Putin’s Kremlin subverting Israeli democracy?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(FOLKS, THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT ARTICLE, PLEASE TAKE A FEW MOMENTS TO READ THIS)

Is Putin’s Kremlin subverting Israeli democracy? A Russia expert thinks so

A devastating, complacency-shattering interview with Ilya Zaslavskiy, one of the world’s leading experts on Moscow’s overt and covert designs on the West

Main image by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

WASHINGTON, United States — Despite the global headlines about Russian meddling in foreign elections, Israeli experts have thus far expressed little concern that it could happen here.

At Tel Aviv University’s CyberWeek cybersecurity conference in June, for instance, Israeli officials made light of the impact of fake news and foreign influence campaigns on Israeli society. Fake news is a “nuisance,” Eviatar Matania, head of the National Cyber Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office, told a panel at the conference, not a major threat. Other speakers said they had seen no signs of Russian influence campaigns targeting Israel.

But the recent release by researchers at Clemenson University of three million Russian troll tweets created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency between 2012 and 2018 paints a different picture.

Reporters from Israel’s Channel 10 News found that tens of thousands of the tweets dealt with Israel and the region and some were written in Hebrew, indicating they were indeed targeting Israelis and people who care about Israel.

Ilya Zaslavskiy, a Washington, DC-based expert on Russia and head of research at the Free Russia Foundation — a nonprofit led by Russians abroad that says it “seeks to be a voice for those who can’t speak under the repression of the current Russian leadership” — told The Times of Israel that he would be extremely surprised if Russia weren’t carrying out covert influence campaigns in Israel.

“We now know for a fact that Russia has been interfering on a massive scale in US, German and UK elections and referendums,” said Zaslavskiy, who is also a member of the advisory board at the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative and an academy associate at Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) think tank.

Ilya Zaslavskiy (Courtesy)

“We know that they intervened in the Catalonia referendum as well as a referendum on Ukraine in Holland. They continue to interfere in the US midterms and they have been meddling in all sorts of local elections in Eastern Europe. and the post-Soviet space,” he said. “So why wouldn’t they interfere in Israeli elections when Israel is so important to their strategic interests?”

Asked why Israel is of interest to Russia, Zaslavskiy, who is Jewish and immigrated to the United States from Russia as a young adult, said that “Israel is of strategic importance to the Kremlin  — because Israel is actually one of the forces that could contain Russia, could prevent some of the abuses that Russians are carrying out.”

He cited, for instance, developments in Syria. “Israel is not a great friend of Assad, but now the Israeli government has sort of accepted that Russians uphold him and have got a foothold in Syria,” he said. Asked how things could have been different, Zaslavskiy replied “Israel could have been more vocal and critical about Russia’s role in Syria.”

This December 11, 2017 photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Syrian President Bashar Assad watching troops march at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

More generally, “you could have expelled some of the Russian oligarchs, you could have prevented some of the money laundering,” he said. “You could actually impose some sanctions on Russia and limit their influence in your country.”

Why hadn’t that happened? During a deeply disconcerting interview in the US capital Zaslavskiy offered some insights. And as the conversation developed, he moved rapidly beyond election meddling to a wider, nightmare vision of an ascendant Russia, with Western democracies weakened and outflanked. Regarding Israel specifically, he described covert, Russian-led processes already unfolding that he believes are undermining the rule of law and democracy itself, and set out specific measures that he believes must urgently be taken if the decline is to be halted and contained.

An existential danger

Zaslavskiy believes that both Israel and the West face an existential danger from Russia unless the problem of covert and overt Russian influence is fully acknowledged and decisive measures are taken to combat it. He says most of the West fails to grasp the gravity of the threat, which includes not just efforts to meddle in elections but the exporting of corruption and criminality from post-Soviet countries to the West, thereby undermining democracy itself.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018. (AFP/ Pool/Yuri Kadobnov)

In a recent report for the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative entitled “How Non-State Actors Export Kleptocratic Norms to the West,” Zaslavskiy argues that the West did not in fact win the Cold War and that its norms and values, like democracy and the rule of law, are very much in peril.

“When the Soviet empire collapsed in 1991, it was widely believed that Western-style democracy and liberal capitalism based on free elections, separation of powers and the rule of law would eventually take root in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and other regions emerging from the Cold War,” he writes. “Even when ex-Communist Party leaders and representatives of Soviet security services returned to power throughout the former Soviet Union (FSU) in the late 1990s to mid-2000s, mainstream political thought never once doubted the inevitability of democracy’s march across the globe. Experts debated speed and direction, but rarely questioned the ultimate destination.”

The West has largely failed to export its democratic norms and is instead witnessing an increasingly coordinated assault on its own value system

In reality, Zaslavskiy goes on, “the West has largely failed to export its democratic norms and is instead witnessing an increasingly coordinated assault on its own value system. This destructive import of corrupt practices and norms comes not only from post-Soviet kleptocratic regimes like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia, but also from China and other countries around the world whose ruling elites now possess far-reaching financial and political interests in the West.”

The new norms being exported to the West, which he dubs neo-Gulag norms, include the idea that those in power are the only real and rightful decision-makers and that the rest are ultimately “prison dust.”

Another such norm, he writes, is that “everything and everyone is for sale, or at least susceptible to manipulation or some form of control.” And finally, the Russian ruling elite believes that “individual human life does not matter anywhere, unless it is someone from their inner circle or equally as powerful as they are.”

The Times of Israel sat down with Zaslavskiy at a cafe in Washington, DC, to discuss the connections between Putin, Israel, organized crime, election meddling and the decline of democracy in the West.

The Times of Israel: There has been a lot of talk about Russian influence campaigns and Russian interference in elections. What aspect of this threat do you think people in the West are failing to grasp?

Ilya Zaslavskiy: They are failing to grasp two main things. First they think that the corruption, criminality and anti-democratic developments that happen in a place like Russia have very little to do with their own life or their own country. That’s the first delusion.

Today, everything is so much more integrated. When criminal groups supported by security services are allowed to do things in their own country, they immediately export their practices and values to the West, to safe havens where they can actually not only keep their money but can continue their activities.

There are many oligarchs of Jewish background from the post-Soviet space, from Russia, Kazakhstan and the Caucasus, who earned their money in a very dirty way in the 1990s and 2000s, and now they’ve moved to Israel

The second thing people fail to realize is that, unlike during the Cold War, there are open channels of business that these kleptocrats can exploit to export their norms and practices legally.

You see a lot of money from kleptocratic countries pouring into the West and paying for lawyers, lobbyists, PR people, even journalists, as well as former security people and security companies. In Soviet times this was not possible. Today, a Russian kleptocrat can continue his criminal activities in the West in broad daylight, without being prosecuted and hardly being covered by the press.

How might this be happening in Israel, and how might Israelis not be aware of it?

There are many oligarchs of Jewish background from the post-Soviet space, from Russia, Kazakhstan and the Caucasus, who earned their money in a very dirty way in the 1990s and 2000s, and now they’ve moved to Israel.

Some have Israeli citizenship and operate abroad and some operate in Israel. It’s not only that they have a luxurious lifestyle, throw fancy parties and buy amazing real estate. That’s another delusion in the West. Many Westerners believe that oligarchs bring their dirty money to their new country but merely as consumers.

In fact, they start to invest in assets — in strategic assets, in politics and in newspapers.

The vast majority of oligarchs can be hired on an ad-hoc basis by the Russian state or Kazakh state, and can be exploited for political purposes by this kleptocratic state.

I recently co-authored a report — “How to Select Russian Oligarchs for New Sanctions?” — that explains why and under what criteria the US government should add oligarchs like the Alfa Group oligarchs to sanctions.

There are very powerful figures with lots of money, lobbyists and PR support in Israel. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu shows up at events with some of them.

Let’s say you have an oligarch who is close to Putin. What would they be doing in Israel? Why should Israelis care?

They can do multiple things. First, they can normalize Kremlin narratives about Israeli interests.

For example, the way they present Russia’s place in the Syrian conflict, in relations with enemies of Israel like Iran, or concerning the Soviet diaspora in Israel.

I’m sure they help promote Kremlin propaganda about the Second World War and Russia’s [ostensibly] almost exclusive role defeating the Nazis. And they peddle the Jewish veterans’ theme with the orange and black St. George ribbon. It’s a ribbon that commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazism that has come to be associated with Russian propaganda against Ukraine and against the West — how the West never really stood up to the Nazis, for example. These are not just historical narratives; they are very useful for today’s politics.

Above and photo at top: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, on May 9, 2018. Both men are wearing the orange and black St. George ribbon (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

But the other thing oligarchs can do in Israel is to co-opt the elite, under the guise of cultural and charity events. They can throw fancy parties with caviar and beautiful women and invite politicians. They have held these receptions around Western capitals. I have followed some of these in London, as well as here in Washington.

Why would a Russian oligarch own a newspaper or TV station?

They may have financial interests and hope to make money but for many of them it is not done for commercial purposes. The reason is to support politicians through the media, and that allows you to get a foothold in the government. You do nice things for the government and then they do nice things for you in return. You establish a relationship and it’s a long-term thing.

It’s all very interconnected. The payback is not immediate but it’s a very solid investment.

Let’s say a Russian oligarch moves to Israel and starts investing in all kinds of businesses and giving money to charity. Why not just assume he’s retired?

No one from that world of state security or organized crime is off the hook because the Russian state has too much compromising material on them, as well as incentives. Also, if you don’t comply you can be eliminated. There is now a book on how Putin most likely ordered killings of dozens of people inside Russia and outside Russia who did not comply with his interests, including from his own security services or organized crime.

A file photo taken on September 14, 2004, shows Alexander Litvinenko (L), a former Russian intelligence agent, speaking at a press conference in London. (AFP PHOTO / MARTIN HAYHOW)

For example, he first used polonium not on Alexander Litvinenko but most likely on Roman Tsepov, who was part of the organized crime group in St. Petersburg in the 1990s that allegedly worked closely with Putin during his rise to power. It’s easier for anyone to comply. There are many oligarchs abroad that he uses on an ad-hoc basis. It’s switch on, switch off. It’s not too demanding or too crazy, and it’s actually acceptable to most of these people.

What’s the connection between the Russian state and organized crime?

In Soviet times there were three worlds that were distinct — with separate, even contradictory, goals. There was the Communist Party, the security services and organized crime. Organized crime was more or less antagonistic to the Soviet regime.

Organized crime and its networks have become part of the Kremlin’s political instruments abroad, including in Israel

Under Putin these three worlds collided and fused and learned from each other. Security services now oversee the businesses of organized criminal groups. Organized criminal groups carry out the political building and conduct operations for the Kremlin. The ideology of the Communist Party was thrown down the drain but the cynical and pragmatic practices, like co-opting the far right, co-opting the far left, co-opting Christianity or Judaism, remained.

You co-opt whoever is important to you in any given country. You can even contradict yourself in different countries but just divide and rule through all these channels — through ideology, through organized criminal groups, through corruption. Organized crime and its networks have become part of the Kremlin’s political instruments abroad, including in Israel.

If there were a Georgian or Russian oligarch who wanted to open hundreds of call centers throughout Israel and scam people abroad out of money, is that something that co-opting the elite would allow them to do?

Yes. But compared to corruption in Russia which involves billions for a single road or pipeline, binary options and forex are a relatively small-scale fraud. Russia as a state is also involved in hacking and dodgy cryptocurrencies; we now know that for a fact from Robert Mueller’s investigation. Russia as a state, especially its security services and associated oligarchs, are involved in all sorts of dodgy things, including in the digital realm.

Someone like Putin would not follow specific criminal activities like binary options, but he sits at the top of a pyramid and there might be levies that make their way from an Israel-based criminal enterprise all the way to the top.

Why would a Georgian or Russian criminal decide to put call centers in Israel of all places?

For a variety of reasons. Corrupt Russian money penetrates any vulnerable spot in the world. The criminality has not just penetrated Israel. It’s in Europe, in Asia, the Middle East and the US.

Why do there seem to be many Jewish oligarchs?

It’s a very useful topic to anti-Semitic circles and it’s not true. Maybe in the late 80s and 90s indeed there were a lot, perhaps too many, visible Jewish oligarchs because of the legacy of the Soviet era and tsarism. Jews had been marginalized and pushed into the black market. They traditionally had math skills, due to the way they were raised, and they helped each other, as does any minority network; ethnic minorities tend to help each other.

Under Putin, I think it’s a specific propaganda tool to expose Jewish oligarchs much more than the rest of the oligarchs. “Oligarch” is actually no longer a useful term in my view, because it suggests that they still have some power. They lost all their power to Putin. Their only currency today is loyalty, it’s not dollars.

Half of the major Jewish events that I see here in Washington, the fancy ones where you can co-opt elites, are co-sponsored by Russian oligarchs

Whatever dollars they have in their accounts can be taken away from them at a snap. Yes, they can store their money offshore but they can’t stop working for the Kremlin. Most of them still own too much in Russia and there are too many hooks and levers on them.

There is no distinction between public and private property in Russia. Everything is owned in one way or another by the Kremlin. So the money that they give as donations, very often they are asked to give the donation. And they have no choice but to give it.

Actually, the Russian state tries to present some of these oligarchs as if they are no longer with the regime, as if they are now in the West. It’s all very misleading. I could count actual Russian oligarchs who are completely removed from the Russian state with one hand.

What about Leonid Nevzlin?

Well, Nevzlin is one of the exceptions. He was ousted from Russia. Mikhail Khodorkovsky too.

I don’t like the term oligarch. I prefer the term handlers, operatives, maybe agents, rich agents. Many of them are actually front men for the money that they ostensibly have. It’s not actually considered fully their money. I’m sure they’re representing some of the Kremlin money, just under the guise of it being their money.

Just to return to your question about the Jewish oligarchs. Currently there are many rich and powerful security people around Putin. They are mostly Russian or a variety of nationalities, but they are secretive and very well protected. Some of the federal ministers as well. Most of the Russian Duma and government are millionaires. They’re just officials but they have the lifestyle of a mini-oligarch.

Should we feel sorry for the oligarchs? It sounds like they can’t escape their gilded cages.

Well some of them managed to escape and these are very exceptional, but obviously at a very high cost to themselves.

There are actually many whistleblowers and refugees from the Russian regime, some of them reformed, some of them not. London has a lot of people like that. Some of them managed to take out some money while others didn’t. They lost a lot, some involuntarily because they fell out of the system. Only few deserve any kind of empathy. Otherwise it’s a very complicated and dark world.

Why do oligarchs give so much money to Jewish and Israeli charities, especially religious ones?

It’s co-option and soft power, and they may be even be using these charities to give political donations.

For themselves, it’s reputation-laundering and legitimacy. It also allows them to advance narratives that are useful to the Kremlin — like about World War II.

If you look at the list of art galleries, museums, and all sorts of Jewish organizations, in New York, Europe and Israel that are associated with Putin’s oligarchs, you will be absolutely amazed

For instance, this whole debate about Ukraine. Russia tries to say the current government is a Nazi government, and how all of western Ukraine and their parties are anti-Semitic, how the West opened a second front in World War II at too late a stage and did not help Russia. The Kremlin can co-opt Jews to promote these narratives.

And then there are the May 9th celebrations [V-Day, commemorating the surrender of the Nazis in 1945] by Russia around the world, including in Israel on a large scale now.

Funding Jewish charities also gives them access to people. If you have a high-level event at the Metropolitan Museum or the Museum of Jewish History, you get access to politicians so you can co-opt them. If you look at the list of art galleries, museums, and all sorts of Jewish organizations, in New York, Europe and Israel that are associated with Putin’s oligarchs, you will be absolutely amazed and stunned. MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum, operas, Carnegie Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery. The list is endless.

Half of the major Jewish events that I see here in Washington, the fancy ones where you can co-opt elites, are co-sponsored by Russian oligarchs.

I’m sure that Russian oligarchs have managed to co-opt many politicians in Israel.

Look at [the rise in Russia of] Chabad. People in Chabad say, “We are just promoting the Jewish legacy. At least there is no anti-Semitism under Putin.” They find all sorts of excuses [to be supportive of Putin]. Before Putin, Chabad was a marginal group, at least in the former Soviet Union.

Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman seen with Russian-Israeli World War II veterans, as they take part in the Veterans Day parade in honor of the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany, at the Knesset. May 8, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

What is the Russian ruling class’s goal in Israel?

To create an environment — a political environment and economic environment — where it’s too difficult for Israel to resist some of the strategic interests of the Kremlin in the region. Not to oppose Russia’s interests.

But they’re also interested in subverting democracy. A strategic goal for the next few years is to subvert democracy in the West. In some ways they have already succeeded, and the appetite comes with food, as they say. So once they subvert democracy, the goal is to advance more corruption, more vested interests and then just turn the whole West into a corrupt world.

Why do they want to turn the West into a corrupt world?

Because then you can engage in what Russians love, which is realpolitik. Whoever is strong gets his own zone of influence and no one else can interfere. Russia would like to divide the world into zones of interest.

Look at what they did with influencing the American elections and possibly Brexit.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President Donald Trump talk as they attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. (AFP/Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev)

By the time of the 2016 elections in the United States, Russians already had all sorts of Putin understanders and supporters in the press, in the lobbying groups, in business circles, in chambers of commerce, among politicians, even in Congress. They have all these people who are associated with Russia through attending events at the Russian Embassy, going to conferences in Russia and Europe, sitting on boards of Russian companies or galleries associated with Russian money. It’s all done through open channels.

There are several think tanks in Washington which are completely subverted by Russians and that put forward narratives useful to the Kremlin about everything — from Ukraine, to Israel, to corruption. That acts as a force against an independent press, independent thinking, because you can pollute the whole policymaking and debating environment

They also influence think tanks and their debates and narratives about Russia. There are several think tanks in Washington, for example, which are completely subverted by Russians and that put forward narratives useful to the Kremlin about everything — from Ukraine, to Israel, to corruption — and that acts as a force against an independent press, independent thinking, because you can pollute the whole policymaking and debating environment.

Why does Putin want to destroy democracy? Because it competes with his patronage system?

Yes. If I had to judge, I think it’s just his enormous lust for power and he’s a control freak. He just can’t get enough. But maybe, some people suggest that his circle pressures him. I would imagine they pressure each other and it’s a constant game of power, so he has to stay afloat and show benefits.

You’ve said you think journalists are not writing enough about Putin and his oligarchs?

I see it as a huge problem that the Western press is just incapable of covering many of these topics. The press has been marginalized by the internet, so it’s a global trend. Newspapers have lower budgets, they struggle more for advertising, there is much more private and partisan ownership of media outlets. These are all global trends but they influence coverage on Russia also.

Even high-level, big outlets like The New York Times and Guardian face extremely aggressive, litigious teams of lawyers and lobbyists of these oligarchs who have infinite pockets and can afford long legal fights.

Many newspapers don’t have proper foreign country correspondents. If they do, they have to write quick articles, like one per week without delving into difficult topics. Then there is a vicious cycle where complicated cases about Russia are not covered in the West and so there is no interest about them. And since there is no interest there is no coverage.

The first stage is that you lose transparency, democracy and good governance. Israel is already losing that

Very often I found that I wasn’t able to put important topics out there just because it was too complicated for the journalist to write. Not even because of libel issues or because of time constraints. He or she would say, “My editor will not take it through because it’s too complicated. It delves too much into Russian detail.”

Most amazingly, most major media outlets do not have a full-time Russian translator and researcher who can fully devote his or her time to the most basic background research for the few investigative journalists that these outlets struggle to support.

What will happen to Israel if it does nothing about the corrupt kleptocratic influence you describe?

The first stage is that you lose transparency, democracy and good governance. Israel is already losing that. There is no longer separation of powers. There is prevalence of the executive. There is organized crime and no one takes action against it. The police do nothing. This is the first step.

Israel may give up many of its positions in Syria very soon. I can’t exclude that.

What definitely will happen if we continue on the current trajectory is that the entire West will turn into some kind of Hong Kong. where superficially it is democracy. It has some kind of elections, it looks capitalist and there is modern technology, but in reality a corrupt, non-democratic government actually runs it.

For the average person what does that mean? That you’re either a criminal or you’re poor?

Exactly, if you don’t become part of the corrupt network, you’re much worse off. You’ll be on the sidelines, as happens now in post-Soviet states. There will be growing income inequality, shady deals, no social mobility and all these problems that are associated with semi-corrupt authoritarian states.

There may still be some semblance of democracy. The press will do fewer and fewer investigations and more entertainment and brainwashing. It will be much more partisan — so the only differences of opinion you can get is from vested interests, not from independent and objective civil society.

What can be done?

It’s a very harsh, difficult choice. The first step is acknowledgement of what is going on, followed by investigations and revelations of all these things.

I am not even sure what can trigger such acknowledgement and exposure. Even the meddling in US elections has not triggered the United States enough, although at least something is happening.

After this acknowledgement happens, you need a very robust policy of containment. There is no other choice.

People walking near Red Square in Moscow, Russia. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Some money flows have to be stopped; some people have to be kicked out of your country, or even stripped of their Western citizenship. There must be much stricter anti-money laundering and due diligence of companies, and auditors should hire Russian or Georgian or Chinese translators to look into the background of people trying to buy assets in the West.

Security services have to have a major say in any strategic purchase related to security, defense or the national interest.

And then obviously there should be more funds for independent investigative reporters. I am friends with an organization called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). They tell me that to train one proper investigative journalist and to keep him safe and to keep him protected from libel suits, you have to have a budget of about $300,000 a year, maybe $400,000.

If your readers care about Israel, about keeping it democratic, there should definitely be some civil society efforts

When societies start investing in investigative journalism like that, that’s when the job will be done. And it can’t be one investigative journalist. You have to have dozens.

If your readers care about Israel, about keeping it democratic, there should definitely be some civil society efforts, some donations, some Kickstarters. Ultimately people should understand that this will hit them back in terms of their own welfare and their access to democratic institutions, but ultimately even economically.

It could happen in very unexpected ways. Your child could end up in a war with Syria, or some conflict instigated by Russia somewhere in the world. In a way this is a repetition of the 1930s. No one thought that events in Nazi Germany would have any repercussions for the United States. But then the country ended up fighting the Germans when it was too late.

Could this covert Russian influence constitute a factor in a future Israeli war?

The West is like a small clean lake, or relatively clean lake, in the middle of a swamp. And the floodgates have been opened

What people in general in the West should understand is that the West and NATO are now becoming a minority force in the world; the power of the United States is declining. These large authoritarian states are taking over if not the world then at least Eurasia, countries like China and Malaysia that are not going to become democratic any time soon. The richer they get, the more authoritarian and the more aggressive and expansionist they become.

Democratic countries are becoming like an oasis in the desert. A better metaphor is that the West is like a small clean lake, or relatively clean lake, in the middle of a swamp. And the floodgates have been opened. It’s not like the small lake will clean up the swamp. It’s the other way around. So unless you close the doors and put some filters in place, you will be taken over as a swamp as well.

It won’t be easy. Consumption in the West will have to be scaled back from those money flows from Eurasia. Some industries will have to suffer, especially those that benefit from gas and oil contracts, as well as lobbyists, PR people, lawyers, all offshore accountants and real estate people. They will have to suffer; they will not make as much money.

But the society as a whole will benefit and be able to hold on to its values, like due diligence and good governance.

In terms of Israel specifically, if this does not happen, then I think the NATO alliance will be marginalized and might have to be involved in conflicts it doesn’t want. And then Israel will be much more on its own against its foes, and might not receive as much American help as it might hope to in such circumstances.

So all this has direct security implications for Israel as a society, and Israel as a state, unfortunately.

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13.    Renowned Economist Rips Trump As A Gibbering, ‘Delusional’ Threat, https://www.gardenweb.com/discussions/5332761/renowned-economist-rips-trump-as-a-gibbering-delusional-threat;
14.    The Mark Taylor – Trump Prophecy is a Delusion, http://watchmanscry.com/?p=6326;
15.    The myth and the reality of Donald Trump’s business empire, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/29/the-myth-and-the-reality-of-donald-trumps-business-empire/;
16.    The terrible truth about Trump’s latest assault on immigrants, http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/terrible-truth-trump-latest-assault-immigrants-article-1.4017625;
17.    The True Face Of The Dalai Lama, http://www.ascertainthetruth.com/att/index.php/comparative-religion/where-religions-differ/717-the-true-face-of-the-dalai-lama;
18.    THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT PRESIDENT TRUMP’S EXTREME ANTI-IMMIGRANT CAMPAIGN, https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/06/22/ugly-truth-about-president-trumps-extreme-anti-immigrant-campaign;
19.    The uncomfortable truth about Christian support for Trump, https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/the-uncomfortable-truth-about-christian-support-for-trump;
20.    The World Can’t Afford Donald Trump: Narcissist-in-Chief, https://www.politicususa.com/2015/12/02/world-donald-trump-narcissist-in-chief.html;
21.    Trump an Asset of the Russian Government? http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50064.htm;
22.    Trump Supporters Aren’t Stupid. They’re Foolish, http://thefederalist.com/2016/05/18/trump-supporters-arent-stupid-theyre-foolish/;
23.    Trump’s Lies vs. Your Brain, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/donald-trump-lies-liar-effect-brain-214658;
24.    What’s Wrong With The News These Days? https://www.opednews.com/articles/What-s-Wrong-With-The-News-by-Samuel-Vargo-Fake-Media_Media_Media-And-Democracy_President-180817-426.html;
25.    Why are Trump’s lies not ruinous to him? http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-met-grossman-trump-lies-supporters-20180621-story.html;
26.    Why Do Trump Voters Believe His Lies? https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-do-trump-voters-believe-his-lies-heres-a-hint_us_58d9389ae4b0f633072b3a1b.
Sadly such a deluded, demented and deranged fool has his followers which lead to this question, “Who’s the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him?” as he is leading that deluded, demented and deranged part of the world, America(ns) and westernized oriental Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese, Japanese, Singapore Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese fools to wage wicked wars against the other part of the world from Turkey, Russia, Iran to China. So gullible are those Americans which should serve as a warning to wise Americans NOT to follow every and any false prophets and their false prophecies! Pity the fools, and pray to our Father God of truth to lead and guide us by His Spirit of truth and word of truth to the way of truth, the only path to life!
Thanks, most gratefully & sincerely yours,
_________________________________
The Way of Truth is the Only Path to Life!
———————————————————————–
On Sun, 8/19/18, John Robles <[email protected]> wrote:
Subject: Don’t let them erase us from history
To: “John Robles” <[email protected]>
Date: Sunday, August 19, 2018, 10:49 PM
Dear Friends,
The Globalist criminals are getting bolder and bolder in Moscow but although they believe they are pounding nails into our coffin they opposite is true. Yesterday for no reason at all we were blocked on VK, right after I reached 4,000 followers/friends. Coincidence? No… Then today I found out that all of the audio for my years of interviews at the Voice of Russia have been deleted as have all the audio files of the thousand so of radio shows and journalistic work that was done by the Voice of Russia World Service. I have curated all of my work and have reserves and will now be uploading all of the interviews onto our server. This is a huge load on the server and is temporary. We need to buy a second server for these files and as a reserve because if anything happens to ours we are done. Some of you on this list have interviews I am hosting and this should worry you as well.In short they are trying to re-write history and cover-up 911 and Israeli Saudi crimes. I have found some never before published interviews such as this one with Dr Scott Bennet… It was my last interview with the VOR and if you listen as I just did you will understand why. We exposed their entire house of cards and Dr Bennet did it as only he could. You can listen and download and spread for free here http://www.jar2.com/Interviews/Scott_Bennett.html and stay tuned for new downloadable files and interviews here: http://www.jar2.com/Interviews/All_Interviews.html I encourage all of you to spread and share and download these interviews as they will simply disappear forever if anything happens to my server or me. Rebroadcast, publish, quote, use anyway you want just include a link and a request to support our fight. These are my 100% legal intellectual property and you have my permission to use and spread…If you do broadcast or republish please send me a link and I will place it on the appropriate page. To describe what it is like to watch as you are erased from history is something that I can not describe but which I ask you to help prevent.Sincerely your friend in truth,
John Robles
Found this too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_granted_asylum
__________________________________________
On Sat, 8/18/18, John Robles <[email protected]> wrote:
Subject: Please read and help the fight for truth
To: “John Robles” <[email protected]>
Date: Saturday, August 18, 2018, 1:52 PM
Dear All,Best of the day to all of you. I am writing to you all to ask those of you in the USA to please remember that we are human beings over here and that the Internet as a means of communication belongs to the entire world. I also ask you to remember that even though me and my family have asylum in Russia we are still human beings and we were forced to leave and continue to be targeted for attempting to expose the crimes of an illegal, unconstitutional government in the US that is not of the people. These global attempts by the US and the Shadow Government of the Corporation to hide their crimes by dumbing down the populace and silencing anyone who threatens to expose them is a clear and unarguable indication that you are, and we are living in a world that has been taken over by lunatics whose only agenda is securing global domination for themselves.We have human rights and basic rights as human beings and those rights for me and my family continue to be violated even though we have asylum in Russia. This has being brought home for us again with a block from VK which is now owned by someone who fled Russia and is now a UK citizen and is helping in the insane campaign of the elites to demonize and destroy Russia.  As a human being I have a right to make a living and I count on 6the Internet to do so, it is also my only voice therefore it is also a violation of my human right to have a voice. As a journalist this censorship is a violation of my right to perform my responsibility to inform. The criminals have divided the people and politicized the demonization of anyone who threatens to expose them. Something I have been doing for years but that is my responsibility as a journalist and my right to perform that function outweighs their right to hide their crimes. I have defended Alex Jones, even though he even put out weird KGB theories, but that is his right as a journalist and that is his human right to express his opinion. Alex was one of the few who took the pizzagate evidence and put the pieces together and tried to inform the people. He lost his children, then he became the subject of a witch hunt and was forced to politicize himself either by supporting Trump or Clinton when all he was doing was trying to shed light into dark corners.Documents showing plans by a US installed nazi junta for a nuclear False Flag that will poison the water supplies for millions of innocent people is NEWS! You must be informed and you would not know about this if it wasn’t for me and JAR2. We have a right to exist and the truth has a right to exist even when it is an inconvenient one for globalist criminals who have made their prosperity dependent on cannibalizing the people and countries of the world. You may not agree with the “politically inconvenience” of some of the truth we publish but you must agree with the inalienable basic human right and journalistic right to publish that truth. I beg you all to please support the site and spread awareness that we exist.Thank you!
——————————————————————————————
On Fri, 8/17/18, Changshi Yang <[email protected]> wrote:
Subject: Know & love the way of truth against powerful delusion!
Date: Friday, August 17, 2018, 9:30 AM
Hi John, Hopefully Truthers are of help to expose the truth of the lie! Hi Bro Chuck & Truthers, Satanists take pleasure in printing and marketing their subverted satanic scripture perversions which then cause powerful delusion that let them carry out disinformation warfare with false flags and fake news as they, the real enemies, use deflection to divert attention to their enemies as the enemies with seemingly innocuous insidious insinuations that let them have the whole nation’s focus on the supposed enemies as in this created Russophobia and Sinophobia while they, the real enemies get away with war crimes committed ostensibly in the name of Russia and China which then get the blame for those wicked white vatican satanists racists plotters murderers globalists wicked wars waged against humanity! Know and love the way of truth against powerful delusion to believe the lie! Here are what the fake armageddon plan and project weapon is all about:
1. Iran faces devastating US secret ‘SHOCK and AWE’ war plan that can be deployed in HOURS,
http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/?p=174729;
2. Project Armageddon Weapon, http://xmenrebirth.wikia.com/wiki/Project_Armageddon;
3. The Armageddon Plan, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/03/the-armageddon-plan/302902/;
4. The Cosmic False Flag, http://www.reportingthetruth.com/the-cosmic-false-flag-ufo-experts-claim-shadow-government-will-fake-alien-invasion-to-gain-total-control-over-humanity/;
5. The Neocon Zionist Plan for an Apocalyptic War in the Mideast, http://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=97577;
6. WW3 ALERT: Israel’s Death Wish and Fake Armageddon, http://themillenniumreport.com/2018/05/apartheid-state-of-israel-determined-or-destined-to-trigger-armageddon/http://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=99151. How then can U.S. be blessed when it help God’s enemies, Israel claiming that those who bless it will be blessed. Now after 70 years blessing Israel, ask: is America blessed or cursed in the state it is in now!
Thanks, most gratefully & sincerely yours,
___________________________________________
Know & love the way of truth against powerful delusion!  ________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Egypt’s Hamas-Israel Peace Deal: Only If President Abbas Is A Total Idiot

 

Earlier today I read an article in the Times of Israel whose headline was about Egypt being upset with President Abbas because he was not in favor of the peace program they sculpted between Israel and Hamas. My commentary to you today on this issue will be a short one because the reality to the situation on the ground between Hamas and Fatah is short and un-sweet. I believe it was in 2007 when Hamas split with Fatah and by force took control of the Gaza Strip in south-west Israel. Israel if they had known that Hamas would rise up and take control of one of the two Conclaves they were going to give to the Palestinian People in the so called “land for peace” deal they would not have given up this land in the first place. My thoughts then and now is, how could the leaders of Israel at that time have been so naive as to believe that Hamas would not rise up against Fatah and take control of the Gaza Strip? A couple of years ago Mr. Abbas canceled elections that were suppose to unite Fatah and Hamas once again but when the leaders of Fatah realized that Hamas was going to easily win this election, they canceled the election.

 

Reality is this simple, any deal, no matter who brokers it, whether it be Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran or even Fatah themselves is a death sentence to Fatah and to Mr. Abbas. Hamas is only interested in one thing, total control, both of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and of all of modern-day Israel. Hamas does not play well with others, only an idiot or a fool does not realize this reality. Israel does know this now, this is why they are also against this Egyptian brokered plan. Israel’s leaders played the fool once, they are not going to play it again. Mr. Abbas has proven that he has learned from his experiences in his dealings with Hamas also and as the title of this letter to you states very plainly, only if Mr. Abbas is a total idiot would he ever go along with this Egyptian so-called peace plan. It does appear that the leaders of Egypt who brokered this plan have not learned this basic lesson.

Israeli’s Are Destroying Israeli Democracy Themselves From The Inside

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

OP-EDWE’RE BEING BATTERED… FROM WITHIN

Israeli democracy isn’t broken, but it is under assault

Minorities are worried, their supporters are besmirched, key hierarchies are undermined, and our most hostile critics are empowered

David Horovitz
A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There’s a purportedly reasonable explanation for everything.

The detention and questioning of Peter Beinart, when he flew into Israel earlier this week to attend his niece’s bat mitzva, was a mistake — a case of overzealous Shin Bet officers getting carried away. Just like the recent questioning at airports and border crossings of several other Israel-critics, whose challenges to government policy fall well within the parameters of legitimate free speech.

The predawn arrival of cops at the Haifa home of Conservative Rabbi Dov Haiyun, to take him to the police station for questioning one day last month, was another regrettable but atypical incident — in which police foolishly heeded instructions from some jumped-up nobody in the local rabbinate who had issues with Haiyun’s officiating at weddings.

The controversy over the candidacy of Yair Golan as the next chief of staff, who faces opposition because he has had the temerity to warn of dangerous trends in Israeli society and to assert that soldiers should be prepared to take risks in order to protect Palestinian civilians, is a minor fracas that is unlikely to affect the appointments process. He probably wasn’t going to get the job anyway.

The battle over who will helm Israel’s police is nothing to be too concerned about. Even though Roni Alsheich had made it known he wanted to stay on, and even though it doesn’t look terribly good for Benjamin Netanyahu to be replacing the law enforcement chief whose officers are investigating him in a welter of corruption allegations, the prime minister has every right and plenty of precedent not to extend Alsheich’s term for a fourth year.

The abrupt abrogation last year of the solemnly negotiated Israel-Diaspora agreement on pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall was an unfortunate consequence of Israeli realpolitik. The prime minister genuinely wanted to implement the deal, but believed he would no longer be prime minister if he did so, since his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners would bring him down.

The same goes for attempts to loosen the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate’s iron grip on life-cycle events — its monopoly on the formalities of how one gets born, converted to Judaism, married, divorced and dead in this country. And for efforts to resist ultra-Orthodox pressure for more stringent implementation of laws on Sabbath observance. And for the endlessly thwarted bid to conscript or enforce national service for young ultra-Orthodox Israelis: Unfortunately, all resistance is stymied by the coalition leverage of ultra-Orthodox MKs, an entirely legitimate function of our political system.

As for the prime minister’s zigzag on extending surrogacy rights to single-sex couples, here, too, he simply didn’t have the votes he needed.

The arithmetic was different for the nation-state law. If a phrase noting Israel’s commitment to full equality for all its citizens had not been excised from the text, support in the Knesset for the legislation, with its overdue definition of Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” would have been overwhelming. But the argument was made that provisions for equality are already enshrined in existing legislation, albeit without the actual word “equality,” and notwithstanding the fact that this is the law that defines the very nature of Israel.

The justice minister warned of an “earthquake” were the Supreme Court to dare to intervene and strike down the nation-state law. Plainly, such talk was out of line, but the justices, formidable and independent, are unlikely to be deterred — even though the composition of the Supreme Court is gradually changing as the self-same justice minister seeks appointees she thinks are not unsympathetic to her worldview.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Taken one at a time, ostensibly acceptable rationalizations can be found for all the crises and controversies I’ve listed. Taken together, the picture is bleak.

As those crises and controversies accumulate, the explanations stretch and strain but cannot cover the concern that what we’re witnessing is our democracy under assault from within.

There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics

Israeli democracy isn’t broken. The attorney general will investigate the rash of border detentions. Haifa police likely won’t go round collaring too many non-Orthodox rabbis in the near future.

Crowds of Israelis will continue to demonstrate against the nation-state law, against alleged corruption in high places, against economic inequality, against the failure to legislate surrogacy rights for single-sex parent families, against religious coercion. Their concerns may even be heeded; they are guaranteed the opportunity to change their leadership if not.

But Israeli democracy is being battered. There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics.

As a result of the abiding ultra-Orthodox monopoly, of the scrapping of the Western Wall deal, and of the government’s evident indifference or worse to the concerns of non-Orthodox religious Jews, millions at home and abroad feel alienated from the “national home of the Jewish people” that the government went to such lengths to declare.

As a result of that nation-state law, Israeli minorities worry about their status and their rights, and they and their supporters are besmirched for saying so. Backers of Israel overseas, who play an important role in defending the country against its legions of haters worldwide, find themselves baffled, defensive, even alienated; it gets harder to argue against allegations of discrimination when the Druze community, Israel’s own most loyal minority, is leveling the charge.

The prime minister’s rapid about-face on an agreement that he had rightly said represented the “best possible” resolution of the fate of tens of thousands of African migrants, because of mild pressure from a part of his voter base that would not tolerate providing residential status for fewer than 20,000 refuge-seekers, further undermines support and empowers detractors.

Key hierarchies are being undermined and corroded, as exemplified by Netanyahu’s allegations of police bias against him. People in positions of power are exercising it without due heed for essential rights and freedoms. Internalizing what is now expected, some, in organizations such as the Shin Bet and police force, are trending to the overzealousness epitomized by the detention of the visiting journalist and the summons of the non-Orthodox rabbi.

Uniquely in the Middle East, we in Israel have enjoyed free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, equality before the law, an independent judiciary and more.

But in this Israeli summer of 2018, there’s a chill in the air. There’s a danger — and it’s not only from Damascus and Tehran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Israelis from the Druze community participate in a rally against Israel’s Jewish nation-state law, in Tel Aviv, August 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
READ MORE:

Abbas rejection of possible Israel-Hamas truce said to create tension with Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Abbas rejection of possible Israel-Hamas truce said to create tension with Egypt

Palestinian Authority leader is demanding internal reconciliation be top priority and that rulers of Gaza Strip cede full control to his organization, says London-based daily

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 28, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 28, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of an Egypt-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas to end a recent uptick in violence is creating tensions between Ramallah and Cairo, it was reported Sunday.

Abbas insists that Egyptian efforts prioritize reconciliation between his Fatah party and its rival Hamas, and that the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he chairs, play a central role in agreeing to a ceasefire, the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper reported.

Cairo hopes to close a deal between Israel and Hamas by the beginning of next week.

Relations between the PA and Egypt are “very tense,” the report said citing Palestinian sources.

Egyptian head of Intelligence Abbas Kamel, February 8, 2018. (Khaled Elfiqi/Pool photo via AP)

Last week Abbas reportedly refused to meet with visiting Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. Kamel has been involved in the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, as well as the ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them have failed to patch up their differences, most recently an Egypt-sponsored deal signed in October.

Cairo has hosted talks attended by all of the major Palestinian factions, with the exception of Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority.

The PA, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, is responsible for governing the Palestinian Territories whereas the PLO is the official body representing the Palestinian people and their national interests.

Azzam al-Ahmad gives a press conference at a hotel in Cairo, August 13, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Most of the factions agree to the terms of the truce, with the exception of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which, like Abbas, is pushing for “national reconciliation” to be the priority, the report said.

Abbas is demanding that Hamas hand over complete control of Gaza to the PA, and that the switch be conducted in a single stroke rather than in stages.

Palestinian sources told Al-Hayat that Abbas wants PA control “from end to end, and below and above ground” a reference to the military tunnel networks and arms controlled by Hamas in Gaza.

Abbas is also insisting that the PLO oversee the ceasefire terms and signing, as it did following the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. To that end, Abbas wants Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the PLO executive committee, to sign any agreement.

An Egyptian source told al-Hayat: “We are putting the final touches for all parties to sign the clauses of the agreement, and we expect to announce next week if Fatah helps that to happen.”

Fatah has not as yet participated in the Cairo talks, although a senior source in the party told the newspaper that a delegation is expected to travel to the Egyptian capital.

The source said an announcement for a ceasefire is expected after the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, sometime early next week.

Hamas refuses to give up control of its tunnel infrastructure and weapons. The terror group is however showing more flexibility regarding handing over responsibility for civilian life in the Gaza Strip, which is home to some two million Palestinians, sources said.

Officials in Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of hardline terror groups, said that the truce must pave the way to ending Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

According to Al-Hayat, Husam Badran, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, said in a statement the Cairo talks are aimed at stabilizing the situation to bring it in line with understandings reached in 2014 which brought an end to the 50-day conflict at the time. According to Badran, that includes easing the naval blockade.

Illustrative. A picture taken on July 14, 2018, shows Palestinian rockets being fired from Gaza toward Israel (AFP/Bashar Taleb)

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the Palestinian Authority. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

On Saturday Abbas warned that there can be no two separate entities ruling Palestinian lands, stating that if the PA is not handed complete control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas will have to take full responsibility for the territory. He made the comments at a gathering of the Palestinian Central Council, the PLO’s second highest decision-making body.

Last week, the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported that the long-term deal taking shape will last for a year and see the establishment of a cargo shipping connection between Gaza and Cyprus. Israel will have security control over the sea traffic between the Palestinian coastal enclave and Cyprus, according to the report, which cited sources familiar with the details.

In an apparent sign that a truce is approaching, Israel last week reopened the Kerem Shalom goods crossing into Gaza, which had been shut due to the recent unrest. However on Sunday Israel’s Defense Ministry announced that the Erez Crossing at the north of the enclave was closed in the wake of Friday’s violent border clashes.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

Firefighters extinguish a blaze near the southern city of Sderot caused by an incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip on July 31, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

READ MORE:

Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

Kahlil al-Hayya tells Lebanese TV Hamas wishes to reach a long-term accord with the Jewish state

Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)
Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

Negotiations for a long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas are in “the final stretch,” a senior member of the terror group said Friday.

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Kahlil al-Hayya as saying the deal would follow understandings reached at the end of the 2014 war between the sides. He did not elaborate.

Al-Hayya added that Hamas supports reaching an accord.

The Hamas leader was speaking from Cairo, where a Hamas delegation was said to be discussing the deal being mediated by Egypt and the UN.

On Friday thousands of Gazans demonstrated along the Israeli border in weekly Hamas-backed ‘March of Return’ demonstrations. Hamas leadership had urged the public to participate in Friday’s protests.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 17, 2018 (AFP/Said Khatib)

Rioters hurled rocks, improvised bombs and Molotov cocktails at soldiers and burned tires to create a smokescreen. Others launched incendiary balloons towards Israel.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported that two men had been killed and around 250 injured, of which at least 25 were said hit by live fire.

On Thursday Al-Mayadeen reported that the long-term deal taking shape will last for a year and see the establishment of a cargo shipping connection between Gaza and Cyprus. Israel will have security control over the sea traffic between the Palestinian coastal enclave and Cyprus, according to the report from the TV channel, which cited sources familiar with the details.

Hadashot TV news reported Thursday that the head of the Shin Bet security agency has warned cabinet ministers that excluding the Palestinian Authority from the accord in Gaza will send a message that terrorism is rewarded.

Head of Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee meeting at the Knesset on July 12, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Pushing aside [Abbas] from the process [of reaching an] agreement will strengthen Hamas in the West Bank and prove terror pays,” Nadav Argaman was quoted as saying. “Such a move would also weaken the moderates and prove to Palestinians that only the path of violence achieves results.”

Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them have failed to patch up their differences, most recently an Egyptian-sponsored deal signed in October.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas has long made access to a sea port a key strategic goal. Under the conditions of Israel’s naval blockade, goods heading to Gaza are currently shipped to Israeli ports and then trucked into Gaza.

Trucks carrying goods enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing after it was reopened by Israel on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the PA. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in the last decade.

Sources told Al-Mayadeen that the forthcoming deal will include Qatari funding for Gaza’s electricity bills in cooperation with Israel, and Qatari payment of civil service employees’ salaries in Gaza in cooperation with Egypt.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman pitched the idea of setting up a floating dock for Palestinian sea traffic in Cyprus when he met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in June, Hadashot news reported at the time.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on July 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The plan was conditional on the return of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers held by Hamas, the television report said.

Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are currently being held Hamas, along with the remains of two slain IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

According to a Channel 10 report Thursday, Liberman met with Qatar’s envoy to Gaza during his trip to Cyprus, and the two discussed efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and Qatari proposals to improve humanitarian conditions in the Strip, as well as the return of the Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers’ bodies.

READ MORE:

Israeli democracy isn’t broken, but it is under assault

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli democracy isn’t broken, but it is under assault

Minorities are worried, their supporters are besmirched, key hierarchies are undermined, and our most hostile critics are empowered

David Horovitz
A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There’s a purportedly reasonable explanation for everything.

The detention and questioning of Peter Beinart, when he flew into Israel earlier this week to attend his niece’s bat mitzva, was a mistake — a case of overzealous Shin Bet officers getting carried away. Just like the recent questioning at airports and border crossings of several other Israel-critics, whose challenges to government policy fall well within the parameters of legitimate free speech.

The predawn arrival of cops at the Haifa home of Conservative Rabbi Dov Haiyun, to take him to the police station for questioning one day last month, was another regrettable but atypical incident — in which police foolishly heeded instructions from some jumped-up nobody in the local rabbinate who had issues with Haiyun’s officiating at weddings.

The controversy over the candidacy of Yair Golan as the next chief of staff, who faces opposition because he has had the temerity to warn of dangerous trends in Israeli society and to assert that soldiers should be prepared to take risks in order to protect Palestinian civilians, is a minor fracas that is unlikely to affect the appointments process. He probably wasn’t going to get the job anyway.

The battle over who will helm Israel’s police is nothing to be too concerned about. Even though Roni Alsheich had made it known he wanted to stay on, and even though it doesn’t look terribly good for Benjamin Netanyahu to be replacing the law enforcement chief whose officers are investigating him in a welter of corruption allegations, the prime minister has every right and plenty of precedent not to extend Alsheich’s term for a fourth year.

The abrupt abrogation last year of the solemnly negotiated Israel-Diaspora agreement on pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall was an unfortunate consequence of Israeli realpolitik. The prime minister genuinely wanted to implement the deal, but believed he would no longer be prime minister if he did so, since his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners would bring him down.

The same goes for attempts to loosen the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate’s iron grip on life-cycle events — its monopoly on the formalities of how one gets born, converted to Judaism, married, divorced and dead in this country. And for efforts to resist ultra-Orthodox pressure for more stringent implementation of laws on Sabbath observance. And for the endlessly thwarted bid to conscript or enforce national service for young ultra-Orthodox Israelis: Unfortunately, all resistance is stymied by the coalition leverage of ultra-Orthodox MKs, an entirely legitimate function of our political system.

As for the prime minister’s zigzag on extending surrogacy rights to single-sex couples, here, too, he simply didn’t have the votes he needed.

The arithmetic was different for the nation-state law. If a phrase noting Israel’s commitment to full equality for all its citizens had not been excised from the text, support in the Knesset for the legislation, with its overdue definition of Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” would have been overwhelming. But the argument was made that provisions for equality are already enshrined in existing legislation, albeit without the actual word “equality,” and notwithstanding the fact that this is the law that defines the very nature of Israel.

The justice minister warned of an “earthquake” were the Supreme Court to dare to intervene and strike down the nation-state law. Plainly, such talk was out of line, but the justices, formidable and independent, are unlikely to be deterred — even though the composition of the Supreme Court is gradually changing as the self-same justice minister seeks appointees she thinks are not unsympathetic to her worldview.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Taken one at a time, ostensibly acceptable rationalizations can be found for all the crises and controversies I’ve listed. Taken together, the picture is bleak.

As those crises and controversies accumulate, the explanations stretch and strain but cannot cover the concern that what we’re witnessing is our democracy under assault from within.

There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics

Israeli democracy isn’t broken. The attorney general will investigate the rash of border detentions. Haifa police likely won’t go round collaring too many non-Orthodox rabbis in the near future.

Crowds of Israelis will continue to demonstrate against the nation-state law, against alleged corruption in high places, against economic inequality, against the failure to legislate surrogacy rights for single-sex parent families, against religious coercion. Their concerns may even be heeded; they are guaranteed the opportunity to change their leadership if not.

But Israeli democracy is being battered. There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics.

As a result of the abiding ultra-Orthodox monopoly, of the scrapping of the Western Wall deal, and of the government’s evident indifference or worse to the concerns of non-Orthodox religious Jews, millions at home and abroad feel alienated from the “national home of the Jewish people” that the government went to such lengths to declare.

As a result of that nation-state law, Israeli minorities worry about their status and their rights, and they and their supporters are besmirched for saying so. Backers of Israel overseas, who play an important role in defending the country against its legions of haters worldwide, find themselves baffled, defensive, even alienated; it gets harder to argue against allegations of discrimination when the Druze community, Israel’s own most loyal minority, is leveling the charge.

The prime minister’s rapid about-face on an agreement that he had rightly said represented the “best possible” resolution of the fate of tens of thousands of African migrants, because of mild pressure from a part of his voter base that would not tolerate providing residential status for fewer than 20,000 refuge-seekers, further undermines support and empowers detractors.

Key hierarchies are being undermined and corroded, as exemplified by Netanyahu’s allegations of police bias against him. People in positions of power are exercising it without due heed for essential rights and freedoms. Internalizing what is now expected, some, in organizations such as the Shin Bet and police force, are trending to the overzealousness epitomized by the detention of the visiting journalist and the summons of the non-Orthodox rabbi.

Uniquely in the Middle East, we in Israel have enjoyed free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, equality before the law, an independent judiciary and more.

But in this Israeli summer of 2018, there’s a chill in the air. There’s a danger — and it’s not only from Damascus and Tehran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Israelis from the Druze community participate in a rally against Israel’s Jewish nation-state law, in Tel Aviv, August 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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COMMENTS

Iran’s Zarif: ‘There will be no meeting’ with US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran’s Zarif: ‘There will be no meeting’ with US

Regime issues its most explicit rejection of talks, after speculation that economic pressure would force leaders back to the negotiating table

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the  Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday there would be no meeting with the United States in the near future, following Washington’s reimposition of sanctions.

Asked by the conservative Tasnim news agency if he had any plan to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Zarif said: “No, there will be no meeting.”

He said there were also no plans for a meeting with US officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, which both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his US counterpart Donald Trump are due to attend.

“On Trump’s recent proposal [of talks], our official stance was announced by the president and by us. Americans are not honest and their addiction to sanctions does not allow any negotiation to take place,” Zarif told Tasnim.

It was Iran’s most explicit rejection of talks to date, after much speculation that economic pressure would force its leaders back to the table with Washington.

The US reimposed sanctions on Tuesday, following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers in May.

President Donald J. Trump signs an EO on Iran Sanctions in the Green Room at Trump National Golf Club Monday, August 6, 2018, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Zarif met repeatedly with then US secretary of state John Kerry during the agreement’s negotiation and implementation.

Rouhani said last week that Iran “always welcomed negotiations” but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted.

“If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”

Zarif’s words came hours after Iranians claimed that the state broadcaster had muted stadium noise during the previous evening’s soccer match in Tehran, in an apparent attempt to drown out anti-government chants.

Iran has seen nationwide strikes and protests in recent weeks, focused on high prices and unemployment but also featuring radical political slogans.

A group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 25, 2018. Protesters in the Iranian capital swarmed its historic Grand Bazaar on Monday, news agencies reported, and forced shopkeepers to close their stalls in apparent anger over the Islamic Republic’s troubled economy, months after similar demonstrations rocked the country. (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)

The authorities have acknowledged anger over the economic situation — which has been exacerbated by the United States’ reimposition of sanctions.

On Friday US officials were quoted as saying Iran carried out a ballistic missile test last week for the first time in 2018.

The test of the Iranian Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missile was carried out at the Strait of Hormuz during a naval exercise in which at least 50 small ships took part, Fox News reported. According to the report, the missiles flew “shore to shore” for more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) over the Strait of Hormuz to a site in the desert.

The missile launch test is the first known test of the Fateh-110 in over a year. Last time such a missile was launched by Iran was in March, 2017.

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Egypt said to warn Hamas: Israel will renew assassinations if fire persists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Egypt said to warn Hamas: Israel will renew assassinations if fire persists

Terror group’s leaders have reportedly turned off their phones, gone underground over fears of targeted killings by Israeli military

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar attend a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the terror group's founding in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar attend a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the terror group’s founding in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Egypt has warned Hamas that Israel will seek to assassinate the terror group’s leaders if rocket fire from the Gaza Strip does not cease, according to an Israeli television report on Thursday.

Egyptian intelligence cautioned Hamas that Israel could renew targeted killings if the terror group further exacerbates tensions on the Gaza Strip border, Hadashot television news said.

Previous media reports in recent months have indicated that Israel conveyed similar threats to Gaza rulers Hamas through Egyptian channels during periods of increased violence on the border.

Separately, Israel Radio on Thursday night quoted Hamas officials as saying political and military leaders from the terrorist group have turned off their cellphones over the last day and went into hiding for fear of being assassinated.

Hamas leaders were also signaling they were not responsible for a rocket attack targeting the southern city of Beersheba earlier on Thursday, Hadashot reported, in an apparent attempt to defuse the tensions.

The reported Egyptian warning to Hamas came amid a major flare-up in tensions on the Gaza border, with over 180 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel since Wednesday night.

The projectiles injured at least seven people and caused damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure throughout the region, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, the Israeli Air Force struck over 150 Hamas “terror sites” in the Strip, the army said. Palestinian officials said a pregnant woman and her infant daughter were killed in the Israeli strikes, along with one Hamas fighter, who was reportedly in a car used by a rocket-launching Hamas cell that was targeted by an IDF aircraft.

The Hamas-run health ministry named the woman as Aynas Abu Khamash, 23, and her daughter, 18-months-old, as Bayan. According to Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the ministry, they were killed in an Israeli strike on the central Gaza Strip early Thursday morning. Mohammed Abu Khamash, Aynas’s husband, was seriously injured in the strike, he said.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the IDF, said he could not comment on the specific case of the Abu Khamash family, but stressed that the army targeted “only military sites” in its raids.

On Thursday evening, the Israeli Air Force flattened a five-story building in northern Gaza that served as a headquarters for Hamas’ internal security service, the army said.

The IDF said the strike on the building in the northern Gaza Strip, which also served as a cultural center in the coastal enclave, was in response to “rocket fire by the Hamas terror group against the city of Beersheba earlier in the day.”

The military threatened that the attack was “an expression of the IDF’s intelligence and operational capabilities, which will expand and intensify as necessary.”

Eighteen Palestinians were wounded in the Israeli strike, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The degree of their injuries was not immediately known.

The attack on the building was one of the IDF’s first strikes on a site deep inside a city in Gaza since the 2014 war. Most of the strikes previously conducted by Israel targeted facilities outside major population centers. In addition, the Rimal neighborhood in which the building was located is one of the more upscale areas of Gaza City.

This decision was seen as an attempt by the military to show Hamas that it was prepared to step up its attacks against the terror group if rocket and mortar fire continued to strike southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The site where a mortar shell from the Gaza Strip hit an apartment building and cars in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on August 9, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minutes after the Israeli strike on the building began, incoming rocket sirens blared in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, sending thousands of residents into bomb shelters, where they had already spent much of the day in light of frequent attacks from the Gaza Strip throughout the previous two days.

A second wave of sirens were triggered shortly after the IDF confirmed that it had conducted the strike at 8:00 p.m. A third round of sirens went off an hour later.

There were no injuries or damage caused by any of those rocket attacks, Israeli officials said.

The renewed rocket attacks came amid a period of heightened tensions along the Gaza border, following months of clashes and exchanges of fire.

Earlier this week, there had been reports of intensive talks between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire.

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Justice minister warns of ‘earthquake’ if High Court overturns Jewish state law

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Justice minister warns of ‘earthquake’ if High Court overturns Jewish state law

Ayelet Shaked says top bench does not have the authority to strike down controversial legislation passed as quasi-constitutional Basic Law

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Supreme Court hall in Jerusalem on August 2, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Supreme Court hall in Jerusalem on August 2, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked warned of an “earthquake” if the High Court of Justice moves to overturn the controversial nation-state law.

Shaked also told Army Radio on Sunday that she did not believe the High Court has the power to strike down the legislation on constitutional grounds, because it was passed as a Basic Law, the constitutional underpinning of the Israeli justice system.

“Such a move would cause an earthquake between different authorities,” Shaked told the radio station when asked about possible judicial intervention over the law.

At least three petitions have been lodged with the High Court since the law was passed on July 19, demanding that justices overturn the law over its alleged discrimination.

“High Court justices are very serious and professional people,” Shaked said. “The Knesset is the constituent assembly, which defines and determines the Basic Laws. [The justices] have to interpret the laws in accordance with the Basic Laws, and I don’t believe a majority on the Supreme Court would take such a step.

“I very much hope this doesn’t happen, and I don’t believe it will,” she added.

For months Shaked, along with Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, has been attempting to advance legislation broadly limiting the High Court’s circumvention power, but has made little headway despite having Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support.

Shaked in her Sunday interview reiterated her support for the law, which has been increasingly criticized as discriminatory against Israel’s non-Jewish minorities.

Druze protesters at a demonstration in Tel Aviv against the nation-state law, August 4, 2018. (Luke Tress / Times of Israel staff)

“There is nothing revolutionary in this specific law,” she said. “It contains values that the state was founded on, values of settlement, immigration and national identity,” she said. “There is consensus about these values.”

The nation-state law enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” for the first time, and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence defined the state as a Jewish and democratic one. The Netanyahu government says the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are anchored in existing legislation.

Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, December 16, 2014. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

But critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines the constitution’s commitment to equality for all its citizens. It has prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze community, whose members say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens.

In its petition to the court, the left-wing Meretz party said the law contradicts a previous basic law passed in 1992 that guarantees “human dignity” for all citizens of Israel.

Representatives of the Druze and Bedouin communities have also petitioned the court to overturn the law.

Last week, retired Supreme Court judge Salim Joubran spoke out against the “unnecessary and bad” law. In an Israel Radio interview, Joubran said the law creates “a superior class and an inferior class,” and called for it to “nullified as quickly as possible.”

On Sunday, Netanyahu defended the law as “vital” for ensuring that “Israel will remain the Jewish nation-state for generations to come.”

Pushing back against the weeks of Druze-led protests against the law, Netanyahu insisted that “no one has harmed or intends to harm individual rights.”

Protesters wave Israeli and Druze flags at a demonstration against the nation-state law, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on August 4, 2018. (Luke Tress / Times of Israel staff)

More than 50,000 Israelis, waving Israeli and Druze flags and calling for equality, gathered at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night to demonstrate against the law. Leaders of the Druze community were among the key organizers of the demonstration.

Beyond angering the Druze, the law has sparked widespread criticism from Israel’s other minorities and opposition parties, the international community, and Jewish groups abroad.

The law also downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

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