews in Budapest in ’safe houses” until the Russians arrived in early 1945.

Based on several feasibility assessments in the Neufeld – Berenbaum study here is what could have been done:

8th USAAF B-17 heavy bombers flying from Operation FRANTIC shuttle bases at Poltava  in the Western Ukraine 150 miles away and 15th USAAF B-24 heavy bombers flying out Foggia, Italy 640 miles away could have raided Auschwitz Birkenau from June to September, 1994. Weather conditions and enemy fighter and flak gun threats over the ‘targets’ during this period were favorable for an Auschwitz Birkenau mission. There were available mission planning target folder and aerial recon photos from I.G. Farben Buna-Monwitz plant mission less than 7 miles from Birkenau killing center.

An estimated 300 sorties involving upwards of 75 heavy bombers dropping between 900 to 1,800 tons of bombs over a two to three week period would have accomplished the mission. This was equivalent to less than 7% of all sorties flown in July, 1944.

The July 2, 1944 15th USAAF raid on Budapest effectively stopped the ‘death transports’ when requests for bombing rail marshaling yards and rail lines leading to Auschwitz by the Jewish Agency in Geneva were intercepted by Hungarian Intelligence.  Unfortunately, by then, more than 433,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered, but 300,000 were ’spared”. Professor Wyman estimated that if an Auschwitz Birkenau raid had been attempted that would have spared an additional 150,000 Jews perhaps resulting in an additional 2 million, today.

However, the reality is that air war priorities and official indifference precluded the raids from occurring and that half of the Hungarian Jews were murdered before any raids could have been launched. It was left to courageous Jewish women supplying Sonderkommando at the Birkenau killing facility with explosives to destroy Crematorium IV on October 7, 1944 forcing the SS to eventually stop and destroy the death machinery in January 1945.

For more information view this comprehensive PowerPoint presentation by the author, “Could the Allies Have Bombed Auschwitz”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Muslims outraged when Jewish Symbols found on ancient Egyptian Temple

We know that Islamists in the Middle East have sought to destroy any vestiges ancient civilizations that pre-dated the grand Jihad of Mohammed and his companions. The Western world has been  appalled by the Islamic State’s destruction of ancient Assyrian artifacts in Mosul, ancient Churches  on the plains of Nineveh, Roman temples in Palmyra, Syria and other UNESCO designated sites. They were striped of artifacts and  statuary from these preserved sites to sell on the antiquities black market. Then there is the latest example from Egypt reported by The Jerusalem Post.  The discovery of Jewish Stars of David symbols engraved in an ancient temple on  Elephantine Island in Aswan, Egypt, “Star of David engraved  into ancient Temple causes bustle in Egypt:”

Egypt has recently been witnessing a great commotion following the archaeological discovery of two Star of David engravings in an ancient Temple in the southern city of Aswan.

The Roman Temple, which dates back to the 3rd century B.C, is located in the Elephantine Island in Aswan.

Dr. Mahmoud Afifi, the head of the Egyptian Antiquities branch in the Antiquities Ministry, said that he noticed a stone with two Star of David engravings in the Roman temple.

Afifi accused the delegation of German archaeologists that has been working on the site’s reconstruction of engraving the Stars of David into the Shrine’s stone.

Afifi ordered the archaeologists to immediately remove the stone with the Star of David’s engraving from the temple, threatening to take all legal measures against them if they would ever repeat such a move.

An Egyptian news site, Suezbalady, went even further, claiming that the two Star of David engravings that were found were drawn by a Jewish member of the German delegation, who wanted to vandalize Egyptian culture and provoke Egyptians.

The newly-appointed Egyptian Antiquities Minister, Khaled Anani, released a press statement Saturday following his visit to the Aswan shrine.

Anani stated that he had instructed the joint Egyptian-German group to submit him a scientific report about the two engravings found on one of the temple’s walls. “The report will include a picture of the stone under discussion from the time it was discovered, to explore its archaeological repercussions without the two Star of David engravings, “Anani said.

“We will be aided by an expert of Islamic antiquities to understand whether the Sign of David was common in that early period”, Anani announced.

This led to an exchange Dr. Stephen Bryen who has read in translation many of the ancient Elephantine Papyri and this writer.

My comment:

I read this and sardonically chortled about this. The Egyptians, whether Coptics or Muslims, are paranoid about the ancient Hebrew military colony at Elephantine Island in Aswan where refugees from the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC brought my first name shearer in Hebrew, Yirmeyahu, the prophet Jeremiah, the unloved one, to his ultimate fateful end. They even built a small version of the First Temple to worship Ha’ Shem there. The modern day Egyptians must have erased from their archaeological memories the Elephantine Papyri.  Serves them right to be embarrassed by the truth but typical of their paranoia about pre Islamic history.  I wonder if those Hebrew refugees brought the Holy Ark of the Covenant with them to Elephantine from whence the legend arose about its removal to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church holy site in Axum , among other rumored locations.  Then again it may have been perhaps buried as booty in some Pharaoh’s tomb to be ‘ discovered’ by the fictional figure of intrepid archaeologist and anti Nazi hero Indiana Jones portrayed by Harrison Ford in the Spielberg thriller, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Dr. Stephen Bryen:

I read all the known papyri (translated) and found them absolutely fascinating.  Most of them are about “local” matters such as a dispute over an overhang in an alley between two homes.  But a few deal with the Elephantine temple which was sacked by local Egyptians when the Jews set up a sacrifice for Passover (Pesach), animal sacrifices being absolutely verboten in Egypt.  The Jews then appealed to Jerusalem and then to one Bagoas (“Petition to Bagoas”) in a letter written in 407 BCE to Bagoas, the Persian governor of Judea.  Not sure he ever replied.

Now the Egyptians are at it again.

Elephantine Papyri sheet

Elephantine Papyri sheet

Dr. Bryen provided us with the translation of the Petition to Bagoas.

The papyrus image I shared is in fact the letter to Bagoas from Elephantine’s priests, written in Aramaic. Here is the letter translated.  Note the month is Tammuz when the temple was destroyed, some months after Passover (roughly 3 months).  Also note that they seem to have killed the perpetrators. (Bagoas is the modern spelling of Bagohi.)

To our lord, Bagohi, governor of Yehud, (from) your servants: Yedaniah and his associates, the priests who are in the fortress of Yeb. May the God of the Heavens perpetually pursue the welfare of our lord greatly and grant you favors before Darius the king and the “sons of the palace” a thousand times more than now. May you be joyful and healthy at all times.

Now your servant Yedaniah and his associates testify as follows:

In the month of Tammuz, in the fourteenth year of King Darius, when Arsames departed and went to the king, the priests of the god Khnub, who is in the fortress of Yeb, conspired with Vidranga, who was administrator here, to destroy the temple of Yahu in the fortress of Yeb. So that villian Vidranga sent this order to his son Nefayan, who was in command of the garrison of the fortress at Sawn: “The temple of the god Yahu in the fortress of Yeb shall be destroyed.” Nefayan consequently led the Egyptians with other troops. Arriving with their weapons at the fortress of Yeb, they entered the temple and burned it to the ground. They smashed the stone pillars that were there. They demolished five great gateways constructed of hewn blocks of stone which were in the temple; but their doors (are still standing), and the hinges of those doors are made of bronze. And the roof of cedar in its entirety, with the . . . and whatever else was there, were all burned with fire. As for the basins of gold and silver and other articles that were in the temple, they carried all of them off and took them as personal possessions.

Now, our ancestors built this temple in the fortress of Yeb in the days of the kingdom of Egypt; and when Cambyses came to Egypt he found it (already) constructed. They (the Persians) knocked down all the temples of the Egyptian gods; but no one damaged this temple. But when this happened, we and our wives and our children wore sackcloth, and fasted, and prayed to Yahu, the Lord of Heaven, who has let us “see to” Vidranga. The axes removed the anklet from his feet (?) and any property he had acquired was lost. And all those who have sought to do evil to this temple—all of them—have all been killed, and we have “seen to” them.

We have (previously) sent letters to our lord when this catastrophe happened to us;

and to the high priest Yehochannan and his associates, the priests in Jerusalem; and to Ostan, the kinsman of Anani; and the Judahite elites. They have never sent us a letter. Furthermore, from the month of Tammuz, the fourteenth year of Darius the king, until today, we have been wearing sackcloth and fasting, making our wives as widows, not anointing ourselves with oil or drinking wine. Furthermore, from then until now, in the seventeenth year of Darius the king, no grain-offering, incense, or burnt-offering has been sacrificed in this temple.

Now your servants Yedaniah, and his associates, and the Judahites, all inhabitants of Yeb, state: If it seems good to our lord, remember this temple to reconstruct it, since they do not let us reconstruct it. Look to your clients and friends here in Egypt. Let a letter be sent from you to them concerning the temple of the god Yahu to construct it in the fortress of Yeb as it was before. And the grain-offering, incense, and burnt-offering will be offered in your name, and we will pray for you continuously—we, our wives, and our children, and the Judahites who are here, all of them—if you do this so that this temple is reconstructed. And you shall have honor before Yahu, the God of the Heavens, more than a man who offers him burnt-offerings and sacrifices worth a thousand talents of silver and gold. Because of this, we have written to inform you. We have also set forth the whole matter in a letter in our name to Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria. Furthermore, Arsames (the Persian satrap) knew nothing of all that was perpetrated on us.

On the twentieth of Marcheshwan, the seventeenth year of King Darius.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

U.S Spying on the Whole World, including their ‘Friends’

Spy craft, especially Electronic Intelligence or ELINT, is one of the tools of the trade used to collect information on enemy activities. It is also used to monitor allies’ activities. Nothing new there. Thus the latest release by Snowden from his base of operations in exile in Moscow lit up the left media. They spotlighted the latest episode of both Britain’s GCHQ and the NSA. GCHQ and NSA were partners in a nearly two decade operations endeavoring to obtain real time video feed from Israel drones and aircraft in operations over Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and possibly Iran.

1-2010 GCHQ hacked picture of IAI Heron TP with Missile

January 28, 2010 GCHQ hacked picture of Israeli Heron TP (Eitan) UAV with Missile.

If you read the underlying story in The Intercept about hacking video feed from Israeli drones with alleged off the shelf software. See: “Anarchist Snapshots: Hacked Images from Israel’s Drone Fleet”. It is more than apparent that the left media used the Snowden revelations about the “Anarchist” operation of GCHQ and NSA to show how vulnerable the Israeli drone capabilities may be to intercept of real time imagery uplinked from drones and fighter aircraft to satellites. Israel is the world’s leading developer and exporter of drones.  The Israelis are not the only ones vulnerable.  US drone activity in Iraq was intercepted by Saddam Hussein’s ELINT group during the Second Gulf War. Moreover, Iran as we saw in news reports and photos flying over the USS Harry Truman has its own drone capabilities and ELINT capabilities as does its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas.

“Anarchist” operations were based in a long term NSA complex at a former Royal Air Force base in the Trodoos Mountains of Cyprus.  The Intercept article reported that the GCHQ has been monitoring Israeli drone video feed since 1998. The atmospheric conditions from that ELINT base are such that it covers virtually most of North Africa and the Middle East.  The NSA listening post may have been involved during the USS Liberty incident in the June Six Days of War of 1967 coupled with airborne ELINT aircraft. The Intercept article describes instances of real time video feed in drone strikes by Israel in Gaza operations against Hamas beginning in 2009.  In one instance, the pictures are from a helmet heads-up display of an Israeli piloted F-16. One of the images captured by “Anarchist” purports to show an Israeli Heron TP  drone armed with missiles under its long wings conflated to be on a possible mission to Iran.

Israel official complaints about Snowden’s revelations from former Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz have focused on the long history of the Anarchist UK-US ELINT ops and recent revelations about U.S. spying on Israeli PM Netanyahu. The Jerusalem Post reported Steinitz saying:

We are not surprised; we know that the. That is disappointing, because for decades we have not spied, collected intelligence or attempted to crack the encryption of the United States.

IAI Heron TP Drone

Israeli Air Force Heron TP (Eitan) UAV.

Israel was alleged to have monitored U.S. negotiations of the nuclear pact with Iran.  It has been common knowledge that Israeli development and tactical use of drones may be the 21st Century offensive weapon of choice. In Israel’s case that is coupled with deep submergence air breathing attack submarines like the five Israeli Navy Dolphin submarines prowling the Arabian Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. They are equipped with both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as covert intelligence ops capabilities for a second strike in the case of a nuclear attack. Moreover, there is the draconian capability of the Israeli Jericho III ICBM to launch a low yield nuclear warhead capable of creating an Electronic Magnetic Pulse against existential threats. That is Israel’s version of a MAD deterrent capability under the triple anti-rocket and missile shield composed of Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the jointly developed Arrow III, ABM system.

We have written about the Israeli drone prowess in NER articles and Iconoclast blogs over the past seven years.  In a 2009 Israeli strike against a convoy of Iranian weapons in the Sudan we noted in an NER article:

The London Times revealed in a later report that Israel may have used armed UAVs, the Hermes 450 manufactured by Elbit that is equipped with two Hellfire missiles.  A Hermes UAV squadron is based at Pachamim air base south of Tel Aviv.  Mossad may have developed the target intelligence. Further, the Israel Air Force may have used the larger Heron TP Eitan UAV with a wingspan of 110 feet to possibly refuel the Hermes UAVs. The Hermes 450 UAV can remain aloft for 24 hours, while the Eitan can stay up for 36 hours.

[…]

What should not be lost on Iran and the Sudan is that the alleged IAF raid on the convoy in January was within the same operational radius of approximately 700 nautical miles-equidistant from Jerusalem to both Port Sudan and Tehran.

When there was speculation in early 2012 about a possible strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities we interviewed Yediot Ahronoth intelligence columnist Dr. Ronen Bergman and had this exchange:

Gordon:  The recent crash of a heavy lift Hermes Drone, disclosed that Israel has the capability of reaching Tehran with UAV’s. Could Israel launch waves of drone attacks on Iranian Nuclear projects and missile sites with any degree of success?

Bergman:  The question refers to my remarks on using drones. I did not say and I didn’t mean that Israel is capable of launching a strategic strike using drones alone. Far from it; however, Israel is using drones for various surveillance and operational activities. These can be very useful in a possible strike. Deploying drones, especially drones that can stay in the air for 48 hours and carry a payload of up to one ton, would be a powerful weapon when you have many of these involved in a massive, coordinated strike over Iran.

Then there was the Israeli attack in 2012 on the Sudan Yarmouk weapons factory that prompted this comment about the use of Israeli drones equipped with the equivalent of the Boeing CHAMP missile capable of producing non-nuclear EMP effects in an Iconoclast blog post:

An AP story in a 2012 Washington Times report successful bomb damage assessment by a disputed IAF raid on the Yarmouk munitions factory near Khartoum in the Sudan drawn from satellite imagery studies.  As noted in the AP/Israel Hayom news story, “Satellite Images Shed Light on Sudan Weapons attack”, Israeli commentators confirmed our NER/Iconoclast assessment that Israel has the conventional capability to attack Iranian nuclear and missile development facilities.  As we commented in that post, Israel may also have unconventional means equal to recent US tests of new high energy electronics killer cruise missiles, as well.

Some Israeli commentators suggested that if Israel did indeed carry out an airstrike that caused the Sudan blast, it might have been a trial run of sorts for an operation in Iran. Both countries are roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away from Israel, and an air operation would require careful planning and in-flight refueling.

Israel could have a new unconventional capability given Boeing’s development of the CHAMP cruise missile that could produce high energy non-nuclear EMP effects to take out electronics.  Note this recent Digital Journal report, “New cruise missile will fry electronic targets, change warfare”.

The three IDF operations against Hamas in 2009, 2012 and the 2014 fifty day summer war clearly demonstrated the prowess and accuracy of Israeli drones and aircraft Israeli military maintain disciplined silence about attack victories. For example Operation Orchard in 2007 that took out the Syrian plutonium reactor built with North Korean assistance and some believe paid for by Iran. Launching ground hugging cruise missiles with CHAMP capabilities from Hermes heavy lift drones in a swarming attack against Iranian nuclear facilities just could be Israel’s future prowess. It beats sending in young men and women in aging F-15s and F-16s in what could be suicidal missions.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel to build Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline

Auspicious meetings were held in Nicosia, Cyprus with members of the emerging Trilateral Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline alliance: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Watch this Jerusalem Post news video of the historic triple alliance meeting in Nicosia:

leaders on mediteranian pipeline

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Nicosia trilateral meeting, January 27, 2016.

The Jerusalem Post reported the triple alliance leaders announcing plans to set up the long delayed Eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline:

NICOSIA – Israel, Cyprus and Greece decided at their first ever tripartite meeting to set up a steering committee to look into laying a gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus, and then to Greece for further export to Europe.

The decision was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing next to Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Each leader delivered a statement noting the historic nature of the meeting, and highlighting the possibilities this emerging alliance has for the region. They did not answer any questions from the press.

While both Anastasiades and Tsipras stressed, without mentioning Turkey by name, that this cooperation was not “against anyone else,” Netanyahu did not make a reference at all to Turkey, either directly or indirectly.

National Infrastructure, Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was part of the Israeli delegation, told reporters on the plane en route to Nicosia that Israel wanted to have the ability to export the gas both through Greece and Turkey. Laying the pipeline to Turkey is considerably cheaper than through Cyprus and Greece.

Anastasiades, as host of the summit, spoke first, and said this cooperation was based on an appreciation that “it is imperative to work collectively through coordination.” He said that the three leaders signed a joint declaration, which he termed a “historic document” that deals with cooperation in the energy, tourism, research, water-management, anti-terrorism and immigration spheres. He said that a trilateral steering committee will monitor the agreement.

Netanyahu, who said that as the son of a historian he was averse to using the term “historic,” said that the term did however fit the meeting. “I believe this meeting has historic implications,” he said. “The Last time Greeks, Cypriots and Jews sat around a table and talked about a common framework was 2,000 years ago.”

In addition to the gas pipeline, Netanyahu also spoke of a plan to lay an underwater cable to connect the electric grids of all three countries. “You can export gas through electricity,” he said.

Tsipras said that cooperation with Israel and Cyprus was a “strategic choice” for Athens.

EasternMedPipeline(1)In a January 2015, New English Review article, “Could Israel Lose the Energy Prize in the Eastern Mediterranean,” we noted this about the prospects for the Triple Alliance Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline.

“On December 9, 2014, Israel, Cyprus and Greece pitched the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline a day before a conference organized jointly byNatural Gas Europe, the Greek Energy Forum, ESCP Europe, RCEM and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The conference was titled “2030 EU Energy Security, the Role of the Eastern Mediterranean Region” and took place at EESC headquarters in Brussels. Natural Gas Europe in an article on the EESC conference noted the comments of Greek Energy Minister, Ioannis Maniatis:

Europe will need an extra 100 bcm of natural gas in the next 15 years, and in light of Europe’s increasing dependence on imports to fulfill its energy needs, the EU must find a sustainable model to ensure it is a competitive economy.

The EU needs to reduce external dependence, increase efficiency, diversify its sources and routes of supply, and improve interconnectors, he added. Fully connected energy grids, greater transparency, good governance and a thorough understanding of global events should also be the focus of the EU according to Maniatis. He explained that Greece’s importance is growing. The East Med pipeline pitched by Israel, Cyprus and Greece would run from Israel and Cyprus via Greece to Italy and then to the rest of Europe is technically feasible and attached to attractive prospects said Maniatis. He told the audience that the results of a feasibility study on the East Med pipeline will be released next year and that the pipeline would serve as a new source and provider of natural gas comparable to the Southern Corridor. The attractiveness of the East Med Pipeline, said Maniatis, is that unlike the Southern Corridor, it would pass exclusively through four member states and hence deserves strong EU backing for its materialization.

The Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline had received the endorsement of the EC as a priority project for underwriting in November 2013. According to The Guardian that could provide the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project “access to a €5.85bn fund, and preferential treatment from multilateral banks.”

Natural Gas Europe reported at the time the options under consideration:

The basic plan will see the pipeline stretch from the Leviathan field offshore Israel on to Cyprus ending in eastern part of the Island of Crete in Greece. Three alternate routes were discussed:

  • To the Peloponnesus Peninsula joint via spur with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)
  • From Crete to northern Greece where it would join the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB)
  • From Crete to the Revythousa LNG terminal close to Athens. The terminal would be significantly upgraded to accommodate large amounts of gas exports thereafter.

The technically difficult 1,880 kilometer long submarine pipeline project, reaching depths of more than 2,000 meters, would connect Leviathan and Aphrodite gas fields ultimately to Italy. Cost for the project was estimated at over $20 Billion and would likely not be concluded at the earliest until 2020, assuming that production of the Leviathan field in the Israeli EEZ begins in 2017. With the demise of both the Turkish Leviathan-Ceyhan pipeline and the Australian Woodside Pty. Ashdod LNG –Eilat pipeline for delivery of gas to the Asian markets, the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project may have serious consideration. There is the alternative of the onshore LNG facility at Vassilikos on Cyprus’ south shore to be built by the Consortium at an estimated cost of $10 billion. A Memorandum of Understanding for planning the Vassilikos LNG complex was signed by Cyprus and the Consortium in June 2013. In the interim, offshore floating LNG processing platforms that might be leased to ship processed gas via pressured LNG vessels to receiving terminals in Greece and Italy. However, Noble Energy was not initially supportive of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline option, instead concentrating on sales from Leviathan to regional users like Jordan and Egypt and building the proposed Cypriot LNG processing facility.”

Israel has overcome the ruling of its former Anti Trust Authority general director, approving an offshore gas development plan with US Partner Noble Energy, inc. and Israeli partner Delek Group involving the Leviathan, Tamar and adjacent Aphrodite gas fields in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. With yesterday’s announcement in Nicosia by the Triple Alliance of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, a way can now be seen to go forward with the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline and the LNG facility in Cyprus.  At the time we wrote the January 2015 NER article, Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan had announced a $12 billion Turkey Stream pipeline deal to supply Europe with natural gas. Given the break off in relations between Russia and Turkey over the latter’s downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber, Putin has suspended the project.  That sent Erdogan scrambling to re-open diplomatic relations with Jerusalem seeking supplies of Israeli gas.  The dour circumstances propounded in our January 2015 article appear to be lifted by the geo-resource and political wars in the Syrian and ISIS conflicts.  That is enhanced by the settlement of Israel’s plan for development and distribution of its offshore gas and oil fields.

RELATED ARTICLE: 10 Reasons Israel Is Not An ‘Apartheid’ State

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Sweden would defend any county ‘except Israel’

When the Social Democrats swept into power in Sweden in 2014 led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a prominent member of his cabinet was a self-styled ‘feminist’ Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom. Both Lofven and King Carl Gustav XVI got more than they bargained for the new Foreign Minister.

Socialminister Margot Wallström (s)

Social minister Margot Wallström (s)

Wallstrom’s controversial comments about Saudi Arabia’s misogyny required a tet e tet between the Swedish and Saudi monarchs to preserve the country’s status as the 12th leading exporter of arms.  Sweden has more than 700,000 Muslims amongst the Nordic country’s population of 12 million. The Muslim presence in Sweden has given rise to reports of gang rape of Swedish women and a spike in anti-Semitism, especially given the Muslim majority in the country’s third largest city, Malmo. With Sweden admitting thousands more Muslim migrants and asylees from the conflicts in Syria, North and sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, it has become even more problematic.

However, major contretemps were occasioned by the Lofven government’s recognition of the corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority as a state, when it doesn’t meet the internationally recognized definition of the 1933 Montevideo Convention. That set Israel’s Foreign Ministry on edge, given that Sweden was buying into the victimhood mantra and hate- filled incitement  of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Wallstrom is currently the center of approbation given her controversial accusations that Israel has engaged in “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians and Israel Arabs in response to the daily toll of knifings, car rammings and shootings.  According to a Reuters report on the Wallstrom Israel controversy, the toll since October “includes 24 Israelis and a U.S. citizen. Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 143 Palestinians, 91 of whom authorities have described as assailants.” Wallstrom said in Swedish parliamentary debates on January 12th, “It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.” Reuters noted that Wallstrom “earlier described the Palestinians’ plight as a factor leading to Islamist radicalization – comments seen in Israel as linking it to the November gun and bomb rampage in Paris.”

These latest comments by Wallstrom triggered actions by Israel’s Foreign Ministry capped by remarks, January 14th by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in an Arutz Sheva article calling her accusations, “scandalous”, “immoral” and “foolish ”.   Sweden Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser was called in by Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Aviva Shir-On for a reprimand.  According to a Jerusalem Post, report:

 Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wallstrom would not be welcome to visit Israel. His comments served as a clarification to remarks made earlier in the day by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely who said Israel was closing its door to visits from Swedish officials in the wake of Wallstrom’s words. Israel was sending in the clearest manner possible a very sharp message to Sweden saying that it is backing terrorism and giving a tail wind to the Islamic State to act throughout Europe.

Wallstrom’s comments were a “bad combination of folly and diplomatic stupidity, and Israel will close its door to official visits from Sweden.”

Wallstrom was essentially deemed persona non grata and Swedish officials would be barred from any future deliberations in Israel regarding the Palestinian conflict.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the new CEO  and national  executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, was prompted to send a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Lofven. According to a report in The Algemeiner, Greenberg wrote:

We urge you to ensure that official Swedish statements demonstrate respect for, and knowledge of, Israel’s proven commitment to the rule of law, support for its security challenges, even as it faces armed threats on a scale which Sweden is fortunate not to know.

Sweden is joining the worst Palestinian incitement suggesting Israel is randomly shooting innocent Palestinians in the streets and planting knives in their hands to frame them.

Kent Ekeroth, Sweden Democrat Jewish deputy

Kent Ekeroth, Sweden Democrat Jewish deputy,

None of this controversy surprises the opposition in the Swedish parliament, especially, Kent Ekeroth, the Jewish deputy in the right wing, Sweden Democrat party. An Algemeiner report on  December 9, 2015 had these  comments by Ekeroth about Wallstrom made during an Israeli Channel 2 interview following a debate with her in Sweden’s Parliament:

Sweden has always had misconceptions about Israel, but it has become more extreme. Our government, and especially [Foreign] Minister [Margot] Wallstrom have different standards when it comes to anything related to Israel.

Sweden would defend any other country, but “because we’re talking about Israel,” Sweden “attacks.”

“Either [Wallstrom] doesn’t know that [the Palestinians] support terrorists or she’s just lying,” said Ekeroth. “The foreign minister is carrying out false propaganda and accuses Israel of everything. It’s amazing she doesn’t understand the logic that Israel is defending itself from terrorists. She’s anti-Israel and tries to defend terrorists.”

Ingrid Carlqvist in a Gatestone Institute article, “Sweden’s Walking Diplomatic Disaster”, published, January 14th  presented extensive background on the swirl of controversies surrounding Wallstrom.   She cited this assessment of the Social Democrat Lofven government  from former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel:

Zvi Mazel, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden from 2002-2004, wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on December 14, that,

“The Swedish Social Democratic Party is not known for its sympathy toward Israel. Its current duo of leaders, however, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, have gone overboard and are waging a systematic campaign against Israel. Although the recognition of a Palestinian state was a continuation of the Swedish left’s hostile policy toward Israel, it was also aimed at the country’s large Muslim minority — comprising about 700,000 people — with the aim of attracting Muslim voters to the party in the next elections. During my diplomatic tenure in Sweden in the early 2000s, all my efforts to conduct a dialogue with that party fell on deaf ears. … the two countries’ relations have turned into a cycle of altercations.”

In  Carlqvist’s  Gatestone Institute  article was this  excerpt from a parliamentary debate between her and Ekeroth:

In early December, two members of Parliament, Mathias Sundin of the Liberals and Kent Ekeroth of the Sweden Democrats, had demanded that Wallström explain why she had not condemned the rampant Palestinian knife attacks against civilian Israelis with so much as a syllable. The ensuing debate ended with Wallström saying that she trusts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas implicitly, because he told her he wants peace, and she believes him. She also leveled new accusations against Israel, which, according to Wallström, is engaged in “extrajudicial executions.”

Kent Ekeroth wondered how Wallström views President Abbas and his Fatah party. The Foreign Minister replied:

“The government supports moderate forces in Palestine, the government supports the Palestinian Authority and others who recognize Israel’s right to exist and seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict, enabling Israel and Palestine to live side by side with peace and security. I find that President Abbas has made it his life’s goal to replace the way of violence with a diplomatic struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I also note that President Abbas, apart from his denunciation of terrorism, has also spoken against cries for violent resistance against the Israeli occupying force.”

Ekeroth retorted:

“Wallström portrays Abbas as a pacifist who has denounced terrorism. He might condemn terrorism when it is French citizens who are killed, but when it is Israelis being killed there are no problems. He has not condemned a single one of the murders of 20 Israelis during the last few months. On the contrary, many of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leaders have glorified the killers. A member of the Fatah Central Council told Palestinian TV in October that he congratulates all those who have carried out the attacks. He is proud of them, and thought that knife attacks should be taught in Palestinian schools. Your own ‘golden boy’ Mahmoud Abbas said in September, regarding the violence against Israelis, that ‘We bless every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem’, and we know that every Palestinian assassin apprehended by Israel is rewarded by the Palestinian Authority. So how can Wallström claim that he denounces terrorism, when he is actually rewarding it with money from the Swedish taxpayers?

“Wallström is either ignorant about Abbas’ celebrations of and rewards to murderers, or she is lying. Neither alternative is very flattering. I would therefore like to ask two questions: Is Wallström aware of the praising of terrorism? Is Wallström aware of the rewards paid to terrorists? Yes or no?”

Wallström replied that she certainly condemns “all acts of violence, regardless if they are carried out by Palestinians or Israelis, and I have emphasized the importance of bringing those responsible to justice and not engaging in extrajudicial executions.”

Wallström further thought that one should not attempt to interpret or translate what Abbas says, because there are so many different ways to do this. “I do not think we should do that, the important thing is that we condemn violence and I myself have heard Abbas do this, so I know he renounces violence.”

Ekeroth shot back: “One does not reward terrorists with recognition, and one does not pay them using Swedish taxpayers’ money.” He then proceeded to show a number of printouts of Fatah’s official Facebook page, where murdered Israelis are displayed and the killings celebrated. “You need to understand that Abbas speaks two languages — one to gullible [Western] politicians, where he says he wants peace, and another to Palestinians, where he promotes, glorifies and rewards terror. Wallström needs to stop listening to what Abbas tells her and instead start listening to what he tells his own people.”

WATCH  this sub-titled video of the Wallstrom Ekeroth debate on December 4, 2015:

RELATED ARTICLE: Swedish Woman Murdered by Muslim Refugees that she Supported!

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Capitulation: P5+1 Iran Nuclear Deal Reached in Vienna

News came from Vienna this morning that a final deal has been reached between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The Jerusalem Post reported:

World powers have reached a final, comprehensive agreement with Iran that will govern its nuclear program for over a decade, diplomats said on Tuesday morning.

The deal culminates a two-year diplomatic effort in which the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, have sought to end a twelve-year crisis over Iran’s suspicious nuclear work.

Formally known as the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 100-page document amounts to the most significant multilateral agreement reached in several decades. Its final form is roundly opposed in Israel by the government, by its opposition, and by the public at large.

The JCPOA allows Iran to retain much of its nuclear infrastructure, and grants it the right to enrich uranium on its own soil. But the deal also requires Iran to cap and partially roll back that infrastructure for ten to fifteen years, and grants the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, managed access to monitor that program with intrusive inspections.

In exchange, the governments of Britain, France, Russia, China, the US and Germany have agreed to lift  all UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic, once Iran abides by a set of nuclear-related commitments.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will be tasked with enforcing the agreement over its lifetime. The UN Security Council will soon vote on a resolution to codify the deal.

So, too, will the United States Congress. The US legislature now has a 60-day period to review the deal and, should its leadership choose, vote on a resolution approving or disapproving of the deal. A vote of disapproval would be subject to a presidential veto, which Congress may then vote to override.

Israel and its Arab neighbors are united in opposition to the agreement, warning it will legitimize Iran as a nuclear-threshold state in the short-term, and embolden its form of government – a theocratic republic – in the long-term.

The deal seeks to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to keep Tehran at least one year away from having the capability to build such a weapon.

The JCPOA will not be “signed.” Negotiators in Vienna have agreed to “adopt” the text, and will spend several months preparing to implement various provisions of the highly technical agreement.

With this announcement from Vienna the unraveling of this dangerous legacy of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry will ensue with triggering of the 60 day review by Congress under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. As if orchestrated on cue in this duplicitous act of appeasement, President Obama will go to Capitol Hill to make the case to Democratic members that this agreement is a Hobson’s Choice, the least bad deal, under the circumstances with Iran.

For the Republican Congressional majorities in both houses it will present a daunting task to enlist a minority of wary Democratic colleagues to join with them to reject the Joint Plan of Action attempting to make it veto proof. Allies in the Middle East Israel, Saudi Arabia the Gulf Emirates and Egypt oppose the agreement as it facilitates Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state supporter of terrorism equipped with ICBMs. It will trigger proliferation and possible eventual military action against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

Reliance on less than intrusive UN inspections of military sites and both known and unknown sites will assure Iran’s becoming a nuclear threshold power. Obama will leave behind a literal Stygian Stable of difficulties for his successor to enforce compliance by Iran with questionable snap back sanctions subject to a committee including Iran. Israel will be left virtually alone to its own means to combat a nuclear equipped apocalyptic Islamo fascist Iran.

UPDATE: Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today commented on the Obama Administration’s announcement of a nuclear deal with Iran:

“I have said from the beginning of this process that I would not support a deal with Iran that allows the mullahs to retain the ability to develop nuclear weapons, threaten Israel, and continue their regional expansionism and support for terrorism. Based on what we know thus far, I believe that this deal undermines our national security. President Obama has consistently negotiated from a position of weakness, giving concession after concession to a regime that has American blood on its hands, holds Americans hostage, and has consistently violated every agreement it ever signed.

I expect that a significant majority in Congress will share my skepticism of this agreement and vote it down. Failure by the President to obtain congressional support will tell the Iranians and the world that this is Barack Obama’s deal, not an agreement with lasting support from the United States. It will then be left to the next President to return us to a position of American strength and re-impose sanctions on this despicable regime until it is truly willing to abandon its nuclear ambitions and is no longer a threat to international security.”

RELATED ARTICLES: 

Here’s the Truth About 6 of Obama’s Iran Deal Claims

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What 2016ers Say About Obama’s Nuke Deal With Iran

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Vienna June 30, 2015. Source: Reuters.

Israeli Populist Protest Against Offshore Gas Development Deal Misguided

Last week, Israeli PM Netanyahu effectively declared offshore gas deal with Delek Partners and US Noble Energy, Inc. a national security issue. This was the conclusion reached after discussions with the development partners and economic analysis of other major gas developments resulting in a proposed framework to replace a series of bust deals with the Israel Antitrust Authority. He and his Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz may have a daunting task ahead next week contending with coalition partner, Economics Minister Aryeh Deri of Shas and Populist/Green opponents of the new deal. They support the position of the outgoing General Director of the Israel Antitrust Authority, Dr. David Gilo who resigned on May 26th objecting to the new deal saying he would not leave until August 2015. We have written about the offshore gas developments in several New English Review (NER) articles andIconoclast posts.  See: “Could Israel Lose the Energy Prize in the Eastern Mediterranean” NER (Jan. 2015). We specifically pointed out the radical populist actions by Dr.  David Gilo, who didn’t appear to have the requisite understanding of   energy market dynamics, let alone geo-political realities, or the risk capital requirements to develop and distribute gas.

Last December Gilo reneged on a March 2014 comprise deal with the Delek-Noble development partners instead accusing them of being a duopoly operating  in restraint of trade. Instead he sent the development partners a consent decree forcing sale of interests in the offshore gas deals for which they provided the risk capital to bring to develop them. Thus began the unraveling of a potentially important development of significant natural gas reservoirs in Israel’s offshore Exclusive Economic Zone in the Eastern Mediterranean Levant Basin.  Delek and  Houston based Noble Energy  had spent  over $6 billion before bringing  in the  9  trillion cubic feet tcf Tamir field in 2009 and  the 21 tcf  Leviathan field in 2011. Delivery of gas from the Tamar field began in 2013, while the significant larger Leviathan field might be brought on stream in 2018.  When the Knesset adopted revised   royalty and tax scheme proposed by the Sheshinski Committee in 2013, Israel looked like it might be on the path to a bright economic future.  That included the possibility of earning upwards of $70 billion in future revenues funding an authorized Sovereign Wealth Fund. The tax revenues from the gas sold for domestic use and export would substantively alleviate social program and national security budgetary burdens. That was also evident to former Reagan National Security aide, Prof. Norman Bailey of Haifa U and, Caroline Glick, deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post in an op-ed published on Thursday, July 2, 2015, Israel’s  Populist Energy Crisis.  

Saturday night, July Fourth, the Jerusalem Post reported, thousands from the student Green Course movement protesting the new gas deal from Netanyahu in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, Jerusalem, Beersheba and at the PM’s home in Caesarea.  According to the Post, “The activists demanded lower gas prices and increased use of gas in domestic factories, accusing the government of bending to foreign interests.”

The new proposal that Netanyahu is poised to secure cabinet approval on Monday, July 6th had the following terms according to the Post:

Under the government’s gas outline, Delek subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration would have to exit the 282-b.cu.m, Tamar reservoir, whose gas began flowing to Israel in March 2013, selling their assets there within six years.

Houston-based Noble Energy could remain the basin’s operator, needing to dilute its ownership from the current 36 percent share to 25 percent within the same time frame.

The Delek subsidiaries and Noble Energy would be required to sell their holdings in two much smaller offshore reservoirs, Karish and Tanin, within 14 months. Because the buyer would be required to sell gas only to Israel, export allocations intended for these reservoirs would be transferred to Leviathan, according to the outline.

In 2013, the cabinet decided to cap exports at 40% of production, and pipelines designated for export will not be entitled to tax benefits guaranteed to local pipelines, as mandated by the Sheshinski Committee, whose recommendations on hydrocarbon taxation became law in 2013.

Glick in her Post op Ed  suggested that the hit that Israel had taken in foreign direct investment had a lot to do with misguided populist economic doctrine that pervades the Zionist Union, Yesh Atid, some coalition partners and Knesset opposition.  From my own investment banking exposure in Israel these populist economic views are a reflection of the founding Labor Socialist parties and the Histadrut. The latter owns enterprises that have never been effectively privatized.  It is also a poor reflection on a country that prides itself on the law, that doesn’t extend to honoring contractual obligations. She argues that is reflected in downward trends in Foreign Direct Investment cited in the most recent UN Council on Trade and Development report:

In 2014 Foreign Direct Investment in Israel was 46 percent below levels in 2013, dropping from $11.8 billion to $6.4bn. During the same period worldwide direct foreign investment dropped a mere 16%, meaning the drop in investment in Israel was nearly three times the global average.

Israel also had demonstrated that it was okay for foreign partners like Noble Energy to invest billions in offshore energy development, just as long if it came through, that the terms could change denying appropriate returns to risk investors.  Moreover, the hue and cry in Israel that the duopoly of the Delek –Noble gas partnership could result in price gouging was false.   When in fact since the Tamir field came on stream average gas prices dropped in Israel resulting in both lower energy and manufacturing costs.

The Israel Noble Energy manager Binyamin Zomer reinforced Glick’s observations with these comments cited in Globes Israel Business:

Let’s make it clear. We didn’t break the law, and we didn’t prevent competition. What we did do was to succeed beyond the expectations of the government that invited us to invest in Israel. Israel was happy, it seems, for Noble Energy to risk its money in Israel, as long as it was unsuccessful. There is a monopoly – that’s not a crime. Let’s understand why this happened. The company agreed to invest its money where other companies refused (and we won’t apologize for that); the supply of gas from Egypt ended in 2011 (and that was not our fault); other companies with no experience found no gas (again, not our fault); and the incessant interference by regulators with no background in oil and gas drove every gas company away, except for Noble Energy.

Glick offered the following proposals to rectify the impasse:

If we are to correct the damage – to our energy market specifically and to the Israeli economy overall – there is only one path to take. The Knesset must abrogate the 2011 windfall profits law and end all attempts to define the Delek-Noble partnership as a monopoly while seeking new, creative ways to seize their profits.

Then, the Knesset must pass a law that will protect investors from attempts to retroactively change the terms of operating licenses they receive from the State of Israel.

Israel has enough problems with the anti-Semitic boycott movement that is growing by leaps and bounds. We need to curb our populist tendencies and stop making those who want to invest in Israel feel that they are fools to do so.

As the late Hollywood and radio personality of my youth Bill Bendix might opine, “this is a rotten development.” Israel’s obsessive democracy  makes  the country  prone  to  divisive squabbles and in this case  possibly resulting in losing  a glittering economic future.  This latest Knesset speed bump doesn’t bode well  for Israel  achieving first world economic preeminence.  As we have written innumerable times these Israeli populists are economically uniformed  genetic socialists who have no understanding of both geo-political resource realities and commodity market dynamics or the risk reward relationships undergirding energy development. We blame Dr. Gilo whose dictatorial arrogance reneging the original compromise deal with both Delek Group and Noble Energy was nothing but political grandstanding . He was awaiting the victory of Zionist Union and populist parties like Yesh Atid that didn’t occur on March 17, 2015.  He should never have been permitted to remain as the radical leftist Antitrust Authority General Director until his departure in August after he rejected the Netanyahu government’s replacement deal on May 26th. No self respecting energy development group will invest a shekel in Israel’s energy resources because it is no better than a third world country that doesn’t honor agreements. Israel may have just screwed itself out of the future source of wealth that would alleviate social disparities and the budgetary burdens of national defense. Prime Minister Netanyahu is now caught in a nearly impossible task to  push through this new agreement on July 6th given the makeup of his ruling coalition. The fictional book and film character Forest Gump has the last word on those populist protesters in Israel, “stupid is as stupid does”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Tel Aviv offshore gas deal protesters, July 4, 2015. Source: Jerusalem Post.

Jewish Federation of Orange County undermines Student Zionism at UC-Irvine

Over the past several years we have chronicled anti-Israel hate mongering by campus  Muslim  Student groups and  violation of opposing  views  of pro-Israel  speakers   and events  at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).  In a series of New English Review articles, interviews and Iconoclast blog posts we revealed the heckler’s veto of former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren in February 8, 2010 by an organized disruption of his speech by campus members of the Muslim Student Union (MSU). That was followed by   the arrest, prosecution and conviction of 11 students, 8 from UC Irvine and 3 from UC Riverside for disturbing a public event   The legal action brought by the Orange County District Attorney triggered a one year suspension of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate by the Administration only to be reduced to 10 weeks by the retiring deputy Chancellor at UCI.  In the interim, Students for Justice in Palestine was formed as a placeholder for the suspended MSU.  We also  unraveled  the story  behind  the Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC)  affiliate, the Rose Project, funding  the Olive Tree Initiative that brought  students to Israel and the West Bank  in 2009 for an alleged  chance encounters with a Hamas leader, Aziz Duwaik,  former Speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council.  See our NER article:”Does the Olive Tree Initiative have Credibility?”   We questioned  both the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Orange County and the UCI Administration dissembling over this incident.

UCI has a small Jewish student body versus a much larger Muslim one.  For most of the 32 weeks on the UCI campus, things are relatively quiet. However, during Anti Zionism Week (AZW) and Israel Festival, iFEST, sponsored by Anteaters for Israel (AFI)   the decibel levels and protests hate towards Israel rises to a veritable crescendo.  The AZW events organized by the MSU have typically involved anti-Israel speakers, and in the past some like Malik Ali with anti-Semitic statements, holding forth at noon events at the flagpole.  Despite this, JFOC President Shalom Elcott has suggested in the past, there is no anti-Semitism at  UCI.  Last year , an assault by  MSU protesters  disrupted  iFEST with calls for campus police assistance that resulted in a woman student being upbraided by  a JFOC  board member.  This year  AFI President Sharon Shaoulian organized  a three day event  from April 22 to 24th without JFOC funding, but with sponsors including  the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), StandWithUs, CAMERA on Campus, the Israel on Campus Coalition, and Hasbara.  Hillel, with is affiliated with JFOC, provided funding for Shabbat.

What happened during  iFEST  on April 23, 2015 revealed why JFOC   and Hillel have  undermined Jewish student  Zionism at UCI.  This year it was triggered  by an ambush of MSU and Students for Justice in Palestine (JSP)  pouring out  of the Campus Cultural Center  to attack  the Jewish student Zionist group , Anteaters for Israel’s (AFI)  during  their  iFEST Yom Ha’atzmaut  celebration of Israel’s Independence.   The iFEST attendees in opposition to the MSU/SJP protesters created space between the opposing groups  with massed Israeli and American flags  and Israeli dances. A Frontpage Magazine article  by Arnold Ahlert “Pro-Israel Student Group Meets Opposition from Jewish Leadership” revealed what happened when JFOC President Shalom Elcott and aide Lisa Armony, Hillel  Executive, intervened:

Witness Gary Fouse, adjunct UCI lecturer, reported that Lisa Armony, Director of the Jewish Federation of Orange County and Hillel Executive, was among those attempting to move the flag wavers back. One witness reported that they were “approached and told that it was wrong for anyone holding a flag to be standing facing the MSU/anti-Israel faction.” The witness was told that waving the flags was “antagonizing.” One of the flag wavers, who did not wish to be named, said that students who “seemed to be pressured by someone else” approached him and other flag carriers “and told us that we should not march with the flags since it ‘makes us look bad.’” It was further suggested to him that they move down the street and away from the area.

This witness also saw the far more troubling exchange between a man subsequently identified as Shalom Elcott, JFOC president and CEO, and AFI president Sharon Shaoulian. Elcott was seen “getting in the face of” Shaoulian, a third-year student, and screaming at her. As the witness explained, “I did not hear what this man said, but I saw Sharon break into tears,” he recalled.

Shaoulian confirmed that Elcott “advanced on me in a threatening fashion and began screaming at me and berating me” and was “looking down at me two inches away from my face.” He “blamed me..for ‘inciting’ the MSU/SJP to come out to protest,” though the anti-Israel protest happens every year. Elcott allegedly called Shaoulian “derogatory names, a ‘liar’ and a ‘disgrace.’”

Watch these YouTube videos of the UCI  iFEST encounter on the FouseSqwak blog:

Video One

Video Two

Video Three

Here is an excerpt from our NER interview with Shaoulian about the encounter with Elcott  at the UCI iFEST Yom Ha’atzmaut clash with MSU and JSP:

Jerry Gordon:

You had a recent exchange with the head of the Orange  County Jewish Federation.  I wonder if you could talk about that and the context in which that exchange occurred?

Sharon Shaoulian:  Yes, it happened on April the 23rd, which was a big festival day for AFI during iFEST.  Because the Federation, threatened AFI through another student, not to associate with the Zionist Organization of America, my board and I decided that it would be prudent not to ask for a Rose Project Grant and stand more independently on our own.

[…]

We were walking towards Shalom Elcott so he heard me pretty much the entire time, and that’s when he started advancing on me.  I’m five feet tall, and so he got very close to my face, just centimeters away from my face, peering down, screaming at me in front of everybody.  He called me a liar repeatedly, “You’re a liar.  You’re a liar.  They’re not going to come rush through the event.  You’re inciting all of these people.”  He told me that I was a disgrace, that the protesters were here because of me, that I caused all of this uproar, and that I should be ashamed of myself.

When he paused, while berating me, I told him, “You know, sir, what you are talking about?  They [meaning MSU protesters] are here every single year.  They’re not here because of me.  They’re here because we’re trying to be pro-Israel on this campus and they won’t stand for that.”

Elcott continued to yell and to make a scene. I flat out told him, “You, sir, you and Rose Project, you didn’t give us any funding for this event.  You expressly told your son, Jordan, not to be a part of iFEST.  So, with all due respect, why are you even here?  You know, if you didn’t want to have a stake in this event, why are you even here at our event?”

He didn’t say anything.  He obviously had nothing to say. That’s when I told him. “You know what?  You should be ashamed that you’re screaming at me, that you’re yelling at me.” He started recording me. While this was going on, community members were defending me and trying to get him to back away from me.  I think a lot of people were nervous about his proximity to me and the level that he was screaming at me.  Eventually we were pulled apart.  So that’s when Lisa Armony  caught what he did and tried to defend the action to my own parents.

On May 5, 2015, Carolyn Glick commented about the altercation at AFI’s UCI iFEST in a Jerusalem Post (JP) column, “Siding with the Victims of Aggression”:

Last month, the heads of the Jewish Federation in Orange County reportedly interfered with student celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut at University of California at Irvine on behalf of Muslim anti-Israel protesters who sought to ruin the festivities. According to a report of the events at the online FrontpageMagazine, the pro-Israel students separated participants in their event from Muslim student protesters by placing a line of students waving Israeli and American flags between them.

The move was angrily opposed by Federation Director Lisa Armony and Federation President Shalom Elcott. They reportedly insisted that the Israeli flags be taken down because they were “antagonizing” the anti-Israel protesters.

The accusation against JFOC of the FPM expose and Glick’s JP column comment led to the  response by Armony in the JP blog post, “Turning against fellow pro-Israel advocates“ of May 14th:

The accusation that we interfered with a Yom Ha’atzmaut [Independence Day] celebration at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) on behalf of anti-Israel protesters is based solely on a recent piece from the online FrontpageMagazine. The blogger relied primarily on unnamed sources and unsubstantiated assertions to paint a misleading picture of the festival, JFFS, and Elcott’s and my activities.

We reject the claims in the article that we told people to stop waving Israeli flags at anti-Israel protesters, claiming that we accept anti-Jewish discrimination on campus and “stand with the (anti-Israel) aggressor against the (Jewish) victim.”

FrontpageMagazine on May 15, 2015 published an editorial castigating Shalom Elcott and Armony for obfuscating what occurred at AFI witnessed by others, “An Attack on Front Page from the Jewish Federation of Orange County.”  That was crystallized by the May 4th FPM article suggesting  that their interference  at the IFEST event and shameful attack  on AFI President Shaoulian  were  an affront to decency  and unwarranted.   FPM considers JFOC’s defense of its actions calumnious.  The FPM editorial concluded:

Without a doubt the JFOC has much to answer for. The JFOC can be assured Frontpage will continue our no-holds-barred coverage of its brazen attacks on Jewish students and pro-Israel activists without apology.

The JFOC  alleged defense  reminds this writer of  J Street’s Orwellian meme of “Pro-Peace, Pro Israel”.  But this is nothing new for Elcott and JFOC. This is just the latest example of their nefarious activities on the UCI campus.

Elcott’s interference with Jewish student Zionist activities on the UCI campus amounts to bullying:  denial of free speech rights of Shaoulian and fellow AFI members. It amounts to a heckler’s veto equivalent to what occurred in 2010 during former Israeli US Ambassador Oren’s speech at UCI when MSU members shut down his talk.  The Elcott and Armony actions at iFEST and subsequent  slander of both Glick and FPM   does not  serve the interests of the Jewish student community at UCI.  Ms. Armony’s Jerusalem Post blog post upbraiding Glick and FPM  was emblematic of  what Dr. Johnson once said about patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel.  Witness JFOC claiming the mantle of a ‘responsible’ adult leadership on all pro-Israel activities at UCI implying less than adult behavior by Zionist AFI. That is truly topsy turvy  chutzpah.  The screaming attack by Elcott against Shaoulian  demeaning her  is not ‘adult behavior’. It is indicative of manifestly  deep rooted animus  against critics of his leadership at  JFOC especially   concerned  Jewish community  supporters  of the Jewish Student Zionism  of AFI.  The JFOC attacks against a colleague, Nonie Darwish, preventing her from speaking at an AFI-sponsored event in 2014, accusing her of being an “Islamophobe  are indicative of an  out of control  leadership at JFOC.   It is past time for responsible directors of JFOC to review Elcott’s unacceptable behavior.  Perhaps this most recent episode during IFEST at UCI may result in a search for new more effective leadership at JFOC.

More will be revealed about JFOC’s behavior in this latest episode in our interview with Ms. Shaoulian to be published in the June edition of the NER.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Hamas Murderers of Israeli Yeshiva Students Killed in Shootout near Hebron

hamasmurderers

Marwan Kawasmeh and Amer Abu Eisha killers of three Israel Yeshiva students.

Marwan Kawasmeh and Amir Abu Eisha, the two alleged perpetrators  of the June 2014 kidnap/murders of  three Israeli Yeshiva Students, were killed early Tuesday morning in a shootout at an armed compound near Hebron by a special operations unit of Israeli Border Police aided by Shin Bet. Hamas, which took responsibility for the murders, praised the two slain perpetrators  as so-called ‘martyrs’ during a funeral today. See our NER interview with Dan Diker,”Exposing Hamas’ Kidnapping Strategy.

According to a report in Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, “Murderers of the Three Teens Eliminated”, the kidnapping and murder of the three Yeshiva students was preplanned. A relative of the family obtained a car with Israeli license tags and the perpetrators were dressed as orthodox Jews  to mislead  and entrap the three hitchhiking victims, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha’ar, and Naftali Frenkel.   Hamas used the manhunt that ensnared hundreds of its members on the West Bank as a pretext for the launch of 50 day rocket and terror tunnel campaign and IDF Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014.  67 IDF soldiers and 6 Israel civilians were killed, while 2,100 Palestinians were killed, nearly half of whom may have been Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters.

Here are excerpts from the Arutz Sheva report. On the raid that killed the two murderers:

The operation was carried out by the Yamam, a special unit of the Border Police, and the IDF, in Hevron. An attempt was made to arrest the suspects but an exchange of fire developed in which they were killed.

The operation was made possible by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which located the murderers’ hideout. In the last few days, several Hamas suspects were arrested and questioned on the assumption that they were assisting the fugitives.

“We have been pursuing these two since the abduction,” said Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai. “Last night the investigation ripened as regards their location and we have been surrounding the place where they were hiding since 1:00 a.m. We killed them and there are arrests of several other collaborators.”

“We began arresting suspects and at the same time we applied [IDF] ‘pressure cooker’ protocol on the house. It is a big house and they hid out in a secret arms store on the basement floor. The floor is not visible from the outside. At one stage they went outside and opened fire. One was shot and the other fell inside, into a hole.”

“There was use of weapons, like hand grenades and the deployment of explosives that were prepared ahead of time,” he added. “We know that they have been staying in this location quite a lot in the last few days. We know for certain that they were not here the whole time. They had weapons like M-16s, a Kalashnikov and handguns, too.”

3 isreali students murdered

Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Sha’ar,  Eyal Yifrah Two Israelis and an Israel American kidnapped and murdered by slain Hamas operatives.

The accomplices and planning for the kidnapping:

Kawasmeh’s close relative Hussam was arrested in Jerusalem in August for planning the attack, which was carried out physically by Marwan, along with Amer Abu-Eisha.

The abduction and murder reportedly was planned by a third Kawasmeh, Mahmoud, along with Hussam, under the support of Hamas’s military branch, the Al-Qassam Brigades, through their branches both in Gaza and abroad.

The Brigades transferred funds via Mahmoud to purchase a car with an Israeli license plate, weapons and hideouts which were arranged in advance, according to security sources. They added that the three Israeli teens were buried on land purchased by the Kawasmeh family long before the attack. Hussam admitted in investigation to having shaven his beard off and obtained a forged passport in an attempt to flee the country to Jordan.

[…]

The source claimed the kidnappers used a silenced weapon, indicating their attempt to actually use the gun, and dressed up as religious Jews to lure the victims into their car.

The Jerusalem Post reported Israeli PM Netanyahu saying that Israel “had fulfilled its pledge”:

“I said from the very first that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and murder, and as the evidence that we brought mounted, Hamas admitted that it was also behind that attack.”

Netanyahu, who thanked the security services for their efforts, said he spoke to the families of the murdered teens in the morning, and said that nothing could balm their pain or bring the boys back. “But I said there was justice, and that we carried out the mission that we pledged before them and the entire nation that we would carry out”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Israel is not ‘sightless’ in Gaza

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Destroyed home of Mohammed Deif in Gaza city, August 20, 2014. Source: AFP

Yesterday in Jerusalem, with visiting American Congressman Darrell  Issa (R-CA) at his side, Israeli PM Netanyahu heaped considerable praise on Shin Bet-Israel’s General Security Service – for the targeted  killings of senior Hamas commanders in Rafah. The International Business Times(IBT) quoted Netanyahu saying:

The “hard work and professionalism” of Shin Bet had enabled the Israeli military to “carry out this operation against the Hamas leaders who plotted fatal attacks against Israelis,” Netanyahu reportedly said, referring to pre-dawn air strikes in Rafah that killed the three Hamas commanders.

“In the name of every Israeli citizen, I thank the Shin Bet, the heads of the intelligence and operational units, and the chief of the organization, Yoram Cohen,” he said, according to Ha’aretz. Meanwhile, the Israeli military said that it had killed six militants of the Islamic Jihad — a Palestinian Islamist organization — as they were “about to launch rockets into Israel.”

Possibly in retaliation, today, Hamas,  publicly executed 18 ‘collaborators’. These public executions come in the midst of a rising wave of ‘collaborator’ executions in the terrorist stronghold of Gaza.  Israel National News  reported a series of such reprisals in an article, “Hamas Goes on an ‘Israel Collaborator’ Killing Spree”:

Majd, a website close to Hamas, on Thursday reported that Hamas’s military wing,the Al-Qassam Brigades, executed three Gaza residents and arrested seven others for ‘collaborating’ with Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

No date was given for the executions or arrests, but the Hamas security official quoted in the report said the three were killed after “revolutionary procedures” were completed against them.

The same website reported on August 6 that “a number” of Arab collaborators had been killed, again without giving a date.

In the last week of July, Palestinian sources reported that over 30 Gazans were executed by Hamas, most of them in the Shejaiya neighborhood. In that case too, Hamas claimed that they were collaborators with Israel.

The Times of Israel reported a revelation by a Lebanese publication that a phone call between Hamas leader Khalid Mashal in Qatar and  Mohammed Deif, the elusive  head of the Hamas military wing, may have  provided Israel with intelligence that sealed the fate of both he and his family.  According to the TOI  Mashal may have broken protocol to discuss a possible cease fire with Israel. The Deif residence in Gaza was hit with several bunker buster bombs which  cratered  the structure. That resulted  in a massive funeral purportedly for Deif’s wife and children. Hamas spokesman persist in conveying the impression that Deif escaped the fatal attack, and yet have not provided any proof of life.  That attack signifies, as one source told me, that the IAF is flying missions with small bunker buster bombs, in just such a  instance to make  an instantaneous attack.

MohammedDeif

Mohammed Deif, Hamas military leader.

A report by the Shaham Palestinian news service published a picture of Deif along with this statement:

“The bodies arrived at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, after the occupation planes attacked the al-Dalo home, in the Rimal neighborhood in the north, in Gaza City, last night,” the report said. “The document we obtained was confiscated by an armed squad of the Al-Qassam brigade from Shifa’s archive, and also changed the check-in information in the hospital to erase Deif’s name from the list.”

“We at Saham News are forced to tell the Palestinian nation, with great sadness, of the death of Deif,” it concluded. “We belong to Allah, and to him we return.”

Shin Bet is also to be credited for its role in uncovering  the Hamas  power play against Fatah in the West Bank with funds  and arms caches. Many observers believe this may have been a key part of the Rosh Ha Shanah attack plan by Hamas that included infiltration of suicide commandos through  the terror tunnels dug across the frontier between Gaza and Israel. The joint IDF-Shin Bet Operation Brother’s Keeper that detained hundreds of Hamas operatives in the search  for three murdered Jewish Yeshiva students may have provided the intelligence resulting in disclosures of the thwarted plot. Senior Hamas representative ensconced in Turkey, Salah al-Aruri,  announced his role in orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish yeshiva students. The Jerusalem Post reported:

SalahalAruri

Hamas Military leader in Turkey, Salah al-Aruri.

A senior Hamas official admitted for the first time on Wednesday that the organization’s armed wing, the Kassam Brigades, was behind the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah in the West Bank in June, Channel 2 reported.

The Hamas official, Salah al-Aruri made the comments during a conference of Islamic clerics in Turkey. He praised the “heroic action of the Kassam Brigades who kidnapped three settlers in Hebron.”

Israeli lawyer, Nitsana Darshan Leitner of Shurat ha Din (Israel Law Center) asked US Attorney  General Eric Holder to invoke the extradition treaties between the US and Turkey to bring to justice al-Aruri for the murder of Israeli-American, Fraenkel.  Meanwhile, PA President Abbas is reported to have had heated conversations in Doha, Qatar with Mashal triggered by Hamas’ plans to overthrow Fatah . Further, there are indications that pressure  is building  on the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to eject Mashal from his luxurious palace in Doha.  Qatar has been a major funder of Hamas, supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and  ISIS, along with Erdogan’s Turkey. If that eventuated Mashal might then be subject to apprehension and possible trial in Egypt. Lest we forget, PM Netanyahu was caught in an embarrassing position in 1998, when an attempted assassination of Mashal by Mossad agents was disclosed by the late King Hussein of Jordan.  Mashal also could have been taken out, while a resident in Damascus, before his departure for Qatar at the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Witness the Mossad assassination in February 2008 of Hezbollah terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyeh.

Whether it is human intelligence through cultivation of assets, or ELINT ears and eyes in the skies over Gaza, these targeted assassination episodes by the IDF with assistance from Shin bet have succeeded in decimating  the military leadership of Hamas. These actions clearly indicate that unlike the Biblical Shimshon, Samson the Nazerite, Israel is not ‘sightless’ in Gaza.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

“We wanted to watch him grow up. He was a sweet smart sensitive boy”

Four-year old Daniel Tragerman z”l, the first Israeli child killed by Hamas during Operation Protective Edge.

On Friday afternoon, 4-year old Daniel Tragerman died of shrapnel wounds from a Hamas mortar fired randomly at the Nahal Oz Kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region hard by the frontier with Gaza.  The IDF said the mortar round was fired near a school used by Gazans as a refuge landing outside the Tragerman home. The irony was that he was within minutes of leaving home with his parents and brothers to travel to safety at his grandparents in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv. The Times of Israel reported:

 Gila Tragerman said a shell had exploded in their kibbutz, Nahal Oz, some time earlier, convincing the family to leave for her parents’ house in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv.

“The suitcases were already packed,” she said. “A minute before the explosion I went out to take Uri’s baby carrier (her young son) from the clothesline and met the neighbor. I asked him if they were leaving and told him we were setting off now. I went inside and there was the Color Red siren.

“The children were playing in a tent inside the house, and from the moment of the siren to the explosion only three seconds passed. We didn’t have time to get the children and go into the protected room.”

Gila said her son Daniel was very disciplined when it came to rocket sirens.

“He always rushed to the protected room,” she said. “The moment the alarm sounded he knew what to do and where to go. When everyone reached the protected room Daniel would say ‘now we’re all safe.’”

Tragerman called her son a “beautiful, smart, sensitive boy. So sweet…We wanted to watch him grow up with his brothers and fulfill himself.”

Daniel Tragerman was the first Israeli child to die in the 48 day old Operation Protective Edge. That the total of casualties to 68, including 64 IDF service personnel.

The Times of Israel noted  the reaction of Israeli PM Netanyahu:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas would pay a “heavy price” for the killing. In a phone call to local Sha’ar Hanegev council head Alon Shuster, Netanyahu said the IDF and Shin Bet would intensify their operations against Hamas and other Gaza terror groups until sustained calm was guaranteed for Israel.

US Ambassador  to Israel Dan Shapiro  wrote on his Facebook page:

“I condemn in the strongest terms this outrageous terrorist attack and offer condolences to the boy’s family. Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself, which the United States supports”

But the rockets and mortar keep raining death on Israel from Hamas in Gaza. This weekend so far more than 250 rockets were fired. The barrages ranged across the country into central Israel, but were especially fierce in the south and as far east as Beersheba. . Besides the fatal mortar attack in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, rockets smashed into a synagogue in Ashdod injuring three, while, a house in Sderot was severely damaged.

Hamas has fired more than 3,600 rockets during the 48 days, 600 the IDF maintains from positions near schools, homes, Mosques and even hospitals.   IDFreported  an air attack taking out a major Hamas command center in a residential apartment building in Gaza City on Saturday evening.

The mortar that killed 4 year old Daniel Tragerman was likely supplied by Iran. Hamas fired the mortar from a position near the grounds of an UNWRA School that provided refuge for Gazan civilians.  We wonder what UNWRA spokesperson Chris Gunness   would say at this time? He who cried tears over Gazan civilian deaths falsely accusing the IDF of war crimes, while subsequently it was revealed those casualties were caused by misfired Hamas rockets.  Would he now protest the Hamas mortar men who fired   the rounds that killed young Dan Tragerman in Nahal Oz? Perhaps we should tweet him and ask. I am reminded of a poster toted around by a pro-Hamas protester at our Stand for Israel Rally here in Pensacola that said Israel murders children in Gaza.  When challenged he said that he was pro-humanity, not pro-Hamas. Some humanity!  Our deepest rachmonis goes out to the Tragerman family for the loss of their son, the late beloved Dan Tragerman z”l.   He will be laid to rest Sunday at the Hevel Shalom cemetery in the Eshkol Regional Council in the northern Negev.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

What will Israel do with ISIS on its Doorstep?

ISIS Flags at Gaza Funeral

ISIS Flags at Funeral in Gaza.

Yesterday, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) declared a Caliphate to be ruled under Sharia in the lands it has conquered in Syria and Iraq.   Jerusalem-based Dan Diker on yesterday’s Lisa Benson Show, on the Salem Radio Network was in the midst of a discussion with Mudar Zahran about the ISIS threat with “Jordan in its gunsight”, listen here.   He commented that the announcement should be viewed as a political statement to Al Qaeda and its leader Ayman al Zawihiri.

Zahran noted that  Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had morphed into ISIS.  AQI  founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a Jordanian from Zarqa who became self indoctrinated, joined Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 1990’s and  ran his own Jihadi training center. He established brutal barbaric assaults in Iraq in 2005 engaging against US military and contractors,  and Shia Iraqis that set a precedent for ISIS.  al-Zarqawi was killed in a 2006 USAF -F16a  bombing attack at a targeted safe house in Iraq.

The ISIS declaration was also a statement to other Sunni terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, Hamas.  The Algemeiner reported  ISIS flags were flying this weekend on pickup trucks in Gaza for a funeral an indication that it was operating there.   Conquering large swaths of terrain, looting upwards of a billion dollars worth of  money and gold, capturing US supplied Humvees and Blackhawk helicopters abandoned by a corrupt and incompetent Iraqi Army have morphed ISIS into an Islamic State with its own army.

ISIS is more than just a political threat elsewhere in the sectarian turmoil of the Middle East. That was recognized in comments by  New York Rep. Pete King  onABC’s This Week that President Obama should be “very  very aggressive” about ISIS.  He was most immediately concerned about protecting our Embassy in Baghdad with  500 US security troops.  There are also 300 US military advisors engaged in assessing what to do with a divided Shiite- dominated al Maliki government in Iraq. A government whose military is now  supported by drones of Iran’s Quds Force gathering intelligence on ISIS forces near the capital of Baghdad.

King was also concerned about the estimated 100 American jihadis reported to be fighting with ISIS. ISIS has enticed them with English language  weekly and annual reports and videos.    My co-host on yesterday program, Lisa Benson,  commented off –line about the plethora of such sophisticated ISIS social media that is published daily.  That brought back memories of the campaign  2008 endeavoring to get Google to shut down Al Qaeda jihadist training sites.

The Administration for its part looks like the proverbial deer frozen in the headlights of ISIS.  Last week, It floated  the belated idea of funding $500 million to train “moderate” rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war. A civil war  that looks increasingly like a stalemate between ISIS and  the Assad forces are  backed by Hezbollah and Iran’s Quds Force with support from Putin’s Russia.  That Administration proposal may be more than a day late and a dollar short.  We had reports in mid-June from Der Spiegel and other sources that the some CIA-trained rebel fighters in Jordan  opted to join ISIS given its stunning successes.

As Diker pointed out on Sunday’s Lisa  Benson  Show the makeup of the anti-Assad  rebels  according to a Times of Israel report may control 95 percent on the Syrian side of the Golan Height. He, said, “we can see Hezbollah flags flying”.  Then he noted that the balance might be Al Nusrah, the official Al Qaeda anti-Assad contingent that increasingly has seen their fighters opt to join the “successful” ISIS.

ISIS Flags in Ma’an, Jordan

I asked Zahran, who is pro-Israel and promotes the view that Jordan is Palestine, about the peculiar circumstances  behind  last Thursday’s Jordanian Security Court decision acquitting  Al Qaeda preacher, Abu Qatada.   Abu Qatada had been extradited from the UK  for preaching incitement and allegedly raising funds for terrorist causes. The Jordanian court had dismissed one charge based on a failed 1999 plot to attack an American School in Amman. The second charge of plotting terrorism against Israel targets has yet to be heard.  Last month on May 28, 2014, the Jordanian Security Court had sentenced 11 allegedly involved in an  2012  Al Qaeda plot to attack both British and US Embassies in Amman.  Zahran drew attention to the nearly six decade dalliance with the Islamic Action front, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, by the Hashemite Kingdom under the late King Hussein and now his son, King Abdullah II.   Zahran noted that the IAF, Muslim Brotherhood which is largely Bedouin, is the strongest organized Islamist group in Jordan. He drew attention to the daily pitched battles in  the southern town of Ma’an  between  Jordanian security forces and  local tribal supporters  of the IAF flying ISIS flags. Ma’an is located  less than three kilometers from Israel’s frontier.  The headline in a Washington Post report on the turmoil in Ma’an read, “Jordan fears homegrown ISIS more than invasion from Iraq”.

The security of Jordan as a buffer state, as  Diker pointed out is foremost on the agenda of Israel ‘s national security. We note the comments in The Times of Israel  by  former  Israeli  security cabinet strategic advisor Gen. Yaakov Amidror,  who  said that Israel should bolster the defense of Jordan against the ISIS onslaught.  At the Institute of National Security Studies  (INSS) of Tel Aviv University, yesterday Israeli PM Netanyahu underlined these security issues.     He talked about support for an Independent Kurdistan and completing a security fence along Israel’s eastern frontier from the Golan to Eilat.  Netanyahu said:

The forces of fanatical Islam are already knocking on our door” and  Israel needs to be proactive to bolster its defense against enemy infiltration.

“The first thing that we need to do is to build a security fence on our eastern border, and to build it gradually all the way from Eilat to merge with the security fence that we’ve been building over the last two years in the Golan Heights,” he said. “That fence does not hermetically prevent infiltration; it doesn’t prevent shooting through the fence as we saw tragically just a week ago; it doesn’t prevent barrages of missiles over it, or the digging of tunnels underneath it. But it does narrow down dramatically that permeatio on Israel’s border.”

Israel will not cede the Jordan Valley approaches, much sought after by Secretary of Kerry and the US facilitator in bi-lateral discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk.  Diker pointed out Indyk’s announced return to the Washington-based Brookings Institution indicative of the US failure to achieve a final status agreement with the unified Palestinian government of Fatah with Hamas.  Diker cited the abduction of three Israel youths, including one American, by Hamas the prime suspects sought in the massive Operation Brother’s Keeper as evidence that no security for Israel could have emerged from the US facilitated negotiations. Unfortunately, the bodies of the three youths were recovered by the IDF, today amidst grief for their families and sorrow expressed by many Israelis and Americans.

Deceased three Israeli abductees likely slain by Hamas suspects. From left: INaftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, in three undated family photos. Credit Image by Reuters

Netanyahu’s  INSS remarks reflect the deep concerns about the stability of Jordan rife with more than 1.4 million Syrian refuges, and a million Iraqis. There are an estimated 1.5 million  Arabs Refugees of Palestinian origin.  Jordan’s population of 7.9  million is based on CIA Factbook estimates.  Note the last census was taken in 2004.  Then there is the  accommodation of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist support growing in the country’s Bedouin population . They feel aggrieved about  the lack economic participation and high unemployment amid  alleged  corruption charges against the ruling autocratic Hashemite King and family.

Umm al Fahm, Israel protests by Islamic Movement, June 27, 2014.

Netanyahu also recognized internal threats to Israel’s  security at yesterday’s cabinet meeting.  He announced that  he would move to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamist movement, whose leader, Sheikh  Read Salah,  has proposed to establish  a Caliphate on the Temple Mount.  In October 2013, we wrote in the Iconoclast  post about Israeli Arab adherents of Sheik Salah joining up with anti-Assad Al Qaeda rebel forces in Syria.   Last Friday, there were rallies organized by  Salah and his Islamist adherents in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al Fahm protesting the raids by the IDF in Operation Brother’ s Keeper denying Hamas abduction of the three slain  youths.  Rock throwing by protesters was broken up Israeli riot police with tear gas and sound bombs. Netanyahu noted:

[The northern Branch of the Islamist Movement] constantly preaches against the State of Israel and its people. [The Islamist Movement ] publicly identify with terrorist organizations such as Hamas. Therefore, I directed the relevant authorities to consider declaring the northern branch of the Islamic Movement as an illegal organization. This would give the security authorities significant tools in the struggle against the  movement.”

In May 2014, Netanyahu had been thwarted in such a move against the northern branch of the Islamist Movement by the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua, because these enemies of the Jewish State are citizens. They are represented in Israel’s Knesset by Arab parties, espousing pro Palestinian positions verging on sedition.

Israel knows what it has to do with ISIS on its doorstep and fellow travelers inside. The question is the resolve of Jerusalem to take the hard steps. Israel’s friends in the US Congress are urging the Administration to undertake actions to protect its only reliable ally and interests in the region.   The ISIS Caliphate’s declaration means that Israel will have to defend itself from jihadis both inside and on its doorstep.

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

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.

Iranian Rockets Bound for Gaza Terrorists Seized

Credit the Israeli Naval Commandos of Sayeret 13 and missile boats with another coup seizing the Panamanian flagged vessel, the KLOS-C packed with clearly marked Iranian M302 Rockets bound ultimately for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.  You may recall the Sayeret 13 boarded the Turkish ferry the Mavi Mamara in the May 2010 Free Gaza Flotilla.  This time Iran has used Syria for transshipment of a consignment of M302 rockets via Iraq in the Persian Gulf.  The raid on the KLOS-C occurred in the Red Sea  off Port Sudan just before off loading for shipment  to Gaza via  Salafist Jihadist helpers in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula .  The M302 rockets have a range of  200 KM threatening all of the populous central Israel.

Watch this IDF video of the KLOS-C seizure of Iranian M302 rockets:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/ob6X07EzuX8[/youtube]

The Jerusalem  and Washington  Post accounts note this most recent episode in a more than 14 year history of IDF seizures, a credit to diligent naval intelligence as well as Israel’s special operations prowess.  Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post report :

The ship, the KLOS C, was carrying Syrian-made M-302 rockets and was intercepted more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of Israel off the coasts of Sudan and Eritrea, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told reporters.

[…]

Previously, Gaza militants have only been able to reach about 50 miles (80 kilometers) into Israel with their homegrown M-75 missiles.  Hezbollah used M-302s in a 2006 war against Israel, the military said.

The operation, codenamed “Full Disclosure,” followed months of intelligence gathering. Lerner said the shipment originated in Syria. From there the weapons were flown to Iran and departed from the Bandar Abbas port. Lerner said the Iranians tried to “obscure their tracks” by shipping first via Iraq and then out to sea. The shipment was destined for Sudan, from where it was to be moved overland through Egypt to Gaza.

Lerner said the 17 crew members of the ship, flying under a Panama flag, were not suspects and were probably unaware of the content of their cargo. The vessel was being brought to the port of Eilat, Israel’s most southerly point, where the crew would be released and the cache unloaded. It was expected to arrive later this week.

The Washington Post chronicled the more than decade history of Israeli Naval seizures and air strikes against  Iranian weapons shipments to Gaza:

Three years ago, Israel seized the cargo ship Victoria loaded with weapons allegedly sent by Iran to Gaza , including land-to-sea missiles.

In November 2009, Israel took over the Iranian Francop vessel off the coast of Cyprus and captured hundreds of tons of rockets, missiles, mortars, grenades and anti-tank weapons on board that it said were headed to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Israel is also suspected of carrying out airstrikes in Sudan on arms shipments believed to be bound for Gaza. Israel has never confirmed carrying out the strikes.

In January 2002, Israeli forces stormed the Karine A freighter on the Red Sea, and confiscated what the military said was 50 tons of missiles, mortars, rifles and ammunition headed for the Gaza Strip.

In May 2001, Israel captured the vessel Santorini off its coastline, packed with explosives Israel said were being sent from Hezbollah to Palestinian militant groups.

The Jerusalem Post report drew attention to Iran’s use of Syria for transshipment of rockets and others strategic weapons to terrorist proxies in the Middle East:

The IDF Spokesman’s Unit said that the operation was made possible by inter-agency intelligence cooperation and the IDF’s enhanced capabilities. “This prevented the arrival of a shipment of deadly and advanced weapons, which was aimed at harming Israeli civilians, and intended to reach the terrorist organizations of the Gaza Strip who are waging confrontation against Israel.”

The spokesman added that special commando navy teams acted in accordance with international law during the raid and boarded the ship for armed searches before uncovering the rockets.

Iran flew the rockets to an Iranian air field, trucked them to a sea port, and shipped them to Iraq, where they were hidden in cement sacks.

The ship then set sail from Iraq to Port Sudan, near the Sudanese-Eritrean border, on a journey expected to last some ten days.

Had the shipment of rockets not been intercepted the rockets would likely have been unloaded in Egypt and taken by land over Sinai to smuggling tunnels into Gaza.

One day before reaching its destination, the Israel Navy pounced, raiding the vessel and bringing it under its full control. There were no injuries in the incident.

“We have certain proof that Iran was behind this,” a senior military source said.

“The final destination was the Gaza Strip, where Iran hoped to unload the rockets and transfer them to terrorist organizations,” he added.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and smaller groups are constantly working to build up their rocket arsenal, and are believed to have several thousand short range rockets that threaten southern cities and dozens of medium-range rockets that can reach greater Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

By the end of 2013, Hamas was estimated by Israeli intelligence to possess 5000 short-range rockets and dozens of medium-range rockets, placing 70 percent of Israeli civilians in its range.

Gaza today has some 25,000 armed fighters. Of those, 16,000 belong to Hamas divisions. The Islamic Jihad has 5,000 fighters, split up into five divisions, and is armed with more than 2,000 rockets. Smaller terror groups have over 4,000 terrorists among their ranks, and are armed with dozens of rockets, as well as a large quantity of light arms.

In addition to replenishing its rocket arsenal, Hamas is trying to create capabilities to launch terror attacks, and possesses anti-aircraft missiles as well.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured composite photographic image is courtesy of CrownHeights.info.

Obama Threatens to Veto the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act

Like many Americans and Israelis I watched expectantly President Obama’s State of the Union Address (SOTUS)  before a joint session of Congress crammed into the House Chamber. I was looking for a reaction from the Congressional audience on the issue of the P5+1 agreement implemented on January 20th. Iran’s President Rouhani had basically told  the P5+1  in a CNN  interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that the Islamic regime was not going to dismantle their nuclear program. Instead they were going to plough ahead with research and development on advanced centrifuges and would not swap the Arak heavy water plant that would produce plutonium for a bomb.

In  light of these jarring comments made in Davos, Switzerland  by President Rouhani  at the World Economic  Forum, you would have prudently thought that the President would have changed his mind about  vetoing  the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (NWFIA), S. 1881. Obama made it clear that he was proceeding with the P5+1 deal as a diplomatic way of  avoiding  military action to disable the Islamic Regime’s  nuclear weapons capability.  A capability that according to Israeli PM Netanyahu  speaking at the Annual Conference of the Institute for National Security studies at Tel Aviv University  (INSS) was  “six weeks away from achievement when the P5+1 deal was signed” on November 24, 2013 in Geneva.

President Obama fired a bow shot directed at NWFIA sponsors Sens. Kirk and Menendez, and 57 other co-sponsors of S. 1881, as well as the Resolution introduced in by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor  (R-VA)  and Minority Leader Steny  Hoyer (D-Md.) supporting its passage.

Obama said:

Let me be clear if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.

For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.

If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.  But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.

It is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb.

If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.

Watch this C-SPAN video clip of the nuclear Iran segment of his SOTUS:

The immediate reaction was clearly stony silence from the Republican members of both chambers in the audience.

According to a  Jerusalem Postarticle on the President’s veto threat, NWFIA co-sponsor Sen. Kirk said:

“The American people – Democrats and Republicans alike – overwhelmingly want Iran held accountable during any negotiations. While the president promises to veto any new Iran sanctions legislation, the Iranians have already vetoed any dismantlement of their nuclear infrastructure,” Kirk added, calling his bill an “insurance policy” for Congress.

The Hill  Global Affairs blog reported the dissembling  the morning after  the President’s SOTUS remarks on a nuclear Iran by some Democratic co-sponsors of NWFIA in the wake of the President’s public veto threat.  Note these Senators’ comments:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on MSNBC Tuesday night that he didn’t endorse the bill so that it could be voted on during negotiations with Iran. “Give peace a chance,” he said.

“I did not sign it with the intention that it would ever be voted upon or used upon while we were negotiating,” Manchin said. “I signed it because I wanted to make sure the president had a hammer, if he needed it and showed them how determined we were to do it and use it, if we had to.”

[…]

“Now is not the time for a vote on the Iran sanctions bill,” Coons said Wednesday at a Politico event, according to The Huffington Post.

The senator clarified that he still supports the bill but warned advancing it now could damage ongoing negotiations toward a final agreement with Iran.

[…]

“I’m not frustrated,” Menendez told The Huffington Post on Tuesday after Obama’s address. “The president has every right to do what he wants.”

The Hill Global Affairs blog noted the Senate reaction  to NWFIA :

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-highest ranking Democrat, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the fourth-highest ranking Democrat, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have said they are against the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also suggested he’s leaning toward not allowing a vote on it.

On Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the Senate should move the sanctions bill forward to the floor, predicting it would have a veto-proof majority.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Monday that lawmakers in both the House and Senate are considering a nonbinding resolution that expresses concern about Iran’s nuclear program.

Backing what Sen. Kirk said in his response to the President was further evidence from former  UN nuclear weapons inspector David Albright at the Washington, DC Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).  Both he and the sanctions analysis team from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies held a well attended briefing for Capitol Hill Staffers on Monday, January 27th.  Albright was quoted in the Los Angeles Times citing an ISIS  report on the technical aspects of the accord implemented on January 20th that allows Iran to continue research over the next six months on several types of advanced centrifuges already at Natanz:

[The accord]  is not expected to seriously affect Iran’s centrifuge research and development program. Albright said he hopes to persuade the six powers to push for much stricter limits on centrifuge research and development when they negotiate the final agreement. The issue has to be addressed much more aggressively.

Cliff May of FDD, co-sponsor of the Capitol Hill event with Albright  of  ISIS,  observed in an NRO Corner article:

If Iran’s rulers faithfully comply with every commitment they have so far made, at the end of this six-month period, they will be about three months — instead of two months — away from breakout capacity.

Yesterday, at the annual conference of the  Institute for National Security studies (INSS)  at Tel Aviv University, there was a dialog between former CIA Director Gen. David Petreaus and Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin,  former  IDF military intelligence chief.  The contrast between their positions on the Iran nuclear threat was most telling:

General (ret.) David Petraeus: The United States is war weary and suffers from a “Vietnam syndrome.” However, it still has major strategic capabilities, and President Obama will not hesitate to use force against Iran, if necessary.

Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin: What keeps me awake at night is the Iranian issue. The Iranian nuclear program aspires to attain a nuclear capability. The only viable leverage – sanctions and a credible military threat – are weakening, and this is most worrisome. Also troubling: the status quo on the Palestinian issue is not favorable, and the relations with the United States are not on the same level as before – these must be restored.

If you are a gambler, which of the two former military leaders, would you bet on to make a decision in the sovereign national interests of Israel regarding a nuclear Iran?  I know who I would.

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