Archive for March 7, 2019

Iran bypassing sanctions, secretly smuggling oil, Netanyahu claims 

March 7, 2019

Source: Iran bypassing sanctions, secretly smuggling oil, Netanyahu claims | The Times of Israel

PM calls on international community to block Tehran’s attempts to skirt restrictions, tours US deployment of advanced anti-missile system in Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a graduation ceremony for Israeli Navy cadets in Haifa on March 6, 2019 (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a graduation ceremony for Israeli Navy cadets in Haifa on March 6, 2019 (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a graduation ceremony for Israeli Navy cadets in Haifa on March 6, 2019 (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
rime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused Iran of secretly smuggling oil to get past economic sanctions, and called on the international community to take action against the activity.

“Iran is trying to bypass the sanctions on it through the covert smuggling of petroleum via the sea,” the prime minister said at a graduation ceremony for an Israeli Navy cadets course, held at the Haifa naval base. “As these attempts expand, the navy will have a more important role in efforts to block these Iranian actions.

“I call on the international community to halt, by any means, Iran’s attempts to bypass the sanctions via the sea,” Netanyahu said.

Israel, he added, constantly carries out sea-based operations against its enemies, “most of [which] are unknown.”

Last May the US pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that saw stiff economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for the dismantling of the weapons-capable elements of its nuclear development program. US President Donald Trump has said the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, doesn’t go far enough in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and does not restrict the Iranian missile development program.

Although the other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — are working to keep the pact alive with Iran, the US reimposed strict sanctions and Iran’s economy has suffered, with rising inflation and a devaluation of its rial currency.

In his remarks at the base, Netanyahu also revealed that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, along with the leaders of Cyprus and Greece, will arrive in Israel in the coming days to advance a gas pipeline project that would supply Europe with natural gas from Israel’s offshore fields. “The navy will also protect this pipeline,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday Netanyahu toured an advanced US anti-missile system deployed in Israel as part of a military exercise, declaring that the presence of system was evidence of the strength of the military bond between the US and Israel.

He was accompanied on the visit by American ambassador David Friedman, the US Embassy said in a statement.

“The two officials received a briefing from the commanders in the field, and held a tour at the site,” the embassy said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with US Ambassador David Friedman as they tour a deployment of the US THAAD anti-missile defense system, March 6, 2019. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

“This is a testament to the strength of the alliance between Israel and the United States. It’s never been stronger, and the coalition for common defense that is expressed here, not merely in expressed intentions, but in actual forces on the ground — I think is remarkable,” Netanyahu said. “So we’re very, very happy with the cooperation and with the American commitment often expressed by President Trump to Israel’s security.”

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, was deployed earlier this month as part of a joint exercise with Israeli forces and to practice deployment of the system, considered one of the most advance in the world, at different locations around the globe. It was the first time the system had been brought to Israel.

Friedman said it showed “the incredibly close and important cooperation between Israel and the United States.”

“This is an outstanding example of how the American forces have made a commitment to Israel’s safety and security,” he said. “They’ve done this in many other ways, but I can’t think of a better single example than what we are looking at right now. It’s a testament to the really unbreakable bound between Israel and the United States on so many different levels — including of course, most importantly, mutual safety and security.”

Netanyahu also used the visit to take a selfie photo with US troops operating the THAAD system, and then posted the image to his Twitter feed along with a poke at Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who last month forbade the prime minister from taking election campaign photos with Israeli troops.

“I took a photo with soldiers… Americans,” Netanyahu tweeted. “The alliance between the US and Israel is stronger than ever.”

 

Off Topic:  Dissent among Dems postpones vote to condemn anti-Semitism

March 7, 2019

Source: Dissent among Dems postpones vote to condemn anti-Semitism – Israel Hayom

Democrats protest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s resolution against Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remark about Israel and Jews’ allegiance to a foreign country • Some Dems say Pelosi left them out of the loop • Other representatives decry measure as “reactionary.”

Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 07/03/2019
   
Rep. Ilhan Omar at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday. Top House Democrats back a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in the wake of Omar’s controversial remarks 


House Democrats on Wednesday postponed indefinitely a vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism after a contentious meeting in which some new members confronted leaders over their push to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

In the party’s weekly closed meeting, Democrats protested the way Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders tried to rush out a resolution this week responding to Omar’s latest remark about Israel.

Omar last week suggested the Jewish state’s supporters are pushing lawmakers to pledge “allegiance” to a foreign country.

That forced Democratic leaders to respond, but their draft of the resolution condemning anti-Semitism angered Omar’s fellow freshmen and their liberal supporters. Pelosi had already said the measure would be broadened to decry anti-Muslim bias. But that didn’t quiet the ranks, and the party’s first major dissension broke out in an uncomfortable confrontation, according to three officials familiar with the episode.

The upheaval prompted Democrats, who regularly celebrate their diversity, to push off a decision about the resolution.

“It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference,” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted.

“Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!”

Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut complained that Pelosi left Democrats out of the loop on the resolution’s details.

“My comments were about the process we are using when concerns arise,” Hayes said in a statement. “As a member of Congress, I should not get important information from cable news.”

Two people with knowledge of the situation said Hayes was engaged in conversation with a colleague when Pelosi asked her a question. The congresswoman did not respond because she did not hear the speaker address her, these people say. Most lawmakers had left the room at the time.

Then Pelosi said, “If you’re not going to listen to me, I’m done talking,” according to a person in the room.

A senior Democratic aide said Pelosi had earlier acknowledged the issues and said the resolution was not final. One person in the room quoted the speaker as saying the leaders had tried to increase communication so that members stay united and have “a clearer understanding of what our purpose is as a caucus, how we proceed.”

Some Democrats hugged Omar, one of two Muslim women in Congress, during the meeting, according to other officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. She also received powerful boosts from fellow Democratic freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Opposition to the resolution came from the most junior ranks of Democrats to the most senior and spanned some of the party’s caucuses.

Rep. Katie Hill (D-California) said she spoke up in a leadership meeting earlier this week about the original draft being “reactionary” to Omar’s most recent comment. The dissention over the issue, Hill said, “has been building for a while.”

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) suggested Omar and her comments about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, will loom over any such measure, however it’s worded.

“Whatever we do it’s going to look like we’re responding specifically to her and to AIPAC and so I’m leaning against,” he said.

Many have pointed to the fact that Omar was the target of an anti-Muslim poster that appeared last week at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, with her picture over an image of the World Trade Center’s burning towers.

“We’re very concerned about that and we want that paid attention to,” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-California). “Many members of the D caucus are concerned and concerned over the general rise in hatred that we have seen. And so we want to make clear that we make a stand against all forms of bigotry and hatred.”

There was also dissension among the Democrats on whether a resolution condemning anti-Semitism was even necessary, given that the House voted on a similar measure already.

“I’m not sure we need to continue to do this every single time,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The upheaval was a striking change from the heady first days of Democratic control, which installed Pelosi as speaker for the second time. Omar is among the most prominent freshman, as evidenced by her appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone’s March issue with Pelosi, Hayes and Ocasio-Cortez. The resolution has created friction among Pelosi and all three of the women in the photo.

Omar, one of two Muslim women in Congress, has declined to comment, but a series of remarks about U.S.-Israel policy have forced the Democrats to respond. Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and other Democrats condemned Omar’s remarks about divided loyalties. She did not apologize.

The Democratic dissension was noted by Republicans with not just a little glee.

“It looks like the Democrats are doing a nice job of chewing themselves up,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois).

 

Iran says no chance of negotiations, compromise with US 

March 7, 2019

Source: Iran says no chance of negotiations, compromise with US – Israel Hayom

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tells supporters the differences between Iran and the U.S. are so wide, they are “neither negotiable nor can there be a compromise • “We should push the enemy back,” he says on American sanctions.    

Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 07/03/2019
   
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani gestures to the crowd in northern city of Lahijan, Iran, Wednesday 


Iran’s president said on Wednesday that there was no chance of negotiations or compromise with the United States, allegedly because Washington is seeking to topple the government in Tehran.

In a televised speech, Hassan Rouhani said “the United States says Iran should change” back to the way the country was before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when it was ruled by a U.S.-supported monarchy.

“We say we won’t go back,” Rouhani said at a gathering in the northern city of Lahijan.

He said the differences between Iran and the U.S. are so wide, they are “neither negotiable nor can there be a compromise.”

The Trump administration has taken a hard line on Iran but insists the U.S. is not trying to overthrow the government.

However, tensions between the two countries have been heightened after Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, which have particularly hurt Iran’s vital oil industry.

Rouhani said his country is in an economic war because of these U.S. sanctions, and that giving in to U.S. demands means “losing all historical achievements” including freedom, independence and democracy. “We should push the enemy back,” he said.

The U.S. says it wants Iran to radically change its policy and stop supporting regional terrorist groups, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Hamas, as well as halt its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

 

Netanyahu: Israeli Navy could act against Iranian oil smuggling 

March 7, 2019

Source: Netanyahu: Israeli Navy could act against Iranian oil smuggling – Israel Hayom

Iran is trying to circumvent sanctions by smuggling oil over maritime routes, PM Netanyahu tells naval officers • Netanyahu calls on international community to stop Iranian smuggling • What action Israel could take to counter the problem remains unclear.

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 07/03/2019
   
An oil tanker passes though the Strait of Hormuz in December 2018. 


The Israeli Navy could take action against Iranian oil smuggling, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, urging world powers to foil any effort by Tehran to evade U.S. sanctions.

Netanyahu told naval officers that Iran was still resorting to clandestine measures to ship fuel that it first used prior to a 2015 nuclear deal easing Western sanctions on its oil sector.

U.S. President Donald Trump last year quit the nuclear deal and re-imposed some sanctions, aiming to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero.

“Iran is trying to circumvent the sanctions through covert oil smuggling over maritime routes, and to the extent that these attempts widen, the navy will have a more important role in blocking these Iranian actions,” Netanyahu said.

“I call on the entire international community to stop Iran’s attempts to circumvent the sanctions by sea, and of course, by any [other] means.”

It was not clear how Israel would stop such shipping activities or whether it would risk direct confrontation at sea with Iranian vessels. The Israeli Navy, whose largest vessels are missile corvettes and a small submarine fleet, is mostly active in the Mediterranean and Red seas.

According to maritime experts, Iranian oil smuggling methods have included changing the names of ships or flag registries, switching off location transponders on ships and conducting ship-to-ship transfers offshore and away from large trade hubs.

There was no immediate response from Tehran.

 

Ex-IAF chief: Future conflicts will bring ‘widespread missile fire’

March 7, 2019

Source: Ex-IAF chief: Future conflicts will bring ‘widespread missile fire’ – Israel Hayom

Even if the IDF conducts a highly successful offensive strategy, this may not be enough to suitably protect the homefront, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Eitan Ben-Eliyahu assesses • Sophisticated U.S. missile defense system THAAD currently in Israel as part of drill.
Yaakov Lappin, JNS and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 07/03/2019
   
Hezbollah fighters stand next to a mock rocket under a poster of Hassan Nasrallah 


All of Israel’s future conflicts will see major enemy fire on the civilian homefront, meaning that air defense is more crucial than ever, a former Israel Air Force chief has told JNS following the start of an Israeli-American joint exercise.

In recent days, the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. military’s European Command (EUCOM) announced that for the first time, the United States has brought over its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to Israel.

The unprecedented move is part of a joint missile defense drill.

The exercise could be seen as a signal to Iran and its proxies of Washington’s commitment to help Israel defend its air space in the event of a future war.

According to foreign media reports, Iran has hundreds of ballistic missiles in its arsenal, while its proxy, Hezbollah, has an estimated 130,000 projectiles, including long-range rockets and missiles that can strike any point in Israel.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, who commanded the IAF from 1996 to 2000, told JNS that “from here on out, in any combat scenario, whether it is local or regional, there will be widespread use of rockets and missiles [by the enemy].

Even if the IDF conducts a highly successful offensive strategy, this may not be sufficient to suitably protect the fighting forces, and it especially will not suitably protect the homefront. Hence, there is no choice but to combine between offense and active defense at the same time.”

Ben-Eliyahu assessed that future significant wars would involve “the formation of coalitions between countries,” and that this required their militaries to practice working together on air defenses.

Mounting a joint defense requires close coordination and an ability to integrate several defensive systems, he explained.

“Therefore, it is not enough to hold joint drills as we have seen in the past, in which the coordination is limited to cooperation between planes in the air,” said Ben-Eliyahu.

Ben-Eliyahu said that in light of the Trump administration’s recent policy of withdrawing armed forces from the Middle East, “it is comfortable for it to fill the vacuum by exhibiting a defensive, rather than offensive presence.”

Head of the International Media Branch at the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit  Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters this week that the purpose of the exercise is to drill America’s “rapid deployment across the globe and to enhance cooperation between the IAF and U.S. air-defense systems.”

He added that “the deployment emphasizes the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of Israel.”

Last month, the IDF and U.S. military’s EUCOM held the joint Juniper Falcon exercise, testing their ability to work together.

“We are working in cooperation with our U.S. counterparts to strengthen our ability to defend Israeli air space,” confirmed Conricus.

The latest drill is “an opportunity to practice the integration of advanced American air-defense systems into the IAF Air Defense Array. Needless to say, we are grateful for this exercise. The IDF stands ready to protect the air space against threats near and far,” he stated.

Conricus stressed that the exercise is defensive and was planned in advance. The United States flew in personnel and equipment from Texas and Italy to Israel, including more than 200 soldiers and officers.

Last year, the IDF and U.S. held the biannual Juniper Cobra ballistic-missile defense exercise, which simulated threats, but did not see the arrival of THAAD.

Conricus said past exercises did not include the kind of actual tactical cooperation between soldiers, airmen and marines that is currently taking place, affirming that “we are going to … ensure our readiness for the future.”

This article is reprinted with permission from JNS.org.

 

PA warns: ‘Without terrorist salaries we will nix Paris Protocol’ 

March 7, 2019

Source: PA warns: ‘Without terrorist salaries we will nix Paris Protocol’ – Israel Hayom

Israel has one week to reinstate funds it has deducted from the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, otherwise, the PA will seek to reopen the Paris Protocol, the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warns.

Daniel Siryoti and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 07/03/2019
   
Palestinian security prisoners at Nitzan Prison in central Israel 


Israel has one week to reinstate funds it has deducted from the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, otherwise, the PA will seek to reopen the Paris Protocol, the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned in a statement Wednesday.

The Paris Protocol was an amendment to the Oslo II Accord of 1995.

As a reminder, last month the Israeli cabinet authorized a deduction of some 500 million shekels from the PA due to its longstanding policy of paying monthly stipends to convicted terrorists and their families.

The PA’s finance minister wrote in a letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, among other things, that “the cuts to the PA taxes that Israel collects for the [PA] are intolerable and contravene the Oslo Accords and the economic amendations signed in Paris.”

It should be noted that according to the PA, Israel also deducted funds earmarked for various other services for which the Palestinians rely on Israel, such as electricity, water and other infrastructure.

PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki, meanwhile, has asked international bodies to pressure Israel to return the deducted funds, which puts considerable strain on the PA’s monthly budget.

The taxes Israel collects on the PA’s behalf amount to 60% of its overall budget.

The PA expressed outrage over the Israeli decision and a senior official in Abbas’ office threatened to “dismantle the PA.”

The official added: “The Israeli cabinet’s decision is a gross and unilateral violation of the Paris Protocol. We will take the appropriate steps, and even consider dismantling the PA and returning economic responsibility [for Palestinian affairs] to Israel.”

Despite the cabinet’s measure, the PA’s transition government, following the resignation of former PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, still transferred the stipends to Palestinian security prisoners and the families of “shahids” (martyrs).

“Israel is grossly violating the agreements and the consequences will be severe,” Abbas said. “This is another blockade on the Palestinian people, who are buckling under the crimes of the occupation – and all of these measures against us began with [U.S. President Donald] Trump’s plan. We will not allow it.”

 

IAF attacks Hamas targets in Gaza following repeated provocations 

March 7, 2019

Source: IAF attacks Hamas targets in Gaza following repeated provocations – Israel Hayom

Palestinians say Israeli fire kills Gaza teen after a day of violence in which Gazans targeted Israeli troops with firebombs and laser lights • Incendiary devices, rocket fired toward Israeli communities but no injuries were reported.

Nikki Guttman, Lilach Shoval, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 07/03/2019
   
Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip border 


Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas targets overnight Wednesday after a day of violent protests against Israeli troops.

The Palestinian provocations included the launching of a rocket toward Israeli communities and the flying of incendiary devices across the border using balloons.

Israeli tanks also took part in the response, with Palestinians reporting shelling of a Hamas outpost in the southern Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says a 15-year-old Palestinian has died from Israeli gunfire on Wednesday when protesters clashed with Israeli troops along Gaza-Israel border fence.

Saif Abu Zaied was wounded in the head Wednesday and died at a hospital, the ministry said early Thursday.

The protests on Wednesday saw dozens of youths engaged in violent protests involving firebombs and laser lights directed at Israeli forces along the border fence.

The night skirmishes are complementary to the weekly daytime protests that Gaza’s Hamas rulers have staged for a year.