Archive for the ‘Netanyahu and Trump’ category

LIVE NOW President Donald Trump Israel Speech & Press Conference w/ Benjamin Netanyahu 5/22/17

May 22, 2017

LIVE NOW President Donald Trump Israel Speech & Press Conference w/ Benjamin Netanyahu 5/22/17 via YouTube

 

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran

March 9, 2017

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran, Israel Hayom, Ariel Bolstein, March 9, 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow Thursday takes place at an interesting time.

Russia, which has exhausted its military moves in Syria, is searching for a future strategy that will allow it to integrate into the world of U.S. President Donald Trump. Russia has paid a high price for its confrontation with the West. True, as a result of the United States’ geopolitical retreat under former U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian influence has grown on a few fronts, primarily in the Middle East, but this achievement is not worth much without American recognition of Russia’s new-old status as a world power. The changing of the guard in Washington provided Moscow with a unique opportunity to turn the page on its relationship with the West, but the significance of such a change would also mean concessions on its part.

It seems that Russia may meet Trump halfway on the Iranian issue. Russia did not have much in common with the country of Islamic revolution from the outset, and the collaboration between them stems more from a desire on the part of both countries to challenge the existing world order. Indications of Russia’s openness to the idea of turning its back on Iran have been noted on Russian state television. These channels are full of talk shows that focus on current events, and the variety of voices heard on them is effectively controlled by authorities. In recent weeks, these programs have raised the possibility of placing Iran on the sacrificial altar between Moscow and Washington, and this was received with understanding by a majority of participants. One must remember that Putin and as a result the Russian public are determined to witness Russia’s inclusion in the select club of world powers, but they have no interest in dragging others who also claim the crown along with them, and certainly not Iran.

From Israel’s perspective, Netanyahu is now the only statesman to enjoy the trust of and an unprecedented friendship with both the White House and the Kremlin. Israel has succeeded in preserving its interests in the tempest of upheaval in the Middle East, in large part due to the relationship Netanyahu has forged with Putin. The Russians have been forced to honor Israel’s freedom of action in the region and have come to understand full well Israel’s determination to act whenever Israeli considerations require that it do so.

In the Trump era, Israel’s stock has risen even more in the eyes of the Russians. Moscow could not help but notice the special affinity Trump has shown toward Netanyahu and the feelings of solidarity they share. Israel is clearly not operating within a vacuum — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia after Netanyahu, and later in the month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will do the same — but those in the Kremlin must understand the differences in influence among these three figures.

The possible resolution in Syria and its de facto division into regions of influence underscores the need to stop the expansion and strengthening of Iran. Russia needs to understand that Hezbollah’s murderousness and lack of humanity is no different from that of the Sunni terrorists it so mercilessly bombed. There should be one law for the Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly Nusra Front — and Hezbollah. If Russia operates according to this principle, its standing and the security of the region will vastly improve.

On Israel, Trump Confuses only the Confused

February 17, 2017

On Israel, Trump Confuses only the Confused, Power LinePaul Mirengoff, February 17, 2017

(Or perhaps only the willfully confused, some of whom apparently prefer a “final solution” to a mere two state solution, are confused. — DM)

The Washington Post claims that President Trump’s remarks about Israel have led to confusion about how he views the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Reporters William Booth and Anne Gearan say that Israelis are confused, and they site conflicting interpretations of Trump’s several statements.

But Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, whom the Post also quotes, gets to the bottom of the alleged confusion. He says “everyone interprets this as they see fit.”

In reality, Trump’s comments were remarkably clear. Let’s start with the one that got most of the attention: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Trump was saying that if the Israelis and the Palestinians like a two-state solution, he likes it too. Otherwise, he doesn’t.

This is wise. A two-state solution makes sense only if both parties want it. If that’s not the case, there is no sense in America trying to impose it, and Trump won’t waste his time pushing this option. Or so he is saying.

Trump also said to Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Both sides will have to make compromises; you know that, right?” Netanyahu responded: “Both sides.”

Again, there’s nothing puzzling here. “Both sides” means both sides.

Coupled with his statement that he likes the solution both parties like, Trump is maximizing the likelihood of a peace agreement (although, to me, the odds of reaching one remain extremely low). President Obama’s approach was to obsess over a two-state solution and demand major compromises by Israel. The Palestinians believed they could sit back and wait for America to extract such compromises.

Trump has made it clear that both sides need to make compromises and has signaled that he won’t focus on obtaining them from Israel alone. If both parties don’t make concessions on behalf of a two-state solution, he will conclude that this is not the solution both parties like. And he won’t like it either. Or so he is saying.

Trump also told Netanyahu: “I’d like you to hold off on settlements for a little bit.” On the surface, this looks like an attempt to obtain a small concession from Israel. However, I agree with Charles Krauthammer that Trump was trying to bolster Netanyahu’s position in relation to hard-line Israeli politicians who are pushing for a major expansion of settlements, including the building of new ones.

A sensible approach to settlements is permit the natural growth of existing blocs — no community can be expected not to build out as its population expands — but to forego, for “a little bit,” major territorial expansion which would escalate tension, hurt Israel’s international standing, and perhaps make a peace agreement even more difficult to achieve.

Trump’s statement is consistent with this thinking, which, I gather, is the thinking of Netanyahu.

Only the confused are genuinely puzzled by Trump’s statements. Those in the American mainstream media who suggest otherwise are probably just trying to make the American president look confused.

Israeli PM Netanyahu Becomes D.C. Darling as Democrats Clamor for Meetings

February 13, 2017

Israeli PM Netanyahu Becomes D.C. Darling as Democrats Clamor for Meetings, Washington Free Beacon, , February 13, 2017

(“Now that our Dear Leader is gone, we sure do love Israel.” — DM)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON

After years of tense relations with the United States under former President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is emerging as one of the most prominent international personalities, according to multiple sources who told the Washington Free Beacon that Democrats, Republicans, and high-level White House officials are clamoring for a sit down with the Israeli leader when he arrives in town on Tuesday.

Senior officials across party lines hope to let Netanyahu know that America has Israel’s back and that years of tension during the Obama administration is just water under the bridge, according to both congressional sources and those close to the Trump administration.

Netanyahu’s schedule is already packed with powwows between President Trump, senior administration officials, and a cast of leading lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle.

Meetings will center on U.S. lawmakers’ desire to reset relations with the Jewish state. Multiple sources told the Free Beacon that sit downs with White House officials will focus on holding Iran accountable for violations of the nuclear deal, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and combatting efforts at the United Nations to delegitimize Israel.

Netanyahu already has confirmed a 6:30 p.m. dinner Tuesday evening with newly installed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The meeting will take place inside the State Department.

Netanyahu is expected to meet with Trump and other senior officials Wednesday before heading to Capitol Hill, where he will meet with leading Democrats and Republicans.

Netanyahu is expected to take separate meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), sources told the Free Beacon.

Further meetings could take place with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before Netanyahu travels to the House side of the Capitol for an evening meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).

There is a strong desire among all parties to show Netanyahu that after nearly a decade of chilly relations during the former administration, the United States is prepared to restore the historic relationship with the Jewish state.

“Netanyahu’s schedule is so full that he literally can’t find time for all the high level meetings people want to have with him,” said one veteran foreign policy adviser who is closely in touch with the White House on Middle East issues. “The truth of this is, it’s nature taking its course.”

Recent polling shows that support for Israel is at an all-time high among Democrats and Republicans. Democratic lawmakers in particular are no longer being pressured by the former administration to distance themselves from Netanyahu and Israel.

“Without Obama trying to force Democratic lawmakers to choose between Israel and the United States nature is taking its course and everyone wants to see how they can help bolster the U.S.-Israel relationship,” the source said. “Voters want to see this.”

One source characterized Netanyahu as the “cool kid in town.”

On Capitol Hill, senior sources focused on the Middle East expect that lawmakers will emphasize a reset in relations with Israel. They also will seek to reassure Netanyahu that key foreign aid packages to Israel will remain robust and fully funded.

“There’s broad recognition that it’s time to turn a page on years of hostility towards Israel from the Obama administration. President Trump and the Republican Congress are focused on strengthening Israel’s security and the U.S.-Israel relationship—not condemning housing projects in disputed territories and pushing anti-Semitic U.N. resolutions,” said one senior congressional aide familiar with the Israeli leader’s travel itinerary.

“This provides a major opportunity for both the United States and Israel to stand up to Iran and all those who seek to defame and destroy the Jewish state,” the source said. “Given the warm relationship between Bibi and Trump, everyone seems upbeat and optimistic about the future of the alliance moving forward.”

Dennis Ross, a veteran Middle East hand who worked for former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama, told reporters on Monday that there is a strong desire to cast sour relations between the United States and Israel as a byproduct of the Obama administration.

That, Ross said during a conference call hosted by the Israel Project, is the “overriding message that emerges from this week,”

“Democrats will be anxious to show they’re close to Israel as well,” Ross said, adding that Netanyahu will convey the message that Israel’s relationship is with America as a whole, not any one administration.

Beautiful Friendship

February 10, 2017

Beautiful Friendship, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, February 10, 2017

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Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

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Less than a week after he was inaugurated into office, President Donald Trump announced that he had repaired the US’s fractured ties with Israel. “It got repaired as soon as I took the oath of office,” he said.

Not only does Israel now enjoy warm relations with the White House. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in the US capital next week, he will be greeted by the most supportive political climate Israel has ever seen in Washington.

It is true that dangers to Israel’s ties with America lurk in the background. The radical Left is taking control of the Democratic Party.

But the forces now hijacking the party on a whole host of issues have yet to transform their hatred of Israel into the position of most Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

Democrats in both houses of Congress joined with their Republican counterparts in condemning UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that criminalized Israel. A significant number of Democratic lawmakers support Trump’s decision to slap new sanctions on Iran.

Similarly, radical Jewish groups have been unsuccessful in rallying the more moderate leftist Jewish leadership to their cause. Case in point is the widespread support Trump’s appointment of David Friedman to serve as his ambassador to Israel is receiving from the community.

Whereas J Street and T’ruah are circulating a petition calling for people to oppose his Senate confirmation, sources close to the issue in Washington say that AIPAC supports it.

Given this political climate, Netanyahu must use his meeting with Trump to develop a working alliance to secure Israel’s long-term strategic interests both on issues of joint concern and on issues that concern Israel alone.

The first issue on the agenda must be Iran.

Since taking office, Trump has signaled that unlike his predecessors, he is willing to lead a campaign against Iran. Trump has placed Iran on notice that its continued aggression will not go unanswered and he has harshly criticized Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs.

In the lead-up to his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu has said that he will present the new president with five options for scaling back Tehran’s nuclear program. No time can be wasted in addressing this problem.

Iran continues spinning its advanced centrifuges.

The mullahs are still on schedule to field the means to deploy nuclear warheads at will within a decade. Netanyahu’s task is to work with Trump to significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program as quickly as possible.

Then there is Syria. And Russia.

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Here, too, time is of the essence.

According to news reports this week, President Bashar Assad is redeploying his forces to the Syrian border with Israel. Almost since the outset of the war in Syria six years ago, Assad’s forces have been under Iranian and Hezbollah control. If Syrian forces deploy to the border, then Iran and Hezbollah will control the border.

Israel cannot permit such a development. It’s not just that such a deployment greatly expands the risk of war. As long as Russia is acting in strategic alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, the deployment of Iranian-controlled forces to the border raises the real possibility that Israel will find itself at war with Russia in Syria.

Then there are the Sunnis. For the past six years, Netanyahu successfully withstood Obama’s pressure by developing an informal alliance with Sunni regimes that share its opposition to Iran and to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to sources aware of the Trump administration’s strategic plans, the administration wishes to integrate Israel more strongly into Washington’s alliance structure with Sunni regimes. Israel, of course, has good reason to support this plan, particularly if it involves extending the US military’s Central Command to include Israel.

There are, however, significant limitations on the potential of Israel’s ties to Sunni regimes. First, there is the fact that all of these regimes are threatened by Islamist forces operating in their territory and on their borders.

As Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel warned this week, Israel is concerned that in the event any of these regimes is overthrown, the advanced US weapons it fields will fall under the control of Islamist forces.

Then there is the fact that in exchange for taking their relations with Israel out of the proverbial closet, the Arabs will demand that Israel make concessions to the PLO.

This then brings us to the only subject the media is discussing in relation to Netanyahu’s upcoming meeting with Trump: Will Trump push Israel to make concessions to the PLO or won’t he? The short answer is that it doesn’t appear that Trump has the slightest intention of doing so.

Over the past week, the administration has made three statements about the Palestinians.

First, of course, was the White House’s statement about the so-called Israeli settlements that came out last Thursday.

Although nearly all media reports on the statement claimed it aligned Trump with his predecessors in opposition to Israel’s civilian presence in Judea and Samaria, the fact is that the statement was the most supportive statement any US administration has ever made about those communities.

Obama, of course rejected Israel’s right to any civilian presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including in Jerusalem. In his final weeks in office, Obama joined the international mob in falsely castigating Israeli communities in these areas as illegal.

George W. Bush for his part, made a distinction between the so-called settlement blocs and the more isolated Israeli villages in Judea and Samaria. He gave grudging and limited support for Israel’s right to respect the property rights of Jews in the former. He rejected Jewish property rights in the latter.

Trump repudiated both of these positions.

In its statement on Thursday, the administration made no distinction between Jewish property rights in any of the areas. Moreover, the statement did not even reject the construction of new Israeli communities.

According to the text of the statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace.

But, then again, they may be helpful. And then again, they may have no impact whatsoever on the chance of achieving peace.

Not only did the administration’s statement not reject Israel’s right to build new communities, it rejected completely the position of Trump’s predecessors that Israeli communities are an obstacle to peace.

In the administration’s words, “We don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”

After renouncing the positions of its predecessors on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, the administration then refused to say whether its vision for peace includes a Palestinian state.

In line with the Republican Party’s platform that makes no mention of support for Palestinian statehood, the Trump administration continues to question the rationale for supporting a policy that has failed for the past 95 years.

Finally, the administration said it had no comment on the regulations law this week regarding Jewish construction rights in Judea and Samaria.

All White House spokesman Sean Spicer would say was that it would be discussed in Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu.

This brings us back to that meeting, and how Netanyahu should broach the Palestinian issue.

Both from statements by administration sources since the election and from the administration’s refusal to speak with Palestinian Authority officials since Trump’s electoral victory, Trump and his top advisers have made clear that they see no upside to US support for the PLO.

They do not want to support the PLO and they do not want to be dragged into fruitless discussions between Israel and the PLO. For the past 24 years, US mediation of those discussions has weakened America’s position in the region, has weakened Israel and has empowered the PLO and anti-American forces worldwide.

According to sources with knowledge of the administration’s position, Trump views the Israeli- Palestinian conflict as an internal Israeli issue.

He expects Israel to deal with it and do so in a way that stabilizes the region and keeps the Palestinians out of the headlines, to the extent possible.

In this vein, sources with knowledge of administration considerations claim that last Thursday’s White House statement on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria was in part the result of exasperation with Israel’s inability to keep quiet on the issue. Had Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman not announced that they were issuing permits for thousands of building starts in Judea and Samaria, the White House wouldn’t have felt compelled to issue a statement on the matter.

The administration’s desire to disengage from the PLO is well aligned with Israel’s strategic interests. No good has ever come to Israel from US support for the PLO. Moreover, Israel has achieved its greatest strategic successes in relation to determining its borders when it has kept its moves as low key as possible.

For instance, in 1981, when then-prime minister Menachem Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, he did so with no fanfare. Rather than loudly announcing Israel’s right to sovereignty over the area, Begin insisted that the move was done to satisfy administrative imperatives and that Israel would be willing to consider border corrections in the event that Syria became serious about peace at some later date.

Begin’s example should inform Netanyahu’s preparations for his meeting with Trump.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu does not seem to realize the implications of Trump’s lack of interest in following in his predecessors’ footsteps in relation to the PLO.

Over the past few weeks, Netanyahu has insisted that he wishes to coordinate his positions on the Palestinians with the administration. While he should take any concerns Trump voices to him on the issue into consideration, he should also make clear that the administration’s belief that no good has come to the US from its support for the PLO is well-founded. He should also explain Israel’s need to control Area C in perpetuity, and the problem with maintaining military administration of the area. Finally, he should assure Trump that Israel intends to secure its interests in Judea and Samaria in a way than does not impinge on US priorities.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

Trump Changes US Policy on Settlements, But Will Netanyahu Pick Up the Ball?

February 3, 2017

Trump Changes US Policy on Settlements, But Will Netanyahu Pick Up the Ball?, The Jewish PressStephen Leavitt, February 3, 2017

battered-bibi-syndrome-2-768x525Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

The official White House statement thoroughly rejects the JPost’s quote, craftily eliminating both concerns: Trump is not committed to a two-state solution, and he does not consider the settlements an obstacle to peace.

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For the first time in many years, the White House on Thursday released a statement regarding Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria without the adjectives “illegal” or “illegitimate” next to the word “settlements.”

While not 100 percent perfect — a policy of benign neglect would be best — it is clearly a complete turnaround from previous administration positions, particularly former-President Obama’s “not one brick anywhere” policy, including Jerusalem.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the Press Secretary

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal. As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

In other words, what began a few months ago as a video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking why should having Jews living in Judea and Samaria be considered an impediment to peace – is now US foreign policy.

 

In addition to the biggest item of recognizing the legitimacy of the settlements, by omitting the words “illegal” and “illegitimate,” the statement actually declares, for all the world to see: “We don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”

It should be noted that even that one seemingly negative-note in the Trump statement against new settlements or expansion isn’t exactly that:

“the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

First of all, the statement gives implicit approval to construction within existing settlements, and not just to communities within the settlement blocs (i.e. Gush Etzion, Ariel, etc), but rather to all settlements. This is a much wider definition, and includes many smaller Jewish communities that exist outside of the blocs, representing some 80,000 Jews.

Not to name names, but that’s more settlement legitimacy than what even some members of Netanyahu’s cabinet recognize.

Furthermore, it doesn’t actually forbid or rebuke Israel if it does build a new settlement or expand beyond the borders of an existing one. The White House statement merely questions if it is helpful to achieving peace, and leaves that question open for further discussion.

The other glaring omission in the Trump White House statement is the term “two-state solution,” so beloved by every Administration since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Why, only last Wednesday, the new, relatively pro-Israel UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had his spokesperson release a statement saying that,

“the recent announcement by the Israeli Government to advance 5,000 settlement units in the occupied West Bank could […] threaten to unravel plans for a two-State solution between Israelis and Palestinians. […] We once again warn against any unilateral actions that can be an obstacle to a negotiated two-state solution.”

Having praised the Trump statement so much, it’s also easy to realize that there must be some conflict within the Administration over the settlements issue, with one faction obviously pushing the traditional State Department line.

Rumor has it that the White House statement was released not so much as a response to Netanyahu’s recent settlement construction announcements, but in response to an unauthorized leak from within the Administration to the Jerusalem Post, which the latter reported Thursday:

“The White House warned Israel on Thursday to cease settlement announcements that are ‘unilateral’ and ‘undermining’ of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. For the first time, the administration confirmed that Trump is committed to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict negotiated between the parties.”

The official White House statement thoroughly rejects the JPost’s quote, craftily eliminating both concerns: Trump is not committed to a two-state solution, and he does not consider the settlements an obstacle to peace.

Indeed, the White House statement acknowledges the value and validity of the Israeli PM in forging US foreign policy:

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

This is tantamount to an Obama statement saying: “The Obama administration will decide on the Iran nuclear deal after continued discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits to speak to Congress on March 3, 2015.” Yes, that’s how impossibly big this statement is.

It is now entirely up to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Will Netanyahu have what it takes to change forever Israel’s future? Will he take full advantage of Trump’s invitation to help forge US foreign policy in a way that bolsters the Zionist vision? Will he step back from his Bar Ilan speech, and return to his former, maximalist positions?

From the White House statement it appears that the ball is completely in Netanyahu’s court.

Trump-Putin deal on Syria bears on Israel security

January 28, 2017

Trump-Putin deal on Syria bears on Israel security, DEBKAfile, January 28, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks through binoculars during his visit in the Northern district border of Israel on August 18, 2015. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO *** Local Caption *** ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ?????? ?????? ????? ????? ???? ????

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks through binoculars during his visit in the Northern district border of Israel on August 18, 2015. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

1. Will Washington and Moscow go through with the expulsion from Syria of Iranian forces and their proxies, including Hizballah – and take it all the way until it is accomplished?

2. After they are gone, who will take over the areas they evacuate?

3. Will Bashar Assad stay on as president, or has his successor been nominated?

4. The most burning question of all is the level of Hizballah’s armament. Not only must Hizballah forces be pushed out of Syria, but it is essential to strip them of their sophisticated new weaponry, including missiles. Israel’s military and security chiefs assess Hizballah’s arsenal as having been upgraded in recent weeks to a level that directly impinges on Israel’s security.

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It would be a mistake to take it for granted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s talks with President Donald Trump in Washington early next month will be plain sailing or produce an automatic shower of benefits for the Jewish state. It is understood in Jerusalem that a new order is unfolding close to Israel’s borders, which is not yet fully in the sights of its government, military and intelligence leaders. This process is going forward at dizzying speed in Syria, currently the central Middle East arena, where Presidents Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to cooperate.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May picked up fast on the new power equation. After standing before the media with the US President Friday, Jan. 27, and declaring hopefully, “Britain and the US can once again lead the world together,” she decided to fly straight from Washington to Ankara Saturday, before returning home.

The outcome of her first meeting with President Erdogan was one of the fastest defense collaboration pacts ever negotiated for trade and the war on terror. The British leader lost no time in getting down to brass tacks on how British military and intelligence can be integrated in the joint US-Russian-Turkish military steps for Syria. Erdogan did not exactly receive her with open arms. He did not afford his visitor the courtesy of placing a British flag in the reception room in his palace.

Israel is in much the same position. Israel stayed out of military involvement in the Syrian civil war, according to a policy led by Netanyahu, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and OC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Avivi Kochavi (then Direct of Military Intelligence). This policy has left Israel out of today’s decision-making loop on Syria’s future.

Towards the end of 2015, shortly after Russia embarked on its massive military intervention in the Syrian conflict, Netanyahu took steps for safeguarding Israel’s security interests by setting up a direct line with the Russian president. It was translated into a military coordination mechanism between the Russian air force command in Syria and the Israeli air force, with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of General Staff, and Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, Israel’s Deputy Chief of Staff, in charge of this direct military link.

Any problems that could not be solved at the military level were promptly turned over to be addressed at meetings or in phone calls between Netanyahu and Putin.

In one example, the prime minister obtained an undertaking from the Russian president to keep Iranian forces and Iran’s Shiite surrogates, including the Lebanese Hizballah, away from the Syrian-Israeli border, or allow them to use borderlands to send terrorists into Israel.

Shortly after Trump’s election victory (Nov. 8, 2016), the spadework on his collaboration with Putin was quietly begun by their national security advisers, Michael Flynn, in New York and Nikiolai Platonovich Patrushev in Moscow.

Jerusalem knew what was going on, but was taken aback by the speed at which those close understandings ripened into US-Russian deals on the ground. Before Trump had finished his first week in the White House, US warplanes had escorted a Russian air strike against ISIS in Syria.

This rush of events injects further urgency into Netanyahu forthcoming talks with the US president.  Whereas in the second term of the Obama presidency, the Israeli leader was wont to travel to Moscow or Sochi to sort out security problems relating to Syria, henceforth he must directly engage Donald Trump as the lead player.

So when the Israeli premier travels to the White House next month, he will have to address four pressing concerns, all relating to the fast-moving Syrian scene:

1. Will Washington and Moscow go through with the expulsion from Syria of Iranian forces and their proxies, including Hizballah – and take it all the way until it is accomplished?

2. After they are gone, who will take over the areas they evacuate?

3. Will Bashar Assad stay on as president, or has his successor been nominated?

4. The most burning question of all is the level of Hizballah’s armament. Not only must Hizballah forces be pushed out of Syria, but it is essential to strip them of their sophisticated new weaponry, including missiles. Israel’s military and security chiefs assess Hizballah’s arsenal as having been upgraded in recent weeks to a level that directly impinges on Israel’s security.