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Senate Foreign Relations Committee passes Act aimed at Defunding Palestinian Terror

American Taylor Force killed in Jaffa, Israel by a Palestinian terrorist, March 9, 2016

Before Congress adjourned today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Taylor Force Act (S. 1697) on a bi-partisan basis with all Republican members voting. Most Democratic members voted for the measure with one amendment introduced by Virginia Democrat Sen.Tim Kaine to keep any impounded funds for the Palestinian Authority in escrow for a year beyond any sequestration action. Other Democratic members of the Committee who voted for the Act included, Ranking Member Ben Cardin (Md), Robert Menendez (NJ), Chris Coons (De) and Ed Markey (MA).

The Act is directed at withholding U.S.funds from supporting the Palestinian Authority “pay for slay” program providing monthly stipends to terrorists in Israeli jails or their surviving families.

Analysis of the Palestinian Authority budget for 2017 revealed that such payments accounted for half of foreign aid of $693 million, $345 million. The only exempted funding allowed is for humanitarian and security purposes.

The State Department is required to report to Congress every six months on compliance with the Act. The measure now moves to a vote of the full Senate following its return from the summer recess.

The Senate Committee approval of the Act was attacked by the Chief Palestinian Authority representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot.  According to Ha’aretz Zomlot claimed  it would ‘harm’ the flagging peace process with Israel. Absurdly, Zomlot said the ‘pay for slay’ funding program “provides for the security and well-being of its people” who live under Israeli occupation.

The legislation won the support of most major US Jewish organizations including AIPAC, that announced support two days before  the scheduled vote. The Zionist Organization of America and the Orthodox Union were early supporters of the Taylor Force Act.

The eponymous Act is named for the late Taylor Force, a 29 year old West Point graduate and former US Army artillery officer, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan . He was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian terrorist at a restaurant in Jaffa, Israel on March 9, 2016. His surviving widow was severely injured in the attack. Force, a student at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, was in Israel at the time with colleagues leaning about the dynamics of the country’s high tech start up entrepreneurship.

School Chancellor at Vanderbilt Nicholas S. Zeppos issued the following statement at the time of Force’s tragic death:

This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world, Taylor’s family and his friends and colleagues have our deepest sympathy and utmost support.

Should the full Senate follow suit  and pass the law sending it on to President Trump for his signature  it will be a living memorial aimed at stopping the incentive for Palestinians to commit violence heedlessly taking the lives of Israelis and visiting Americans like the late Taylor Force z”l of blessed memory.

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

Joint Statement by Trump Israel Advisory Committee

The Times of Israel reports that U.S. voters in Israel polled as the U.S. election nears now favor Trump over Clinton by 49 to 44 per cent of those responding.

One reason may be this Joint Statement from Jason Dov Greenblatt and David Friedman co-chairs of the Israel Advisory Committee. It presents a solid program of support for Israel in contrast to what we have posted on Obama’s lame duck strategy of seeking the UN Security to sanction Israel for building towns in Judea and Samaria and other initiatives to eviscerate Israel’s eternal capital of Jerusalem.

Note what the Greenblatt Friedman Statement offers in the way of constructive commitments to support America’s only democratic ally in the troubled Middle East. Then ask yourself what Hillary Clinton has put out in the way of something as substantive as this sealing the US commitment for the Jewish nation.

Note what the statement contains:

· The unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel is based upon shared values of democracy, freedom of speech, respect for minorities, cherishing life, and the opportunity for all citizens to pursue their dreams.

· Israel is the state of the Jewish people, who have lived in that land for 3,500 years. The State of Israel was founded with courage and determination by great men and women against enormous odds and is an inspiration to people everywhere who value freedom and human dignity.

· Israel is a staunch ally of the U.S. and a key partner in the global war against Islamic jihadism. Military cooperation and coordination between Israel and the U.S. must continue to grow.

· The American people value our close friendship and alliance with Israel — culturally, religiously, and politically. While other nations have required U.S. troops to defend them, Israelis have always defended their own country by themselves and only ask for military equipment assistance and diplomatic support to do so. The U.S. does not need to nation-build in Israel or send troops to defend Israel.

· The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the American and Israeli Governments is a good first step, but there is much more to be done. A Trump Administration will ensure that Israel receives maximum military, strategic and tactical cooperation from the United States, and the MOU will not limit the support that we give. Further, Congress will not be limited to give support greater than that provided by the MOU if it chooses to do so. Israel and the United States benefit tremendously from what each country brings to the table — the relationship is a two way street.

· The U.S. should veto any United Nations votes that unfairly single out Israel and will work in international institutions and forums, including in our relations with the European Union, to oppose efforts to delegitimize Israel, impose discriminatory double standards against Israel, or to impose special labeling requirements on Israeli products or boycotts on Israeli goods.

· The U.S. should cut off funds for the UN Human Rights Council, a body dominated by countries presently run by dictatorships that seems solely devoted to slandering the Jewish State. UNESCO’s attempt to disconnect the State of Israel from Jerusalem is a one-sided attempt to ignore Israel’s 3,000-year bond to its capital city, and is further evidence of the enormous anti-Israel bias of the United Nations.

· The U.S. should view the effort to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) Israel as inherently anti-Semitic and take strong measures, both diplomatic and legislative, to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israeli areas, in a discriminatory manner. The BDS movement is just another attempt by the Palestinians to avoid having to commit to a peaceful co-existence with Israel. The false notion that Israel is an occupier should be rejected.

· The Trump administration will ask the Justice Department to investigate coordinated attempts on college campuses to intimidate students who support Israel.

· A two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians appears impossible as long as the Palestinians are unwilling to renounce violence against Israel or recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Additionally, the Palestinians are divided between PA rule in the West Bank and Hamas rule in Gaza so there is not a united Palestinian people who could control a second state. Hamas is a US-designated terrorist organization that actively seeks Israel’s destruction. We will seek to assist the Israelis and the Palestinians in reaching a comprehensive and lasting peace, to be freely and fairly negotiated between those living in the region.

· The Palestinian leadership, including the PA, has undermined any chance for peace with Israel by raising generations of Palestinian children on an educational program of hatred of Israel and Jews. The larger Palestinian society is regularly taught such hatred on Palestinian television, in the Palestinian press, in entertainment media, and in political and religious communications. The two major Palestinian political parties — Hamas and Fatah — regularly promote anti-Semitism and jihad.

· The U.S. cannot support the creation of a new state where terrorism is financially incentivized, terrorists are celebrated by political parties and government institutions, and the corrupt diversion of foreign aid is rampant. The U.S. should not support the creation of a state that forbids the presence of Christian or Jewish citizens, or that discriminates against people on the basis of religion.

· The U.S. should support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians without preconditions, and will oppose all Palestinian, European and other efforts to bypass direct negotiations between parties in favor of an imposed settlement. Any solutions imposed on Israel by outside parties including by the United Nations Security Council, should be opposed. We support Israel’s right and obligation to defend itself against terror attacks upon its people and against alternative forms of warfare being waged upon it legally, economically, culturally, and otherwise.

· Israel’s maintenance of defensible borders that preserve peace and promote stability in the region is a necessity. Pressure should not be put on Israel to withdraw to borders that make attacks and conflict more likely.

· The U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and Mr. Trump’s Administration will move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

· Despite the Iran Nuclear deal in 2015, the U.S. State Department recently designated Iran, yet again, as the leading state sponsor of terrorism — putting the Middle East particularly, but the whole world at risk by financing, arming, and training terrorist groups operating around the world including Hamas, Hezbollah, and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. must counteract Iran’s ongoing violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and their noncompliance with past and present sanctions, as well as the agreements they signed, and implement tough, new sanctions when needed to protect the world and Iran’s neighbors from its continuing nuclear and non-nuclear threats.

Palestinians celebrate stabbing death of U.S. Army Combat Veteran Taylor A. Force

My friend and fellow serving U.S. Army officer Bob Roth a USMA class of ’59 grad sent me this eulogy page for the late Taylor Force, murdered at a sea side Manta Ray restaurant in Jaffa near Tel Aviv. A restaurant that Jean and I had frequented on a trip to Israel. Roth and Force are both West Point legacies. Roth’s dad graduated in 1930 having been a mustang, up from the ranks, while, Force’s grandfather graduated in the Class of 1947. Roth and the late Taylor Force shared something else; they were both commissioned as Artillery officers. Force was a native of El Paso, Texas who attended the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) in Roswell and was inducted as a Member of the National Honor Society. We visited the NMMI years ago during one of our treks in the Land of Enchantment during two decades of summer sojourns and attending Santa Fe Opera, Chamber Music Festival and Desert Chorale concerts in Santa Fe.

Note this from Force’s eulogy page, USMA Class of ’09:

Taylor A. Force, 29, a MBA student at Vanderbilt University, was part of a University tour group, when he was stabbed to death in a terror attack that left 10 others wounded in Tel Aviv. He was among 29 students and four staff members who had gone to Israel to study global entrepreneurship. They were in Jaffa by the Mediterranean Sea when they were attacked.

The grandson of a 1947 graduate of West Point, Taylor attained the rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts. He was a National Honor Society member at New Mexico Military Institute prior to attending West Point. He served in Iraq from September 2010 to August 2011 and in Afghanistan from October 2012 to July 2013

Message from Chancellor Zeppos – Vanderbilt University

He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Force.

In lieu of flowers please make donations in Taylor’s name to the wounded warrior project.

Note the comments below from a Times of Israel recollection by Force’s USMA classmate:

David Simpkins, a friend of Force and a fellow West Point graduate, wrote the following for The Times of Israel:

He laughed and smiled a lot in the classes at West Point. He sat behind me, next to me, or across from me during our first two years at the United States’ premier institution. He was very mild-mannered, sharp, and professional. I couldn’t think of someone who was more of a model of “America’s finest” than him. He was handsome, articulate, brilliant, and just so GOOD. I can’t think of a moment where he wasn’t exuding an aura of pure positive energy. He was as honest and heartfelt as they come, but now he’s dead.

Taylor Force was murdered in cold blood by a West Bank Palestinian. Hamas announced that they’re celebrating their martyrs last night. As I write this, there are parties from Gaza to Ramallah continuing all day, and probably tonight. It’s not every day they get a former U.S. Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. For them, this is a great boon.

Taylor is not dead because of Israel. It’s not Israel’s fault for occupying the land. It’s not Israel’s fault for making the Palestinians do this. There are over 60 territorial disputes worldwide, and most lead to absolutely no bloodshed whatsoever. It’s the Palestinians fault for murdering Taylor.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Who funded Taylor Force’s Palestinian Killer?

Taylor Force: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Obama’s “Peace Partners” Celebrate Slaughter of American Honor Student, “My Friend, Taylor Force” “America’s finest” “Handsome, Articulate, brilliant, and just so GOOD”

RELATED VIDEO: 1 killed [Taylor Force], 9 hurt in Jaffa stabbing spree, third serious attack of day:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is a composite of Taylor Force photo from Facebook, the knife used to murder him and the bloody scene of the attack site. The flag in the background is that of Palestine.

Did Iran Order the Rocket Attack from Syria on Northern Israel?

Yesterday, four rockets fired from the Syrian side of the Golan frontier hit near Kfar Sold in Northern Israel causing fires in the area. In response the IAF dispatched aircraft and attacked 14 positions inside Syria, while the IDF on the Golan opened up artillery fire on suspected targets. According to aTimes of Israel  (TOI) report six civilians were killed, seven wounded in an IAF  attack on a vehicle 10 kilometers from the Syrian Israel frontier  in the Quneitra region of  Southern Syria.  That Israeli attack may have targeted members of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell. However, Daud Shihab a spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad continued claiming no responsibility for the attack. Nevertheless, he suggested that they knew were to attack saying:

We’ll know when to respond to an Israeli attack — and that will be where the Iron Dome was installed yesterday,” he said, referring to Israeli missile defense systems deployed the southern cities of Ashdod and Beersheba on Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London suggested five of the casualties may have been members of the National Defense Force.  Early Friday morning, August 21, 2015, the Syrian military fired a missile at an Israeli aircraft.

An IDF senior officer contend that the group behind these attacks the Palestinian Islamic Jihad based in Gaza, with headquarters in Damascus, was ordered by Iran to execute the attacks. The TOI cited an Israel source who said:

We were monitoring this cell and it was attacked some 10-15 kilometers from the border, on territory firmly in the control of the Syrian military. This is an Islamic Jihad cell directed by Iran.

The Iran-controlled Al-Mayadeen TV in Damascus reported that three of those killed were Palestinian.

The pretext for these attacks may have been the hunger strike, just ended, by an Israeli held prisoner, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, Mohammed Allan. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it would undertake reprisal attacks of its own choosing in response to those killed and wounded in the Israel drone attack.  Israel PM Netanyahu cautioned that he didn’t want this incident to escalate into a wider conflict saying:

We have no intention of ratcheting up this confrontation, but our policy [of retaliating for attacks against Israeli civilians] remains as it was.

Notwithstanding Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said:

The strike against the cell was proof that Israel will not tolerate efforts to harm the security of its citizens.

“We have no intention of compromising on this issue, and I suggest no one test our resolve on this matter,” he said in a brief statement after the attack.

i24News reported  an IDF officer commenting:

It’s clear that Iran is behind all of the terror attacks here [in the Golan] in the past two years. The Iranians are using the border – they establish units – whether it’s [Imad] Mughniyeh, [Samir] Kuntar, and more – to carry out [the attacks].

The officer added that the Iranian regime was transferring funds, providing training and sending advisers to Syria to help the Islamist group Hezbollah.

Remember the IAF attack in January 2015 on the Syrian side of the Golan frontier that took out a senior Iran IRGC general and Hezbollah officers including Jihad, the son of the late master terrorist Imad Mughniyah? That led to an abrupt series of clashes with Hezbollah in the disputed Shebaa Farms area on the Lebanese border.  Today’s rocket attacks in Israel’s north  and immediate IAF air attacks and IDF artillery fire demonstrates both resolve and concern by Israeli PM Netanyahu and his security cabinet to stifle a possible rocket war in the country’s North. Given the huge arsenal  of rockets and missiles  held by Hezbollah, Israel wants to  avoid a much larger onslaught than  the Hezbollah rocket attacks during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 that displaced over a million Israelis during the 34 day war.

We have argued that Israel may have to undertake incursions across the UNDOF demilitarized zone to clear out Iranian Quds force supported Palestinian Jihad fighters. As my colleague Ilana Freedman and  this  writer noted in a  January 2015, NER article the IDF also needs to address detection and destruction of  possible cross border tunneling  in Israel’s north by Hezbollah. Given Tehran ” success” with the P5+1 nuclear deal and this week’s sale of S300 Russian advanced air defense systems to Iran’s Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani feels emboldened to foment more proxy conflicts destabilizing the Middle East region. Clearly with this week’s attacks in the country’s north Israel is in the Quds Force gun sights. Ayatollah Khamenei’s playbook called “Palestine” suggests that Israel will be routed not with nuclear weapons but low intensity warfare.

Back in January we noted this comment from Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Armidror and former National Security Advisor:

Yaakov Armidror, former IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) and National Security Advisor in a recent strategic evaluation of  Terrorist  threats  facing Israel, published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies , reported by the Jerusalem Post, noted Hezbollah capabilities:

Looking ahead to 2015, Israel faces threats posed mainly by non-state entities motivated by Islamic ideology.

“The strongest of them is Hezbollah, which was formed with a dual purpose in mind.  It represents Iran’s long reach in the area and against Israel, while at the same time it aims to control Lebanon, where the Shi’ites are the largest ethnic group,” Amidror added.

Hezbollah most closely resembles an army, and its arsenal totals some 150,000 missiles and rockets, several thousand of which can target any area in Israel.

“This rare and substantial firepower apparently even exceeded the firepower possessed by most of the European states combined,” Amidror said in the report.

Additionally, Hezbollah is armed with surface-to-sea missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, drones and modern anti-tank missiles.

“It is well organized into a military-style hierarchy and appears to possess command and control systems of high quality. It was established by Iranian leaders, but its leadership has always consisted of Lebanese people who were closely linked to Iran’s interests,” the report continued. “Hezbollah assisted the Shi’ites by providing for their needs in the civilian sphere as a base for building its military power.”

We concluded:

Hezbollah’s possible invasion threat would be costly to the Shi’ite terrorist army.  Especially in view of both Israeli intelligence penetration of the Iranian proxy. Nonetheless, the Israel’s military command must be on alert for possible retaliation by Hezbollah in the Shebaa Farms area adjacent to the Golan and in the Galilee.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on a tour of the northern border, August 18, 2015. Source: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

UNESCO: Muslims Own the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem

During  a panel discussion at Pensacola’s Brit Ahm Messianic Synagogue on June 27th following a showing of the APT documentary The J Street Challenge an audience member raised a question about the ancient Jewish claims to Jerusalem in the context of a recent Vatican declaration recognizing a Palestinian State. The panel spoke about the long term Vatican quest for internationalization of Israel’s eternal undivided capital of the Jewish nation that had protected the precincts if the world major faiths. Something that had not occurred during the 19 year occupation of Jordan until the liberation of the holy city by  the IDF on June 7, 1967. Panelist Mike Bates 1330amWEBY Talk Show Host and station  general manager discussed  the fictional Islamic doctrinal claims, based on the legend of Mohammed’s fabled night ride, to the Temple Mount including the  Western Wall –a revered Jewish site over two millennia. In our Iconoclast  post on the Pensacola event, we wrote:

That led to an exposition by Mike Bates about the realities concerning Muslims claims of control over Jerusalem. He noted the legend of the Prophet Mohammed’s dream of a night ride on the human headed horse to “the farthest Mosque” where he meets Jesus and rises to heaven to meet Abraham and other Jewish prophets all deemed Muslim. Bates pointed out that nowhere in the Qur’an is Jerusalem mentioned. Moreover, Muslims did not occupy Jerusalem until The Rash dun Caliphate conquest and submission to Caliph Umar bin –Khattab  in 637 C.E. Caliph  bin Khattab initiated the construction of what ultimately become  the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and established a Dhimma or pct for governance of subjugated peoples of the book, Christians, Jews and others. Muslims claim any conquered land as a possession in perpetuity under a trust from their god Allah. Jews have lived in Jerusalem for more than 3,000 years.

We raise this because this week, a committee of UNESCO approved a resolution condoning these Muslim claims to the Western Wall based on Mohammed’s night legend, virtually excluding from consideration ancient Jewish historical claims and even Christian ones preceding the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem.  Patrick Goodenough  revealed the absurdity of the UN panel proposal in a CNS report, “UNESCO Backs Muslim Narrative on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount”:

A key committee of the United Nations cultural agency adopted a resolution this week whose language implicitly endorses the legend underpinning Islam’s claim to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount — the assertion that Mohammed tied his winged steed there while en route from Mecca to heaven.

Famed as a place of Jewish pilgrimage and prayer, the Western or “Wailing” Wall is the remnant of a retaining wall on the western flank of the platform that once housed the biblical Temples. As such it is the closest point observant Jews are usually able to get to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

But for Muslim leaders wanting to deny Jewish historical and religious claims to the site, it is dubbed the al-Buraq wall, and the area in front of it the al-Buraq plaza. This is based on the belief that the founder of Islam stopped there during his “night journey” from Mecca to heaven, and tethered his legendary steed, al-Buraq, there while he led prayers with a congregation of “Islamic prophets” including Adam, Noah and Joseph.

Now the World Heritage Committee of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has adopted a resolution which refers to the area below and to the west of the Temple Mount as the “Buraq plaza.”

The resolution, proposed by three Arab countries, Qatar, Algeria and Lebanon, refers to the Temple Mount itself as a “Muslim holy site,” with no reference to its importance to Jews.

It slams Israel for various actions in Jerusalem’s Old City, including construction and excavation work. A light railway system whose route passes near – but does not enter – the Old City is said to be damaging the “visual integrity and the authentic character of the site.”

The resolution’s introduction at the World Heritage Committee’s session in Bonn, Germany, brought criticism from Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, who said it was “full of distortions and is totally disconnected from reality on the ground.”

Gold said in a statement the measure “deliberately ignores the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital,” and also does not acknowledge Christianity’s links to Jerusalem.

He accused the UNESCO committee of hypocrisy, at a time when jihadists were destroying ancient heritage sites across the region.

“As the historical heritage sites of this area are being systematically destroyed by jihadist forces, such as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, UNESCO’s adoption of utterly false allegations about Israeli archeological practices is misplaced and hypocritical, at best,” Gold said.

UNESCO in 2011 became the first U.N. agency to admit “Palestine,” a decision that triggered a U.S. funding cutoff mandated by a 1990 law barring financial support for “the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”

Goodenough noted the motivation for the UNESCO resolution:

The Palestinians want parts of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, as capital of a future independent state, and Palestinian and Islamic figures have long challenged Jewish historical and religious claims to the mount.

For instance, fatwas attributed to former grand mufti of Jerusalem Ikrama Sabri and former mufti of Egypt Nasr Farid Wasil, dispute Jewish claims to the Western Wall.

“Al-Buraq Wall is part of al-Aqsa Mosque and it is an Islamic endowment,” Wasil said. “Hence, it is not permissible in shari’a for any non-Islamic quarter to claim or possess it. The wall would remain part and parcel of Islamic heritage and endowment forever.”

“Al-Buraq Wall is part of al-Aqsa’s western wall and the whole walls of al-Aqsa are Islamic endowments,” said Sabri. “Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, had honored and blessed the place by tying al-Buraq to the wall, during his Night Journey and Ascension to the Heaven.”

“Hence al-Buraq Wall belongs to Muslims alone in the four corners of the earth and will remain so till Judgment Day. We neither admit nor acknowledge that Jews possess it (al-Buraq Wall) and, also we stress that there is no stone there dating back to Hebrew history.”

This UNESCO  al-Buraq (Western Wall) resolution  based on the fiction of Mohammed’s night ride to “the farthest Mosque” preceded Al Quds or Jerusalem  Day, July 10, 2015  observed during  the last Friday during Ramadan.   The Founder of the Islamic Republic in Iran, Ayatollah Khomenei  declared it as a religious duty for all Muslims to further the “liberation” of Jerusalem . Al Quds Day promotes the Palestinian assertion that Jerusalem should be its state capital reflecting the Muslim claims based on the Mohammed night ride legend.  Qur’anic doctrine and Shariah law considers all conquered territory, whether Jerusalem or Andalusia in Southern Spain, as a Waqf, or trust conveyed by Allah in perpetuity.  The Times of Israel  reported  Jerusalem  Day was celebrated in Tehran with millions marching shouting “Death to  America and Israel”, burning  US and Israeli flags, an effigies of Netanyahu and the Saudi King.  We note that the events in Tehran occurred in the midst of the P5+1 negotiation for a nuclear deal with Iran.

In our July 2015 NER interview with Manfred Gerstenfeld, we asked him about UN engaging in such delegitimization of Israel. He replied:

The UN is a major demonizer and hatemonger of Israel. That includes UN-associated bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Commission, UNESCO, UNWRA and many others agencies. The UN is supposed to be a moral body. When it comes to Israel its views reflect the extreme moral degradation of this largest supranational body. Hate expressions and double standards against Israel symbolize that.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Bibigate – The Contretemps over Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Last Saturday night a retired U.S. Navy officer said “I’ll bet you even money that Bibi will withdraw from the proposed speech before a joint session of Congress”. I joshed him and said “I wouldn’t count on it.”

Sunday, I received suggestions that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should have a Plan B given the rising contretemps in the media over US House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to talk about Iran before a Joint Session of Congress. There  was a welter of criticism from the White House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and mainstream media talking heads  included David Brooks of the New York Times and  Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith of  FoxNews.  They were admonishing Speaker Boehner and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer with terms like “dicey, wicked more for photo op” and “partisan politics” and “unwise for Israel.”  It was ostensibly about the lack of courtesy shown the President by not giving prior notice to the White House of the invitation extended to Netanyahu.  There was pique by certain unnamed senior officials in the White House over what some might call Bibigate.

However, let us remember there was increasing  bi-partisan support for new Iran nuclear sanctions legislation despite  the President’s warning that he would veto it if it was passed. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez was particularly incensed at the President for his questioning his motivations.  Menendez said: “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization, when they are the ones with the original sin.”  Lest, we forget, the President had threatened a veto if increased Iran legislation passed.  It was abundantly clear in the January 16th Joint Press Conference at the White House when the President Obama agreed with UK PM David Cameron’s remarks, urging Senators on Capitol Hill not to take up new sanctions legislation at a “sensitive time”. Thus, one could speculate that Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu on January 21st to speak to a Joint Session of Congress in early March was a rebuttal to the President.

The rancor over Bibigate was visible in the final week of January into February.  Wednesday, January 28thCNN released a clip of Fareed Zakaria’s February 1st GPS interview with President Obama.  Obama suggested that a visit with Netanyahu was “inappropriate,” as it was too close to the upcoming March Knesset elections.  The President said, “I’m declining to meet with him simply because our general policy is, we don’t meet with any world leader two weeks before their election, [I] think that’s inappropriate. And that’s true with some of our closest allies.”  Those comments engendered another rebuttal that the White House may have been giving tacit support to the involvement of Presidential Campaign aide Jim Byrd in advising the Labor-Hanuat opposition to Netanyahu in the Knesset general elections.

Friday, January 30th, Jeffrey Goldberg published an interview in The Atlantic with Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, a former US Republican strategist and member of the Netanyahu’s inner circle.   Dermer discussed the background for Boehner’s issuance of the invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress on Iran. Dermer suggested that while the Prime Minister “meant no disrespect towards President Obama … Netanyahu must speak up while there is still time to speak up”.

That led Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson on the blog Legal Insurrection to opine that Obama’s not offended; he just wants Bibi out of office.

The Hill round up on the Sunday Talk shows had comments from Rep. Paul Ryan on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Arizona Senator John McCain on CNN’s “State of The Union.”  Over the issue of Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu Ryan said,” The Invitation to Israeli prime minister was ‘absolutely’ appropriate. I don’t know if I would say it’s antagonizing”.  McCain drew attention to the new low in U.S. – Israel relations under Obama saying, “It’s the worst that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”

Virtually out of nowhere, Sunday, February 1st, commentary from an “Insight” blog post of the Israeli Institute for National Security Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University shed light on a bizarre theory of what was behind Bibigate.  The author of the INSS post, Zaki Shalom, suggested:

The backdrop for the Administration’s expressed dissatisfaction with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intention to present his position on negotiations with Iran to Congress, creating a rather transparent linkage between Israel’s positions on negotiations with Iran and sanctions, and U.S. willingness to assist in combating the Palestinian attempt to exert international legal and diplomatic pressure on Israel.

On Thursday, January 30, 2015, the Senate Banking Committee voted out a ‘softer’ version of the Kirk –Menendez Sanctions legislation by a vote of 18 to 4, including six Democrats.  As reported by The Hill, the legislation:

… Would impose sanctions on Iran if a comprehensive agreement to roll back its nuclear program is not reached by June 30 and would allow the president to waive sanctions indefinitely for 30 days at a time.

However, the bill would be shelved until March 24th for a possible floor vote.  Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “All of us understand it’s not going to be voted on before March 24”. While the measure may portend a possible override vote should President Obama veto it that still requires Senator Menendez to keep the group of 17 Democratic Senators who support this version of sanctions legislation in the bi-partisan alliance.

Israeli concern over a weak final agreement by March 24th  is reflected  in a Times of Israel report published  Sunday, February 1st,” US sources deride Israeli ‘nonsense’ on Obama giving in to Iran.”  Israeli  sources contend that Iran is likely to get 80 % of what it is seeking- the ability to continue enrichment with  upwards of 9,000 centrifuges, especially the advanced IR-2s. The Israelis believe that would give Iran nuclear breakout within weeks.  Add to that mix Iran flaunting pictures in a ToA  report of a Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) capable of covering all of Europe. That is to be followed in 2015 to 2016 by one cap ICBM range. Of course there a number of us who believe that Iran may already have purchased nuclear weapons from rogue regimes, but may lack nuclear warheads, which are likely to be supplied by North Korea to be mounted on those ICBMs.

Especially as the President observed, there is less than a 50/50 chance of reaching an agreement. Then assuming the current polls are correct and Bibi retains the ability to form a new Knesset coalition after the March 17th election, he may speak with both authority and strength.

As a usual astute observer of Israel from Europe, Imre Herzog, opined when I wrote him on my side bet “you might win the bet”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Washington Times File Photo  5-24-2011.

“There is No Justice in Argentina”

Yesterday, the late Argentine Prosecutor, Alberto Nisman was laid to rest in the La Tablada Jewish Community in Buenos Aires amidst a veritable firestorm of controversy that stretched from Argentina to Israel. There were signs of “Justice for Nisman” and “Thank You” in the throng of hundreds outside La Tablada cemetery. Nisman was appropriately interred in the Martyrs Section reserved for the Jewish victims of the July 18, 1994 AMIA blast. A separate section in La Tablada is reserved for suicides. The obituary in La Nacion contained the Hebrew abbreviation z”l of blessed memory.’ Many in the Argentine Jewish Community considered that appropriate as they deemed him the “86th victim” of the AMIA blast. In effect his burial in the Martyrs section repudiated initial official assessments from President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and the investigating prosecutor that he may have been a suicide. Kirchner quickly changed her story to a likely murder by rogue intelligence elements who had “manipulated” Nisman.

Among the mourners at his funeral were his two daughters 7-year old Ila and 15 year old Kala, his sister, mother and ex-wife, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado. The Times of Israel (TOI) report noted:

“This is burying part of our republic,” said Patricia Bullrich, an opposition member of Congress, before entering the cemetery. “It’s a day of reflection and sadness for all of Argentina.”

A farewell letter written by Nisman’s daughters to their father was published Thursday in Argentine papers. “We hope now you can rest in peace. We will guard in our hearts the beautiful moments we lived together,” they wrote.

In a separate funeral notice, Nisman’s ex-wife Salgado said she felt “profound sorrow” for their daughters. “I say goodbye to you, hoping you find the peace that your dedication to your job did not let you fully enjoy,” it said.

The Guardian reported:

Hundreds of protesters, convinced that he was a victim of foul play, gathered in front of the cemetery, some holding placards demanding “Justice for Nisman”.

“It is a great injustice. He was threatened,” said Cristina Paredes, 53, who said Nisman’s death “is the straw the broke the camel’s back” for Argentineans fed up with Kirchner and accusations of corruption by her administration.

The death was mourned as far away as Israel, which hailed Nisman – son of a textile merchant who had studied law at the University of Buenos Aires – as “courageous”.

A friend in Geneva, Switzerland, Imre Herzog, who had forwarded several of our Iconoclast posts on Nisman death to members of the Argentine Jewish community, reported a woman commenting, “There is no Justice in Argentina.”

Nisman was found dead shot with a .22 caliber pistol delivered to him on January 17th by Diego Lagomarsino, the IT manager of the Special Investigative Unit. Lagomarsino, the last person to see Nisman, told a news conference the Prosecutor “didn’t trust his security detail.” Moreover, as the TOI reported, Nisman had chilling evidence of a threat on his life from alleged Iranian sources. He played a recorded voice message recorded while one of his daughters visited him. Ironically, Lagomarsino is being accused of violating Argentinean laws regarding conveying unregistered weapons. Nisman’s death on Sunday January 18th occurred on the cusp of his scheduled testimony at a Congressional hearing on a 289 page Compliant his Special Investigative Unit had prepared.  It contained accusations of a cover up  by President Kirchner and Foreign Minister Timerman of a trade deal with Iran in exchange for dropping charges against Iranian officials involved in the 1994 AMIA Bombing. Nisman’s murder might have been by members of his security detail on orders of shadowy Argentine opponents or a professional hitman from Hezbollah. Iran and proxy Hezbollah have operatives in the Triple Frontier border zone, where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet considered the Iron Triangle of terrorism in Latin America.

The 1994 AMIA blast that created the Martyrs section in the La Tablada cemetery was attributed to 29 year old Lebanese Hezbollah suicide bomber, Ibrahim Hussein Berro, who was driving a Renault Trafic van packed with 275 kilograms of shaped explosives using ammonium nitrate fertilizer and a fuel oil mixture.  Eighty-five were killed and hundreds were injured in the blast that tore off the façade of the Jewish community facility causing it to collapse. The explosion spread death, havoc and injuries in the street in a crowded Buenos Aires central commercial district.  Berro had been identified by his brothers in Michigan as a Hezbollah member. They gave Nisman a photograph that matched an artist rendering of a description from other eye- witnesses who had briefly glimpsed Berro driving to his fateful end.  Nisman remarked, “The brothers’ testimony was substantial, rich in detail and showed that he was the one who was killed”.

Nisman’s relentless pursuit of who organized this pre-9/11 action led him to obtain an Interpol red tag warrant for the arrest and prosecution of senior Iranian officials and Hezbollah terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyah. Mughniyah was brought to justice when on February 12, 2008 he was killed in a car bombing when he stepped into his Mitsubishi Pajero leaving a celebration of the 1979 Islamic Revolution at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. Many believe that this may have been by Mossad in retribution for Mughniyah’s role in planning and executing both the 1992 Israeli Embassy and 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires. Others identified in the 2007 Compliant, approved by a majority vote of the Interpol Assembly meeting in Morocco, were several Iranian officials including former President Rafsanjani and current President Rouhani. They had all been present at a meeting in Mashad, Iran in August 14, 1993 that authorized the operation with the proviso that it “kill without leaving a trace”- the title of a book  on Nisman’s investigations by Israeli-Argentinean Gustavo Perednik. The animus for these murderous attacks against Israelis and Argentineans is alleged to be Argentina’s suspension of a nuclear transfer agreement that same year that began during the era of the late Shah. Immediately following the AMIA blast, a Panamanian commuter flight on August 19, 1994 was blown up in mid-air by an Arab passenger carrying forged Columbian documents. All 21 passengers and crew were killed, including 12 Jewish businessmen bound for Panama City from Colon. Panamanian and US investigators deemed that a terrorist action.

One aspect of the Nisman saga affects the US, as well. In an interview with Lou Dobbs of Fox News, Claudia Rosett, Journalist- in- Residence at the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies told of Nisman being barred by the Argentine Justice Ministry from appearing at a 2013 Congressional Hearing on Iranian-Hezbollah terror networks. Networks as Rosett pointed out that originated in the Triple Frontier, spread throughout all of Latin America to Mexico and even here in the US. Think of the Quds Force deal with a Mexican Cartel and an Iranian émigré in Texas seeking to arrange the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the US at a Washington, DC restaurant.  Despite Nisman being barred from testifying before the Congressional Committee, an empty chair with a place card bearing his name was placed in front at the Hearing. A testament to the esteem and his courage in warning us of Iran’s long reach of state sponsored terrorism that have claimed over hundreds of lives of innocent victims and  now, Nisman.  His legacy cries out for independent Argentine/US/Israeli filings before the International Criminal Court at The Hague to finally bring to justice Iranian officials who organized the crimes and corrupt Argentinean officials complicit in the monstrous cover up.

Watch the Fox News Lou Dobbs interview with Claudia Rosett:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of th funeral cortege for late Alberto Nisman La Tablada Jewish Cemetery 1-29-15 in Buenos Aires. Source: AP.

American Jewish Baby Killed by Hamas Terrorist in Jerusalem

Baby-Killed-NY-Jerusalem

Insert is photo of three month old Chaya Zisel Braun. Photo courtesy NBC Channel 4 New York.

Three month old Chaya Zisel Braun was run down and killed at the Silwan Light Rail Station in Jerusalem by a Hamas terrorist, 21 year-old Abdel Rahman  Al-Shalodi. Eight other persons were injured in the crowd he ploughed into on the station platform. Ha’aretz reported:

According to witnesses, Al-Shalodi drove the car 14 meters on the tracks itself, hitting disembarking passengers and continuing on along the length of the track. He stopped after hitting a pole a few hundred meters down and then attempted to flee on foot, when he was shot, arrested, and hospitalized.

[…]

An eyewitness reported seeing the car hit the mother and baby and continue plowing through the crowd. “The stroller was shattered and the mother was screaming.

[…]

The stroller flew into the air and the baby was found 10 meters away from the stroller.”

Hamas issued a statement calling Al-Shaludi’s murder of Chaya Zisel an “act of heroism”.

Al-Shaludi  had served  time  in an Israeli prison on terrorist-related charges.  Chaya Zisel  parents and visiting grandparents from America, the Halperins, grieved for their loss. Shimon Halperin and his wife had just arrived in Israel on their first visit after their birth of their granddaughter to see Chaya Zisel. Instead they were rushed  to Hadassah Hospital  on Mount Scopus   Chaya  succumbed to her injuries and  was laid to rest  at a Jerusalem cemetery  at midnight, Wednesday, October 22nd.  Al -Shaludi’s  mother,  did not acknowledging her son’s murderous action.   The Times of Israel  reported 42 year old Inas Sharif  saying “I feel [Chaya’s mother’s pain, I am a mother after all. I don’t wish for any mother in the world to lose her child.”

 Biased media  obfuscated what occurred on Wednesday  at the Silwan Light Rail stop in Jerusalem located at the bottom of Ammunition Hill.

What passes for the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA)  stoked the violence that broke out during the recent Sukkoth holiday.  The AP had an initial headline, “ Israeli Police shoot man in East Jerusalem”  and only after complaints about it being misleading changed it to read,  “Palestinian Kills Baby at Jerusalem Station. “ The  U.S. consulate in Jerusalem issued statement hours after the event  calling it a “traffic incident”.  When the news caught up  at Foggy Bottom  they called it an act of terrorism, but with the usual proviso of  “all parties remaining calm.”  Jen Psaki  State Department Press Spokesperson made  the following statement:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack, and extend our prayers for a full recovery to those injured. We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.

Jerusalem Mayor  Nir Barkat said:

We must restore peace to Jerusalem – as I said for months, the situation in Jerusalem is intolerable and we must be acting unequivocally against the violence taking place in the city,

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu put the blame squarely on the PA leadership. He said:

This is how Abu Mazen’s  partners in government act, the same Abu Mazen who – only a few days ago – incited  a terrorist attack in Jerusalem.

Khaled Abu Toameh  squarely put the blame for the eruption of violence in Jerusalem  on PA President Abbas in a Gatestone Institute article, today, “Abbas’s Responsibility for Murder.” Toameh wrote:

To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one need look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.

The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas’s speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a “war of genocide” in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas’s crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.

Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.

Toameh drew attention  to the record of incitement  perpetrated by Abbas and  his cohorts like chief negotiator Saeb Erekat .  They concocted  the hate that led to Wednesday ‘s vehicular homicide by  al-Shalodi.  There was  Abbas’ UN General Assembly speech in September accusing Israel of waging  a “war of Genocide” in the 50-day war against  terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.  This from a man who ordered Palestinian security to cooperate with Israel  during the rocket and terror tunnel conflict fomented by his partner in the unity government, Hamas.   Abbas used the Sukkoth visits to the Kotel to inflame Palestinian. That  resulted in Israeli police cordoning off the Al Aqsa Mosque preventing Palestinians from raining rocks and Molotov cocktails on  the festival crowd of observant Jews below.  Abbas railed about Jewish desecration of Islamic  holy places. Abbas said:

We must prevent them from entering the Noble Sanctuary by all means. This is our Al-Aqsa. Al-Aqsa is a red line: Israel must be aware that the ongoing raids and attacks on Al-Aqsa will cause a volcanic explosion in the area that will reach Israel. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Palestine, and without it, there will be no state.

The flash point for al-Shalodi’s  terrorist act was reports that Jewish  “settlers” were buying buildings in the Silwan  section in Jerusalem.   The National , published in the UAE had  a  report that vaulted  to world coverage  when it popped up on Yahoo News, “By hook or by crook, settlers rack up gains in East Jerusalem.” The report looks suspiciously like hate filled PA agit-propaganda , tantamount to throwing oil on the fire of the “silent Intifada”.

By fair means or foul, Jewish settlers are notching up property gains in the heart of Arab east Jerusalem through a series of shady deals involving front men or straw companies.

The process by which such properties are acquired is shrouded in mystery, with the new Jewish occupants often moving in under the cover of darkness to avoid confrontation with residents.

The latest controversial acquisitions took place in Silwan, a densely populated Palestinian neighborhood on a steep hillside flanking the southern walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

In the past three weeks, hardline settlers have moved into 35 apartments there, sparking anger and consternation among Palestinians who vehemently oppose such moves as a hostile attempt to Judaise Silwan.

Some were allegedly acquired fraudulently, and others legally.

Jewish groups buying up property in the heart of Arab neighborhoods is an explosive political issue because it touches on the future of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as capital of a future state.

The reality is that Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal and undivided capital. East Jerusalem was formally annexed  by the Knesset on June 28, 1967, reunified following the Six Day War.. Earlier this month we posted on the Iconoclast:

The President and State Department condemned  Netanyahu’s announcement of 2,610 apartments in Givat Hamatos completing the Jewish areas of the municipality and separation from Bethlehem.   The Administration said the move would “poison relations” among Israel’s allies.  Nir Barkat , Mayor of Jerusalem,  took exception to the Administration’s criticism of the building program noting that it was anti-discriminatory and had been approved over two years ago.  Nearly half of those apartments were allocated for Arabs. There were death threats against Arab property brokers for sales of apartments to Jews in the Silwan section of Jerusalem, that prior to the War for Independence had been occupied by Jews.

Wednesday’s vehicular homicide of three month old Chaya Zisel Braun was perpetrated by Hamas terrorist al-Shaludi  with  PA President Abbas, as  an accomplice after the fact for inciting the terrorist act.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. Photos courtesy of NER.

Syrian Opposition Leader Attends International Counter Terrorism Conference in Israel

President Obama’s eve of 9/11 speech  in which he declared “war” on the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, contained a commitment to arm and support so-called moderate Syrian opposition to assist in “degrading and ultimately destroying” the Salafist Jihadist self-declared Caliphate. He may have been referring to the Free Syrian Army. But which Free Syrian Army (FSA)? One group has been headed by American –Syrian members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have dominated the Syrian National Council like Louay Safi with access to the White House. Moreover, as we have learned tragically, it is this Free Syrian Army, with a Supreme Military Command in Erdogan’s Ankara, that purportedly sold American Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were barbarously murdered by ISIS. Those graphic beheadings deliberately conveyed on videos aroused American public opinion demanding action that prompted Obama’s televized address to the nation. This weekend, ISIS revealed another grisly beheading of British aid worker David Haines. In August 2014, President Obama had dismissed the moderate Syrian opposition as a group of “bankers, doctors and pharmacists.”

Dramatically, one leader of the “moderate” Syrian opposition Dr. Kamal al-Labwani, a veteran Syrian secular opponent of the Assad regime, surfaced in Israel this weekend at the annual International Counter Terrorism  (ICT) Conference in Herzliya. You may watch live feed of the ICT conference, here. According to the Times of Israel , who interviewed him, he is in Israel for 10-days on what Labwani described as “academic” and “exploratory” and stated he was prepared to meet with Israeli policymakers “whenever they want.”

Labwani’s attendance at the ICT conference may reflect the outreach by the other FSA led by the Syrian Opposition Coalition headquartered near embattled Aleppo composed of ex-Assad military including Alawites, Christians and Sunni tribal leaders currently battling ISIS inside Syria. My colleague Ilana Freedman estimates through her sources that there could be as many as 50,000 Syrian opposition fighters in this “other FSA.”

In our September NER, article, Did Assad and Maliki Facilitate the Rise of the Islamic State? An Interview with M. Zuhdi Jasser and Sherkoh Abbas, we noted this exchange with Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser:

Gordon:  Syria lies on Israel’s Golan frontier. What has Israel contributed to the alleviation of the plight of Syrians and has there been any relationship between the democratic opposition in Syria and the Israeli government?

Jasser:  I think that’s such an important question and the Syrian National Council, they are still slowly coming around to that view. I would ask people to look at some of the writings and comments of Dr. Kamal al-Labwani who in the past few months has come out and said we should have visited more closely with Israel and guaranteed them security on the Golan as being a mechanism by which we could actually protect some of the more moderates in Syria. He’s realizing that there was no hope for the Syrian National Council (SNC) because it was being protected by Turkey and Qatar. The Islamists, including many American Syrians including Louay Safi and others who went back to run the SNC from an Islamist Brotherhood perspective. Labwani is awakening to the fact that the West is his friend, Israel is at the head of that coalition and the Golan is part of that.

Dr. Labwani has spent ten years in and out of Assad regime jails for his activism in support of a secular and democratic Syria. Labwani lives in exile in Sweden. Adam Pechter in a Fall 2007, Middle East Quarterly profile noted Labwani’s treatment by the regime of Bashar Assad for his dissidence:

Labwani has long been a thorn in the Syrian regime’s side. He angered officials with his advocacy for human rights and fundamental freedoms and has been a consistent advocate for reform. On August 28, 2002, a Syrian court sentenced him to three years in prison for his activities promoting reform during the “Damascus Spring,” the short period in 2000-01 in which the Syrian regime appeared to tolerate more open political criticism. Rather than cow Labwani, his previous imprisonment emboldened him. Following his September 2004 release from prison he founded the Democratic Liberal Gathering which calls for political and free-market reforms and equality for women.

On May 10, 2007, one week after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem for the highest-level bilateral talks between the two governments in more than two year a Syrian court sentenced Kamal al-Labwani to twelve years imprisonment and hard labor. That the harsh sentence coincides with Washington’s decision to reengage Damascus suggests that Assad believes the White House no longer holds it accountable for its persecution of nonviolent dissidents.

The Times of Israel report discussed Labwani views critical of Obama’s new ISIS strategy at the ICT Counter Terrorism conference, “Syrian opposition leader skeptical of US plan to arm rebels”. Labwani commented:

“Currently, the aid could fall into the wrong hands in the absence of good management and oversight,” Labwani said. “Real authority on the ground requires investment in organization before the aid is even sent.”

“We cannot fight terror with terror or crime with crime,” he said. “We must combat all the criminals, be they the regime or the terrorists from the Islamic State and the other gangs. You can’t have the Syrian people choose between a criminal named Bashar Assad or a terrorist named [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi.”

“We must reconstruct a new leadership connected to the people,” he said. “This would also require a no-fly zone. It would be pointless to create a system inside and have the [Assad] regime destroy it.”

“They [the Americans] have relied on failed regimes. They gave a portfolio to Qatar and a portfolio to Saudi Arabia … but it’s the Syrians who must take responsibility and run their own lives. We could, for instance, form a base in liberated areas in the north and the south and establish good relations with people. But to receive orders from a Saudi sheikh or a Qatari sheikh or from foreign intelligence agencies? That won’t work.”

“How can we turn this chaos into order? We need to build an authority on the ground. This requires a budget, an economy, institutions, reconstruction, and protection. Weapons aren’t enough.”

An op-ed in the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal resonated Dr. Labwani’s comments, Obama Needs the Free Syrian Army to Defeat the Islamic State. The authors are Oubai Shahbandar and Michael Pregent. Mr. Shahbandar, a former Pentagon analyst, is an adviser to the Syrian Opposition Coalition of which Dr. Labwani is a member. Mr. Pregent is an adjunct lecturer at National Defense University and a former U.S. Army intelligence officer. They noted:

Until recently, the U.S. intelligence community had a grim assessment of the prospects of working with the Free Syrian Army opposition forces in an anti-ISIS campaign. Issues with command and control and unclear links to a political framework were often cited as reasons for hesitation to invest in the type of military partnership the U.S. has with Kurdish security forces in Iraq in fighting ISIS.

Nonetheless, the success of President Obama’s strategy in Syria clearly depends on the ability of the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army to fight ISIS. The good news is the FSA has established a command center outside the village of Marea in the strategically important province of Aleppo to direct and manage the battle against ISIS in northern Syria. And in August the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council, an alliance between FSA and other rebel factions, was formed to increase coordination and unity.

How can these rebel groups help the U.S. assault on ISIS? Even with the world’s most advanced intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance platforms, the U.S. military still needs “eyes on the ground” to round out the intelligence picture of ISIS’s capabilities, locations and vulnerabilities. Establishing an advice and assist relationship with the Free Syrian Army and tribal networks in eastern Syria would pay dividends for military planning. In late July, the Shaitat tribe in eastern Syria rose up against ISIS and drove them from the villages of Abu Hamam, Kashkiyeh and Ghranijup. The Shaitat have in turn faced brutal recriminations, with ISIS fighters capturing and slaughtering some 700 tribal members.

In Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga forces have proved to be the anvil to the hammer of U.S. airstrikes, denying ISIS strategic terrain and recapturing lost territory. ISIS suffered its first strategic setback in Iraq in August with the loss of the Mosul Dam —an important blow to its image among its fracturing Sunni support base. Iraqi Sunni tribes, whose tribal confederation crosses over into eastern Syria, are also joining the fight against ISIS. In Syria, airstrikes should enable the FSA and allied tribes to retake the country’s eastern oil fields, which are vital to sustaining and funding ISIS operations.

Perhaps, Dr. Labwani’s visit to the ICT conference in Israel may also discuss possible mutual interests regarding  covert support of the FSA military command and indigenous Sunni tribes’ opposition to ISIS and the Assad regime.  If the case, one can only hope that might include linking up with Syrian Kurdish resistance forces, despite earlier differences.

Watch this March 31, 2014, MEMRI video interview with Dr. Labwani that may have prompted his current visit to the IDC conference in Herzliya.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured image is of  Syrian Opposition Leader, Dr. Kamal Labani on right at ICT Conference Herzliya Israel 9-11-14. Source Moti Kahana,  Times of Israel.

“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.

Why Israel was Stunned by Discovery of the Tunnels in Gaza

The ground incursion by the IDF into Gaza that began on July 16th was triggered by the emergence of 13 Hamas commandos from a tunnel underneath the Gaza Israel frontier. They were detected by an armed IAF drone and quickly dispatched by a missile strike scattering both survivors and equipment near the opening of the tunnel. 17 days into the tough slog of the ground phase with 33 IDF soldiers fallen, including two Americans, more than 35 tunnels have been uncovered. A number of these were found to have entrances in homes, schools, apartment buildings and mosques. The Givati brigade has been assigned the dangerous tasks of inspecting these tunnels. After sending in small tactical robots detecting booby traps, the tunnels are destroyed.

However, the obvious question is why was the IDF caught flat footed by the enormity of the Hamas tunnel network when there were means available to map them? Despite their being excavated more than 25 meters below the surface.

Sheera Frenkel, Buzzfeed’s correspondent in Israel reported this comment:

Israeli military officers described an “underground city” in Shujayeh, made up of a labyrinth of tunnels in which Israeli soldiers clashed with Hamas fighters.

“Even with the intelligence the Israeli military keeps on Gaza, they were caught by surprise at the extent of what they found below ground,” said Amir Bohbot, a military affairs correspondent with Walla, a news site. “There were traps, explosives everywhere. There is no way for them to continue their operation without taking the risks of even heavier casualties.”

A source in Jerusalem told us this week that Tzahal was jarred  by the extent of the tunnels under the Gaza Israel frontier, and the purpose. Dan Diker, Executive Producer for the Voice of Israel sent my colleague Lisa Benson this chilling email message:

The news here is that Hamas was planning a doomsday mega attack for Rosh Hashanah, Sending hundreds , HUNDREDS OF Hamas Suicide commandoes via the underground terror tunnel networks to conquer Israeli towns and cities. This was planned to be  the equivalent of five 911’s .

That is the meaning of the tunnel threat. It is the most serious strategic threat Israel has faced since the 1973 war. The failed conception is also notable as there is a real question as to whether the intelligence echelons recognized the seriousness of the threat.

The Three Kidnapped and murdered teens saved Israel literally by mobilizing the IDF and public opinion to fight Hamas. We were saved by the skin of our teeth from strategic disaster.

But should Tzahal  have been surprised by this news?  A noted Israel geologist was cited in a Telegraph U.K. article complaining that the tunnel threat had been overlooked by the Israeli Ministry of Defense:

“For 10 years I’ve been crying and screaming to the highest possible levels – to the Defense Ministry, the chief of staff, the commanding officers of southern and northern command,” Dr Joseph Langotsky, an Israeli geologist who has long advocated greater attention to the issue of the tunnels, said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“Although the tunnels are a low-tech option, they might be a strategic threat to our security,” said Dr Langotsky.

The heavily fortified areas of southern Lebanon that the IDF encountered in the 2006 Lebanon War should have raised alarm bells. Hezbollah with the alleged technical assistance of Iranian Quds Force engineers had prepared tunnels connecting command and control centers in villages, rocket launching areas, armories and firing positions.  Moreover, there were rumors that  Hezbollah with the aid of Iran and possibly North Korea had also dug tunnels underneath the northern frontier of Lebanon and Israel.

Ilana Freedman, veteran intelligence analys, raised the issue of the threat of tunnels crossing the Lebanon Israel frontier. The IDF was warned about the Hezbollah tunnels as early as April 2010, including a large tunnel which was being constructed from southern Lebanon to central Haifa. They were also informed of a number of small bore tunnels that were being built, to emerge in northern Israeli towns and kibbutzim. These were designed for Hezbollah’s child warriors who would be sent heavily armed and would be instructed to fire on anyone they see once they emerge in these towns. This information came from eye-witness sources in southern Lebanon.

When the Givati brigade went into Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, they also encountered tunnels. The tunnels uncovered by Golani and Givati brigades in the current Operation Protective Edge were well prepared with concrete, steel reinforced with lighting and ventilation. A few were even large enough to accommodate trucks. The longest one discovered was over 2.5 kilometers in length. The average cost of the tunnels was estimated at $1 million each. It appears that the Hamas tunnel networks in Gaza may have expertly planned and executed using the Hezbollah playbook, possibly with both Hezbollah and Quds Force assistance.

When the eight day Operation Pillar of Defense ended on November 21, 2012, a cease fire was brokered by the former Egyptian President Morsi, a supporter of Hamas. The Obama Administration pressured the Netanyahu government to permit the delivery of cement and steel for the reconstruction of Gaza. Jerusalem had objected to the demands of Washington suspecting that the delivery of the materials to Gaza would be used for military purposes. Given what has been uncovered, those suspicions have been confirmed. Qatar put up more than $405 million for the alleged reconstruction of destroyed areas of Gaza. Those funds may have been substantially diverted for purchase of equipment and materials to construct the tunnel network.

The Telegraph U.K, article disclosed that the Israeli Ministry of Defense was working on the tunnel problem.  However, the means of detecting them would not be available until after the current conflict, “Israel tests hi-tech tunnel detection system to fight threat from underground.”  The report noted:

In a bid to find a solution, the IDF’s elite Talpiot unit has been working on developing a tunnel detection system which was tested in Tel Aviv. Its costs are estimated to be $59 million.

“The high-tech system, which uses special sensors and transmitters, is still in its R&D phase, and if all goes well, should be operational within a year”, notes a report on Israel’s I-24 news.

The most common type of technology for tracking down tunnels is focused on listening for sounds of digging, notes Inbal Orpaz in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

Another Israeli company, Magna, already provides defense systems for the Israel-Egypt border. It proposed digging a 70-km tunnel along the Israel-Gaza border, equipped with a sensitive alert system.

This “will provide real-time alerts of any tunnel digging that crosses our tunnel, whether above or below it. The IDF will know exactly where the attack tunnel is and how many people are in it, and can monitor the progress of digging it in real time, and decide how to respond to the threat,” the company’s founder and CEO Haim Siboni told Israel’s Globes publication.

An interview with a Canadian expert in Start –Up Israel reveals that Israel may have already had the means of mapping the tunnels, IDF ‘didn’t follow up’ on MRI-style, below-surface technology to find tunnels”:

Paul Bauman, a Canadian who is one of the world’s foremost experts on discovering underground tunnels and voids, insists that the technology exists and has been used in the US, Canada, Korea, and other places. “We actually did some work with the IDF some years ago, showing them how the technology we’ve developed works,” Bauman told The Times of Israel in an interview. “They were interested, but there was no follow-up. Why, I couldn’t say.”

[…]

Had the army worked with Bauman, using the sophisticated methods he has developed and successfully employed over the past decade, things might have been different. While there is no foolproof, single tech solution to discovering tunnels, a combination of several techniques — radar, tomography, and seismic measuring — could give Israel a technological advantage over Hamas, creating a map of what is happening under the surface, and making it much easier to find tunnels and the terrorists who dig them.

Bauman noted  the off the shelf technology that might have been used for detection and mapping of the tunnels:

It was on one of his exploration trips to Israel that Bauman showed the IDF some of the techniques it could use to discover underground tunnels. At the time, after another Gaza flare-up, Operation Cast Lead in 2009, a Teknion team led by researchers Dr. Raphael Linker and Dr. Assaf Klar were developing a system that uses a fiber optic cable buried one or two meters beneath the surface to detect underground movement. The system builds what is essentially an underground fence using BOTDR (Brillouin optical time-domain reflectometry) technology, which measures the stress on the cable underground.

The amount of stress may be very small, the team said, and its research shows that even small levels of deformation can be detected, making the system perfect for keeping tabs on tunnel builders. The cable is cheap, and as much as 30 kilometers of the border can be monitored simultaneously using one device. It’s not clear if the IDF considered that system as well, and in an email this week, Linker said that the system is still under development.

Also considered was ground penetrating radar:

Much better, than an Israeli concept of building a moat around Gaza, polluting the ground aquifer,  Bauman said, would be a technique like underground radar to find tunnels. “Israel has been very interested in this, and Israeli companies are working on underground radar systems,” said Bauman. “In an underground radar system, you aim the wave down below the ground, and when you get back a signal that is an anomaly — indicating that there is something different about the area you just checked than other areas — you know you’ve found something worth investigating.”

There are limitations to the system, though. “Depending on the frequency of the radar wave, you can have a system that can ‘see’ as far down as 100 meters, but at low resolution, or just 10 meters at a better resolution,” Bauman said. Radar could be very useful in discovering larger concrete tunnels, which have metal rebar in them — concrete and metal being much denser than the gypsum and salt-rich soil around the Gaza border — but not for the simpler, smaller wood-reinforced tunnels.

If the warnings and advices of Israeli geologist Dr. Langotsky and Canadian researcher Bauman had been heeded then could the surge in IDF casualties been avoided?  That is unfortunately past history. The issue before the IDF ground commanders is how most efficiently to destroy those tunnels that are encountered. Some experts have suggested use of Fuel Air Explosives (FAE). Russia’s Putin authorized used of FAE weapons against Chechen Islamists extremists when the provincial capital of Grozny (terrible in Russian) was virtually flattened in 2002.  Others recall napalm used to clear out tunnels on the Island of Iwo Jima from which suicide Imperial Japanese forces would sally forth to inflict heavy casualties on US Marines and soldiers. Perhaps this comment in the Buzzfeed article from an Israel Intelligence officer best sums up the military campaign that the IDF is waging against another group of fortified fanatics this time in Gaza:

‘“We are no longer looking at just dismantling the tunnel network [from Gaza to Israel]. The goals of Operation Defensive Edge are now to cripple Hamas so they will not be able to strike us again in a few years,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He also told Buzzfeed that Israel’s military was now preparing a timeline for its offensive in Gaza that could go on for “several weeks” and see the Israeli military create a “buffer zone” up to a mile into Gaza.

“We may suffer heavy losses doing this, but their losses will be heavier, I can assure you,” said the officer.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured photo is of an Israeli Givati Brigade Soldier at entrance of Hamas tunnel, July 23, 2014. Source: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90.

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.

Why Bowe Bergdahl is not an American “Gilad Shalit”

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak, PM Netnayhau, Gilad Shalit, IDF COS Benn Gantz October 18, 2011

The Times of Israel published a story endeavoring to equate the five year kidnapping and captivity of IDF solider Gilad Shalit with US Army enlisted man Bowe Bergdahl who went AWOL and subsequently was held captive for five years by the Haqqani Taliban, “American ‘Gilad Shalit’ freed from captivity in Afghanistan”.

The time span may have been the same for both soldiers. However, the circumstances and outcomes were not the same.

Both were imprisoned by terrorist groups, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists in Shalit’s case, the Taliban in Bergdahl’s instance. Both prisoner releases involved intermediaries, Germany and Egypt in the case of Shalit; Qatar in the instance of Bergdahl.  The numbers of prisoners exchanged for the release of Shalit were lopsided, over 1,027 Palestinian prisoners to secure Shalit’s release.  Those released had been responsible for the deaths of several hundred Israeli citizens.

Contrast that with the five Afghan Taliban commanders in the prisoner exchange for Bergdahl.  Few in number, however, they were involved in the one of the worst genocides committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 1998 involving the massacre of more than 8,000 Hazara Shia men, women and children in Marar- I- Sharif. The release of five Taliban commanders and war criminals, who perpetrated that genocide, has raised considerable questions by Chairmen and Ranking members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and other Members of Congress. There have been calls for investigations of the circumstances behind Bergdahl’s actions in 2009, as well as, whether the President’s actions may have violated the law regarding negotiations with terrorists.  Then there are possible repercussions in Afghanistan and the Muslim Ummah for these Taliban commanders who are veritable   rock stars in international Jihadism. They may pose a serious threat when released from a year’s detention in Qatar.  Oatar, whose Emir had acted as an intermediary in the prisoner exchange that released Sgt. Bergdahl.

Shalit’s kidnapping and release

Shalit was kidnapped at gun point on June 25, 2006 after an attack by terrorists from the Palestine Resistance Committee using underground tunnels on his tank unit stationed at the Keren Shalom crossing on the southern Israel Gaza frontier.  He was released on October 18, 2011 after an agreement had been reached by German and Egyptian negotiators for an exchange with Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.  Hamas initially denied International Red Cross requests for confirmation, instead directly contacting his parents six days later indicating that he was a prisoner and would be treated in accordance with Islamic law.  Repeated Israeli and French government and international requests were made for IRC visits in accordance with the Geneva Convention. The only contact with the outside world during Shalit’s incarceration in Gaza were three letters, an audio tape, and a DVD that Israel received in return for releasing 20 female Palestinian prisoners.   Shalit’s parents petitioned both Israel President Peres and PM Netanyahu and mounted rallies for rescue of their son in both Israel and abroad.  Because of the family’s dual Israeli French citizenship they had the support of then French President Nicolas Sarkozy endeavoring to pressure Hamas for release of their son.

PM Netanyahu’s Remarks upon Shalit’s Release

Shalit, when freed was greeted by the IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, then Defense Minister Ehud Barak and PM Netanyahu.  There were no questions about Shalit’s loyalties.  Shalit’s parents were grateful despite disagreements with PM Netanyahu over tough negotiations involving problematic release of Palestinian prisoners, many with blood on their hands.  Most Israelis approved the exchange to secure Shalit’s release.  PM Netanyahu noted in his remarks at the time of Shalit’s release:

Two-and-a-half years ago, I returned to the Prime Minister’s Office. One of the principal and most complicated missions that I found on my desk, and which I set my heart to, was to bring our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit back home, alive and well. Today, that mission has been completed.

It entailed a very difficult decision. I saw the need to return home someone whom the State of Israel had sent to the battlefield. As an IDF soldier and commander, I went out on dangerous missions many times. But I always knew that if I or one of my comrades fell captive, the Government of Israel would do its utmost to return us home, and as Prime Minister, I have now carried this out. As a leader who daily sends out soldiers to defend Israeli citizens, I believe that mutual responsibility is no mere slogan – it is a cornerstone of our existence here.

While the release of Shalit in exchange for over 1,027 Palestinian prisoners was controversial PM Netanyahu noted the precautions Israel took in his remarks at Gilad’s release:

But I also see an additional need, that of minimizing the danger to the security of Israel’s citizens. To this end, I enunciated two clear demands. First, that senior Hamas leaders, including arch-murderers, remain in prison. Second, that the overwhelming majority of those designated for release either be expelled or remain outside Judea and Samaria, in order to impede their ability to attack our citizens.

For years, Hamas strongly opposed these demands. But several months ago, we received clear signs that it was prepared to back down from this opposition. Tough negotiations were carried out, night and day, in Cairo, with the mediation of the Egyptian government. We stood our ground, and when our main demands were met – I had to make a decision.

And today, now Gilad has returned home, to his family, his people and his country. This is a very moving moment. A short time ago, I embraced him as he came off the helicopter and escorted him to his parents, Aviva and Noam, and I said, ‘I have brought your son back home.’ But this is also a hard day; even if the price had been smaller, it would still have been heavy.

Bergdahl’s Alleged AWOL led to his capture by the Taliban.

On June 25, 2009 Sgt. Bergdahl walked away from his forward operational base in Afghanistan with only water, a knife, a compass, a digital camera, notebook and knapsack with some clothes only to be captured by Taliban forces.  He went Absent without Leave (AWOL) an action punishable, if proven, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  These roving Taliban fighters passed him along to captivity at a Haqqani base along the Afghanistan Pakistan frontier.  There are indications he may have been moved into a Taliban safe haven inside Pakistan.  Unlike Shalit, Bergdahl emailed his parents indicating that he had effectively deserted.  The Christian Science Monitor cites  a 2012 Rolling Stones article containing these email exchanges with his father by Bowe Bergdahl:

The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same.”

I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”

In his final message, Bergdahl refers to having mailed home boxes with his uniforms and books.

“Feel free to open them, and use them,” he wrote.

Later that night, Bowe Bergdahl’s father Bob Bergdahl, a UPS truck driver, sent his son an email from their home in Hailey, Idaho, with the subject line: OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!

Bergdahl, while he lived in confinement participated in making several proof of life ideas beseeching the US government to rescue him, while accusing American coalition forces of human rights violations of the Afghan people.

Robert Bergdhal at Boise News Confererence. Source: ABC news

The Senior Bergdahl’s Bizarre White House Invocation and Tweets

On June 1, 2014 a tearful Robert Bergdahl at a Boise news conference proclaimed in a video that he was proud of what his son Bowe had done for the Afghan people:

But most of all, I’m proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people, and what you were willing to do to go to that length,” Bob Bergdahl said, fighting back tears during a press conference in Boise. “I’ll say it again: I’m so proud of how far you were willing to go to help the Afghan people. And I think you have succeeded.

The Tuesday before the past weekend release of Sgt. Bergdahl, the senior Bergdahl exchanged Tweets with the Taliban spokesperson using a graphic of him against the backdrop of the Muslim profession of faith, the Shahada, with the demand to “Free All Guantanamo Prisoners”.  He subsequently took down that exchange of Tweets.  Moreover, at the conclusion of Saturday Rose Garden announcement of Sgt. Bergdahl’s release, the father invoked a frequently recited Qur’anic ayah.  Note this email from a colleague, Clare Lopez cited in a post by former Florida Congressman, Allen B. West on his blog, Steadfast and Loyal:

What none of these media is reporting is that the father’s (SGT Bowe Bergdahl’s father Bob) first words at the White House were in Arabic – those words were “bism allah alrahman alraheem” – which means “in the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful” – these are the opening words of every chapter of the Qur’an except one (the chapter of the sword – the 9th) – by uttering these words on the grounds of the WH, Bergdahl (the father) sanctified the WH and claimed it for Islam. There is no question but POTUS knows this.

Loyalty of Bergdahl Questioned by Army vets in Same Unit

CNN’s Jake Tapper in an article noted that members of Sgt. Bergdahl’s platoon were aggrieved over the loss of comrades in the search after he went missing, “Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero”.

Note these comments from the Tapper CNN article of his former Army platoon members of the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, and 25th Infantry Division:

At least six soldiers were killed in subsequent searches for Bergdahl, and many soldiers in his platoon said attacks seemed to increase against the United States in Paktika province in the days and weeks following his disappearance.

“Any of us would have died for him while he was with us, and then for him to just leave us like that, it was a very big betrayal,” said former U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Korder, who has the name of three soldiers who died while searching for Bergdahl tattooed on his back.

“I don’t think I could have continued to go on without being able to share with you and the people the true things that happened in this situation,” Korder said Monday. “Because if you guys aren’t made aware of it, it will just go on, and he’ll be a hero, and nobody will be able to know the truth.”

Then there is Bowe. Bergdahl’s admission of why he took off that fateful day in June 2009:

E-mails reported by the late Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone in 2012 reveal what Bergdahl’s fellow infantrymen learned within days of his disappearance: He told people that he no longer supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

“The future is too good to waste on lies,” he wrote to his parents. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

Bergdahl wrote to them, “I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.”

Concluding Comments

Notwithstanding these email remarks from Bergdahl, some believe that five years captivity under the Taliban may be more than enough punishment and that he deserves to receive treatment and rehabilitation.  After he has recovered then conduct of possible investigations and military tribunals may be another matter. Only time will tell.

By contrast Gilad Shalit today is a sports columnist for Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth, a welcomed public figure at sporting events in Israel.  He also suffered five years of imprisonment. Unlike Bergdahl he was loyal to his IDF buddies and did not betray his country.  Bergdahl’s actions and those of his father are both questionable and disturbing. Their actions are compounded by President Obama’s release of Taliban Jihad commanders arranged by international Muslim Brotherhood supporter, the Emir of Qatar.

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

Who is Sabotaging Israeli-US Intelligence Collaboration?

Jeff Stein, the Spy Talk columnist for the resurrected Newsweek let loose with accusations of Israeli intelligence industrial espionage in the US as the cause of the holdup in the visa waiver program for Israeli visitors.  That does not square with the facts of the enduring 29 year relations and contributions between the two allies. That was a reference to the pledge made by Israel not to engage in espionage following the conviction of American spy for Israel, Jonathan Pollard.  Subsequent there were more bizarre allegations from Stein at Newsweek. This time it was about an episode involving former Vice President Gore during a trip to Israel.  Allegedly, a Secret Service agent found a Mossad operative hiding in an air shaft listening to conversations.

That raised statements from former Mossad director, Danny Yatom, in a Times of Israel (TOI) report this weekend  suggesting that was ‘delusional.’ He said Israel’s spy agency had less intrusive means of monitoring conversations.  Former Israeli military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen Amos Yadlin,   commented  in another TOI  article, “Israel does not spy on the US “, further suggesting the  Newsweek reports were “unreliable” and sources  “questionable”.  Israel’s Strategic Minister, Yuval Steinitz asked the obvious question was “Someone was trying to sabotage relations?”   Moreover, he was going to investigate this during discussions with the Administration this coming week in Washington, DC.

Who is Newsweek’s Jeff Stein?

Stein who wrote these questionable stories contended in a comment to an Algemeiner account alleging anti-Semitic intent and anti-Israel bias in the Newsweek report that he was neither.  Stein has an interesting background.  Born in Philadelphia and raised in New England, he is a graduate of Boston University who took a Master’s in Chinese History at the University of California at Berkeley. He was  in Army Intelligence during the Vietnam era serving there for a year in 1968 to 1969 and awarded a Bronze Star.

He started out his journalistic career reporting for NPR and worked on fledgling news papers   founding The Washington Weekly in 1981, which went defunct in 1984.  A year later he joined UPI where he ultimately became deputy foreign editor. He authored his first book, The Vietnam Fact Book in 1987. His 1992 Green Beret book, Murder in Wartime caught the attention of reviewers who cited it as the best military morality tale since The Caine Mutiny.  In the 1990’s he began writing for Salon.com exposing the links between Ringling Bros Circus and an ex- CIA official, Clair George.  In 2000, he co-authored  Saddam’s Bomb-maker with  Khidhir Hamza, who headed the late Iraqi dictator’s nuclear program. That book caught a wave of attention. Following 9/11 he was hired in 2002 by Congressional Quarterly to head CQ Homeland Security.  He started the Spy Talk column and blog while at CQ in 2005 moving on in 2009 to continue Spy Talk at the Washington Post.  Along the way he was several articles  about both counter-terrorism officials and the head of the  US House Intelligence Committee   lacking  an appreciation  of Sunni versus Shiite doctrine and Al Qaeda in the Middle East. In 2009 he revealed wire taps of former House Intelligence member Rep. Jane Harman regarding her efforts to aid two former AIPAC officials whose case was subsequently dismissed by a Federal judge for wrongful prosecution. The incident spotlighted NSA warrant-less eavesdropping.  Stein joined the re-constituted Newsweek as contributing editor in December 2013.   See Stein’s Spy Talk columns at Newsweek, here.

The Bizarre Entanglement of Newsweek’s owners at the International Business Times

Newsweek was acquired by International Business Times (IBT) in 2013.  The IBT  founded in 2005 by French American Etienne Uzac  and Jonathan Davis, is the subject of a dossier article in the May/June 2014 edition of Mother Jones“Whose Behind Newsweek” .   There are accusations of  the multi-lingual publication group  principals backed by a shadowy Korean Christian cultist, the Rev. David Jang. Jang founder of Olivet University in San Francisco is alleged in the Mother Jones article  to  have provided funding for IBT.   Further, it is and is alleged  he has  deep involvement in the publication group’s editorial and business management, including sweat shop operations using illegal aliens.  Notwithstanding these allegations by Mother Jones, IBT has hired a credible group of editors with recognized experience at the New York Times:

Newsweek‘s new editor in chief, Jim Impoco  is formerly of the New York TimesPortfolio, and Reuters,. Under IBT’s ownership, Impoco has attracted an experienced and well-respected crew of journalists.  On March 4, IBT also announced that Peter Goodman, an award-winning former New York Times economics correspondent and business editor at the Huffington Post, would take over as IBT’s editor in chief.

Mother Jones extensive investigations of IBT and Jang’s Olivet movement revealed the latter’s influence and bizarre cultist beliefs:

According to the Times, Uzac and Davis said “Jang had no financial stake in IBT or influence on the business.” But the pair acknowledged to Mother Jonesthat Jang has provided “advice” to IBT. And while there’s no evidence Jang controlled editorial matters, internal documents show him routinely weighing in on a wide range of business decisions, from personnel and business strategy to typography.

Jang sees Community-affiliated media organizations, including IBT, as an essential part of his mission to build the kingdom of God on Earth. He has said that media companies affiliated with the Community are part of a new Noah’s ark designed to save the world from a biblical flood of information.

Ex-CIA Official Paul Pillar’s Anti-Israel Smear Campaign

As we posted in our  prior Iconoclast report, we found Stein’s allegations lacking credibility. Subsequent reports by him verge on the bizarre. Yadlin’s questioning of sources is reflected in emerging information on a public source cited by Stein, ex-CIA Near East and South Asian analyst, Paul R. Pillar. Pillar left the agency in 2004 during the period when former Florida Congressman, Porter J. Goss was Director from 2004 to 2006 under President George W. Bush.   Pillar was one of the authors of the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was leaked to the New York Times in the waning days of the 2004 Presidential campaign. It used by the Kerry campaign to accuse Bush of ignoring intelligence community warnings about a “failed policy” in the Iraq War. Ken Timmerman in his 2007 book, Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender  cited Jack Wheeler, a intelligence community insider, calling out Pillar for leading a band of “rogue weasels driving a CIA war… to secure Bush’s defeat”.  According to Timmerman Pillar’s views on terrorism post 9/11 were published in a Brookings Institution monograph, Terrorism and U.S. Foreign PolicyHis views reflected earlier assessments suggesting that state sponsorship of terrorism was passé and that non state actors like al Qaeda  should be treated  as the equivalent of  a communicable disease.  Pillar completely missed the “stupendous growth of al Qaeda”, its relations with the late Saddam Hussein and the Islamic regime in Iran.  Myopically, Pillar never understood Osama bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood derived Jihad doctrine.  Pillar believed  there was the equivalent of an iron wall between Sunni and Shiite extremists.  Richard Perle is cited by Timmerman saying that Pillar’s  pre-Iraq war briefing in January 2003 was “the worst in 25 years, couldn’t answer questions, and was clueless about what was going on in Iraq.”  Timmerman quotes the observation by John Hinderecker saying, ” Recent events indicate that the CIA might even be willing to compromise the effectiveness of its own covert operations, if by doing so it can damage the Bush Administration.”

By coincidence Hinderecker, a CIA veteran who also knew Pillar produced evidence of the rabid anti-Israel positions of Pillar in a Powerline report this weekend calling him, “an anti-Israel smear agent”.  Hinderecker cites a piece in The National Interest by Pillar attacking gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson called “The Sheldon Primary”. Pillar wrote:

For this man who will likely have such enormous influence on who will be the Republican presidential nominee, the Republican Party isn’t even his first love among political parties. That would be the Likud party. Adelson’s money also plays a very big role in Israeli politics, much of it in subsidizing a free-distribution newspaper, Israel HaYom, which has the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in Israel and functions as a cheerleader for Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud.

Nor is the United States Adelson’s first love among countries. He has said that when he performed military service as a young man it “unfortunately” was in a U.S. uniform rather than an Israeli one. He has expressed the wish that his son become a sniper in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Hinderecker’s comment on Pillar’s attack against Adelson:

Reading Paul Pillar’s smear of Sheldon Adelson saddened me. Paul, when I knew him, was as honest, as intelligent, and as idealistic as anyone of my acquaintance. Forty-odd years later, is this what liberalism has come to? A dead end where its best representatives have nothing substantive to offer, but can only smear Republican campaign donors? Where formerly brilliant minds labor to justify a claimed equivalence between the Democrats’ “white primaries” of the 1930s and a Republican donor trying to find a good presidential candidate to support?

Ex-CIA covert officer, who goes by the nom de guerre, “Cowboy”, had this assessment of Pillar:

Paul Pillar is a well known anti-American, leftist and anti-Israeli nutcase.  Even by CIA/State Dept bureaucracy standards.  Not surprising, probably, that he links up with similar folks.

The Outstanding Question; who is behind this smear campaign?

Against this background, we can appreciate why former Israeli intelligence heads and Netanyahu government officials in Jerusalem are concerned about what is behind Newsweek launching this smear campaign.  The allegations of skulduggery in Israeli intelligence collaboration with the US are doubtful. These stories come amidst efforts by the Obama Administration, especially Secretary of State Kerry, endeavoring to pin the blame on Israel for ‘torpedoing’ the Final Status talks with the Palestinian Authority, newly united with terrorist group Hamas.

My ex-CIA colleague, Cowboy, observed: “clearly they are cats paws for O’s anti-Israel campaign.”

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