Archive for March 23, 2019

Pompeo urges Lebanon to move away from ‘dark’ Iran, Hezbollah 

March 23, 2019

Source: Pompeo urges Lebanon to move away from ‘dark’ Iran, Hezbollah | The Times of Israel

US secretary of state says will use ‘all peaceful means, everything at our disposal’ to choke Tehran-backed terrorist group that holds three cabinet posts in Beirut

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, at the presidential palace, in Baabda east of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, March 22, 2019 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday urged Lebanon to pick a side as he visited the country on a regional tour to build a united front against Iran.

He especially expressed concern over the role of Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Shiite movement that is targeted by US sanctions but holds three cabinet posts in Lebanon.

Pompeo flew in from Israel a day after he became the first high-ranking American official to visit the Western Wall with an Israeli prime minister.

His visit also came just hours after US President Donald Trump said Washington should recognize Israel’s control of the Golan Heights, breaking with the policy of successive administrations as well as UN Security Council resolutions.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil (R) shakes hands with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following a public statement in the Lebanese capital Beirut on March 22, 2019. (JIM YOUNG / POOL / AFP)

“Lebanon and the Lebanese people face a choice: bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future,” he said during a joint news conference with his Lebanese counterpart.

“The US will continue to use all peaceful means, everything at our disposal to choke off the financing, the smuggling the criminal network and the misuse of government positions and influence,” by Hezbollah, he said.

“We will not hesitate to call out those who actively and passively support those activities.”

Pompeo and Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil stood side by side at the new conference but their statements were contradictory.

And a question and answer session with the media was cancelled “at the behest of the Americans,” a Lebanese foreign ministry official said.

Bassil he held “constructive and positive talks” with Pompeo but stressed that their were differences of perspective with regards to Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is a Lebanese party, not a terrorist group, and it enjoys a wide popular base,” Bassil said.

“We don’t want our ties with America to be affected and we want to work together to solve problems, including the issue with Hezbollah,” he said, stressing that Lebanon’s stability is of mutual interest to both states.

In an earlier meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Pompeo conveyed his worry over Hezbollah.

He stressed “the US government’s strong concerns over the role of Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon and the region and the risks this poses to Lebanon’s security, stability, and prosperity,” US deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said.

State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino speaks at the State Department, Feb. 7, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Iran-backed group, considered a terror organization by the US and Israel, has an arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles. Its battle-hardened cadres fought Israel to a stalemate in 2006, and have fought alongside President Bashar Assad’s army since the early days of the Syrian civil war, securing a string of hard-won victories.

Pompeo also met parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is himself a Shiite, and warned of the group’s “destabilizing activities” in the region.

Pompeo and Berri also discussed “the need to maintain calm along the boundary between Lebanon and Israel”, Palladino said.

Lebanon and its southern neighbor Israel are still technically at war, even after Israeli troops withdrew from the south of the country in 2000.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating month-long war in 2006, and skirmishes still erupt along a UN-patrolled demarcation line. Last December, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield to find tunnels that it says Hezbollah terrorist group had dug into northern Israel from towns in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah fighters hold flags as they attend the memorial of their slain leader Sheik Abbas al-Mousawi, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 1992, in Tefahta village, south Lebanon, February 13, 2016. (Mohammed Zaatari/AP)

Pompeo and Prime Minister Saad Hariri discussed “the importance of the US-Lebanese security partnership and the need for continued support for Lebanon’s legitimate state security institutions, particularly the Lebanese Armed Forces,” Palladino said.

Pompeo “commended the Lebanese people for hosting more than one million Syrian refugees.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, in Beirut, Lebanon, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

In a meeting with Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan, Pompeo “discussed regional and internal security challenges facing Lebanon and how the United States can help support the interior ministry’s efforts.”

Hassan became the first woman interior minister in Lebanon and the Middle East in a cabinet line-up unveiled in late January following an eight-month delay.

The United States has branded Hezbollah, the only group in Lebanon that has not disarmed since its 1975-1990 civil war, a “terrorist” organisation and targeted it with tough sanctions.

Hezbollah’s cleric Ali Damush questioned the timing and purpose of Pompeo’s visit during his Friday sermon.

“What are the Lebanese expecting from America and its foreign minister after these two announcements that are totally biased in favor of Israel, except for inciting (Hezbollah) and turning Lebanese against each other?”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


Off Topic: 75 years after his death, why Orde Wingate remains a hero in Israel

March 23, 2019

Source: 75 years after his death, why Orde Wingate remains a hero in Israel | The Times of Israel

( When I was producing independent films in Hollywood back in the ’80’s I developed a project around this remarkable man;s creation of “The Special Night Squads.”  I was told by everyone {mostly self-hating Jews} that nobody was interested in Israel.  For those interested, the best biography of Wingate was written by Christopher Sykes, – JW )

Bible-toting, raw-onion-eating British officer killed in a plane crash in Burma on March 24, 1944, has been called the father of the Israel Defense Forces

Orde Wingate played a key role in creating Israel's military ethos. He was remembered in March 2012 at a ceremony in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Matti Friedman/Times of Israel)

Orde Wingate played a key role in creating Israel’s military ethos. He was remembered in March 2012 at a ceremony in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Matti Friedman/Times of Israel)

JTA — Few non-Jews and even fewer British soldiers are regarded as highly in Israel as Orde Charles Wingate, a senior officer who became a legend here by shaping Israel’s prestate military. Many Israeli towns have a Wingate street or square, and relatives and others who share his name are often reminded of Israel’s debt to him.

“I had recognized him as a man of genius, and I hoped he might become a man of destiny,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote to Lorna Wingate after her husband’s death aboard an American military plane that crashed in Burma on March 24, 1944. David Ben-Gurion thought Wingate might have become the Israel Defense Forces’ first chief of staff – an extraordinary possibility for a Christian steeped in a religiously inspired Zionism.

Seventy-five years after his death at age 41, Wingate is being honored and remembered throughout Israel at institutions founded in his honor and by those who carry on his legacy.

Yemin Orde Youth Village, Hof Hacarmel

In this campus named for Wingate atop the Mount Carmel ridge, seven members of a high-school drama troupe sat in a semicircle reciting paragraphs about him. It was their first meeting ahead of an April 1 performance to commemorate him.

“Wingate was the father of the IDF. The IDF today remains Wingatean in terms of its tactics,” said Knesset member Michael Oren, a historian who wrote a screenplay on Wingate that Hollywood optioned but hasn’t produced.

A son of missionaries, Wingate carried a Bible wherever he went in pre-state Israel and trumpeted Jewish claims to the land just as British Mandatory policy turned anti-Zionist.

Wingate, center, with Special Night Squads members. (Beit Shturman, via JTA)

He arrived in September 1936 charged with ending the Arabs’ sabotage of an oil pipeline running from Iraq to Haifa through the Jezreel Valley, then trained that region’s Jewish fighters to repel attacks during the Arab Revolt, the nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against the British Mandate.

Wingate, a captain, formed the Special Night Squads in which British infantry soldiers and Jewish paramilitary retaliated, often ruthlessly, against Arab insurgents. Palestinians and some Israeli historians take a dimmer view of Wingate’s exploits, accusing him of sadism and targeting civilians as well as combatants.

Wingate drilled his men in an ethos of utilizing offense over defense.

“The concept was new to us,” Moshe Dayan wrote in his autobiography of his first meeting Wingate, when the visitor led a nighttime ambush. “Arab attackers had been forced to realize that no longer would they find any path secure for them.”

Wingate taught himself Hebrew. He had an eccentric side, too. Dayan wrote of Wingate regularly holding meetings in the nude while eating a raw onion, which he would sometimes wear around his neck on a string. His troops often were subjected to long religious sermons.

After learning of Wingate’s influence, Ella Brahanu, a Yemin Orde 10th-grader said, “Now I understand and appreciate this place.”

Kibbutz Ein Harod

At Beit Shturman, a museum at Kibbutz Ein Harod that served as Wingate’s base during the Arab Revolt, two Israeli soldiers walked down the path from the museum to a building with a picture of Wingate that marks his headquarters.

The duo had come to arrange the visit of hundreds of recruits from Israel’s elite Golani Brigade for a full-day seminar on Wingate.

Street signs honoring Orde Wingate, like this one in Haifa, are common throughout Israel. (Hillel Kuttler, JTA)

They stood in a lower-level room devoted to the British officer, who had risen to the rank of major-general at his death. A case displayed Wingate’s Bible, which Lorna dropped from a hovering airplane to residents of besieged Moshav Ramot Naftali on the northern border with Lebanon during Israel’s War of Independence. One wall told of the Special Night Squads. Another featured verses from Chapter 7 of the Book of Judges, whose central figure, Gideon, was Wingate’s hero.

Orde Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports, Netanya

Last July, Rick Summers ate lunch at a picnic table with players from the Wales national team competing here in the World Lacrosse Championship. Summers was their assistant coach.

Playing for England’s squad heading to Baltimore for the 1982 world championship, Summers had submitted personal documentation to staff. Word leaked of his given name: Orde.

Summers’ father, Harry, an observant Jew who served in Britain’s military during World War II, admired Wingate for leading Jews, Ethiopians and Burmese toward independence. Wingate commanded Ethiopians against Italy’s occupation — characteristically he called his unit the Gideon Force — and organized Indian and British forces he dubbed the Chindits against Japanese invaders in Burma.

“My father recognized that this was a guy who stood up for what he believed and had principles,” said Summers, a 62-year-old engineer from Manchester, England.

This sports training complex where Summers sat, memorializes his namesake, who, said Effy Yaacobi, the Wingate Institute’s former director of external relations, “was an absolute meshuga on physical fitness.”

Abutting the institute is an army base, Machane Hayedid. Wingate was known as “hayedid” Hebrew for the friend – so much so that his superiors evicted him from the country.

Kibbutz Ein Harod’s Shturman Museum includes Orde Wingate’s Bible and excerpts from the Book of Judges, which tells of Wingate’s hero, Gideon. (Hillel Kuttler, JTA)

Another of Wingate’s namesakes lives in suburban Washington, DC. Orde Kittrie expressed surprise at an email introduction to Summers he received last summer.

“This is the very first time I have had the pleasure of meeting someone else named Orde,” Kittrie responded.

Kittrie, 54, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, consults for the Pentagon, where American officers sometimes ask, “Are you named after … ?” Next to the Pentagon is where Kittrie’s father, Nicholas, a Tel Aviv native, took him – “from as young as I can remember,” Kittrie said – to annual Wingate ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Wingate is buried there in a common grave with the other victims of the plane crash.

When Ireland’s parliament considered legislation last year to ban the purchase of goods and services from Israeli settlements, Kittrie, a lawyer, warned Irish corporate and political leaders about how US anti-boycott laws would harm subsidiaries of American companies.

Ireland will likely quash the bill because of potentially huge economic losses, Kittrie said.

Wingate “serves as an inspiration to me,” Kittrie said. “His hallmark was using unconventional military tactics. I, similarly, try to use creative tactics … to achieve national security and foreign policy objectives.”


Orde Wingate died seven weeks before his only child, Orde Jonathan Wingate, was born. Like his father, grandfather and relatives (T.E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, was a distant cousin of his father), Orde Jonathan served in the British military.

His seventh cousin, Duncan Orde, has lived in Israel since 2003. Orde, 60, is related through Ethel Orde-Browne, Wingate’s mother. At a coffee shop, he showed a journalist his family tree. Orde Wingate’s appearance on it helped Duncan attain Israeli residency visas for himself, his wife and their three children, all Christians. So did letters on Orde’s behalf from several of Wingate’s Special Night Squads soldiers.

“The mere fact that former SNS members are so respected in Israel obviously carried weight,” Yaacobi said. “It produced results.”

Duncan Orde holds a book on his cousin Orde Wingate. (Hillel Kuttler, JTA)

Orde said he feels “a spiritual connection” to Wingate through their common devotion to Zionism.

“He believed that this is your homeland, and he did something about it. He didn’t just talk about it,” Orde said.

Orde’s sons, John-Joseph and Ben, acted, too. They served in the IDF and live with their sister in Jerusalem.

John-Joseph’s commanders had learned about Wingate in officers’ training course, and asked about his surname. John-Joseph confirmed his relationship to Wingate.

“They have a lot of respect for Wingate and what he did,” John-Joseph, 24, said. “It’s nice to be in the same family.”

Weird ways Israel won its war of independence

March 23, 2019

Some good viewing.

US-backed Syrian force declares victory over Islamic State 

March 23, 2019

Source: US-backed Syrian force declares victory over Islamic State | The Times of Israel

I Another Israeli “war crime” per the UN and another reason to impeach Trump per the Democrats. – JW )

Syrian Democratic Forces announces it has liberated final area held by terrorist group in village of Baghouz; says caliphate is gone but pledges to fight remnants

A picture taken on March 23, 2019 shows the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) flag atop a building in the Islamic State group’s last bastion in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz after defeating the jihadist group (Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

BAGHOUZ, Syria (AP) — US-backed forces in Syria announced Saturday they have liberated the last pocket of territory held by the Islamic State in Syria, declaring victory over the extremist group and bringing an end to the caliphate it declared in 2014.

The capture of the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces brings to a close a grueling battle that stretched across several weeks and saw thousands of people flee the territory and hundreds killed.

“Baghouz is free and the military victory against Daesh has been achieved,” tweeted Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF, referring to the group by its Arabic acronym.

The elimination of the last IS stronghold in Baghouz marks the end of the militants’ proto-state, which at its height blanketed large parts of Syria and Iraq, but the group maintains a scattered presence and sleeper cells across Syria and Iraq. IS affiliates in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan and other countries continue to pose a threat, and the group’s ideology has inspired so-called lone-wolf attacks that had little if any connection to its leadership.

This picture taken on March 22, 2019 shows smoke rising over the village of Baghouz in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. (GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)

The campaign to take back the territory by the US and its partners has spanned five years and two US presidencies, unleashed more than 100,000 bombs and killed untold numbers of fighters and civilians.

But the weekend announcement, in a tweet, was anti-climactic, and on the ground sporadic gunfire continued. A day earlier, US President Donald Trump declared that Islamic State militants no longer control any territory in Syria.

Associated Press journalists in Baghouz on Saturday reported hearing mortars and gunfire directed toward a cliff overlooking Baghouz, where US-led coalition airstrikes were carried out a day earlier. SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel told the AP Friday that there were IS fighters hiding in caves near Baghouz and that clearing operations were still underway.

On Saturday, journalists were taken to an encampment in Baghouz where the group had made its last stand — a wasteland of wrecked vehicles, torn tents and scorched trees.

Personal belongings and other items including generators, oil barrels, water tanks and satellite dishes were scattered in the dirt. Cars and motorcycles were turned to rusted, twisted heaps of metal. Amid the empty fox holes and trenches stood a building with a huge yellow SDF flag on top.

Smoke rises from a strike on Baghouz, Syria, on the Islamic State group’s last piece of territory on March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Ciya Kobani, an SDF commander, announced the end of the operation from the rooftop: “We have been victorious against Daesh,” he declared.

At its height, the Islamic State group ruled a third of both Syria and Iraq, holding millions of people hostage to its harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The group carried out large-scale massacres and documented them with slickly produced videos circulated online. During a rampage through Iraq’s Sinjar region in 2014, it captured thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority and forced them into sexual slavery. Many remain missing to this day.

The group also used its caliphate as a launchpad for attacks around the globe, including the assaults in Paris in 2015 that killed more than 130 people.

While it imposed an unforgiving version of Islamic law through public beheadings and crucifixions, the group also carried out the mundane duties of governance in its territories, including regulating prices at markets and building infrastructure.


Has the “Arab Spring” reached Gaza?

March 23, 2019

Here’s hoping its popcorn time…

Has the “Arab Spring” Reached Gaza?

  • Hamas has failed in its attempts to silence media coverage of the protest demonstrations in Gaza against the rising cost of living and the demonstrations continue.
  • In these demonstrations, which began March 14, 2019, Gaza residents were directing their anger towards the Hamas regime, rather than Israel.
  • The demonstrations are led by an independent youth movement called “We Want to Live!,” which receives widespread public support and support from PLO factions. The “We Want to Live” movement is an independent youth movement that has nothing to do with any political body and was established against the background of the increase in taxes imposed by Hamas on the population and on the unemployment rate among the younger generation, which stands at 69 percent.
  • Hamas security forces carried out dozens of arrests throughout the Gaza Strip, arresting demonstrators who took part in the protests of the “We Want to Live” movement.
    In the Gaza Strip, there is already talk that the “Arab Spring” has reached the Gaza Strip and that Hamas attempts to divert internal and international attention from the demonstrations by firing two M-15 Fajr rockets at Tel Aviv has failed.

Hamas has failed in its attempts to silence media coverage of the protest demonstrations in Gaza against the rising cost of living. Despite Hamas’ efforts, these demonstrations continue.

The demonstrations are led by an independent youth movement called “We Want to Live!” [bidna naish, in Arabic], which receives widespread public support and backing from PLO factions.

By the end of the week of March 17, 2019, Hamas security forces had carried out dozens of arrests throughout the Gaza Strip, detaining demonstrators who took part in the protests of the “We Want to Live” movement. Several journalists covering the demonstrations were also arrested.

The demonstrations began on March 14, 2019, in protest against the rising cost of living in the Gaza Strip. But Gazan residents were directing their anger toward the Hamas regime. Hamas security forces dispersed the demonstrators with gunfire and clubs, especially in the central demonstrations in the Jabalya refugee camp and Deir al-Balah.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported on March 16, 2019, that the demonstrations against the cost of living took place in the Jabalya, Al-Bureij, and Nuseirat refugee camps and the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, and that these protests were forcibly dispersed by Hamas security forces.

The director of the Center for Human Rights, Jamil Sarhan, and another lawyer named Bahar al-Turkhamani were beaten by Hamas police.

The anger of the residents of the Gaza Strip is increasing due to the difficult economic situation, taxes, which Hamas has imposed, as well as rising unemployment. Hamas is also suffering from severe financial distress, as the first anniversary of the “March of Return” approaches on March 30, 2019.

Many in the Gaza Strip saw the first year of the Hamas-initiated march as a failure because the campaign failed to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip as Hamas promised, despite more than 100 fatalities and the thousands of casualties.

The Background to the Current Wave of Protest

According to sources in the Gaza Strip, the “We Want to Live” movement is an independent youth movement that has no ties to any political body and was established against the background of the increase in taxes imposed by Hamas on the population and on the unemployment rate among the younger generation, which stands at 69 percent.

Gazans say that Hamas is increasing taxes to build up the organization’s revenues. Those who are suffering the most in Gaza are the residents who are not affiliated with the organization and do not receive services from Hamas institutions.

According to residents’ testimonies, Hamas imposed taxes on medical treatment in hospitals and on surgeries, even on those people who already paid for medical insurance. The taxes on vehicle licensing were also raised, and a tax of NIS 200 was imposed on all goods weighing more than a ton.

Hamas also increased the tax on goods smuggled from Egypt into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels. A pack of “Royal” cigarettes, which were sold for 4 NIS (New Israeli Shekels), now cost between NIS 26 and NIS 30.

The PLO Factions Support the Protest

Representatives of all the Palestinian factions met on March 16, 2019, in the offices of the Popular Front in Gaza Strip to discuss the latest developments and the violent clampdown on the demonstrations. Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations boycotted the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the participants issued a statement in support of the youth movement holding the demonstrations.

The following decisions were announced:

  • Opposition to all forms of suppression of the protests and against any violations of the human rights of demonstrators.
  • Calls upon Hamas to punish anyone who attacked the demonstrators and issue an apology to them, and to withdraw all its security personnel from the streets.
  • Support for the just demands of the demonstrators.
  • Calls upon Hamas to stop all types of taxes on goods and to introduce price controls.
  • Calls upon Egypt to renew the reconciliation process.

Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan, who has good relations with the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, called on the Hamas leadership to stop all forms of oppression and the use of force against the “cost of living” demonstrators. He also called on Egypt to intervene and secure a Palestinian national agreement.

These developments are in accordance with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and its head, who is encouraging these protests. Two years ago, on the advice of Palestinian Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided to impose sanctions on the Gaza Strip and worsen the situation there to make the economic situation so dire that Gazan residents would rebel against Hamas.

Senior Fatah official Hussein a-Sheikh said at the end of the week that the Palestinian leadership is in contact with influential Muslim countries to pressure the Hamas movement into stopping the oppressive tactics used against innocent civilians demanding a dignified lifestyle and the abolition of illegal taxes. Palestinian Authority sources reported that Abbas appealed to Egypt and Qatar to exert influence on Hamas to stop suppressing the demonstrators.

Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmeh appeared on official Palestinian television and called on demonstrators to continue their demonstrations: “Our message is to our heroes who are fighting Hamas militias in the Gaza Strip, because the road to Jerusalem begins with a revolution against tyranny. We in the Fatah movement stand with you, and we will always be loyal to you.”

Where Are Things Headed?

In the Gaza Strip, there is already talk that the “Arab Spring” has reached the Gaza Strip and that Hamas attempts to divert internal and international attention from the demonstrations by firing two M-75 Fajr rockets at Tel Aviv had failed.

The phenomenon of the “Arab Spring” began in Tunisia in 2011, after a vegetable vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the city of Sidi Said. Now, Gazans are following Bouazizi’s example in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Abu Tahn, 32, a resident of the Gaza Strip, set himself on fire on March 16, 2019, to protest the rising cost of living, after being expelled from his home when he could not afford the rent.

The violent repression and arrests of demonstrators by Hamas members are considered a “black stain” on the organization, which is losing its popularity in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Bombing of Hamas Targets Won Hamas no Fans
The protests against Hamas began again at the end of the week, even after the bombing of Hamas targets by the Israeli Air Force. According to sources in the Gaza Strip, these protests are supposed to continue, in light of the wave of arrests of demonstrators carried out by Hamas and the public support received by the demonstrators from Palestinian factions affiliated with the PLO.

At the same time, Hamas began to withdraw its supporters from demonstration areas of the “We Want to Live!” movement, so that Gazans would protest against the Palestinian Authority and hold the PA’s leaders to blame for the difficult economic situation.

Of course, Israel will soon again be blamed for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Attorney Fahmi Shabaneh, a former senior Palestinian intelligence official in the West Bank, told Hamas paper Al-Risala on March 16, 2019, that the PA security forces were encouraging instability in the Gaza Strip, were paying money to transport people to demonstrations, and were taking advantage of the difficult economic situation. “Once an agreement is reached between Israel and Hamas, everything will end,” Shabaneh says.

A day in the life of a Israeli Navy Soldier

March 23, 2019

A video for Joseph…



Right from wrong: True (red, white and) blue friends

March 23, 2019

Source: Right from wrong: True (red, white and) blue friends – Opinion – Jerusalem Post

Right from wrong: True (red, white and) blue friends

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo [L] and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [R] at the Western Wall . (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

“The Israeli people can have confidence that [US] President [Donald] Trump will maintain this close bond, [which] he sent me here to build upon,” Pompeo stressed, before going on to wish Netanyahu a happy Purim, “a commemoration of when Queen Esther saved the Jewish people from destruction centuries ago.”

It was the perfect segue to his next point.

“I remember when [Netanyahu] addressed a joint session of Congress right before Purim… four years ago,” he said. “On that day, [he] spoke about the grave threat the Jewish people face… from the Islamic Republic of Iran, which seeks the absolute destruction and annihilation of Israel.”

He continued: “The ayatollahs have spent four decades spewing hatred, supporting terrorist violence and pursuing nuclear weapons for a war against a neighbor that wishes nothing more than to live in peace. The ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] has declared that the annihilation and destruction of Israel is his primary goal. With such threats – a daily reality of Israeli life – we maintain our unparalleled commitment to Israel’s security and firmly support the right to defend yourself. Under the 10-year MOU that we signed in 2016, we provide $3.8 billion annually for security assistance for Israel. And with Israel threatened by rockets and missiles from Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, we are proud to deploy the THAD anti-missile batteries here.”

Pompeo went on to address the “odious prejudice” of Jew-hatred.

“With the dark wave of antisemitism rising in Europe and in the United States, all nations – especially those in the West – must go to the barricades against bigotry,” he said. “Our challenge is especially urgent as the hot rhetoric of prejudice cloaks itself in the language of the academy. Or diplomacy. Or of public policy. Sadly, we in the United States have seen antisemitic language uttered even in the great halls of our own Capitol. This should not be.”

Ahead of Pompeo’s arrival, the international and local media reported cynically on his imminent visit – part of a five-day trip to the Middle East, which he kicked off in Kuwait – as though its key purpose was to bolster a “beleaguered” Netanyahu ahead of the April 9 Knesset elections. To dispel this myth, Pompeo told reporters on his flight to the region, “I’m going to Israel because of the important relationship we have. Leaders will change in both countries over time. That relationship matters no matter who the leaders are.”

He was right, though his statement brings to mind a quip made by comedian Jay Leno in 2014, when he hosted the first Genesis Prize ceremony in Jerusalem: “[US] President [Barack] Obama has declared the month of May Jewish American Heritage Month. He is calling it an opportunity to renew our ‘unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel.’ And he knows it’s unbreakable, because he’s been trying to break it for the last five years.”

As with all successful jokes, this one elicited guffaws from the audience because of the sad truth that it caricatured.

Less funny, yet equally undeniable, is the fact that no push from Trump or his inner circle will help Netanyahu’s showing at the ballot box. Indeed, the “anybody but Bibi” camp is none too fond of Trump either.

The Israeli Left – which blames Netanyahu for Palestinian terrorism, berates him for “fear-mongering” about Iran and accuses him of caring only about holding on for dear life to his seat at the expense of the public’s personal safety, health and welfare – views him and Trump as two peas in a corrupt pod.

Dissatisfied Israelis to the right of Netanyahu, on the other hand, consider him too weak in the face of terrorism, and fear that he will succumb to American pressure to make “painful concessions” to the Palestinians when Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is unveiled. But unlike their left-wing counterparts, they need Netanyahu to win the election in order to have their ideology represented in the next government.

These are the Israelis who championed Trump’s election and proceeded to cheer his policies – such as moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and canceling the nuclear deal with Iran – up until the moment that he announced he was forging a peace plan. Oops.

Pompeo had no choice but to bring this up at Wednesday’s press conference, of course. Being America’s top diplomat will do that.

“It’s fundamentally our view that this region needs a candid dialogue and open exchanges of ideas,” he said. “Especially as we seek to make progress towards a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

This morsel, in the midst of an otherwise reassuring statement, undoubtedly stood out like a sore thumb to those voters who don’t trust Netanyahu to nix any document emerging from the Trump White House. Even if it spells suicide for Israel.

Ironically, then, neither the anti-Netanyahu Left nor the disgruntled Right is influenced by Pompeo’s visit, or by next week’s meeting in Washington between the US president and Israeli prime minister. So much for so-called “American interference” in the election.

The good news is that the Left is wrong and the Right can relax.

The Palestinian leaders in both Ramallah and Gaza have made it crystal clear that they have no intention of negotiating a deal with Israel. You know, the Jewish State that they are on a mission to destroy. Nor have they been willing to give Washington the time of day – something that Pompeo alluded to before arriving in the region. When asked why he would not be meeting with Palestinian Authority officials during his trip, he replied, “They’d have to want to talk to us.”

Good luck with that.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared in Cairo in January that he would not end his life “as a traitor,” adding, “The doors are closed to the US. As long as it does not retract its decisions against the Palestinian people, no Palestinian should meet with the American leadership, no matter what their role is.”

Thankfully, the Trump administration has not responded to the snub by pandering. On the contrary, it has consistently been calling the Palestinians to task for committing and rewarding terrorism, while unequivocally defending all Israeli retaliatory actions.

A few recent examples should put to rest any doubt that skeptics who have been treating Trump’s peace plan, the contents of which are still unknown, as if it constitutes some kind of price being exacted on Israel for the embassy move.

In its annual global human rights report, released last week, the US State Department significantly removed the word “occupied” to describe the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza.

On Monday, Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, took to Twitter to rail against the “shameless, persistent and unfair anti-Israel bias” of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), whose latest report chastises the Jewish State for having “failed to meaningfully investigate and prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes and violations committed against Palestinians.” You know, the ones who have been spending the last year violently attacking Israelis, breaching the Gaza border fence and flying explosive-laden balloons into kindergartens as part of the “Great March of Return” riots.

Also on Monday, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted that he was “heartbroken” about the Palestinian terrorist attack near Ariel on March 17, in which 19-year-old IDF St. Sgt. Gal Keidan and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, the 47-year-old father of 12, were murdered.

“Hamas, as usual, is celebrating,” he wrote.” And Abu Mazen [Abbas], who properly joined with all civilized people in condemning the terrorist attack [on Muslims] in Christchurch, is now deafening in his silence.

Israelis attacking Palestinians are condemned, prosecuted and incarcerated by the Israeli government. Palestinians attacking Israelis are celebrated, compensated and venerated by the PA leadership and/or Hamas. And therein lies the problem.”

Greenblatt echoed this sentiment on Wednesday, after Abbas’s henchmen went beyond simply ignoring the slaughter.

“As Israel mourns two victims who were murdered in cold blood by a Palestinian terrorist and another victim is recuperating from this attack,” he tweeted, “Fatah glorifies the terrorist as ‘the perfect person,’ ‘heroic’ and the ‘Rambo of Palestine.’ What more need I say?!?!”

The only additional thing to be said is that the two Fajr-5 rockets that were launched from Gaza into Tel Aviv last Thursday night – “by accident,” according to Hamas – were made in Iran. And Trump’s team knows it.

The concern that Israel will be coerced into a dangerous agreement with an entity bent on its destruction, and subsequently held responsible for its fallout, is therefore premature and unwarranted.


Trump said set to sign official declaration recognizing Golan during PM’s visit

March 23, 2019

Source: Trump said set to sign official declaration recognizing Golan during PM’s visit | The Times of Israel

Israeli TV says White House officials are drafting a document to be certified next week, in wake of president’s announcement on Thursday

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

White House officials are currently drafting an official US declaration recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, with President Donald Trump set to sign it when he hosts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington next week, Israeli TV reports said Friday.

The reports on channels 12 and 13 came a day after Trump tweeted that it was “time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” upending decades of US policy on the matter.

Israeli leaders were exuberant over the announcement, with Netanyahu saying “the message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”

The move was seen as a potential major boon to the prime minister less than three weeks before a general election. And a signing ceremony with Trump in the White House would be an even greater boost for Netanyahu.

But Trump has denied that his decision has anything to do with the Israeli elections.

“I’ve been thinking about doing it for a long time,” he told Fox Business, comparing the move to his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as US Vice President looks on, at the White House, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

“I wouldn’t even know about that. I wouldn’t even know about that,” he said when asked about the appearance of meddling in the Israeli election. “I have no idea. I hear he’s is doing okay. I don’t know if he’s doing great right now, but I hear he’s doing okay,” Trump said.

“But I would imagine the other side whoever’s against him is also in favor of what I just did,” he added.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981, a step tantamount to annexation. But the United States and the international community have long considered it Syrian territory under Israeli occupation. The plateau lies along a strategic area on the border between Israel and Syria.

Trump’s move was condemned strongly by Syria and its allies Russia and Iran, as well as by the president of Turkey.

Syria’s official SANA news agency, quoting an unnamed foreign ministry official, slammed the decision as “irresponsible” and a violation of United Nations resolutions concerning the territory’s status. The source added that Trump’s statement won’t change “the fact that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian.”

US Senator Lindsey Graham, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, on a tour of the Golan Heights, March 11, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Russia, which has long been a key backer of Syria and is fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, condemned Trump’s declaration as a violation of UN decisions.

Iran’s foreign ministry called the move “illegal and unacceptable,” while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the US announcement “brings the region to the edge of a new crisis.”

The European Union on Friday stressed that it would not change its position on the Golan and does not consider it a part of Israeli territory.

Trump’s recognition caught officials in Israel and the United States off-guard, according to the McClatchy news agency.

“We all found out by tweet,” an Israeli official was quoted as saying. “We’ve been lobbying for this for a long time, but it was not the product of one phone call. There were hints, but we weren’t given advance notice.”

Another Israeli source told the news agency that Israeli leaders were informed of the decision only shortly beforehand, as with Trump’s abrupt announcement in December that he would pull all US forces out of Syria.

According to the report, Trump’s Middle East peace negotiators and the State Department were also surprised by the move, with US officials having expected an announcement when Trump hosts Netanyahu at the White House next week.

Quoting unnamed White House officials, the news agency said Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was a key force behind the move following his visit to Israel in January, seeing it as a signal the US remained committed to Israel in the wake of Trump’s announcement of a US troop pullout from Syria.

Agencies contributed to this report.