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Israel’s Republican Governor?

This morning I opened up a Ynet.com  Op ed, “Israel’s Republican Governor”,   by Tel Aviv University Professor Aviad Kleinberg, a member of the History Faculty and according to the information on him, a medievalist by specialization with interests in  religion and philosophy. Kleinberg conclusion was:

Despite his declarations, Netanyahu is thinking less about Iran and more about politics – both Israeli and American. While the Republicans are deriving pleasure from the slap in Obama’s face, the price will be paid by us.

Kleinberg starts off  trying to hoist PM Netanyahu with these comments:

“While there are those who are focusing on protocol or politics, a bad deal with Iran is being formed,” Benjamin Netanyahu has declared. The remedy for this bad agreement, it turns out, is a speech which the prime minister will deliver in Washington, D.C.

Netanyahu is suggesting the following equation: It’s true that this speech faces a strong opposition in the United States. It’s true that it is infuriating the administration and will create high tensions between Israel and US President Barack Obama. It’s true that there is a good chance that the administration will punish Netanyahu (i.e., the State of Israel) because delivering the speech is perceived as breaking the acceptable rules of the game between countries (a head of state does not make an official visit when the head of the state he is visiting makes it explicitly clear that he is not interested in the visit). It’s also true that to an innocent bystander, it seems like cynical attempt to grab the spotlight in order to advance the guest’s interests in the election campaign. But all that pales into insignificance in the face of the fundamental achievement – stopping the bad agreement with Iran.

You can read the rest here...

Times of Israel 2015 Election PollProfessor Kleinberg’s trust in President Obama’s effort via the P5+1 negotiations to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear breakout and producing weapons is not reflected in the latest Times of Israel  (TOI) poll of Israeli views on the upcoming Knesset election issues and party list candidates released yesterday.  The TOI headline was, 3 in 4 Israelis don’t trust Obama to keep Iran from nukes.

The TOI poll findings were:

Asked whether they trust the U.S. president to ensure Iran not get the bomb, an overwhelming 72% do not, compared to 64% in our January 2014 survey.

Israeli voters give Obama a 33% favorable and 59% unfavorable rating, The Times of Israel’s survey also shows. Still, the president’s favorable and unfavorable ratings (33%/59%) aren’t much worse than those of several of Israel’s politicians such as Moshe Kahlon (45%/32%), Netanyahu (41%/54%), Isaac Herzog (38%/43%), or Naftali Bennett (38%/52%). Obama is on par with Yair Lapid’s current rating of 34% favorable and 59% unfavorable, and has a better perception than Tzipi Livni (29%/64%) and Avigdor Liberman (31%/61%).

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Here is what I posted as a comment on the Ynet.com in response to Professor Kleinberg’s Ynet.com opinion:

Professor Aviad Kleinberg of Tel Aviv U’s history department betrays his expertise as a medievalist when it comes to opining on American politics. He of all people should recognize this less than Machiavellian ploy by the Obama West Wing seeking to dis Bibi for accepting Speaker Boehner’s invitation to speak before a Joint Session of Congress about Iran’s nuclear hegemony agenda and Radical Islamists on your borders.

One only need look at polls in the U.S. on the matter of the PM speaking before a Joint Session of Congress to realize that he has the backing of 50 % of Americans respondents.. Methinks the Professor protests too much in light of the agitprop by the Presidents’ media minders in the West Wing seeking to provide support for the so-called Zionist Union in the March 17 snap Knesset elections. Which has been revealed in both the liberal NY Times and Washington Post.

If Bibi ran as a Republican Governor here in the Sunshine State he’d win hands down. Can’t say that for ‘Democrats’ Tzipi and Bluji who can hardly match the PM’s Churchillian cadence nor his gravitas on mutual national security interests of concern to Israel and the West.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. House Speaker Boehner and Israeli PM Netanyahu taken on May 24, 2011 before his speech to a Joint Session of Congress. Source: NER.

Steven Sotloff: An Israeli-American who reported on the ‘Menace of Jihad’

sotloff

Image courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.

ISIS murdered its first Israeli American, 31 year old Steven Sotloff.  Sotloff, z”l , made aliyah to Israel and attended the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC ) in Herzliya from 2005 to 2008. He took off when the Arab Spring erupted to follow developments in Egypt, Libya,  Turkey and ultimately Syria, where he was abducted by criminal elements and likely ‘sold’ to ISIS.

Ynet.com report, “Steven had Israel in his blood, says close family friend”, revealed his Jewish background and  his amazing feat of practicing Jewish observances while in captivity.   The information was purposefully impounded until his  murder at the hands of a barbaric ISIS  executioner.  The executioner may possibly be the same British jihadi who murdered the late American journalist, James Foley.  We recall the heart rending video plea by Sotloff’s mother in Miami asking that ISIS spare  her son’s  life.

The Sotloff family deserves our deepest expression of rachmonis (compassion) for the brutal murder of their son Steven at the hands of Jew-hating Salafist Jihadis in Syria. The Ynet.com report noted that this comment:

A former editor recalls: ‘Some of the stories he did had connections with Israel, including stories done ahead of the curve on the jihadi movement taking over in Sinai.’

Not professionally trained as a journalist, nevertheless, Sotloff  wrote  prescient reports on the rise of jihadist savagery in the region, perhaps as a warning to both fellow Israelis and many in the West.

The Ynet account noted some evidence of Sotloff’s sojourn in Israel and what may have motivated him to undertake a valorous short-lived journalistic career:

“He was not an outcast. He grew up in an Israeli home with a Jewish upbringing. Israel was in his blood,” said a businessman close to the family of a murdered Israeli-American journalist who  was  in touch with Syrian opposition officials.

“Steven entered Syria to report that Assad was massacring his own people. What was he trying to accomplish? To show the world that genocide is being committed against the Syrian people – that children are being slaughtered.”

Steven Sotloff – the Israel-American journalist executed by Islamic State militants Tuesday in reprisal for US air strikes in Iraq – was a highly esteemed journalist whose colleagues claim warned of the threats radical Islamic terror posed.

Note this from a colleague at The Media Line:

Sotloff  made Aliyah in 2005 and studied at the IDC’s Foreign Relations program, a friend from school confirmed forYnet. Little information regarding his time in Israel is known,.  After he was captured in Syria it seems any connection to Israel was deleted from his online presence in a bid to prevent the information reaching his captors.

However, Felicia Friedson, the president of The Media Line, who knew Sotloff when he wrote for the online publication recalled him.

“I met him in 2009, and he began working for and contributing to The Media Line in 2012,” Friedson said.

“He is one of the most courageous, talented and insightful journalists that I have met. He covered many countries in the Mideast since 2009, including stories on the Arab Spring, and then again in 2012 he was covering stories for us from Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Syria; where he was subsequently abducted by al-Qaeda and then transferred,” she said.

[…]

“Obviously the most important thing is that we harshly condemn the barbaric killing of our colleague and friend and it is important that the world wake up – and this was Steve’s wish – that they wake and read what he was writing.”

According to Friedson, “He read the streets perfectly (and) did a lot of writing on terror, especially about jihadists taking over in Syria and Libya. He was sounding the alarm and was frustrated that no one was listening; he said people in these countries were asking for funds to fight radical Islamic movements.

“Our condolences go out to his family with who we’ve been in contact throughout the year, but also to the world because this is an attack on civil society,” Friedson aptly concluded

A fellow student at the IDC, Mike Sapir, portrayed Sotloff who created his own form of journalism that enabled him to survive a midst Muslim extremism:

“Basically Steven  … created a journalistic career out of thin air, he said this is what he want to do and he is going to do it sell his story to who ever takes it.

“He wasn’t a formal journalist. It’s not like he took his resume and went back to US and tried to be employed by New York Times. He told me he wanted to see what was happening in the Middle East so he picked up and went to Egypt to cover the Arab Spring, then he went to Benghazi and followed the revolution and just covered it.

“Steven went there and was part of the people, he wasn’t like the reporters in Gaza sitting in their hotel room, Steven was part of the scenery, part of the people, and his friends were Arabs.”

Giving further insight into Sotloff’s style, Mike explained: “Steven lived what he was reporting. His friends were Muslims, and he never said he was afraid, he actually said that he was able to get people to open up, he was able to get in to see their side.”

One wonders whether Sotloff, in addition to filing stories, might have inadvertently supplied valued insights to counter-terrorism analysts in Israel. Perhaps warning them of the rise of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Both terrorist groups are  now wreaking havoc on the northern Golan frontier, having infiltrated both the West Bank and Gaza prior to the recent Operation Protective Edge.

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

Why the US Accusations Against Israeli Intelligence are Wrong

For the past two days there are have been a spate of articles triggered by  Newsweek contributing editor, Jeff Stein, who wrote a Spy Talk column with accusations alleging that Israeli Intelligence are operating in the US is at “alarming levels,” “Israel won’t stop spying on the US”. Stein’s accusations:

U.S. intelligence officials are saying—albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill—that our Israeli “friends” have gone too far with their spying operations here.

According to classified briefings on legislation that would lower visa restrictions on Israeli citizens, Jerusalem’s efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts have “crossed red lines.”

This despite a long term valued collaboration by US defense intelligence agencies with Israel. Stein’s anonymous sources appear to paint all Israelis as potential spies.

Stein’s allegations were immediately slammed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and an Israeli Embassy official in Washington. The Jewish Press noted:

First of all, these are malicious accusations. . . I would not agree to any spying on the United States, not in any form, directly or indirectly.

Israeli Embassy spokesperson Aaron Sagui also flatly denied the charges, telling Newsweek, “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period. We condemn the fact that such outrageous, false allegations are being directed against Israel.

The Stein accusations come amidst strains in the relations between the Administration and Israel over the collapse of the failed final status agreements with the Palestinian Authority. This was reflected in Ynet interviews with an unidentified “senior US official” many believe to be former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. The Ynet reports suggested that the US might impose its own terms on both the PA newly unified with Hamas and Israel.

Moreover, tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have increased over the latter’s criticism of the P5+1 talks with Iran over curtailment of its nuclear program. That may be part of the agenda that National Security Advisor Susan Rice brought yesterday for discussions with the Netanyahu government. Those intelligence red line accusations may be behind the tightening of visas for visiting Israelis. This sudden swirl triggered by the Stein  piece in Newsweek has led to an unidentified senior Israeli diplomatic official suggesting in a Ynereport that the accusation may have been “tainted by a whiff of anti-Semitism.” That is reflected in Stein’s Newsweek Spy Talk column interviews with former CIA officials resurrecting the rogue Israeli intelligence operation involving imprisoned American spy Jonathan Pollard.

Jeff Stein appears to be touting a line perpetrated by a former FBI intelligence director, David Szady, back in the middle part of the last decade that there was an Israeli mole or moles borrowing into our national security establishment based on the Pollard conviction for spying. Just recall the FBI sting operation against former Defense analyst Larry Franklin at DoD used against the two former AIPAC senior staffers. Rosen and Weissman were falsely accused. A Federal Judge dismissed the wrongful prosecution brought as a result of Szady’s false accusations. I wrote about this eight years ago in an Israpundit article: “Are we all Jonathan Pollards, now?”

An AFP article, based on Stein’s Newsweek column cites unidentified former Congressional aides in his report said:

. . .  a congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering … alarming … even terrifying”, and quoted another as saying the behavior was “damaging.”

“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013, according to Newsweek.

It said that briefing was one of several in recent months given by the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate.

The former congressional staffer said the intelligence agencies did not give specifics, but cited “industrial espionage—folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government, which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”

Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and go far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, Britain and Japan, counter-intelligence agents told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees,.

“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide was quoted as saying.

“But when you step back and hear … that there are no other countries taking advantage of our security relationship the way the Israelis are for espionage purposes, it is quite shocking”.

A 2011 Los Angeles Times op-ed by Robert D. Blackwill and Walter B. Slocombe, “Israel: A True Ally in the Middle East” noted:

Counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation is deep and extensive, with the United States and Israel working to advance their common interest in defeating the terrorism of Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda and its affiliate groups, and preventing nuclear proliferation in the region. There are joint Special Forces training and exercises and collaboration on shared targets.

This intimate relationship reinforces overall U.S. intelligence efforts by providing Washington with access to Israel’s unique set of capabilities for information collection and assessments on key countries and issues in the region. Such was the case, for example, when Israel passed to the United States conclusive photographic evidence in 2007 that Syria, with North Korean assistance, had made enormous strides toward “going hot” with a plutonium-producing reactor.

Slocombe was Undersecretary for Defense Policy at the Pentagon during the Clinton era, while Blackwill served as a diplomat during several Republican Administrations. Their comments in the Los Angeles Times report was drawn from a paper published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A Tablet article cited  the authors’ views  in the paper at the time on the extensive Israeli contributions to US national security:

The paper offers chapter and verse on Israeli contributions to the U.S. national interest. They include: Israeli counter-proliferation efforts, such as the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility and the 2007 attack on Syria’s secret nuclear facility at al-Kibar; joint military training exercises, as well as exchanges on military doctrine; Israeli technology, like unmanned aerial systems, armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and robotics; missile defense cooperation; counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation; and cyber defense. Blackwill and Slocombe conclude that the alliance is in fact so central to U.S. national interests that U.S. policymakers should find ways to further enhance cooperation with Jerusalem.

Fast forward to 2014. Stein’s Spy Talk column indicates that something sinister is going on in the Washington intelligence community. That Israel, globally recognized  as an acknowledged leader in high tech in both civilian and military applications, needed  to spy on US industrial developments. Doesn’t square. Stein’s anonymous sources on Capitol Hill and in the FBI, CIA, State Department and Homeland Security may be reflecting the Administration’s pique at Israel’s asserting its sovereign right to defend the Jewish nation. A Jewish nation with Jihadist threats ranging on all of its borders seeking its destruction.

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American Intelligence in Disarray
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.