Archive for March 3, 2019

Likud, after AG’s decision to indict: ‘We’re going to war’ 

March 3, 2019

Source: Likud, after AG’s decision to indict: ‘We’re going to war’ – Israel Hayom

PM Netanyahu summons Likud ministers, MKs to a strategy meeting focusing on legal issues and ongoing attempt to brand the Blue and White list as Left • Opponents of Netanyahu slam his conduct after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s announcement.

Yehuda Shlezinger and Yair Altman // published on 03/03/2019
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 

This past weekend was particularly tense for the Likud party following Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s announcement on Thursday that he plans to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three cases of alleged corruption.

Following Mendelblit’s announcement of the counts on which he intends to indict Netanyahu, pending a pre-indictment hearing, Netanyahu summoned several Likud ministers and MKs to his residence in Jerusalem to discuss what the Likud’s campaign strategy will be, given the shadow of the looming indictments.

Those present included Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, MK Amir Ohana, coalition chairman David Amsalem, former coalition chairman David Bitan, party candidate Nir Barkat and various members of the campaign staff. When the meeting was over, participants said the atmosphere had been positive and that they would be “going to war.”

The meeting opened with a discussion of the legal issues presented by Mendelblit’s decision to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing. The MKs were told – and asked to pass on in any media appearances they would be making this week – that Mendelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan had buckled to pressure from left-wing activists and the media to indict Netanyahu.

The participants in the meeting were reminded of the meetings Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and former Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni held with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes, and the fact that none of the 43 MKs who had supported a bill designed to shut down Israel Hayom – initiated at the prompting of Mozes – had been investigated. The participants were also reminded of the case against former State Attorney Ruth David, who was suspected of accepting illicit gifts, which was closed.

“There is one law for Netanyahu and another law for everyone else,” one participant said.

According to one of the people in the meeting, “The prime minister looks sure of himself about the attorney general’s decision. He is convinced that he will blow apart the allegations during the hearing.”

The second part of the meeting focused on political matters, particularly an ongoing attempt to brand the Blue and White list, headed by former IDF chief Benny Gantz, as left-wing.

When the meeting was over, Akunis said, “The 2019 election will decide the main question – Bibi or [Arab MK Ahmad] Tibi. The weekend polls, which gave 61 seats to the Left under Gantz and Lapid – but only with the support of the Arab parties – are clear proof that in contrast to the lies being spread by the Blue and White party, they would have no government without Tibi, MK Ayman Odeh, and their pals.

“Anyone who is willing to see members of the Arab parties in the government and the coalition should vote for Gantz, Lapid, and [Moshe] Ya’alon. It’s a close race that will decide the fate of the Land of Israel for years to come,” Akunis said.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s attacks on the State Attorney’s Office last Thursday were met less than enthusiastically by the judicial system. Speaking after Mendelblit announced his decision, Netanyahu accused Nitzan of “selective law enforcement” and Tel Aviv District Attorney Liat Ben-Ari of having frozen an investigation against Tzipi Livni after the Knesset election was brought forward.

Actually, a court at the time overruled a decision that Nitzan was enforcing the law selectively. Livni herself was never a suspect in the case in which suspicions about the Kadima party were being investigated, and Ben-Ari was never involved in any decisions about that case.

“Netanyahu chose to make an incorrect use of facts to sully the reliability of the State Attorney’s office and claim that it has ties to the Left,” officials in the legal system said over the weekend, mentioning that Nitzan had been at the office for some 30 years and had appeared before the High Court of Justice many times to defend the government’s position on issues such as demolishing homes of terrorists; deporting terrorists; and in favor of construction in Judea and Samaria.

Mendelblit also sent a letter of thanks to the 23 prosecutors who were part of the Netanyahu cases.

“This is certainly not a happy day but it is a very important day for a society that upholds the rule of law,” Mendelblit wrote.

“The debates were handled outstandingly and I am proud of you and the work process you led. Without your devoted, professional work, I would not have been able to fulfill my obligation to the citizens of the country,” Mendelblit’s letter said.

Meanwhile, other factions continued to criticize Netanyahu’s conduct after Mendelblit made his announcement about the planned indictments.

Speaking at a town hall event in Modiin on Saturday, chairman of the Labor Party Avi Gabbay said, “The election campaign is about the life of Prime Minister Netanyahu vs. the life of the state. I am very disturbed by what will happen here by the time the election is held,” Gabbay said.

“Netanyahu is doing everything to save himself from an indictment. He wants to win the election so he can pass the ‘French Law’ and anchor his freedom, so he could do anything,” Gabbay added.

Blue and White list candidate Maj. Gen. (res.) Orna Barbivai said at a different town hall meeting in Nes Ziona that “a prime minister who is elected to serve the citizens, but who is busy handling his defense against such serious indictments that involve corruption, must step aside and allow the ruling party to deal with the burning issues in Israeli society.”


The Putin-Netanyahu deal to remove foreign forces from Syria breaks new ground for both – DEBKAfile

March 3, 2019

Source: The Putin-Netanyahu deal to remove foreign forces from Syria breaks new ground for both – DEBKAfile

When President Vladimir Putin sat down with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Feb. 27, the US envoy Jared Kushner was in Ankara and two days earlier, Bashar Assad arrived in Tehran on a surprise visit.

All the parties involved in Syria were on the move to break the deadlock on Syria’s future. And for the first time, Israel’s leader was given a place at the table by the Russian president.

The only Iranian officials who knew the Syrian leader was coming on Monday, Feb. 25 were supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Middle East commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. No word leaked from their tightly closed-door conversations. However, the ayatollah is believed to have directed Assad to hand over to Iranian firms all the contracts for his country’s vast reconstruction projects and to turn away all oil-rich Arab emirates funding propositions.

In Moscow, Israel’s Military Intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman spread before Putin maps showing Iranian military sites in Syria. Netanyahu’s main object in meeting Putin at this time was to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria. The Russian leader replied that both Jerusalem and Moscow have a common goal, which is “to return the situation in Syria to what it was before the eight-year long civil war.”

This was a landmark departure for both. Its epic significance was shouted down by Israel’s tempestuous election campaign and the attorney general’s ruling on the bribery case against the prime minister. What happened in Moscow was that Netanyahu broke with the conventional wisdom of his own intelligence chiefs, who consistently claimed that Assad had lost the war and that the IDF had destroyed 90 percent of Iran’s military structures in Syria. Admitting that neither was realistic, he struck a deal with Putin for setting up a joint Russian-Israeli commission for the removal of all foreign forces from Syria.

For Putin this was an audacious albeit calculated move. If Assad, whose regime he had saved, could fly to Tehran without a word to Moscow, Putin was ready to introduce Israel into discussions on the future of Syria. After last month’s talks with Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, the Russian president was bringing Netanyahu into the equation.

The prime minister also trod on new terrain when he agreed to talk with the Russian president on ways to remove “all foreign forces” from Syria – American as well as Iranian – and  even to discuss the security arrangements to prevail after they were gone.

As for Jared Kushner’s meetings that same Wednesday with Erdogan, the official word was that they discussed the US Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. What they really talked about was the creation of a Turkish-led buffer zone in northern Syria and the sale of US Patriot air defense missiles for the Turkish army, provided Erdogan cancelled his S-400 missile deal with Moscow.

Therefore, while in Ankara, Kushner discussed with Erdogan the introduction of Turkish troops into Syria (on certain conditions), in Moscow, Netanyahu and Putin laid plans for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. It will take a while to find out whether these discussions lead anywhere or peter out like so many other moves on Syria.

It will be interesting to see if Netanyahu can serve as a bridge between Donald Trump and Putin on the Syrian question. The US president’s hands are tied by the conspiracy climate in Washington around any connection with Moscow. Netanyahu too is hobbled by the charged atmosphere over the allegations against him and his challengers’ loud calls for his resignation. Nevertheless, while both are severely hampered for seizing bold new initiatives, Putin has opened a door .