Archive for April 5, 2019

Al Akhbar: Trump Wants Jordan to Take In 1 Million ‘Palestinians’

April 5, 2019

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II review an honor guard in Ramallah, August 7, 2017.Photo Credit: Flash90

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Friday reported new details about President Donald Trump’s promised “deal of the century.”

According to the newspaper, $45 billion will be invested in projects in the Kingdom of Jordan in return for its agreement to accept a million “Palestinians.” But King Abdullah has made it clear that he thought the plan was dangerous.

According to the report, Egyptian President Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi is expected to be updated on the final details of the plan during his visit to Washington next week. This would be before the official announcement and its implementation, which are planned for after Tuesday’s elections in Israel.

Al-Akhbar also reported that Egypt and Jordan lowered their opposition to the deal, about which King Abdullah had already been briefed in his recent visit to Washington.

The king said that the plan was dangerous and not simple to implement, in particular the part relating to the land swaps in Tzofar, a moshav in the Arava desert, and Naharayim, where Jordan conquered in 1948 the Island of Peace and a hydroelectric power-plant that belonged to Israel. According to the Trump proposal, Jordan would receive from Saudi Arabia an area equal in size to these territories which Israel would reacquire.

In addition, Jordan has been asked to take in a million “Palestinian” refugees in several stages, in return for $45 billion in investments. Jordan’s entire GDP is only $40 billion. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states will finance these investments.

According to Al-Akhbar, King Abdullah has told Egyptian officials based on the maps he had seen in Washington, that the American plan envisions a confederation of the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and the Israeli Civil Administration in the liberated territories.

The plan also expects Egypt to permit “Palestinians” to move freely through the Rafah crossing, to work legally in industrial zones in Egypt, and to pursue a track to Egyptian citizenship. Egypt would be compensated with projects in the northern Sinai to the tune of $65 billion.

Lebanon will also be included in the new deal, by awarding Lebanese citizenship to the “Palestinian” refugees on its soil, and not seek their return to Israel.

‘The Arabs have realized Israel cannot be destroyed’

April 5, 2019

Source: ‘The Arabs have realized Israel cannot be destroyed’ –

Arab regimes are today demonstrating more flexibility on normalization with Israel, in particular in the Gulf region, says Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, one of the most outspoken liberal voices in the Arab world.

“We in the [Persian] Gulf states enjoy innovation thanks to our vast funds. You are inventive. We have not yet succeeded in sowing the seeds of innovation, which are democracy, liberalism and freedom, here,” Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, one of the most outspoken liberal voices in the Arab world, says in an interview with Israel Hayom in Doha, Qatar.

In the past, Al-Ansari served as the dean of Islamic Law at Qatar University, where he had no qualms about sharply criticizing the use of terrorism and violence in the name of Islam. Today, Al-Ansari writes opinion pieces and books about the state of the Arab world and the Middle East.

Israel Hayom meets Al-Ansari in the heart of Doha, the Qatari capital, which is bustling with preparations ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament the city is set to host, in what will be a first for an Arab state. The decision to allow Qatar to host the World Cup sparked controversy when it was announced. Human rights groups protested the honor being given to Qatar at the same time when hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in the country are being taken advantage of and treated like modern-day slaves.

For the past year and a half, Saudi Arabia and its allies have imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar over its ties with Iran and open support for opposition forces in various Arab countries and terrorist organizations. Nevertheless, construction on eight stadiums in preparation of the games is almost complete.

Sparks of protest

Q: Has the Arab world learned the lessons of the dramatic results of the Arab Spring?

“This was a popular protest movement, the reasons of which were many. The disappointment of the masses was the principal reason for the Arab Spring. The leaders of the officers’ revolution in Egypt promised the masses freedom, unity, the liberation of Palestine, a just society. None of these things has been realized over 50 years. But the most important reason was the issue of human dignity. The revolutionaries who came to power wiped out the opposition; their opponents were tortured in prisons. Arab human dignity has been violated in all the important Arab countries. That is the spark that lit the fuse of prowwww.

“The Muslim Brotherhood tried to attain power in Egypt and other countries. As a successful opposition movement, they succeeded in enlisting the masses. But they didn’t have a political-national plan for construction and growth. The Brotherhood wanted to fight secularism and impose themselves on the state and on society. This led to failure, and the failure of the Arab Spring. The situation is now becoming more difficult than it was before the [Arab] spring, as we see in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. Who today would dare to think of a rebellion against the existing regimes, after having seen these tragic results? Only the smallest minority.”

According to Al-Ansari, “The police, for their part, learned a lesson to a certain extent. In Saudi Arabia, large and significant political, social and religious changes have taken place. In the Gulf states, there are the beginnings of political, social and economic openness. One can see much more temperance as far as concerns freedom of speech. In Qatar, freedom of speech is made possible through open social media networks.

“People in the Gulf region feel freer to express their opinions and criticize corruption,” he says. “We do not hear about torture in prisons. People demonstrate, as we see today in Sudan and Algeria. In the past, they would have responded to such protests forcefully. Today the regimes are cautious. The international arena has a greater influence on what goes on in Arab states. The regimes are under internal and external scrutiny.”

In support of the US alliance

In Al-Ansari’s opinion, there is one more important matter to note, and that is that throughout this difficult period, in a majority of Sunni Arab countries, there were no expressions of hostility toward the Jews outside of the most radical streams – the Salafists or the Houthis in Yemen.

“Also regarding Israel,” he emphasizes, “as a state and as a policy, the Arab regimes are today demonstrating more flexibility [on] normalization and political and economic cooperation with it, in particular in the Gulf region. We see this also in the media. On the public level, the situation is different. And yet, I see that Arab nations today tend toward reconciliation with Israel – if Israel commits to respecting the rights of the Palestinians, meaning the establishment of a state with all that entails.”

Q: Meaning a state with a military?

“There will be a need to define the character of the Palestinian state. In the past, contact with Israel was considered treason, and today there is no mass opposition to it. And the Arabs have been convinced that Israel exists, that it cannot be destroyed by force and that it is preferable to negotiate with it.  For 70 years, the Arabs tried every means of violence against Israel and saw that it only grows more powerful as they grow weaker.”

“One more thing,” Al-Ansari adds, “Arab states spend vast sums of money on arms, at the expense of the advancement of their societies. Had they invested these billions of dollars on development, the state of the Arab societies would be better. Beyond this, the Arabs discovered that the Palestinians themselves are divided and conflicted between the [Palestinian] Authority and Hamas. If the owners of the problem themselves are fighting one another, others have no problem looking for justification for reconciliation with Israel.”

Of course, Al-Ansari notes that “Iran also plays a part in this development: The Arabs realized that Iran, as a result of its actions in the Arab world, constitutes a threat. Iran now controls four Arab capitals – Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a. Today the Arabs understand the slogan of resistance to Israel was used by the Iranians to act against them [the Arabs].

“All those who raise these slogans today – Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the masses shouting ‘Death to Israel and the U.S. – do this for their own personal needs. All of the anti-Israel slogans were a political tool for attaining power.”

Q: What do you think about U.S foreign policy under President Donald Trump?

“I am one of those who support a strong alliance with the U.S., regardless of the identity of the American president. Qatar is a small country that needs an alliance with a power like the U.S. The decision to withdraw from Syria is an American matter. Trump’s policy stems from a desire to fulfill his promise to voters to bring the American soldiers home. Trump represents another policy. Today, Trump is not willing to pay with American casualties or money in order to solve others’ problems.”

Al-Ansari says that “in the Middle East, Arabs from all political strains attacked the U.S. for its involvement in the overthrow of regimes. That was one of the reasons for the hatred of the U.S., which culminated in the Sept. 11 attacks. These are Arab problems that the Arabs must solve themselves.”

Q: And what do you think will happen with Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” and Iran?

“There are conflicting reports about what it [the Trump Middle East peace plan] entails. I am convinced that the Arab regimes will not agree to a solution that does not please the Palestinian Authority. Nevertheless, the current American approach is: We help only those who help themselves.”

Al-Ansari believes that despite U.S. sanctions on Tehran, “the Iranian regime is not in danger. I don’t think there will be a revolution, but there may be changes to the regime. Iran will be obliged to change its foreign policy and stop the transfer of funds to agents in other countries. They will also have less money [to invest] in the arms race and the nuclear programs if they want to remain in power.

He says that the continuation of current U.S. policy on Iran would convince the ayatollah regime there that “economic growth is more important than exporting the revolution and spending money overseas.” But that he notes “will require more time.”


‘It doesn’t matter how many generals you have – you need diplomatic daring’ 

April 5, 2019

Source: ‘It doesn’t matter how many generals you have – you need diplomatic daring’ –

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is putting out a distress call: “If Likud voters don’t wake up, we’ll lose the election” • Targeting Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Netanyahu asks, “If this has been the hardest month of his life, how can he handle being prime minister?”

“On April 9, the bots will head to the polling places in droves,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicts four days before the election.

It looks as if the fake social media profile scandal that the media threw at Likud landed at the perfect time. Right when the campaign Netanyahu was leading was losing adrenalin, the New York Times and Yedioth Ahronoth popped up and once again made it clear to right-wing voters that the desire to a different prime minister – at any cost – was equally prevalent in both countries.

“Their condescension toward the Likud is seen in the bot story,” Netanyahu tells Israel Hayom in a special interview.

“It never occurs to them that Likud voters are real people, who think independently. In their eyes, they’re not people. Here, they used to be called ‘riffraff.’ Then ‘baboons,’ and now ‘bots.’”

Netanyahu is worried, maybe even stressed. A description he likes for his enemies. One night last week, Netanyahu was sitting with his campaign advisors, including expert pollsters, and after an in-depth review of the polls, they concluded that the problem on the Right – particularly the Likud – was insouciance.

“Anyone who cares what people think about him isn’t someone anyone is thinking about,” Netanyahu says, pounding on the table to drive home his philosophy about his political and diplomatic path, and equally so what he thinks of the path taken by journalists and pundits. “If I cared about what they think of me, I wouldn’t be here a minute. A minute! Not in politics, not in business, not in journalism. If you’re a slave to what they think about you, they’ll think about you how you think of yourself.

“We’re very close to losing the battle. We found a factor we hadn’t noticed until last night. That factor is that what we have here is opposite of 2015,” Netanyahu says.

“Whereas in 2015 the Left was complacent and the Right was enlisting to vote, today the opposite is happening. The Right is complacent and the Left is enlisting to vote. When polls ask how many people intend to vote, the Left gets 100%. Not 99.2% – 100%. Everyone is going to vote. And on the Right, we’re seeing notable lower percentages than that. The difference in percentages is equivalent to about five seats,” he warns.

About 80% of right-wing voters are saying they are motivated to vote, and that could cost the Right another two seats.

“With gaps like these, there’s a possibility we could lose the bloc, and the gap between us and Lapid-Gantz could increase by five more seats,” he says.

When Israel Hayom asks him if this factor is going to lead to a Likud loss, Netanyahu says, “We’ll definitely lose [if people don’t vote.]”

‘The other channels – Gantz TV’

One person who has paid a high price in this thuggish election is Netanyahu’s son Yair. Netanyahu backs him up: “My son is always facing a wave of slander, and he doesn’t accept the convention that allows his image to be trampled. Even when he was still a kid, he was the subject of parody. He isn’t willing to bow down.”

“These attacks are coming from my political critics. I’m sorry he has to live a life of political storms. They are murdering his character. They are putting him on the firing line. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone suffer these injuries.”

Netanyahu is fired up and eager to take action. As if people weren’t weighing him down with sacks of concrete in the form of investigations, indictments, and the Gaza Strip. He says something that not everyone will like: “I mean to stay here for many years to come.”

Netanyahu came into this election campaign at a disadvantage, like a soccer team that is penalized five points just before the start of the season. The Bibi team has been playing all season like it has been not only been given a red card, but also like the stands are packed with hostile spectators.

The bot affair brought the whole issue of social media up for discussion. For Netanyahu and the Likud, just how important is social media?

“It’s the only electronic tool we have,” he says.

“There is unprecedented enlistment by ‘Gantz TV’ – channels 11, 12, and 13 – and the various radio stations. Just total enlistment. One time, in one interview, someone questioned Gantz, and immediately they were corrected. They basically ask him, and Lapid and Ashkenazi, tough questions like, ‘Mr. Gantz, can you lay out your vision? They say you’re unstable.’ There’s no follow-up. If he falls apart in one interview with [broadcaster] Yonit Levy, how will he handle the pressure [of being prime minister]?”

When asked about the situation in Gaza and his insistence on reaching a cease-fire deal with Hamas, Netanyahu says, “You need to understand, we are surrounded by radical Islam. The biggest Islamist power is Iran, which is trying to obtain nuclear weapons. I’m stopping that. It’s trying to move its army to Syria under a nuclear deal that Gantz and Lapid supported. I’m stopping them there, too.”

Israel Hayom reached out to Lapid for a response. He rejected Netanyahu’s statement as “a complete lie that harms the security of the nation. Since 2014 I’ve been active in the international community against the deal. I have spoken and been interviewed in opposition to it dozens of times abroad, so it’s easy to verify. It’s a bad, dangerous deal that should never have been signed, and on this matter, I was aligned with Netanyahu. Even if we’re in the midst of a campaign, we mustn’t lie about security. The world needs to know that the vast majority of Israelis are against the deal.”

Netanyahu continues: “When it comes to the other branch of radical Islam, in Gaza, we’ve deterred Hamas. We shut down its main supply corridors. We’ve struck Hamas in a way the public doesn’t understand. More than 300 Palestinians have been killed near the border when they tried to breach the fence and abduct our soldiers. We have used force wisely, and powerfully. You saw this deterrence on the one-year anniversary of the ‘March of return’ – a lot less than million came, and there were thousands of [Hamas] monitors. It’s a sign of deterrence. Before I opt for a ground incursion, I’ll exhaust every other possibility,” Netanyahu says.

Q: Do you prefer intermittent rockets to funerals?

“I didn’t say rocket fire. A couple of arson balloons? To a large extent, we’re stopping it. They [the Gazans] are in enormous economic distress, and Hamas is in check and wants some quiet so it can stand up to the huge pressure in Gaza. The economic distress is its own problem, but the humanitarian distress is our problem. Issues with sanitation, disease, things that could make their way to us. So we’re saying: Prevent problems from occurring and create deterrence. The goal is deterrence, but so is preventing environmental and humanitarian problems that could harm Israel.”

Q: No one is talking about occupation but rather an invasion that would rip out the Hamas infrastructure.

“It wouldn’t rip out the infrastructure. It would pound the infrastructure. The real choice is to occupy and govern Gaza. You don’t have anyone to give it to. I won’t give it to Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]. The connection between Gaza and Judea and Samaria has been broken. They are two separate entities, and I think that in the long term, that’s not something that’s bad for Israel. Abu Mazen brought that upon himself. He cut back the influx of PA funds. He thought that by doing so, he could send Gaza up in flames. We would pay for the occupation of Gaza with a heavy loss of life, and on Israel’s back he [Abbas] would get Gaza on a silver platter. That won’t happen.”

“The money he cut is Palestinian money. Israel isn’t paying. That money was covered by the Qataris and stopped Abu Mazen’s plan from coming to fruition, as well as cutting Gaza off from Judea and Samaria. If anyone thought there would be a Palestinian state that would surround us on both sides. That isn’t something that’s going to happen.”

Q: In this election, you’re running against three former IDF chiefs of staff. Did any of them demonstrate creativity when it came to Gaza?

“Nothing. They were there. The opposite, if there’s anything new it came after they were gone. Blocking the attack tunnels, the subterranean wall we’re building, other actions we’re taking in Gaza that I can’t go into. Mostly, what you see is policy. What good are 10 generals if those generals, like the former head of the Shin Bet security agency or the former head of the Mossad, support the Iran nuclear deal?”

“95% of the problems come from Iran. They supported an absurd nuclear deal. Their policy is destructive to Israel. Gantz, as well as Ashkenazi, opposed the security fence in the south and funding for it. Without that, Israel wouldn’t exist anymore. We can talk about a Jewish, democratic state until the cows come home, but it would already have been flooded by a million illegal migrants from Africa.

“Their disastrous policy also includes uprooting 100,000 settlers. So what determines security isn’t the chiefs of staff, but the policies of politicians. These chiefs of staff had a policy that was wrong. If they become politicians, we’re sunk. They have almost no understanding, I would say less than zero, of these issues. The best proof of that is support for the Iran nuclear deal. Gantz said, ‘It’s all right, it has positive aspects. The Iranians are rational.’ Lapid said I was destroying relations with the U.S., that it was a mistake to speak to Congress. Sadly, a big part of the Israeli defense establishment supported it.

“What is important is who leads, the diplomatic navigator. I’m working against Israel’s greatest enemies. They aren’t. Unfortunately, they hold the view that is traditional with the Israeli Left, that weakness is strength. That bowing one’s head is standing tall. That concessions and weakness will bring us security. Don’t believe that.”

‘Lapid? He’s all poses’

Q: It appears that the current IDF chief of staff [Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi] wants to cancel the shortened service to make the IDF stronger and more massive. Do you support canceling shortened service?

“We’re talking about it. I don’t think we’ve reached a clear conclusion. The only clear conclusion is that we will need more resources, and I said that for the 2030 plan, we need more resources for the defense establishment. Why? Because Israel is facing threats from superpowers, and sadly we don’t have the GDP of Germany or Russia. By the way, our GDP is one-quarter that of Russia’s. That’s not bad, but it’s not enough. We need more resources. To get additional resources, we need to keep the economy growing, since it produces the resources.”

Q: A tax hike?

“The opposite. Tax cuts. Lowering taxes leads to more growth. Over time, I’ve led a major change in the Israeli economy. I’ve passed 60 reforms. But the most important, the decisive one, is freeing the currency, allowing people to deposit and withdraw dollars whenever they want. Imagine that Israel had kept up that third-world currency regime. There is also the issue of licensing for small businesses, which is the engine for growth in Israel. We dropped the time it takes to issue a business license from six months to 20 days. Preventing needless regulation. Do you want regulation? Show me the economic effects it will have.

“In three years, we climbed from 25th place to 17th place in global competitiveness rankings. Nothing like that has ever happened. Lapid and Gantz would send us back. First by bringing in [former Histadrut Labor Federation head] Avi Nissankoren as finance minister. Like statesmanship, they understand nothing about economics. Lapid said he doesn’t understand economics.”

Q: So how did you work with him?

“At a certain point, I had to fire him. He never listened. He forgot he didn’t understand. It’s all poses and performances. The same thing with Gantz. He has proved that by going bankrupt. He founded a company that went bankrupt, but not before it pocketed millions of shekels by a fake presentation it gave the Israel Police. They would have gotten 50 million shekels more if they hadn’t gone bankrupt.”

Q: Everyone is asking: Who are your picks for finance minister and defense minister?

“That is of no interest. I’m not dividing up the spoils, because of now, they’re going to them [the Left] if the Right doesn’t get its act together. If Likud voters don’t wake up, we’ll lose the election. The Likud/right-wing voters don’t realize that not only isn’t the election in our pocket, right now it’s actually in theirs [the Left]. Because they are fighting tooth and nail. Our people are sitting around, sanguine. If they don’t realize that they have to go and vote, all our achievements will be lost,” Netanyahu says.

Q: You would prefer a right-wing government?

“Of course. A right-wing government is always preferable. These are our partners, and we’ll build a coalition with them. You also can’t build a coalition with people on the Left. Four members of Gantz and Lapid’s party once signed a petition against allowing President Trump to come to Israel. That shows you who these people are. Our combination of economic and defense power has created diplomatic growth the like of which we’ve never seen.”

“Last week I was with President Trump. He declared American recognition of the Golan Heights. We have the declaration. Now President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is visiting – the leader of a country of a quarter billion people. I’m going to visit President Putin, and I’m working with him on freedom of action for Israel. Of course, the media ignores that, and just covers Lapid and Gantz, running PR pieces and puffing up their lies. And still our people, who see how involved the media is, are still convinced that we’re going to win and they can stay home. It could cause irreparable damage.”

Q: Can anyone from the right-wing bloc sit in a government under Gantz?

“First of all, everyone understands that the appropriate thing to do is give the responsibility of assembling a government to whoever receives the most recommendations. That’s what we should do, but that’s not necessarily what will happen. The moment the responsibility is assigned, we’re in a state of uncertainty. That moment, because Gantz would have a bloc of 61, you don’t know who will be recommended.”

Q: How do you categorize Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin?

“I don’t know. I hope he’ll support the Right. He still hasn’t said he will. I see the right-wing government under the Likud as in real danger.”

‘Not willing to expel a single Jew’

Q: What about Trump? Is that chemistry between the American president and the prime minister of Israel, or with you personally?

“Clearly it’s with me personally. I knew him before. His views match mine. They don’t match those held by the people in the Lapid-Gantz party who wanted to keep him [Trump] out of Israel.”

Q: On the ‘deal of the century,’ are you coordinated with him?

“I’m not coordinated with him. I laid out three basic principles for him and his people. I really hope they are expressed in the plan: 1) We won’t evacuate a single settler. Not only any settlement, not a single settler; 2) We will retain control over the entire area west of the Jordan River. We will have a permanent presence. That is the main sovereign authority that we will retain in any situation; and 3) We will not divide Jerusalem.”

“When I presented these principles to [former] Vice President Biden when he was here, he told me, that’s not a country. I said, ‘Joe, define it however you want, these are my terms and I won’t retreat from them.’ That’s what I told Trump and his representatives [Jared] Kushner and [Jason] Greenblatt.”

Q: If you are promised international recognition of united Jerusalem, especially the Old City, would you be prepared to give up large parts of Judea and Samaria in exchange?

“I’m not willing to uproot any Jew. That includes settlements outside the big blocs. I’m not willing to forgo future sovereignty, not at all. They will stay there, under Israeli sovereignty. If we leave a group of settlements under Palestinian sovereignty, they won’t last a day. I would keep them all under Israeli sovereignty, with us responsible for security.”

Q: With the Palestinians, but you’re not annexing Area C.

“I promise you there will be surprises. I can’t tell you anything about the plan, but President Trump is a great friend, and I’m doubtful we’ll ever have a better one in the future.”

Q: The election ads show a scene in which Labor leader Avi Gabbay’s main message is that he will raise the minimum wage to 7,000 shekels ($1,950) a month.

“First of all, we’re the ones who raise the minimum wage. It was 4,000 shekels. We did it in a smart way, by raising the GDP and the average national wage, so gaps wouldn’t show up too quickly. Everyone knows only part of it. They are reaping the benefits, I call it. We are the ones who raise the economic tree, water it, prune it so the sun can get in, and they only know how to pick its fruit. If all you do is pick and pick, you won’t have any fruit left. The tree will wither.

“That’s what happened with a lot of neighboring states. Even in Europe. You all know about these cases. We built a strong economy that combines a free market and economic growth with social sensitivity – everything in the right measure, and with success. They will revert us to the unchecked policies of wastefulness of the Histadrut economy.”

Q: Some claim that the state is in good shape, and the citizens are less so.

“That’s simply not true. There is room for improvement. There are problems. We need to break down monopolies that have existed since the days of [socialist] Mapai. Inequality has dropped since we created a situation in which people go to work. People used to stay home. Bedouin, with stipends for their children, never needed to work. The big changes that made Israel leap ahead, which turned it into a national economy, were made under me, both as finance minister and prime minister.

“The engine that turned Israel into a free market economy is sitting across from you. I still haven’t finished with regulation. Imagine a 65% tax rate. That’s what we had when I took office. What have President Bolsonaro and others told me? We learn from you.”

Monarchical or fascist?

Q: You say that Gantz can’t be prime minister. But how can you? You could be a prime minister who has to split his time between office and the courtroom.

“First of all, I believe that won’t happen. Most of the claims have collapsed. The most serious claims have almost all collapsed. I’m convinced that nothing will remain of this house of cards. Second, I have unusual abilities. I’m saying it. Everyone who is with me, both in the cabinet and the government, will testify to that. My workload, my abilities to concentrate – everyone will testify to them. It’s obvious that I can lead, even in a situation like that. But it’s all theoretical. There is a reason why there is a law saying that a prime minister cannot be removed from office because of an indictment. Where would that lead us? Any functionary could bring down a prime minister.”

Q: Can you be with Putin one day, and questioned the next? And forget everything while you’re working?

“I’ve proved it. I was under all sorts of investigations. It didn’t affect me. Even my rivals, in rare moments of honesty, said so. Compare how I’m functioning and what we’ve achieved on the Golan Heights, in Jerusalem, on Iran, the strikes in Syria, to what Gantz says, that this last month of campaigning has been the hardest in his life. What would he have to deal with [as prime minister]? An interview with Yonit Levy? It’s incredible. For a prime minister, any day – sometimes any hour – is harder than this month. How will he survive it? The answer is: he won’t. First of all, because he folds under pressure, and second, because he and Lapid don’t have the abilities or the experience to be prime minister.”

Q: One of your staff said that although you gained the Golan Heights, you should have toppled Syrian President Bashar Assad and split Syria into four states.

“It’s regretful that there are people who serve left-wing parties in exchange for a place in the Knesset. It’s not honorable. It does them no honor.”

Q: Moshe Ya’alon, Yoaz Hendel, and Zvi Hauser are all in Blue and White. Where did you go wrong?

“Ask them. Bogie [Ya’alon] told me he never opposed Oslo. That he had never been right-wing. Now he tells us. The others, let them be accountable to themselves. How can they support Gantz and Lapid, whose policies are 180 degrees from the policies they believe in?

Q: In July, you will have been in office longer than David Ben-Gurion. But you are criticized for not having deputies. You have no successors lined up. Do you see anyone who can come after you?

“I think the Likud team includes people who are way ahead of any of the other parties. They’re all veteran, experienced people, and I’m convinced there are talents there. It’s the public who decides who will lead Israel. Not the prime minister. We don’t have things like that here. In the non-democratic parties, they decide who will be what. They don’t care about the public. Whoever the public decides is who will succeed me. They are still criticizing us for being a royal regime. With them, it’s an internal dictatorship.”

Q: Kingly is better than fascist.

“More than fascism. I’m being accused of treason. I – who fought and was wounded in battles with terrorists. They always say that a prime minister mustn’t be accused of treason. Who knows where it will end? They do it every day. It’s amazing. The hypocrisy and the way in which the cooperating media accepts it and runs after them.”

‘I’m bleeding, but not giving up’

Q: Do you think they still haven’t forgiven you for beating Shimon Peres in 1996?

“There are plenty of people, in the Likud too, who went all soft before the Left. They changed their opinions. I believe in my path, which I was taught by my father, and which I also learned from my brother – that we must strengthen our power. That goes completely against the views of the Left. The idea that we can achieve peace by giving into the Palestinians and then the Arab world will open up – I took the opposite direction. I broke into the world, and from there into the Arab world. Later on, that could affect our immediate surroundings. That’s a different approach.

“They have been attacking me tirelessly for 20 years because I refuse to bow down. Now, more than ever, because it’s been proved that this approach is successful. Therefore, they are forced to disguise themselves as right-wingers. They hope that through this dupe, through their attacks and blood libels, they can bring me and the right-wing government down. Then they’ll retreat. If I wanted to, I could buy quiet and embrace the media. I would reach out to the Left. I’ve never done it, and I never will.

Q: When you are told you’re a criminal and a traitor, does that make you bleed? Do you want the treatment President Rivlin gets?

“The answer is no. And the answer is yes. I’m bleeding. But I’m not giving up.”

Q: Are we at the end of an era, like in Stefan Zweig’s book “The World of Yesterday”? Where do we go from here?

“In my opinion, we’re at the start of a great era, in which Israel will not only take its place among nations but will become a nation of enormous influence. We can make all our dreams come true if we keep on this path. And it depends to a large extent on this election. The nation-state law is a constitutional wall against waves of illegal migration, especially from Africa. Should I change that for the sake of a few complimentary articles in the New York Times? No way. We must control who comes into the country. Entry is for Jews. Once here, everyone is equal. Everyone has equal civil rights.”

 Q: A week ago, Captain Michel Bacos, who flew the Air France flight that was hijacked to Entebbe, died. From Netanyahu to Netanyahu, has everything been preserved since then?

“I don’t know. I’m not looking for fame and glory. I’m looking to do what is right to ensure Israel’s security and that Israel stays eternal. My brother fell in battle with the Entebbe terrorists. I was wounded rescuing the Sabena hijack victims. But that doesn’t prevent Israel from doing great, wonderful things. From time to time, we make a small part of all that public, like the daring Mossad raid in the heart of Tehran and the removal of their nuclear archive to Israel. It was an incredible achievement. Missions like these are carried out almost every week.

“There is great military daring but we need equally great diplomatic daring. The Left says, ‘the courage to withdraw.’ The daring I’m talking about is to come out against Iran. To come out against a U.S. president. To say – enough. NO! And to go and bring around American public opinion. That’s a kind of courage that never occurred to them. For them, it’s a strategic mistake. An adventure. I’m different. I believe we have the strength to protect ourselves by ourselves if we foster our strength and not our weakness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many chiefs of staff there are if they don’t understand that in diplomacy, you need to demonstrate the same power of resistance and daring that you do in the military.”


Off Topic: Gantz tells ‘Post’ he hopes Trump, Putin not working for Netanyahu 

April 5, 2019

Source: Gantz tells ‘Post’ he hopes Trump, Putin not working for Netanyahu – Israel Elections – Jerusalem Post

( A loser’s preemptive excuse reminiscent of the Dems Russia hoax. – JW ) 

Gantz reiterated that he would not serve with Netanyahu in a government, citing his indictments pending a hearing that Gantz believe will soon force Netanyahu out of politics.

 APRIL 5, 2019 04:46

Benny Gantz, chairman of the Israel Resilience Party

Two weeks after US President Donald Trump recognized Israeli control over the Golan Heights and a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin helped bring home missing-in-action soldier Zachary Baumel, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said he hoped Trump and Putin were not purposely aiding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post in an interview in his Tel Aviv office whether Trump and Putin were trying to help Netanyahu get reelected, Gantz said: “One could think like that. I hope that’s not the case.”
Regarding the return of Baumel’s body after 37 years, just ahead of the April 9 election, Gantz said: “One can look at it as political spin but I put it aside totally, because I’m so happy to have him back with his dear ones, so they can have a funeral and have a grave to go to and less question marks for the rest of their lives.”
Gantz said that when it came to the US, “Netanyahu did the wrong thing by choosing sides,” preferring the Republicans and the Orthodox Jews.
“He neglected and didn’t support the others at all,” Gantz said. “I don’t care if you are a Democrat, Republican, Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. It’s your choice, and your politics is your choice. The bonds between Israel and America have to be above political life and religion.”
When he attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington two weeks ago, Gantz did not request a meeting with Trump. When asked why, he said: “I knew the answer in advance. If the White House thought it would be important to meet me, it would have happened.”
Gantz reiterated that he would not serve with Netanyahu in a government, citing his indictments pending a hearing that Gantz believe will soon force Netanyahu out of politics.
Asked why he did not want to first gain political experience as a minister under Netanyahu, Gantz said he was ready to run the country after serving as chief of staff of the IDF and bashed Netanyahu for working for a furniture company in the US before entering politics.
 “Everyone can use more experience,” Gantz said. “A doctor can be a good doctor and become better over time. A lawyer can be a good lawyer and become better over time. I am not putting down the importance of experience. I ran the IDF – a huge organization – through many challenges. In the IDF, I was exposed to so many aspects of the state, which made me a lot more ready than a man who worked for a furniture company.”
Gantz confirmed a report that Netanyahu had offered him in the past to become defense minister or ambassador to the US but he decided to enter politics on his own instead.
He hinted that he intends to serve as opposition leader if Netanyahu forms the next government. Asked if he would quit politics if he lost, Gantz said: “I will win. I offered my services to Israeli society for the next decade, and I’m going to keep my promise to win and to be effective.”
Regarding his deal with Blue and White’s No. 2 candidate Yair Lapid on a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office, Gantz said: “I can give you a three-minute lecture on why we will receive more votes if we keep the rotation and lose more votes if we give it up. But we toasted for blessings and luck when we made our agreement, and we are going to keep it.”
He said his goal was for Blue and White to become the biggest party and be appointed by President Reuven Rivlin to form the next government. His preferred top coalition partner is the Likud, post-Netanyahu.
“It is more than likely that Netanyahu will be indicted,” he said. “The Likud is about to enter a new era. I don’t think Netanyahu helps Likud that much. He spreads fear. Like a pine tree, he does not let anything grow under him.”
When building a coalition, Gantz said he would differentiate between Otzma Yehudit in the Union of Right-Wing Parties, which he would not let join, and Zehut, even though he disagreed with some of chairman Moshe Feiglin’s views.
“Feiglin is liberal in some aspects, and he is radical in others,” he said. “I cannot buy into radicalism. I can buy into liberalism. He can’t get anywhere with any of his radical ideas.”
Among Gantz’s first steps as prime minister, he said, would be to restore deterrence against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He said he would not give Hamas “protection money” but instead work with international organizations while ensuring oversight.
After that, he said, Israel should start diplomatic activities with Arab countries, pressing Hamas and the PA to improve Gaza’s infrastructure. He said there should be more workers coming into Israel from Gaza with severe security considerations and checkups “so they wont be desperate and we can promote hope.”
Asked what happens when the sick and elderly Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas dies, Gantz said he would work with his replacement.
“Graveyards are full of people who couldn’t be replaced,” he said. “The Palestinians have to take their future into their hands. I will lead the Jewish-democratic country to a bright future alongside whoever they come up with. There will be a prime minister after Netanyahu, and you have him in front of you. There will be someone else in the PA after Abbas, and we will move on.”
Gantz revealed that when he was a defense attache in Washington, he rode motorcycles all over the US.
“I won’t ride for 10 years while I will be in politics, and then I will be too old,” he lamented. “So I guess after next week I won’t get to ride again.”

Off Topic:  Beresheet spacecraft successfully enters lunar orbit

April 5, 2019

Source: Beresheet spacecraft successfully enters lunar orbit | The Times of Israel

SpaceIL vessel on track for historic April 11 landing on the moon after delicate maneuver equivalent to slamming on the brakes in space

Engineers celebrate in the Beresheet control room in Yehud on April 4, 2019 after announcing the moon's gravitation pull has most likely successfully captured the Beresheet spacecraft, the most complicated maneuver that the spacecraft has executed since its launch. (Eliran Avital/courtesy Beresheet)

Engineers celebrate in the Beresheet control room in Yehud on April 4, 2019 after announcing the moon’s gravitation pull has most likely successfully captured the Beresheet spacecraft, the most complicated maneuver that the spacecraft has executed since its launch. (Eliran Avital/courtesy Beresheet)

The Beresheet spacecraft executed a perfectly choreographed space hop on Thursday evening, allowing the car-sized spacecraft to jump from an orbit around Earth to one around the moon.

The maneuver makes Israel the seventh country in the world to bring a spacecraft into lunar orbit, placing it on track to attempt a landing on the moon next month.

The spacecraft is aiming to have Israel become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon on April 11.

“This was a milestone and it actually gives us a real shot at the moon,” said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of SpaceIL, the Israeli nonprofit that built the spacecraft.

The NIS 370 million ($100 million) spacecraft is a joint venture between the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists.

Up until now, engineers have on several occasions activated the engines in short bursts of about a minute or two in order to nudge the spacecraft into increasingly larger elliptical orbits of the Earth.

In order for the spacecraft to successfully enter into an orbit around the moon, Beresheet needed to slow down from 8,500 kilometers per second to 7,500 kilometers per second. Although that still seems fast to mere humans, according to engineers, it is the orbital equivalent of slamming on the brakes. The engineers accomplished this by turning the spacecraft so that its engines thrust it in the opposite direction, slowing down the speed.

It took about nine minutes for eight different engines to slowly maneuver the spacecraft in the right direction, and a little less than six minutes for the engines to slow the spacecraft down to the correct speed.

On Thursday, engineers said they believed that the moon’s gravity had successfully captured the spacecraft, though it would take a few hours for them to be sure that the craft is heading in the right direction.

About 25 engineers at the control room in Yehud, a suburb of Tel Aviv where Israel Aerospace Industries is housed, burst into applause at the end of the planned maneuver.

A failure to slow down would have brought the mission to an abrupt end.

“The price of a mistake here would have been infinite,” said Opher Doron, space division general manager at Israel Aerospace Industries, which worked with SpaceIL on the project. “We would have been spinning in space toward some sun orbit that no one wants to go into.”

“After six weeks in space, we have succeeded in overcoming another critical stage by entering the moon’s gravity,” said SpaceIL CEO Ido Antebby. “This is another significant achievement our engineering team achieved, while demonstrating determination and creativity in finding solutions to unexpected challenges. We still have a long way until the lunar landing, but I‘m convinced our team will complete the mission to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, making us all proud.”

Amusingly, though the engineers successfully executed the spacecraft’s maneuver, the press team had difficulty pulling off the powerpoint presentation explaining next week’s lunar landing for journalists, and were forced to abandon the effort midway, turning the presentation off.

Thursday was the longest period that engineers have activated the engines since the spacecraft’s launch on February 22.

Now drawn into lunar orbit, Beresheet will trace smaller and smaller loops around the moon before attempting to land.

“There is a significant chance we have a crash landing,” said Doron. “It’s very dangerous, and it’s difficult to predict we’ll succeed.”

Engines have so far been fired seven times to widen the elliptical orbits. Beresheet has made 12.5 trips around the Earth since launching on February 22. The lunar orbits are much smaller, and some will take no longer than 14 hours. In the coming week, the spacecraft will make smaller and smaller circles around the moon until it reaches an altitude of around 15 kilometers above the surface. The landing gear will then engage to hopefully bring the spacecraft to rest in the Sea of Serenity.

In total, the spacecraft has traveled around 5.5 million kilometers and still has about a million left to go. This is the slowest and longest trip a spacecraft has made to the moon. The distance from the Earth to the moon is an average about 385,000 kilometers (239,000 miles).

By utilizing the gravitational pull of the earth and the moon and only activating the engines at the nearest and farthest points on the ellipses, engineers were able to drastically reduce the amount of fuel needed on the spacecraft. Fuel still accounts for the majority of Beresheet’s weight. At launch, the spacecraft weighed a total of 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds), of which about 440 kilograms (970 pounds) were fuel.

Beresheet, which means “Genesis” in Hebrew, lifted off on February 22 from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Last month, Beresheet sent back a photo taken with its “selfie camera,” in which the Israeli flag can be seen 37,600 kilometers (23,000 miles) above Earth.

The project launched as Israel’s entry into the Google LunarX challenge for nongovernmental groups to land a spacecraft on the moon. Google ended the contest in 2018 with no winners, but the Israeli team decided to continue its efforts privately.

With Beresheet, Israel hopes to become the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon, following the US, Russia, and China.

Beresheet on display before its launch, December 17, 2018. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

If successful, Beresheet will make history twice: as the first private-sector landing on the Moon, and the first craft from Israel to reach the orb.

If Beresheet successfully lands on April 11, the spacecraft is expected to carry out two or three days of experiments collecting data about the moon’s magnetic fields before shutting down. There it will stay, possibly for eternity, on the moon’s surface, joining approximately 181,000 kilograms (400,000 pounds at Earth weight) of manmade debris strewn across the moon’s surface.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


UN agency said to visit warehouse where PM says Iran stored nuclear material

April 5, 2019

Source: UN agency said to visit warehouse where PM says Iran stored nuclear material | The Times of Israel

Reuters quotes diplomats revealing IAEA inspected facility in Tehran multiple times in March; results of samples taken from site will be ready in June

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a placard showing a suspected Iranian atomic site while delivering a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a placard showing a suspected Iranian atomic site while delivering a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency have visited a facility in Tehran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was an undeclared site used by Iran to house nuclear material, according to a Reuters report on Thursday.

Speaking at the United Nations in September, Netanyahu called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the “secret atomic warehouse” in the Iranian capital, which he said may be storing some 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material.

The speech came months after Israel’s disclosure that it had spirited away what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents from Tehran, with Netanyahu saying both the archive and the warehouse were proof that Iran continues to seek atomic weapons despite the 2015 international agreement to limit its nuclear program.

Following Netanyahu’s appearance, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said nuclear inspectors had visited “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” while pushing back on the prime minister’s assertion that the organization had failed to act on intelligence provided by Israel on the warehouse.

In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, right, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano shake hands for media at the start of their meeting at the Presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, December 18, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

Diplomats quoted by Reuters Thursday, however, said the IAEA visited the site in Tehran’s Turquzabad district multiple times last month. They said tests were underway on environmental samples taken from the facility in order to determine if nuclear materials were present there. Results will not be ready until June.

Iran’s alleged ‘atomic warehouse’ in Turquzabad, Tehran (YouTube screenshot)

“We have nothing to hide and any access given to the IAEA so far has been in the framework of laws and regulations and nothing beyond that,” the news agency quoted an Iranian official saying.

At the time of Netanyahu’s UN speech, Iranian state-media claimed the warehouse was actually a recycling facility for scrap metal.

Reuters said the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

A local businessman speaks to Tasnim news reporter near an alleged secret Iranian nuclear site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran on September 30, 2018. (screen capture: Tasnim)

Putting the coming results of the tests aside, a number of diplomats said the fact the IAEA was given access to the facility showed the 2015 deal was working, despite US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to pull out of the accord and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

“The Iranians have realized that complying with the deal is in their interests,” a diplomat told Reuters.

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the deal when it was signed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, arguing that it would not stop but only delay Iran’s nuclear weapon program, while removing sanctions critical to curbing Tehran.

Iran for its part has denied it is seeking atomic weapons, while warning it could walk back its commitment to the nuclear accord if it does not receive economic inducements from its remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Agencies contributed to this report.


After 37 years, Baumel buried in funeral touching ‘deepest part of our identity’ 

April 5, 2019

Source: After 37 years, Baumel buried in funeral touching ‘deepest part of our identity’ | The Times of Israel

Thousands accompany US-born serviceman, killed in 1982 war, to final resting place; Rivlin, Netanyahu, IDF chief eulogize him; PM hails Russian role in return of remains

  • Israeli soldiers salute near the fresh grave of Zachary Baumel, during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem, April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Israeli soldiers salute near the fresh grave of Zachary Baumel, during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem, April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • The fresh grave of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    The fresh grave of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Zachary Baumel at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Zachary Baumel at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogizes Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacub in 1982, at the funeral Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogizes Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacub in 1982, at the funeral Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Miriam, mother of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, arrives to his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Miriam, mother of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, arrives to his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Shimon Baumel, brother of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, speaks during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90
    Shimon Baumel, brother of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, speaks during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90
  • Zachary Baumel. (JTA/Courtesy Miriam Baumel)
    Zachary Baumel. (JTA/Courtesy Miriam Baumel)

Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel was laid to rest in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery on Thursday evening, nearly 37 years after his death in the First Lebanon War’s battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, at the age of 21.

Thousands turned out for the ceremony, where Baumel — whose remains were returned to Israel days ago after a complex IDF intelligence operation and with central Russian assistance — was eulogized by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.

Also attending were Baumel’s family, friends, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Culture Minister Miri Regev and top officials from the IDF’s armored corps, Baumel’s unit.

“Zachary, after 37 years, a few days before the battle where you fell, you wrote to your parents, ‘Don’t worry, everything’s alright, but it looks like I won’t be home soon,’” Rivlin said in his eulogy. “Thirty-seven years have elapsed, but today you returned home. You returned to our homeland, to Jerusalem.”

Zachary Baumel. (JTA/Courtesy Miriam Baumel)

“We did not give up and we will not give up on this sacred task until all those who fell defending our people and country are brought home. We will not cease until all our boys are back home, including your comrades in arms Sergeant First Class Yehuda Katz and Sergeant First Class Tzvi Feldman, and all those who fell in battle and whose resting place is unknown,” Rivlin said.

Netanyahu said that retrieving the bodies of Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed in battle touches the deepest part of Israeli and Jewish identity.

Like many Israelis, he said, “I got chills when I heard that Zachary was back home. We’ve been waiting for this for 37 years.”

“Bringing our sons back home touches the deepest part of our identity as Jews and Israelis,” Netanyahu said. “In the name of these values, and out of love for Israel, Zachary went to war.”

The fresh grave of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Osna Haberman, Baumel’s sister said: “All of our prayers during these 37 years went to one place and we’re here. I thought about what I would do here in this place. I can’t even embrace you. So I thought to turn to the ground and ask the land to embrace you. After a few minutes I understood that I don’t even need to ask.”

“The land embraces you so strongly. And why? Because there is absolute love between the son that gave everything for the land and the land itself, and there is a perfect union here. You are together now,” Haberman said.

Osna Haberman, sister of Zachary Baumel, speaks during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jeruslaem, April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In his remarks, Netanyahu said that he had personally asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his help finding the remains of Israeli soldiers missing in Syria two years ago.

Netanyahu attended the funeral shortly after returning to Israel from Moscow.

“When I asked him to help us bring our boys home, he immediately instructed his people to begin,” Netanyahu said of Putin. “I have followed the search personally, and the IDF has been in contact with the Russian military about it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogizes Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacub in 1982, at the funeral Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netanyahu held a press conference Thursday in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin at which the latter said his country’s military, with Syrian assistance, had retrieved the remains.

“I want to thank you, my friend, for what you have done,” Netanyahu told Putin in Moscow.

A senior diplomatic official, who asked not to be named, said the operation was evidence of the “special” connection between Jerusalem and Moscow, and that Russia’s help would not have a “diplomatic price tag” linked to the situation in Syria.

The decision to release the information about the operation to the media will not impede the search for the remaining two soldiers, the official said.

“This was an operation by Russia and the Russian army at our request,” the official continued. “The prime minister met Putin some two years ago and raised the issue of Sultan Yacoub. We gathered intelligence, asked them to focus on it and Putin agreed to do it.”

The Russian president confirmed that the effort to find the remains “was difficult for the special forces.”

In September, the Russian defense ministry said one of its soldiers had been injured in the operation.

After a complex and secret operation, Baumel’s remains were returned to Israel on an El Al plane, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.

The announcement brought to a close a decades-long mission by Baumel’s Jerusalem-based, American-born parents to find their son, which included international pressure campaigns and faint hopes that he may have been captured alive during the brutal Sultan Yacoub tank battle.

Yona Baumel, Zachary’s father, died 10 years ago; his mother Miriam is in her 80s.

Netanyahu told a press conference earlier Wednesday that Baumel’s remains were recovered along with his tzitzit, or ritual fringes, and tank jumpsuit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends an official Russian Defense Ministry ceremony, April 4, 2019, at which he receives the remains of IDF soldier Zachary Baumel’s personal effects. Also present: Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. After the ceremony, the Israeli flag that had been placed on the casket containing the effects was folded by the honor guard and given to the prime minister. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

In 2016, an Israeli tank lost in the battle was returned to Israel by Russia.

Tank commander Baumel, a Brooklyn-born American immigrant, was one of three Israeli soldiers whose bodies were never recovered following the battle of Sultan Yacoub, a skirmish between the IDF and Syrian army in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, in which 21 Israeli servicemen were killed and more than 30 were injured.

Though Baumel and the other two soldiers — Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz — were generally believed to have been killed in the battle, there has also been speculation and reports that they were captured by the Syrian military in Sultan Yacoub and brought to Damascus.

The remains of Feldman and Katz were not recovered in Operation Bittersweet Song, though Israeli officials initially thought Feldman’s body might have been among the other remains recovered in the operation, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

The announcement regarding Baumel was delayed until officials could rule out that possibility, Haaretz said.

Israeli soldiers salute near the fresh grave of Zachary Baumel, during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem, April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A commander of a Palestinian terrorist group in Syria said Wednesday Baumel’s remains were uncovered by armed factions at a Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus.

Baumel’s body was reportedly returned together with the remains of at least 10 other unidentified people. Medical examiners at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute have reportedly examined most of the other bodies brought back, and have concluded that none of them were Feldman or Katz. A Channel 13 report said one body had yet to be ruled out as either of the two Israeli soldiers.