Archive for April 14, 2019

Off Topic:  Democrats’ war on Netanyahu isn’t compatible with a pro-Israel stance 

April 14, 2019

Source: Democrats’ war on Netanyahu isn’t compatible with a pro-Israel stance – www.israelhayom.com

By seeking to override or ignore the will of Israeli democracy, they are accelerating the breakdown of the rapidly eroding bipartisan consensus in favor of the Jewish state.

When leaders of Tammany Hall – the legendary Democratic machine that ran New York City for more than a century – would be confronted with an occasional electoral setback, their usual response was to deride it by claiming that if their handpicked candidates didn’t win, then “it ain’t democratic.”

That’s pretty much the reaction of much of the Democratic Party to the results of Israel’s election. Prominent Democrats have greeted the victory of the man who was the bitter foe of President Barack Obama and, just as bad, the close friend and ally of President Donald Trump with a mixture of dismay and horror.

We’re all entitled to our opinions about the outcomes of elections. But this revulsion on the part of Democrats for the democratically expressed will of the Israeli people is likely to widen the divisions in their party about attitudes regarding the Jewish state. Even more troubling is that it increases the likelihood that support for Israel will be an issue in the 2020 presidential election. That will accelerate the crackup of what is already a rapidly eroding bipartisan coalition in favor of Israel.

The key talking point for pro-Israel Democrats for the last 25 years has been the claim that Republicans are undermining the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus by seeking to portray themselves as better friends to the Jewish state than their opponents. This is a somewhat dubious argument because the main purpose of such claims was to distract voters from the fact that the left wing of the Democratic Party was drifting towards being either highly critical or downright hostile to Israel.

But with Netanyahu being re-elected for a fourth consecutive term, more and more Democrats are dropping the pretense that we all still agree about Israel, and instead are adopting stances that condemn the prime minister as someone who is unworthy of support, or even more, assert that they know better about what is good for Israel than the Israelis.

There isn’t anything new about this since it was, in essence, the way the Obama administration regarded Israel throughout its eight years in office. Obama believed not only that more “daylight” between the two allies was better for Israel than steadfast support, but also that the Jewish state needed to be “saved from itself” with respect to the conflict with the Palestinians. He was just as indifferent to Israel’s credible fears about efforts to appease Iran via a one-sided nuclear deal.

Yet when faced with Obama’s changes of U.S. foreign policy that were clearly aimed at undermining the alliance with Israel, most Democrats chose not to protest.

The arguments about what it means to be pro-Israel have only grown more divisive since Trump took office. Acknowledging the truth that Trump is the most pro-Israel president to date is a difficult pill for Democrats, who despise the president, to swallow. So rather than concentrate their fire on other issues, many simply argue that supporting Israel and respecting the will of its voters represent betrayals of the alliance. This takes the form of bogus claims that Netanyahu’s election is a sign of a decline of Israeli democracy, rather than an expression of it.

That this is absurd and illogical doesn’t deter them. Some of their points are also deeply hypocritical. Suffice it to say that no matter what you think of Netanyahu’s electoral maneuver that enabled supporters of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane to join another electoral list (though in the end, those Kahanists were not elected to the Knesset), Democrats who don’t mind rationalizing the behavior or benefiting from the votes of anti-Semitic, BDS-supporting colleagues like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) have no standing to criticize him on this issue.

More importantly, their position is rooted in the even more outrageous notion that Democrats understand the conflict with the Palestinians better than the Israeli people.

It’s important to remind those who make this argument that the Israeli political parties that clung to the illusion that Obama was right about the Palestinians and the two-state solution – namely, Labor and Meretz – got approximately 8.25% of the vote on April 9. They have been discredited by the reality of Palestinian intransigence that has somehow evaded the notion of Israel’s Democratic critics.

In 2020, the odds are that whoever it is the Democrats nominate will be someone inclined to bash Netanyahu and to treat the judgment of Israel’s voters about their security with disdain. This means that Israel will become a campaign issue for Trump, who will highlight his support for the Jewish nation, a position that is still backed by a clear majority of Americans.

Once this issue becomes fodder for campaign rhetoric from both sides, it will be a mortal blow to the pro-Israel consensus. And if the Democrats win, it will mean U.S.-Israel relations in the years that follow will make the spats between Obama and Netanyahu look like a picnic.

Democrats will try to blame this on Trump, but as with Obama’s stance on the Palestinians and Iran, such arguments will be utterly disingenuous. If Democrats want to preserve the pro-Israel consensus, then they need to be supportive of Israel, understanding of its exterior and interior security dilemmas, and respectful of the democratically expressed will of its people. More to the point, they cannot make common cause with those who seek – as some on the left wing of the Democrats do – to delegitimize or oppose the existence of Israel.

If Democrats can’t manage to respect Israel’s voters or refrain from seeking to override their judgment, they shouldn’t complain about the demise of a consensus that they themselves have chosen to abandon.

This article is reprinted with permission from JNS.org.

 

Acceptance of Israeli action in Syria 

April 14, 2019

Source: Acceptance of Israeli action in Syria – www.israelhayom.com

The Russians and the Syrian regime, albeit more discreetly, have reservations about Iran’s presence in the country. The sense in Israel, therefore, is that a window of opportunity now exists for pushing Iran out of Syria or at least significantly minimizing its activities there.

The attack attributed to Israel’s air force early Saturday indicates that Israeli policy in Syria hasn’t changed now that the elections are over: No to Iranian entrenchment, and no to precision missiles in the hands of Hezbollah.

The target, according to Syrian media outlets, was located in the city of Masyaf, in Hama province. The Israeli air force, the reports said, has attacked various facilities, used by Iranian forces, in the same area at least five times over the past two years.

This time, it appears, the main target was the site where the Iranians have manufactured precision missiles for Hezbollah. We can assume the missiles were earmarked for transfer to Lebanon although Iran also intends to arm its other Shiite militias operating in Syria with similar missiles.

Hezbollah’s precision missile project, which Iran is carrying out, lies at the heart of Israeli activity in recent years. Iran wants Hezbollah to have precision capabilities – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, last year, mentioned a precision radius of approximately 10 yards – and simultaneously extend the range of some of the terrorist group’s missiles. Israel has already been blamed for several attacks on facilities where this activity is occurring, including the attack last September in western Syria that triggered the chain of events which led to the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian army air defenses.

The attack early Saturday morning went smoothly from an Israeli perspective – neither Syria nor Russia responded in a significant manner. We can glean from this that Russia has come to terms, for now, with this activity, as long as it doesn’t endanger Russian forces stationed in Syria. The Israeli air force is likely taking pains to avoid, as much as possible, any friction with Syrian surface-to-air batteries, in order to circumvent further scenarios that could spark another diplomatic clash with Russia.

Israel’s policy of being proactive against Iran and its proxies is also unlikely to change for the time being. Regardless, the new government – and the next defense minister – will have to re-examine this activity within the context of new developments in Syria as it concludes its eight-year civil war; along with possible Iranian military intervention in Iraq and efforts to relocate its precision missile factories to Lebanon. In the past year, Israel has exposed four such factories – three of these, which were built secretly in Beirut, were revealed by Netanyahu in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. The fourth factory, according to various news outlets, was reported in March to the Americans, who addressed the matter with the Lebanese government.

The sense in Israel is that a window of opportunity now exists for pushing Iran out of Syria or at least significantly minimizing its activities there. This window, beyond Russian reservations over Iranian activity (not to mention the Syrian regime’s own reservations, although these aren’t voiced publicly), is open because of American support and last week’s designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization by the Trump administration. The hope in Israel is that a combination of military, diplomatic, economic and media-related activity can now thwart Iran’s machinations.

 

The Arab world and Israel’s election

April 14, 2019

Source: The Arab world and Israel’s election – www.israelhayom.com

Netanyahu’s re-election hasn’t sparked any discernible uproar and we can assume that some Arab leaders even breathed a sigh of relief upon learning he would continue serving as prime minister. These rulers want stability and fear any hint of change.

For Nasrallah and his friends, the election results indicate the continuation and perhaps even intensification of Israel’s aggressive and determined policy, with American backing and tacit agreement from Moscow, in the aim of preventing Iran from establishing a presence in Syria. Various reports in the months leading up to the election, whereby Tehran sought to influence the results by sparking a conflagration in Gaza and perhaps other fronts, hinted at the mood of Nasrallah and his Iranian masters. This Iranian gambit, however, if indeed there was one, failed. Israel, together with its Arab partners, didn’t fall for the Iranian trap and Tehran and Beirut have no choice but to look toward the future with concern.

This concern on the part of Nasrallah and his patrons in Iran is especially noteworthy considering the fact that the Israeli election barely roused any interest in the Arab world, which is mired in its own problems. In recent weeks, the “Arab spring” has erupted anew in several Muslim countries, leading to the downfall of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after two decades of rule and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir after three decades in power. Alongside these two countries, which until recently were perceived as symbols of stability after being spared nearly a decade ago by the initial Arab spring, a bloody civil war continues to rage in Yemen and even in Syria civil unrest continues to fester despite appearances that it has been subdued by the Assad regime.

In this reality of a fractured Arab world crumbling under the weight of its own problems, Israel is viewed as a stable, credible and powerful force, hence numerous regional leaders are choosing to lean on the Jewish state in an effort to ensure calm and stability.

In the past, the Arab world closely followed Israeli elections, which were always widely covered in the Arab press. Arab rulers never concealed their preferred candidates. These leaders traditionally supported Israeli candidates they perceived as potential partners, either in their fight against extremists or efforts to promote peace. For example, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat supported Prime Minister Menachem Begin, his partner in signing the Camp David Accords, in the 1981 election.

This time, however, many in the Arab world assumed that little would change regardless of the election outcome in Israel. Moreover, Netanyahu’s re-election hasn’t sparked any discernible uproar and we can assume that some Arab leaders even breathed a sigh of relief upon learning he would continue serving as prime minister. These rulers want stability and fear any hint of change. They also don’t hide their desire for Israeli leadership that is perceived as aggressive and even militant toward Iran, not to mention well-accepted by the White House and capable of advancing their interests in Washington.

These Arab leaders, therefore, identify a confluence of interests between themselves and Israel and want Israel to be stable and even strong. This is a development of utmost importance in Israeli-Arab relations. It is safe to assume, therefore, that this trend, which has unfolded over the past decade, will become even more prominent with the next Israeli government.

The Arab world’s lack of interest in Israel’s election and, more importantly, the desire to maintain the status quo, also testify to the waning importance and centrality of the Palestinian issue. Many of the Arab regimes are again unwilling to fight and are certainly unwilling to sacrifice their own interests, on behalf of the Palestinians.

This reality could help advance regional and international peace initiatives, chief among them the Trump administration’s “deal of the century,” which it plans to unveil soon. Many Arab regimes also have an interest in peace and stability and are quite possibly more willing than ever to pressure the Palestinians to achieve this goal.

 

Trump’s clear view of the Golan Heights 

April 14, 2019

Source: Trump’s clear view of the Golan Heights – www.israelhayom.com

International law does not license aggressors to launch risk-free wars.

The Middle East is vast and, within it, Israel is no more than a speck, a shard, a sliver clinging to the easternmost shore of the Mediterranean Sea. At present, it is the only nation in the region that is free and democratic, with rights guaranteed to all its citizens, including its significant Arab and Muslim minorities. Saying that will make some people angry, but it’s a fact.

Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbors attempted to prevent the birth – or, more precisely, rebirth – of the Jewish state. Additional wars aimed at Israel’s annihilation followed. Israelis defended themselves, acquiring territories from their attackers in the process.

Over the years, Israelis have exited most of those territories, and terrorists have entered. In the Sinai Peninsula, the largest territory the Israelis conquered in a defensive war and then returned (in exchange for a peace treaty), Israelis now assist Egyptians in their fight against self-proclaimed jihadis.

When the first war against Israel stopped in 1949, an armistice line – not a lawful international border – separated Israel from Syria. Soon after, Syrian soldiers in the Golan Heights began shelling Israeli farms and villages in the Galilee below.

In 1967, Syria attacked Israel from the Golan Heights. At the end of what became known as the Six-Day War, Israel was in possession of two-thirds of the strategic plateau, 500 square miles, an area roughly the size of Phoenix, Arizona.

Israelis were open to a “land-for-peace” deal with Syria, but the Arab League promptly issued its “Three No’s”: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

The next attempt to exterminate Israel was the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Syrian tanks overran much of the Golan, then were pushed back in the fierce battles that followed.

Eight years later, with Syria uninterested in making peace, Israel annexed the wuthering Heights. Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump decided it was time for the United States to officially recognize the reality “that the Golan Heights are part of the State of Israel.”

As expected, Israel’s Western critics and enemies, coteries often difficult to differentiate, expressed outrage. Arab countries denounced the move, too, though with minimal vehemence.

That’s not surprising: Syria, under the Bashar Assad dictatorship, has become a dependency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a jihadi, neo-imperialist, Persian/Shia regime that threatens the region’s Arab/Sunni states. It is not in their interest to see their enemy strengthened, or the enemy of their enemy weakened.

You should know that no one who identifies as Palestinian lives in the Golan. Syrian Arabs fled. The Druze who stayed on, currently numbering about 20,000, receive the same social benefits as Israeli citizens and are eligible for full Israeli citizenship.

You’ve doubtless seen claims that Israel’s annexation of the Golan violates international law, in particular, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed in November 1967. But 242 is not a Chapter 7 resolution – the only resolutions that can establish international law. Other resolutions are statements of (often purposely ambiguous) diplomatic consensus or recommendations. It is an error – or a fraud – to regard them as globalist legislation.

What’s more, the phrase you’ll hear quoted, the resolution’s assertion of the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” was not meant to license aggressors to wage wars with impunity.

Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz has observed: “No country in history has ever given back to a sworn enemy, militarily essential territory that has been captured in a defensive war.”

In testimony before Congress last July, legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich noted that the U.N. Charter “expressly reaffirms the legality of a defensive war. Since defensive war is not illegal, it follows that the defender’s territorial gains from such a war would not be illegal.”

That should be obvious given the many territorial gains and losses in Europe following World War II – the conflict which both preceded and inspired the drafting of the U.N. Charter.

Ignored by Israel’s critics: Resolution 242 also emphasizes that “every State in the area” has the “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

Tehran is egregiously violating that right by attempting to establish military bases in Syria in order to open a third front against Israel, in addition to the fronts it supports in Lebanon and Gaza. Why do Israel’s detractors say nothing about that? I suspect you know the answer.

By recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, Trump – with Rep. Mike Gallagher, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Tom Cotton leading a bipartisan effort to pass supporting congressional resolutions – has not just demonstrated fairness and bolstered the security of America’s most reliable ally. He’s also given a boost to any future Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

You don’t get that? I’ll explain. So long as the hard men of Hamas and Fatah are encouraged to believe that destroying Israel remains a realistic goal, they will not agree to end the conflict – no matter how beneficial that might be for the average Palestinian.

Only if they are convinced that there is more to lose than gain by prolonging their war against Israel and that driving the Jews into the sea is an impossible dream, might they resign themselves to what they regard as the shameful alternative: serious negotiations leading to compromises (on both sides) culminating in a situation rare in the long and bloody history of the Middle East: independent nations peacefully coexisting.

 

Syria says Israeli airstrike on military position wounds 6

April 14, 2019

Source: Syria says Israeli airstrike on military position wounds 6 – www.israelhayom.com

Several buildings destroyed in alleged attack near town of Masyaf, Syria’s state news agency reports. Rights group says 17 wounded, several dead. Iranian delegation was reportedly touring military sites in the area at the time of the strike.

SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying the airstrike near the town of Masyaf, in Hama province, hit a military academy widely known as the Accounting School. It said Israeli warplanes fired missiles toward Syria from Lebanon’s airspace and that Syrian air defenses shot down some of the missiles.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli airstrikes hit three targets, wounding 17 Syrian soldiers. It said there were also deaths, but it was not immediately clear how many were killed and whether they were Iranians or Iran-sponsored fighters. It said the strikes targeted the Accounting School as well as a missile development center in a village near Masyaf and a nearby military base run by Iran-backed fighters.

According to Syrian media outlets, at the time of the airstrike in Masyaf, an Iranian delegation was touring military sites in the area. One of the wounded, the reports said, is a Syrian Brig. Gen. Suheil Salman al-Hassan, who commands the Syrian army’s elite “Tiger Forces.”

The IDF declined to comment. Israel does not usually comment on reports concerning its airstrikes in neighboring Syria, though it has recently acknowledged striking Iranian targets there. The last such strikes that Israel announced were in late March.

Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has sent military advisers, as well as thousands of fighters from across the region, to help his forces in the eight-year conflict.

Israel considers Iran its biggest threat and has said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence on its borders.

The most serious wave of airstrikes on Syria this year occurred in January, when the IDF hit several Iranian targets, saying it was responding to an Iranian missile attack a day earlier. The Iranian launch followed a rare Israeli daylight air raid near the Damascus International Airport.

 

Netanyahu’s security outlook: No existential threat to Israel 

April 14, 2019

Source: Netanyahu’s security outlook: No existential threat to Israel – www.israelhayom.com

In upcoming article, former National Security Council head Jacob Nagel discusses nonclassified parts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security and defense outlook • Netanyahu does not see any existential threat to Israel right now, and wants to keep it that way.

In a professional article due to be published in the U.S., former acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel reveals additional nonclassified parts of Netanyahu’s security and defense outlook.

One of Netanyahu’s underlying assumptions is that there is currently no existential threat facing the state of Israel, Iranian threats notwithstanding. Nagel writes that Netanyahu thinks this situation should be maintained.

Another point of the outlook is the need to protect the homefront and vital national infrastructure and government institutions in light of tactics shifts by the enemy

A third major aspect of Netanyahu’s outlook is that Israel must transition to a state of ongoing warfare rather than preparing for wars characterized by outbursts of extreme violence, such as those Israel fought in the early years of its existence.

The defense establishment considers a well-organized and written security and defense doctrine to be a tool of utmost importance when it comes to force building. Nagel states in his article that it is rare for a prime minister to compose his own security and defense outlook.

The last complete defense outlook for Israel was compiled by David Ben-Gurion and approved by the government in 1953. Since then, no other doctrine has been approved, although attempts have been made over the years to update the Ben-Gurion document.

 

IDF stands down reinforcements deployed to Gaza border amid calm

April 14, 2019

Source: IDF stands down reinforcements deployed to Gaza border amid calm | The Times of Israel

Military says it remains ‘highly prepared and ready to act quickly,’ after reassigning troops sent to the south during last month’s increased violence

IDF tanks stationed near the Gaza border, March 27, 2019. (Dudi Modan/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday said it was standing down the extra forces deployed to the Gaza border region during an uptick in violence last month.

“The IDF continues to be highly prepared to act quickly according to need and situation assessment,” the military said in a statement.

During the flareup the military had deployed two additional brigades to the Gaza Division, along with an artillery battalion, fleets of drones, and field intelligence units. Reservists were also called up from air defense, intelligence and other select units. The troops were sent to the south ahead of protests on March 30 to mark Land Day and the anniversary of the “March of Return” protests, and after a rocket fired from the enclave destroyed a residential building in central Israel, injuring seven people.

Amid peak tensions, senior commanders had been preparing for a variety of scenarios, including the possibility of a deterioration of violence to the point of a large-scale ground operation.

The brigades were brought to the Gaza border region from planned training exercises. On Sunday, they were given orders to return to their usual schedules.

The decision came amid a significant decrease in the level of violence along the border. The number of balloon-borne explosive and incendiary devices flown over the border has dropped in recent weeks, though attacks have not stopped entirely. Nightly riots have ended, and the weekly protests on the border have been held farther from the security fence.

IDF tanks stationed near the Israeli Gaza border on March 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar have recently worked to broker ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas, which, if finalized, would provide for an end to violence emanating from the Strip in exchange for the Jewish state easing some of its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Israel says limitations on movement aim to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from transferring into Gaza weapons and materials used to construct tunnels and fortifications.

There appeared to be a breakthrough in the ceasefire efforts at the anniversary protests, when Palestinians in Gaza maintained relative calm along the border during large demonstrations.

Illustrative: Palestinians confront Israeli forces near the border with Israel, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 12, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Israel, in turn, reopened its two crossings with Gaza and significantly expanded the permitted fishing area around the coastal enclave.

Last year on Land Day — March 30 — Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched the “Great March of Return,” a series of weekly protests and riots along the security fence. Israel maintains that Hamas appropriated the campaign for nefarious purposes, using the civilian protesters as cover for violent military activities.

Land Day marks a 1976 decision by the Israeli government to seize thousands of dunams of Arab-owned land in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

A senior leader of Hamas, the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, on Wednesday dismissed the outcome of Israel’s election as irrelevant, as near-final results, later confirmed, showed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc had won a clear majority in the Knesset vote.

“All parties are faces of one coin, the coin of occupation,” said Khalil al-Hayya.

He said there was “no difference” between the Israeli parties, and pledged that Gaza’s Hamas rulers — who are committed to Israel’s destruction — would continue seeking to “end the occupation and achieve our national goals.”

On Friday, Palestinians said a 15-year-old was shot and killed during weekly protests along the Gaza Strip border as rioters threw rocks and fire bombs at IDF troops, who responded with tear gas and live fire. Some 7,400 Palestinians gathered for the demonstrations at several sites along the border.