Iran’s threats are an attempt to negotiate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF) 

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

Iran’s threats are an attempt to negotiate

Suzanne Maloney

Editor’s Note:By ratcheting up tensions, Iran is hoping to expand the crisis with the United States, force a dialogue, and hopefully find their way out of an increasingly dire set of circumstances, Suzanne Maloney writes. This piece originally appeared in Politico Magazine.

In July 2012, several senior U.S. government officials made a clandestine visit to Muscat, where they met with Iranian diplomats in the first of what would be a series of back-channel negotiations. Officially, nothing like this meeting in Oman was ever supposed to happen: The two countries had severed their formal diplomatic relations decades earlier, and intensifying U.S. economic pressure on Iran had made direct diplomacy more toxic than ever.

But this secret dialogue ended up providing the genesis for the historic 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran, Washington, and five other world powers—the first time that the international community managed to slow the clerical regime’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons capability.

Seven years later, that agreement is on life support. The Trump administration pulled out in May 2018, and Iran has recently begun breaching the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities. Tensions are high in the Persian Gulf, with Iran seizing a British ship and announcing plans to execute a ring of supposed CIA spies. Fears are mounting that the two countries are on a collision course, headed toward a wider and far more destabilizing military conflict.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the breakdown: Iranian officials now appear to be negotiating—and rather than using back-channels, they’re doing it in plain sight.

Iranian officials now appear to be negotiating—and rather than using back-channels, they’re doing it in plain sight.

Iranian officials, most notably the foreign minister, have been angling for diplomacy with Washington. And Tehran’s provocations in the Gulf, if you look past the breathless headlines, can be seen as a crucial part of their good cop-bad cop negotiating strategy—one that reinforces persuasion with intimidation. Taken together, the signals suggest that Iranians are setting the table for talks, and if President Donald Trump is serious about wanting to “make Iran great again,” he should make the most of this opportunity before tensions spiral out of control.

Engagement between the Islamic Republic and the government still castigated in its official rhetoric as the “Great Satan” has come a long way lately. In 1979, after the revolution, media coverage of official contacts between Iran’s new leaders and senior U.S. officials sparked furious protests in Tehran that culminated with the seizure of the U.S. Embassy and the 444-day hostage crisis. After the Iran-Contra scandal—in which the U.S. and Iran were again revealed to be doing backdoor deals—even quiet diplomacy with American officials was seen as the kiss of death by the Iranian establishment. For decades, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spurned any suggestion of official talks with Washington, and his grudging consent to Obama-era nuclear negotiations was vehemently rescinded after Trump’s breach of the deal.

However, even with its bitter outcome, the nuclear deal and the intense bilateral contacts throughout the final years of the Obama administration have left an imprint on Iran’s political landscape. Contact with Washington is now effectively normalized in the Islamic Republic—so much so that a meeting between Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and a Republican senator who sought Trump’s endorsement for the encounter barely generates a second glance. Twenty years ago, an Iranian leader’s interview with an American cable news channel was seen as a shocking breakthrough; today, it’s just another Sunday morning, with Zarif deploying his silver tongue to send signals to an audience of one in White House.

Zarif, a polished chief diplomat with an outsized Washington Rolodex, has made two high-profile visits to New York in recent months, meeting with representatives from the media, academia, and Capitol Hill—a kind of public relations tour underscoring that the Islamic Republic is testing the waters with the Trump administration.

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In typical Iranian fashion, this campaign is happening at the same time Iran’s leaders are sending strong signals against doing any such thing. The U.S. maximum pressure campaign has had catastrophic effects on the Iranian economy, and Iran’s official position, as articulated by Khamenei, is that Iran will not negotiate with a knife to its throat. He has categorically rejected the prospect of bargaining over what Tehran views as the country’s essential defensive capabilities, such as its missile program. When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tehran last month, apparently at Trump’s behest, he was sent back empty-handed, with a curt rebuff that coincided with a new round of proxy attacks on shipping in the Gulf. Just in case the message wasn’t clear, one of the tankers attacked was owned by a Japanese company.

The one-two punch from Tehran reflects the harsh reality of the regime’s current predicament. Iranian officials insist that they can cope under American pressure, but the concerted campaign to ramp up the threat level even as they flirt with diplomatic overtures betrays an awareness within the theocracy’s highest levels that the country cannot afford an indefinite American economic siege.

Zarif’s media appearances and private meetings here, accordingly, have conveyed a flexible, even cordial message. He offered careful compliments toward Trump with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, praising the president’s “very prudent decision” to call off a military strike initially ordered after Tehran shot down a U.S. drone last month. He dangled some minor overturesaround the nuclear deal in a conversation with print reporters, and in a virtuoso Fox News performance, he played to Trump’s narcissism and his mistrust of his hawkish advisers.

Shortly after Zarif touted to U.S. reporters the possibility of prisoner swaps, Iranian authorities unexpectedly released Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese man with permanent resident status in the United States, after more than three years’ detention on bogus espionage charges. None of this offers the makings of the comprehensive agreement that the Trump administration has advocated, but Iranian maneuvers are beginning to shape a preliminary framework for bilateral negotiations.

Zarif’s artful outreach is consistent with the broader contours of the debate within Iran’s political establishment, where there has been quiet speculation for months about the possibilities for devising a diplomatic pathway out of the country’s current predicament. Well-known dissidents and moderate politicians recently released an appeal for unconditional talks, and even former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known for his hard-line vitriol but also an idiosyncratic tendency to reach out to Washington, has publicly embraced new diplomacy.

Longtime observers of Iran find it no surprise that Zarif was dispatched to New York even as tensions are rising in the Persian Gulf, with a string of attacks on oil tankers, an oil pipeline, and various U.S.-linked facilities in Iraq, the drone downing, and the latest provocation—Iran’s seizure of a British tanker as it transited the Gulf. The Islamic Republic has made an art form of pairing diplomacy with force, exploiting Zarif’s unctuous charm alongside a punch in the face from the Revolutionary Guard.

While some analysts, echoing Iranian officials, blame factional infighting, Zarif’s smiling warning on CNN that “in such a small body of water, if you have so many foreign vessels … accidents will happen” underscores that Iran’s dual-track approach is deliberate, a coordinated deployment of pressure and persuasion to advance its interests. With a feint and a jab, Tehran is deploying diplomacy and force in tandem in hopes of extricating the regime from an increasingly perilous quagmire.

This game plan offers greater efficacy than any other alternative available to Tehran today. The rest of the world has proven unwilling or unable to circumvent U.S. sanctions or cushion their economic fallout on Iran. At the very least, flexing its muscles in the world’s most important energy corridor can inflate oil prices, improving Tehran’s beleaguered bottom line and complicating Trump’s appeal to his domestic base as he begins his reelection campaign. Mounting tensions may galvanize diplomatic energy from Europe and the other stakeholders to the nuclear deal, and the images of burning tankers offer a powerful warning to Iran’s neighbors of the potential consequences of further escalation. The increasing frictions amplify the gravity of the crisis for the rest of the world, while Iran’s incremental breaches of the nuclear deal provide Tehran with something to trade should an opportunity for bargaining avail itself.

Although Tehran is currently dictating the tempo and intensity of escalation, what happens next depends largely on the Trump administration.

The president has long expressed disdain for costly, protracted U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and he has repeatedly appealed for direct dialogue with Iranian leaders. To achieve that, Washington will have to be ready to compromise on its “maximum pressure” strategy. Tehran is ready to talk, but will require some sanctions relief as the price of admission.

For his part, Trump proclaims to be detached, emphasizing that he is in “no hurry” and insisting that he is “just going to sit back and watch.” Tehran is unlikely to afford him that luxury. Iran is determined to change the status quo, since it is now so unfavorable to their interests. By ratcheting up tensions, the Iranians are hoping to expand the crisis, force a dialogue, and hopefully find their way out of an increasingly dire set of circumstances.

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American Christians Love The Father Of Habitual Liars And His Puppets

American Christians Love The Father Of Habitual Liars And His Puppets

 

I used to think that the people in the U.S. who call themselves Christians would never ever back a person who is well known to be a constant liar, I have realized that I was wrong. After all when a person is know to lie constantly how could anyone ever trust anything that comes out of their mouth? Even when such a person is telling you things that you want to hear, then you are the one who is a total idiot for listing to them and believing that what they are telling you is the truth. Top that with the knowledge of the fact that this liar is a total idiot who basically knows nothing about the real world or your life experiences. I am totally embarrassed that we have such a person as our President. If Ms. Hillary had won (which she actually did by 3 million votes) we would still have had a habitual liar for our President. About the only differences in the two is that she is actually smart and that it is believed by some that she has her own set of balls, that is compared to Mr. Trump who has never had any.

 

I have studied the Book of Revelation for decades now and there was only one part of it that I was having trouble with and this comes back around to the people who consider themselves to be Christians here in the States. I know that what I am getting ready to write will anger many people, Christians and non-Christians alike but I refuse to lie just to try to sugarcoat the truth. Near the end of days the Devil himself will sit upon the Temple Mount as the King of the world. The Great Whore of Revelation is the Catholic Church who will sit upon the seven continents and the Babylon of Revelation is “the eternal city”, Rome. The Devil’s army will destroy the Catholic Church and God will destroy Rome. The Catholic Church has fornicated with the world now for two centuries, the “Church” is the “Bride of Christ” that He is coming back to get but this ‘Bride’ is highly unholy and will be destroyed. There will be a time where 10 Nations will control most all of the world’s governments and they will give their power to “the Beast”, the Devil. Then the 10 powerful Nations will filter down to three and they will attack Israel and will not leave one stone upon another. You have the Orient which will be controlled by the atheistic China, the middle of the three will be Europe which will be controlled by the atheistic Nation of Russia, then you come to the Americas. Here had been my quandary, what Nation besides the U.S. would be strong enough to gather the other Nations together as one to go and fight against Israel. I had thought that it would be impossible for it to actually be the the U.S. but I have been proven wrong by how our Nations people have fallen in behind the evil Demonic Republican and Democratic political parties.

 

I do know that actual Christians will never fall in line like that but the problem is a financial one for most all people. The time is not far off that currency will be worthless, everything that we can buy, sale, trade or eat will be done through the chip in our hands, forearms. When you can’t work, buy food, gas, transportation or a place to live, most all people will give in, even those who call themselves Christians. For those of you who have never bothered to read or study the Book of Revelation, it says very plainly what Armageddon is. It is when Satan gatherers the Nations together to fight against Christ and His Angels at His return. I had always hoped that the U.S. would never be part of the Devils unholy army but Christians backing and voting for habitual liars has proven that hope to be an empty one. May God have mercy on our ignorant Souls because the Devil sure as Hell, will not. When Christ returns the Devil and His Angels will be cast straightway into Hell as they have already had their judgement day. All that will be left will be the humans who were tricked, fooled into believing in and Worshiping the Beast and the humans will be crushed like grapes in a wine press and their blood will run to the horses reins. Then, everyone of us will have a date at the Judgement Seat of Christ whether we did or did not fall in line with our evil Satanic Leaders.

Saudi Arabia: Yemen: Houthis Endorse Compulsory Service for Students

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ ALAWSAT)

 

Houthis Endorse Compulsory Service for Students

Thursday, 25 July, 2019 – 10:30
A Houthi militant in Sanaa, Yemen. Reuters file photo
Aden – Ali Rabih
Yemen’s Houthi militias have approved a draft law to introduce compulsory military service for school and university students.

Observers said that the introduction of the service is aimed at compensating the shortage in the number militants, and to maintain the coup and the Wilayat al-Fakih rule.

Official Houthi sources revealed that the coup cabinet chaired by Houthi head of government Abdul Aziz bin Habtoor adopted the new bill on Wednesday.

It was submitted by Minister of Education Yahya al-Houthi, the brother of the group’s leader.

The Houthis claimed that the bill aims to benefit from the capabilities of Yemen’s youths and offer them the chance to serve their country in addition to developing their sense of responsibility in the community.

Houthi sources pointed out that the cabinet formed a seven-member committee to lay the organizational standards and procedures to manage the process.

The meeting came days after Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a militia commander, hinted in a tweet at the group’s intention to activate a two-year compulsory service on youths above the age of 18.

Reliable sources in Sanaa affirmed that Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi called two weeks ago for the swift adoption of the bill, which has been put on hold for 17 years.

The 1991 law on compulsory military service stipulates that every Yemeni male above the age of 18 should report to duty.

Yemeni activists warned that by adopting the law, the insurgents would guarantee tens of thousands of recruits and huge funds from those preferring to pay compensation instead of being forced into military service.

International and government reports have spoken of Houthis recruiting more than 25,000 children whether through intimidation, kidnapping or invitation.

5 things you never knew about the Civil War

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

5 things you never knew about the Civil War

A study of the history of the United States is incomplete without reference to the Civil War. The Civil War (1861–1865) set American against American. It has been the cause of the greatest number of documented episodes in the history of the United States.

Civil War trivia asserts that the conflict between the United States and 11 Southern States was the deadliest war on American soil. It claimed about 620,000 soldiers’ lives and about 2 percent of the total population of the time. Civil War history, historians, and aficionados have written many books, articles and reenacted battle sagas.

What caused the Civil War?

Credit: Lee Walters / iStock

This is a question many still debate in the public domain, with several schools of thought asserting their views. However, James McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, provides a more explicit narrative of what caused the war. According to him, “The Civil War started due to uncompromising differences between the Northern States, mainly the free and slave states over the power of the national government to disallow slavery in the territories that had not yet become states.”

In the 1860 election, Abraham Lincoln ran on a pledge to block the institution of slavery in the territories. In retaliation, a Confederate States of America was created by seven Deep South states that separated from the Union. During the Lincoln Administration, the Confederate secession from the Union was invalidated, and the legality was never fully established. They feared that it would discredit democracy by creating a dangerous example that would lead to the dissolution of the United States into individual countries.

What were the bloodiest battles of the Civil War?

Credit: DenGuy / istock

The Battle of Gettysburg

  • Location: Pennsylvania
  • Casualties figure: 51,112 (U.S. 23,049/C.S. 28,063)
  • Date: July 1-3, 1863

The Battle of Chickamauga

  • Location: North Georgia
  • Casualties figure: 34,624 (U.S. 16,170/C.S. 18,454)
  • Date: September 19-20, 1863

The Battle of Chancellorsville

  • Location: Virginia
  • Casualties figure: 30,099 (U.S. 17,278/C.S. 12,821)
  • Date: May 1-4, 1863

The Battle of Spotsylvania

  • Location: Virginia
  • Casualties figure: 27,399 (U.S. 18,399/C.S. 9,000)
  • Date: May 8-19, 1864

The Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg)

  • Location: Maryland
  • Casualties figure: 26,134 (U.S. 12,410/C.S. 13,724)
  • Date: September 17, 1862

The Battle of the Wilderness

  • Location: Virginia
  • Casualties figure: 25,416 (U.S. 17,666/C.S. 7,750)
  • Date: May 5-7, 1864

The Battle of Second Manasas

  • Location: Virginia
  • Casualties figure: 25,251 (U.S. 16,054/C.S. 9,197)
  • Date: August 29-30, 1862

What caused casualties of the Union Army during a battle?

Credit: Willard / iStock

According to Mark Hughes in The New Civil War Handbook, the causes of casualties of the Union Armies during battles are:

  • Musketry – 50.6%
  • Unknown – 42.1%
  • Cannon – 5.7%
  • Pistol/Buckshot – 1.2%
  • Saber – 0.2 %
  • Bayonet – 0.2%

How many soldiers fought and died in the Civil War?

Credit: rcyoung / iStock

The total number of soldiers deployed from both armies of the North and South were 2,128,948 and 1,082,119 respectively. By the end of the war, the total number of soldiers that died from both sides was approximately 620,000. However, a recent study put the figure closer to 850,000.

How much pay did the soldiers receive?

Credit: ivan-96 / iStock

There are discrepancies in the amounts white and black union soldiers received as salaries until 1864, when Congress rectified it. White Union soldiers collected $13 a month, while their black counterparts got $7 a month. The Confederate Army paid their soldiers $11 a month. It was common that they sometimes went for long stretches with no pay.

The United States has since remained united after the Confederates called for a ceasefire in April 1865. Civil War history reports that the total number of people that both armies lost within those four years remains the second highest in the history of the nation.

3 forgotten wars worth remembering

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

3 forgotten wars worth remembering

When people talk about American wars, the Revolution, Civil War, First and Second World War, and Vietnam are always the ones people go to. And while they were extremely important conflicts, the significance of the smaller fights shouldn’t be understated, as they’re the ones that lay the groundwork for topics that history books love to cover. Here are three forgotten wars worth remembering.

The Barbary Wars (1801-1815)

Credit: duncan1890 / iStock

The first two lines of the United States Marine Corps hymn mention the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli. The first line is a reference to the Mexican-American War, still a fairly well-known conflict even if the details are a bit hazy. The second line talks about the Barbary Wars, a conflict almost no one’s heard about.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a collection of North African states called the Barbary States were practicing state-sanctioned and supported piracy. It was a common enough practice, with many European countries doing the same any time they were at war with a neighbor, which was frequently. After the Revolution, the British government told the Barbary States that U.S. vessels no longer enjoyed the protection of the British navy and were open to attack. The American navy was virtually nonexistent at this point, which meant U.S. ships were easy targets.

As the U.S. navy grew in strength, it meant they could respond to the attacks with force, which eventually culminated in two wars: one with Tripoli from 1801 to 1805 and one with Algiers from 1815 to 1816. Both ended in United States victories and helped establish the U.S. as a significant player on the world stage, though it’d still be decades before the U.S. was taken seriously as a world power.

The Moro Rebellion (early 1900s-1913)

The European tradition of empire building isn’t a practice that’s generally associated with the United States, but we did dabble in it, which is where the Moro Rebellion comes in. In 1898, under President McKinley, the U.S. annexed the Philippines and provoked a nationalist rebellion on the part of Filipino natives. That war was primarily limited to the majority-Catholic northern islands and lasted until 1902.

From there, the U.S. set its sights on the southern islands, which had higher Muslim (also called Moro) populations, who began a bloody guerilla war in the jungles of the Philippine islands that lasted until 1913. Today, when it’s talked about, it’s portrayed as a religious conflict, with Muslim insurgents fighting Christian invaders. While that was certainly an element in the fight, the major conflict was closer to the classic invaded vs. invader narrative. The Moro simply didn’t want to bow to a foreign government after living under Spanish rule for 300 years.

The Secret War in Laos (1964-1973)

Credit: mathess / iStock

The true extent of the American involvement in East Asia during the Vietnam War is only just emerging, mostly thanks to how secretive the government was during the conflict. From 1964 to 1973, the American military ran an extensive bombing campaign in Laos as they tried to disrupt North Vietnamese movements over the Laotian border. In that campaign, American planes dropped more bombs on Laos than were dropped in all of World War II, and the public was simply never told that there was anything happening. It’d be as if we went through the entire second World War without ever hearing anything about what the Air Force did.

What’s worth remembering about the secret war in Laos is that it marked one aspect of a hugely significant change in the way the American government conducted itself in combat. Secrecy has always been important—necessary even—but before Vietnam and Laos, the military’s operations were fairly transparent. The secret war was the first time the public was treated with malice and distrust.

US House votes to limit Trump’s ability to strike Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US House votes to limit Trump’s ability to strike Iran

Over two dozen Republicans join bipartisan proposal requiring president to get authorization from Congress before taking military action; White House vows to veto measure

US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One as he departs July 12, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One as he departs July 12, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted Friday to put a liberalized stamp on Pentagon policy, including a bipartisan proposal to limit US President Donald Trump’s authority to make war against Iran.

The measure passed along party lines after a series of votes that pushed it further to the left. Among them was a 251-170 tally to require Trump get authorization from Congress to conduct military strikes against Iran, along with a repeal of a 2002 law authorizing the war in Iraq.

More than two dozen Republicans joined with Democrats on the Iran vote. Trump last month came within minutes of launching a missile strike against Iran in retaliation for Tehran’s downing of a US drone.

The broader measure passed by a 220-197 vote after several other provisions were tacked on by the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, which had been upset by leadership’s handling of a border bill last month.

US Marines training on the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge, May 18, 2019, deployed in the Gulf of Arabia “to respond to contingencies and to defend US forces and interests in the region.” (MCS Jason Waite/US Navy)

“On the floor, the bill has taken a radical left turn,” said Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “There’s good and bad in this bill… but it’s moving in a direction that does make America less safe.”

The Trump administration has promised to veto the House measure. The Senate passed its own bill last month. Lawmakers will try to reconcile the competing versions in what could be lengthy negotiations given the differences.

The House measure, which cuts Trump’s request for the military by $17 billion to $725 billion, is still too rich for some progressives. They also balk at its continued funding of overseas military operations.

But the measure includes Democratic priorities such as a ban on transferring new detainees to the Guantanamo Bay prison and a denial of Trump’s request for $88 million to build a new prison at the base. It removes a ban against transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States that was enacted when Democrats controlled Congress in the early years of the Obama administration.

Republicans are less critical about the measure’s overall cost than with its contents, especially in military readiness accounts.

It would ban the deployment of a new submarine-launched low-yield nuclear missile and block the administration from shifting military money to a US-Mexico border wall.

“It’s a bill that I think Democrats should be happy with,” said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. “It’s not everything they want but we need to pass it to say, ‘This is our position,’ to move the ball in the direction we want.”

Other provisions are broadly popular, including a 3.1% pay raise for military service members and authorization to procure new weapons systems, and expanded health and child benefits for military families.

Another provision would deliver 12 weeks of paid family leave to all federal workers.

Two F/A-18E Super Hornets launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Mediterranean Sea while the ship travels to the Persian gulf, April 25, 2019. (US Navy/Matt Herbst)

The measure comes as the US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East, and fears are growing of a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran’s downing of the US military drone.

Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the accord a year ago.

The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

Iran has said its breaches of the nuclear pact can be reversed if the other parties to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union — can come up with enough economic incentives to effectively offset the American sanctions.

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COMMENTS

JULY 13, 2019
CURRENT TOP STORIES
PROFILEFATHER OF FOUR STILL LIVES IN HIS PARENTS’ HOME IN TAYIBE

For 1st Arab head of major Israeli bank, breaking down barriers is second nature

Five lessons on success and excellence to learn from the story of Samer Haj Yehia, Bank Leumi’s new chairman of the board

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Let’s clear something up right from the get-go: Samer Haj Yehia, who was recently named the chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, made a significant crack in the glass ceiling. This marks the first time a major Israeli bank has appointed an Arab chairman.

The dozens of news items and social media posts focusing on Haj Yehia’s career overflow with (entirely justified) praise for the brilliant 49-year-old economist, who managed to overcome numerous obstacles as he made his way from his birthplace of Tayibe, an Arab city in central Israel, to having one of Israel’s top economy positions.

In fact — so thick is the glass ceiling he managed to shatter — that from now on, his name is likely to come up in every debate, discussion, or symposium dealing with the integration of Arabs into Israeli society.

A lawyer and certified public accountant, Haj Yehia is slated to take office on July 21, replacing David Brodet, who chaired the board for the past nine years. It is important to stress that no one questions whether Haj Yahya is worthy of this prestigious appointment. His nomination – approved by a majority vote of five in favor and three against – is free of any claim of affirmative action or political correctness, as the boards of directors of banks simply don’t bother with such matters. Their sole focus is on ensuring the bank’s success.

Illustrative image: Israelis walk next to Bank Leumi in Jerusalem on November 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The other three contenders for the position – ex-Finance Ministry director-general and current Israel Oil Refineries Executive Chairman Ohad Marani, former Teva Pharmaceuticals Deputy CEO Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shmuel Ben Zvi, and former Discount Bank Capital Markets and Investments head Dr. Yitzhak Sharir – sufficed with one vote each.

That’s how you smash through the glass ceiling with style.

Haj Yehia’s nomination earned praise left and right. “It’s about time the Israeli government follows in Bank Leumi’s footsteps. Unfortunately, had Samer been vying for a position in the public sector, I’m afraid he wouldn’t have made it,” Tayibe Mayor Sha’a Mansour Massarwa told newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also rushed to congratulate Haj Yehia, tweeting, “I welcome Dr. Samer Haj Yehia’s appointment as chairman of the board of directors at Bank Leumi and wish him the best of luck!”

But congratulations aside, Haj Yehia’s personal background deserves a second glance. Before we Israelis pat ourselves on the back and feel reassured that the bank’s move proves that we are not as racist as we may seem, it’s worth mentioning that this impressive achievement – marked before he turned 50 – is first and foremost a personal feat that, if not for a set of extraordinary personal circumstances, may have remained out of reach.

And so, in the spirit of the coaching culture, here are five lessons on success and excellence one can learn from the story of Haj Yehia.

1. It’s best to be born a male

There’s no easy way to say this, and I apologize in advance to anyone who is already outraged and may be ready to write a virulent response, but gender plays a role in this story.

Haj Yehia still lives – with his wife and four children – in his mother’s house in Tayibe. Fatina Haj Yehia, now 74, is a retired schoolteacher. Haj Yehia’s wife, Eden, is an English teacher who works at a school in Ra’anana. His mother’s sister, Sawad Jabareh, who guided this reporter through the ins and outs of the Haj Yehia family, is also a retired teacher.

Samer Haj Yehia has been appointed the chairman of the board of Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. (Courtesy)

Teaching is a noble profession, of course, and certainly one of the more important careers, but it doesn’t exactly require shattering glass ceilings, which is the issue at hand.

The first person to smash through the glass ceiling in the family was Samer’s father, Dr. Mohammed Saleem Haj Yahia, who was one of the first Arab students at Tel Aviv University. He majored in criminology and became a probation officer, handling many cases involving youth from the Tayibe area.

Fatina always wanted a daughter but had four sons. Each of Samer’s brothers has three sons. His older brother, Prof. Saleem Haj Yahia, is a renowned international heart surgeon who lives in Scotland, where he heads the national heart transplant program. His younger brother, Rani Haj Yehia, who also lives in Tayibe, is a finance attorney who heads the Jordan Gateway Free Zone and Industrial Park project.

The fourth brother, Saji, was an engineering major at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He was killed in a car accident at the entrance to Tayibe in 1998. Samer Haj Yehia named his firstborn son after him.

Among the many congratulatory calls Haj Yehia received following his nomination were some from relatives who are doing well overseas, including a professor of pharmacology from the University of South Carolina and a senior official in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Haj Yehia and his wife, Eden, are the parents of four sons, the youngest of whom was born three months ago. Their two eldest boys, Saji and Bassel, attend the gifted students’ program at the Eastern Mediterranean International School in central Israel, and it wouldn’t be much of a gamble to assume that they, too, will make something of themselves, perhaps even shattering more unnecessary glass ceilings as they go. But unless some fundamental changes take place in Israel, it is also likely they may end up marrying teachers.

“They’re all geniuses. Samer’s son isn’t even two years old and he reads in English at a 10-year-old’s level,” his aunt Jabareh said. “He’s truly extraordinary. He can read the entire English alphabet and he speaks Arabic and English.”

2. It’s best to be born rich

Like the previous statement, this, too, almost goes without saying. This also has more to do with fate and luck, and while it may not guarantee success, different circumstances clearly make the road to success harder.

The Haj Yehia family isn’t only the biggest family in Tayibe – the extended clan numbers 6,000 and counting – they are also one of its most affluent families.

“They are a rich family, very rich,” Jabareh said. “They have land, lots of land. Samar’s paternal grandfather was a very rich man, and he left his children a sizable estate. Samer grew up like a kid in Kfar Shmaryahu [an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv]. He traveled and he was pampered. He never lacked for anything.

“Their life was something else, something very different from other children in Tayibe,” she continued, referring to Samer and his brothers. “In Tayibe, when a child wants a toy, he doesn’t always get it. They always got what they wanted. Well, maybe not all the time, but if they asked for something reasonable, they’d get it.

An Arab Israeli woman casts her vote during elections for the Knesset on April 9, 2019, at a polling station in the northern town of Tayibe. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

“They really lacked for nothing. They grew up then the way children grow up now – they have everything except good education. Samer lacked for nothing and he received an excellent education. He once said he was privileged to be able to teach other children, and he has done very well in doing that,” said his aunt.

3. A warm and supporting family is everything

This is the first lesson in our journey toward shattering the glass ceiling that is somewhat under our control. There is no doubt that being financially secure helps keep a family together, but we are no strangers to stories about wealthy families whose members seek to take each other down rather than lift each other up, something that is always a grave mistake.

The Haj Yehia family presents a different model. It is not a coincidence that Samer and his family still live in the family home in Tayibe, with his mother. It is hard to believe that there’s another chairman of a large bank anywhere else in the world, who still lives in his childhood home.

“They are an ideal family,” Jabareh said. “The brothers are very close to each other and close to their mother. They were also very close to their father. They’re really a very close-knit family, always supportive of each other. They always encourage each other, ‘Yes, go for it, don’t be afraid, do it.’ And it helped them all, very much, to get to where they are today.”

Haj Yehia’s father died of a stroke a year ago.

A view of Taibe (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A view of Tayibe. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“Samer was in charge of his care until his very last day. He [the father] died at Meir Hospital [in central Israel] and Samer was the only one by his side,” she added. “I told Samer, ‘You knew your dad was dying, why didn’t you tell anyone?’ And he said, ‘Because I wanted to talk to him. He could hear me. I had many things I wanted to say to him before he died.’ We don’t know what he said. He loved his father very much.”

Jabareh said that back when they were all children, she used to envy the brothers.

“They were constantly spoiled. My father, Samer’s grandfather, always gave him special treatment. Even when he fell ill, he asked for Samer. ‘Bring Samer to me, I want to see Samer.’ He would always feel better after seeing him. Samer was also very close to his grandfather. He loved him very much,” said Jabareh.

“There was a time when their mother was alone at home. All four sons were in boarding schools outside Tayibe, and she would prepare food for everyone and bring it to them. She worked – she would work all week and go home only to cook for the children and then travel between their boarding schools to bring them food.

“When Samer was studying in university in Jerusalem he wouldn’t come home to Tayibe every weekend, he preferred to stay and study in the library. He didn’t have a roommate because he wanted to be able to study in peace. His mother would go to Jerusalem to bring him food. It was like that all the time,” Jabareh said.

4. Stand firm against pressure from your environment

Even with the support of family, your environment can still pull you down. Samer’s father, who as a probation officer supervised many paroled criminals in the Tayibe area, was familiar with the perils posed by his children’s surroundings and made sure all four attended boarding school outside the city, sending them to the Al Mutran Christian High School in Nazareth.

“It was a very good school, very few families can afford to send their children there,” Jabareh said. “Samer and his brothers were exceptional in Tayibe in every way – in their behavior, their education, even in how they dressed. Going to school in Nazareth – no one else went there. It was expensive and far away.”

Still, Haj Yehia proved to be exceptional from a very young age.

“It was clear that he was gifted. Everyone saw it, not just us. His kindergarten teachers and schoolteachers, too. A few days ago I ran into one of his teachers from third grade. She told me, ‘I knew, even in third grade, that he was destined to do great things. I used to give them [the children] arithmetic problems and he would solve them before I would finish explaining to the class what to do. He was always like that.’”

It is hard to distinguish between the retroactive compliments with which anyone who garners professional achievement is inundated, and reality. In Tayibe, Haj Yehia is a superstar, the subject of excited wedding conversations and social media posts. In his case, everyone knows that these compliments are grounded in reality, as he has always stood out from the crowd, shining brighter from day one.

Isaac Herzog outside the Knesset. (Courtesy)

By the time he turned 30, Haj Yehia had no less than five degrees under his belt, including in law, economics, and accounting. Current Jewish Agency director and then-partner at Herzog Fox Ne’eman Isaac Herzog mentored him during his internship at what is one of the most prestigious law firms in Israel.

Haj Yehia then set off for the United States, completing a doctorate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and embarking on a successful career in the financial world. At the age of 37 he was named the vice president of Boston-based Fidelity Investments, one of the largest multinational financial services corporations in the world. He also served as a lecturer in economics at MIT and Harvard University.

Seven years ago, Haj Yehia gave into his longing for Israel and the family left its comfortable life in Boston and returned to Tayibe. He also felt that his older children were becoming Americans and he didn’t like it.

Back in Israel, he enrolled Saji and Bassel in a local school, to help them reconnect with their hometown and the Arabic language, and later on sent them to school outside Taiybe, as his father did with him.

After his return, many in Tayibe pressured him to enter local politics.

According to Jabareh, “People here wanted him to be mayor, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Many people were angry with him for declining the offer – they saw him as someone who could save Tayibe from all of its financial problems. Very senior members of the Haj Yehia family, who are involved in local politics, pressed him about it, but he showed no interest. I kept telling him, ‘Don’t go into Tayibe [politics]. It’s crazy. Don’t do it.’”

Mayor of Tayibe Sha’a Mansour Massarwa (Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

Tayibe is the only city in Israel to be declared insolvent twice, in 1999 and again in 2007, as years of municipal mismanagement have seen it amass nearly NIS 1 billion (roughly $280 million) in debt. In 2013, six years after a trustee was appointed to oversee the city’s finances, a settlement was reached with its creditors for NIS 130 million ($36 million) – 14% of its outstanding debt, which at the time amounted to NIS 931 million ($260 million). The city has since been slowly recovering from its financial woes, but its politics remain tumultuous.

“I know what the municipality is like in Tayibe, the kind of respect the mayor of Tayibe commands, and I still didn’t want Samer to go anywhere near it,” Jabareh said. “I told him, ‘There are plenty of good jobs out there for you. Don’t go into it [politics]. If you do, everyone will end up hating you.’ So he declined the offer and shortly afterward, they [Bank Leumi] offered him a job.”

5. Strive higher, stay motivated, continue to learn and grow

Haj Yehia’s parents encouraged their children to study and work. If there is one thing that can predict success in life – that must be it. Aside from his academic and practical career as a criminologist, his father continued to work the family’s five acres of land, and demanded that his children work on the farm as well.

This had no financial justification, only an educational one – teaching the value of hard work. Rani, Haj Yehia’s younger brother, recently revealed that he and his brothers still work on the family farm on weekends.

Haj Yehia needed little pushing or encouragement. Growing up, he had only a few friends and preferred spending time at home, reading and writing.

As a child, he seemed to be innately motivated, said Jabareh.

“He would come home from school and sit down to do his homework, without his mom or dad telling him he had to do it. They never had to tell him,” she said, recalling a childhood incident that can, perhaps, offer a glimpse into the nature of Bank Leumi’s new chairman.

Illustrative image: Withdrawing money at Bank Leumi on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, January 18, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“I came over to their house one day and his father was working on some kind of university paper and he was using one of those old-fashion calculators. Samer, who was in the fifth or sixth grade, walked up to him, took the calculator from his father’s hand and said, ‘If you use it your mind will stop working. Throw it away and only use your head.’ So yes, he was always like this since childhood.”

Still, she would not venture a guess as to whether Haj Yehia he will use his new position to fight the racism and discrimination plaguing Arabs in Israeli society.

“I don’t know about that,” she said. “I know little about banking and economics, but knowing Samer, I have faith that he’ll try. He’s an idealist.”

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Hezbollah wars that Israel could be ‘wiped out’ in war between US and Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Nasrallah warns Israel could be ‘wiped out’ in war between US and Iran

Hezbollah leader says Tehran has ability to ‘bombard Israel with ferocity and force,’ claims group has bolstered its arsenal with precision missiles that can reach Eilat

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

The head of the Hezbollah terror group warned Friday that Israel would be drawn into any war between the US and Iran and could be “wiped out” in such a conflict.

“Iran is able to bombard Israel with ferocity and force,” Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.

“When the Americans understand that this war could wipe out Israel, they will reconsider,” Nasrallah said.

His comments came amid soaring tensions between the US and Iran and just hours after US House of Representatives voted to restrict US President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran, voicing fear that his hawkish policies are pushing toward a needless war.

It was not immediately clear if Nasrallah was referring to Iran’s arsenal of long-range missiles or the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that Iran has supplied the Lebanese Hezbollah.

In this photo provided November 5, 2018, by the Iranian Army, a Sayyad 2 missile is fired by the Talash air defense system during drills in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Earlier in the interview Nasrallah said his Iran-backed group had significantly improved its military capabilities since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

“Our weapons have been developed in both quality and quantity, we have precision missiles and drones,” he said in the interview to mark 13 years since the war.

During the interview Nasrallah held a map of Israel and pointed to strategic targets, which he said Hezbollah could hit, including Ben Gurion Airport, arms depots, petrochemical and water desalinization plants, and the Ashdod port.

He also claimed his missiles could hit the southern Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea.

Nasrallah hinted his organization had acquired anti-aircraft missiles, saying he preferred to keep an ambiguous stance, adding that the Lebanese terror group now had “game-changing offensive capabilities and weapons.”

Israel has long warned that Hezbollah plans to try and invade northern Israel in any future war and recently uncovered several attack tunnels built deep into Israel that were supposed to allow their fighters to enter into Israel.

Hezbollah supporters take part in a rally to mark al-Quds day in Beirut, Lebanon, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

However, Nasrallah said he was confident there would not be a war, because Israel feared the consequences.

He also said regional players were working to prevent a war between the US and Iran. “Our collective responsibility in the region is to work towards preventing an American war on Iran,” he said.

He said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had no interest in a conflict erupting.

In recent weeks the US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East, and fears are growing of a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran’s downing of the US military drone.

The USS Abraham Lincoln sails south in the Suez canal near Ismailia toward the Persian Gulf, May 9, 2019. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the accord a year ago.

The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

Nasrallah also said that the group had recently begun withdrawing it’s fighters that were supporting the Damascus regime in neighboring war-torn Syria.

“We are present in every area that we used to be. We are still there, but we don’t need to be there in large numbers as long as there is no practical need,” he said.

The head of the Iran-backed Shiite movement, which has been fighting in Syria since 2013, did no quantify the extent of the reduction.

A Hezbollah armored vehicle sits at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Backed by Russia and Iran, the Damascus government has taken back large swathes of territory from rebels and jihadists since 2015, and now controls around 60 percent of the country.

Nasrallah said none of his fighters were currently involved in fighting in Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib, where regime and Russian forces have increased deadly bombardment on a jihadist-run bastion since late April.

He spoke after Washington announced fresh sanctions Tuesday against Hezbollah, targeting elected officials from the movement for the first time.

“All dealings with the Syria file has nothing to do with the sanctions or the financial austerity,” he said.

Hezbollah is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the United States, and is the only faction not to have disarmed after the Lebanese 1975-1990 civil war.

But it is also a major political player in the small Mediterranean country, taking 13 seats in parliament last year and securing three posts in the current cabinet.

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JULY 13, 2019
CURRENT TOP STORIES
PROFILEFATHER OF FOUR STILL LIVES IN HIS PARENTS’ HOME IN TAYIBE

For 1st Arab head of major Israeli bank, breaking down barriers is second nature

Five lessons on success and excellence to learn from the story of Samer Haj Yehia, Bank Leumi’s new chairman of the board

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Let’s clear something up right from the get-go: Samer Haj Yehia, who was recently named the chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, made a significant crack in the glass ceiling. This marks the first time a major Israeli bank has appointed an Arab chairman.

The dozens of news items and social media posts focusing on Haj Yehia’s career overflow with (entirely justified) praise for the brilliant 49-year-old economist, who managed to overcome numerous obstacles as he made his way from his birthplace of Tayibe, an Arab city in central Israel, to having one of Israel’s top economy positions.

In fact — so thick is the glass ceiling he managed to shatter — that from now on, his name is likely to come up in every debate, discussion, or symposium dealing with the integration of Arabs into Israeli society.

A lawyer and certified public accountant, Haj Yehia is slated to take office on July 21, replacing David Brodet, who chaired the board for the past nine years. It is important to stress that no one questions whether Haj Yahya is worthy of this prestigious appointment. His nomination – approved by a majority vote of five in favor and three against – is free of any claim of affirmative action or political correctness, as the boards of directors of banks simply don’t bother with such matters. Their sole focus is on ensuring the bank’s success.

Illustrative image: Israelis walk next to Bank Leumi in Jerusalem on November 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The other three contenders for the position – ex-Finance Ministry director-general and current Israel Oil Refineries Executive Chairman Ohad Marani, former Teva Pharmaceuticals Deputy CEO Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shmuel Ben Zvi, and former Discount Bank Capital Markets and Investments head Dr. Yitzhak Sharir – sufficed with one vote each.

That’s how you smash through the glass ceiling with style.

Haj Yehia’s nomination earned praise left and right. “It’s about time the Israeli government follows in Bank Leumi’s footsteps. Unfortunately, had Samer been vying for a position in the public sector, I’m afraid he wouldn’t have made it,” Tayibe Mayor Sha’a Mansour Massarwa told newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also rushed to congratulate Haj Yehia, tweeting, “I welcome Dr. Samer Haj Yehia’s appointment as chairman of the board of directors at Bank Leumi and wish him the best of luck!”

But congratulations aside, Haj Yehia’s personal background deserves a second glance. Before we Israelis pat ourselves on the back and feel reassured that the bank’s move proves that we are not as racist as we may seem, it’s worth mentioning that this impressive achievement – marked before he turned 50 – is first and foremost a personal feat that, if not for a set of extraordinary personal circumstances, may have remained out of reach.

And so, in the spirit of the coaching culture, here are five lessons on success and excellence one can learn from the story of Haj Yehia.

1. It’s best to be born a male

There’s no easy way to say this, and I apologize in advance to anyone who is already outraged and may be ready to write a virulent response, but gender plays a role in this story.

Haj Yehia still lives – with his wife and four children – in his mother’s house in Tayibe. Fatina Haj Yehia, now 74, is a retired schoolteacher. Haj Yehia’s wife, Eden, is an English teacher who works at a school in Ra’anana. His mother’s sister, Sawad Jabareh, who guided this reporter through the ins and outs of the Haj Yehia family, is also a retired teacher.

Samer Haj Yehia has been appointed the chairman of the board of Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. (Courtesy)

Teaching is a noble profession, of course, and certainly one of the more important careers, but it doesn’t exactly require shattering glass ceilings, which is the issue at hand.

The first person to smash through the glass ceiling in the family was Samer’s father, Dr. Mohammed Saleem Haj Yahia, who was one of the first Arab students at Tel Aviv University. He majored in criminology and became a probation officer, handling many cases involving youth from the Tayibe area.

Fatina always wanted a daughter but had four sons. Each of Samer’s brothers has three sons. His older brother, Prof. Saleem Haj Yahia, is a renowned international heart surgeon who lives in Scotland, where he heads the national heart transplant program. His younger brother, Rani Haj Yehia, who also lives in Tayibe, is a finance attorney who heads the Jordan Gateway Free Zone and Industrial Park project.

The fourth brother, Saji, was an engineering major at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He was killed in a car accident at the entrance to Tayibe in 1998. Samer Haj Yehia named his firstborn son after him.

Among the many congratulatory calls Haj Yehia received following his nomination were some from relatives who are doing well overseas, including a professor of pharmacology from the University of South Carolina and a senior official in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Haj Yehia and his wife, Eden, are the parents of four sons, the youngest of whom was born three months ago. Their two eldest boys, Saji and Bassel, attend the gifted students’ program at the Eastern Mediterranean International School in central Israel, and it wouldn’t be much of a gamble to assume that they, too, will make something of themselves, perhaps even shattering more unnecessary glass ceilings as they go. But unless some fundamental changes take place in Israel, it is also likely they may end up marrying teachers.

“They’re all geniuses. Samer’s son isn’t even two years old and he reads in English at a 10-year-old’s level,” his aunt Jabareh said. “He’s truly extraordinary. He can read the entire English alphabet and he speaks Arabic and English.”

2. It’s best to be born rich

Like the previous statement, this, too, almost goes without saying. This also has more to do with fate and luck, and while it may not guarantee success, different circumstances clearly make the road to success harder.

The Haj Yehia family isn’t only the biggest family in Tayibe – the extended clan numbers 6,000 and counting – they are also one of its most affluent families.

“They are a rich family, very rich,” Jabareh said. “They have land, lots of land. Samar’s paternal grandfather was a very rich man, and he left his children a sizable estate. Samer grew up like a kid in Kfar Shmaryahu [an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv]. He traveled and he was pampered. He never lacked for anything.

“Their life was something else, something very different from other children in Tayibe,” she continued, referring to Samer and his brothers. “In Tayibe, when a child wants a toy, he doesn’t always get it. They always got what they wanted. Well, maybe not all the time, but if they asked for something reasonable, they’d get it.

An Arab Israeli woman casts her vote during elections for the Knesset on April 9, 2019, at a polling station in the northern town of Tayibe. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

“They really lacked for nothing. They grew up then the way children grow up now – they have everything except good education. Samer lacked for nothing and he received an excellent education. He once said he was privileged to be able to teach other children, and he has done very well in doing that,” said his aunt.

3. A warm and supporting family is everything

This is the first lesson in our journey toward shattering the glass ceiling that is somewhat under our control. There is no doubt that being financially secure helps keep a family together, but we are no strangers to stories about wealthy families whose members seek to take each other down rather than lift each other up, something that is always a grave mistake.

The Haj Yehia family presents a different model. It is not a coincidence that Samer and his family still live in the family home in Tayibe, with his mother. It is hard to believe that there’s another chairman of a large bank anywhere else in the world, who still lives in his childhood home.

“They are an ideal family,” Jabareh said. “The brothers are very close to each other and close to their mother. They were also very close to their father. They’re really a very close-knit family, always supportive of each other. They always encourage each other, ‘Yes, go for it, don’t be afraid, do it.’ And it helped them all, very much, to get to where they are today.”

Haj Yehia’s father died of a stroke a year ago.

A view of Taibe (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A view of Tayibe. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“Samer was in charge of his care until his very last day. He [the father] died at Meir Hospital [in central Israel] and Samer was the only one by his side,” she added. “I told Samer, ‘You knew your dad was dying, why didn’t you tell anyone?’ And he said, ‘Because I wanted to talk to him. He could hear me. I had many things I wanted to say to him before he died.’ We don’t know what he said. He loved his father very much.”

Jabareh said that back when they were all children, she used to envy the brothers.

“They were constantly spoiled. My father, Samer’s grandfather, always gave him special treatment. Even when he fell ill, he asked for Samer. ‘Bring Samer to me, I want to see Samer.’ He would always feel better after seeing him. Samer was also very close to his grandfather. He loved him very much,” said Jabareh.

“There was a time when their mother was alone at home. All four sons were in boarding schools outside Tayibe, and she would prepare food for everyone and bring it to them. She worked – she would work all week and go home only to cook for the children and then travel between their boarding schools to bring them food.

“When Samer was studying in university in Jerusalem he wouldn’t come home to Tayibe every weekend, he preferred to stay and study in the library. He didn’t have a roommate because he wanted to be able to study in peace. His mother would go to Jerusalem to bring him food. It was like that all the time,” Jabareh said.

4. Stand firm against pressure from your environment

Even with the support of family, your environment can still pull you down. Samer’s father, who as a probation officer supervised many paroled criminals in the Tayibe area, was familiar with the perils posed by his children’s surroundings and made sure all four attended boarding school outside the city, sending them to the Al Mutran Christian High School in Nazareth.

“It was a very good school, very few families can afford to send their children there,” Jabareh said. “Samer and his brothers were exceptional in Tayibe in every way – in their behavior, their education, even in how they dressed. Going to school in Nazareth – no one else went there. It was expensive and far away.”

Still, Haj Yehia proved to be exceptional from a very young age.

“It was clear that he was gifted. Everyone saw it, not just us. His kindergarten teachers and schoolteachers, too. A few days ago I ran into one of his teachers from third grade. She told me, ‘I knew, even in third grade, that he was destined to do great things. I used to give them [the children] arithmetic problems and he would solve them before I would finish explaining to the class what to do. He was always like that.’”

It is hard to distinguish between the retroactive compliments with which anyone who garners professional achievement is inundated, and reality. In Tayibe, Haj Yehia is a superstar, the subject of excited wedding conversations and social media posts. In his case, everyone knows that these compliments are grounded in reality, as he has always stood out from the crowd, shining brighter from day one.

Isaac Herzog outside the Knesset. (Courtesy)

By the time he turned 30, Haj Yehia had no less than five degrees under his belt, including in law, economics, and accounting. Current Jewish Agency director and then-partner at Herzog Fox Ne’eman Isaac Herzog mentored him during his internship at what is one of the most prestigious law firms in Israel.

Haj Yehia then set off for the United States, completing a doctorate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and embarking on a successful career in the financial world. At the age of 37 he was named the vice president of Boston-based Fidelity Investments, one of the largest multinational financial services corporations in the world. He also served as a lecturer in economics at MIT and Harvard University.

Seven years ago, Haj Yehia gave into his longing for Israel and the family left its comfortable life in Boston and returned to Tayibe. He also felt that his older children were becoming Americans and he didn’t like it.

Back in Israel, he enrolled Saji and Bassel in a local school, to help them reconnect with their hometown and the Arabic language, and later on sent them to school outside Taiybe, as his father did with him.

After his return, many in Tayibe pressured him to enter local politics.

According to Jabareh, “People here wanted him to be mayor, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Many people were angry with him for declining the offer – they saw him as someone who could save Tayibe from all of its financial problems. Very senior members of the Haj Yehia family, who are involved in local politics, pressed him about it, but he showed no interest. I kept telling him, ‘Don’t go into Tayibe [politics]. It’s crazy. Don’t do it.’”

Mayor of Tayibe Sha’a Mansour Massarwa (Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

Tayibe is the only city in Israel to be declared insolvent twice, in 1999 and again in 2007, as years of municipal mismanagement have seen it amass nearly NIS 1 billion (roughly $280 million) in debt. In 2013, six years after a trustee was appointed to oversee the city’s finances, a settlement was reached with its creditors for NIS 130 million ($36 million) – 14% of its outstanding debt, which at the time amounted to NIS 931 million ($260 million). The city has since been slowly recovering from its financial woes, but its politics remain tumultuous.

“I know what the municipality is like in Tayibe, the kind of respect the mayor of Tayibe commands, and I still didn’t want Samer to go anywhere near it,” Jabareh said. “I told him, ‘There are plenty of good jobs out there for you. Don’t go into it [politics]. If you do, everyone will end up hating you.’ So he declined the offer and shortly afterward, they [Bank Leumi] offered him a job.”

5. Strive higher, stay motivated, continue to learn and grow

Haj Yehia’s parents encouraged their children to study and work. If there is one thing that can predict success in life – that must be it. Aside from his academic and practical career as a criminologist, his father continued to work the family’s five acres of land, and demanded that his children work on the farm as well.

This had no financial justification, only an educational one – teaching the value of hard work. Rani, Haj Yehia’s younger brother, recently revealed that he and his brothers still work on the family farm on weekends.

Haj Yehia needed little pushing or encouragement. Growing up, he had only a few friends and preferred spending time at home, reading and writing.

As a child, he seemed to be innately motivated, said Jabareh.

“He would come home from school and sit down to do his homework, without his mom or dad telling him he had to do it. They never had to tell him,” she said, recalling a childhood incident that can, perhaps, offer a glimpse into the nature of Bank Leumi’s new chairman.

Illustrative image: Withdrawing money at Bank Leumi on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, January 18, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“I came over to their house one day and his father was working on some kind of university paper and he was using one of those old-fashion calculators. Samer, who was in the fifth or sixth grade, walked up to him, took the calculator from his father’s hand and said, ‘If you use it your mind will stop working. Throw it away and only use your head.’ So yes, he was always like this since childhood.”

Still, she would not venture a guess as to whether Haj Yehia he will use his new position to fight the racism and discrimination plaguing Arabs in Israeli society.

“I don’t know about that,” she said. “I know little about banking and economics, but knowing Samer, I have faith that he’ll try. He’s an idealist.”

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Israel: Hamas conducts massive surprise drill simulating IDF incursion into Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas conducts massive surprise drill simulating IDF incursion into Gaza

Highly rare exercise appears linked to botched IDF special forces raid in November, comes a day after Israel located 18th attack tunnel under Gaza border

Illustrative: Members of Hamas's military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Illustrative: Members of Hamas’s military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group launched a highly unusual training exercise Tuesday night that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Gazans reported a spike in the movement of armed personnel in the streets, including along the border with Israel, before the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in the territory announced it was a military drill.

The drill saw the sudden raising of the alert level among all security agencies throughout the Strip, a general mobilizing of reserve personnel to the security services, the deployment of roadblocks, and the closure by Hamas of all land crossings and sea ports. Fishermen were told they could not set out to sea.

It included police, intelligence units and the terror group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Iyad al-Bozm, spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Gaza, said on Twitter: “The Interior and National Security Ministry is currently carrying out an emergency drill to simulate dealing with a sudden security threat. It is taking place in the framework of examining the preparedness of the security forces and services.”

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terrorist movement, mourn during the funeral of fellow militant Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on February 3, 2016. Zahar was killed in a tunnel collapse. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Hamas officials told Arabic-language media that the exercise simulated an incursion by Israeli security forces. An Interior Ministry statement said the drill came “due to attempts by enemies to undermine security and public order.”

The exercise appears linked to an IDF special forces operation in the Gaza Strip in November that went awry after the undercover Israeli force was discovered, resulting in the death of a soldier in the ensuing gunbattle.

An IDF probe, some of whose findings were released on Sunday, identified a number of tactical errors and improper planning that led to the operation’s failure, alongside courageous actions by members of the unit who took part in the raid that prevented a greater disaster. It said the Israeli officer was killed by friendly fire by another member of the team.

The highly public, embarrassing debacle led to a series of shake ups within IDF Military Intelligence. Notably, the head of Military Intelligence Special Operations Division — who can only be identified by his rank and initial, Brig. Gen. “Gimel” — resigned his position last week, having decided to do so in August.

According to Hamas officials, the soldiers were from Sayeret Matkal and had been conducting a complex operation to bug the terror group’s communications equipment in Gaza. They were said to have been driving through Gaza in civilian vans, approximately three kilometers (two miles) from the border.

Israel has not confirmed any of those claims.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 12, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

On Monday, the five-year anniversary of the 2014 Israel-Hamas war known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’s military wing released a statement lauding the “ceaseless preparations and battle of the minds with Israel” underway since that round of fighting.

Israel, Hamas said, “has seen the power of the resistance in the battle in Khan Younis” — a reference to the November 11 fighting during the botched raid that also left six Hamas gunmen dead — “whose results continue to shake the foundations of the Israeli defense establishment and military.”

The statement added that “the resistance has additional powerful capabilities it has not yet revealed.”

The massive drill on the Palestinian side of the border comes as IDF forces continue to investigate the Hamas attack tunnel located deep underground Monday that crosses into Israeli territory.

IDF spokespeople said Tuesday that the tunnel appeared to be an offshoot of an old tunnel.

It was discovered by Defense Ministry officials and IDF troops working on constructing an underground tunnel barrier along the Israel-Gaza border.

Also Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Israel “came close in recent weeks to the possibility of a military operation in Gaza, but it very much depends on what Hamas does in the coming weeks,” according to Channel 13.

Last month, Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group reached a new ceasefire agreement. An Israeli official confirmed that the country had agreed to a number of economic concessions for Gaza in exchange for an end to arson attacks and other violence along the border. Israel also agreed to extend the fishing zone off the Gaza coast to 15 nautical miles and to restore the supply of fuel to the Palestinian territory, the official said.

The agreement came after a fresh surge in serious violence between the two sides, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air force strikes.

Since the deal went into effect there has been a marked drop in the number of airborne arson attacks, though they have not stopped completely.

Should Trinidad and Tobago repatriate the families of ISIS recruits?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

(OPED: Just my opinion but here it is>Security protocols should be followed on all of the adults. If a woman joined of her own free will give them to the Syrian government for them to deal with. If a woman or a child were kidnapped then yes, allow them to come back home. But any child 12 or older who went willingly to be with ISIS then no, do not allow them back into your country unless it is somehow proven that they are not a future security risk. Any adult who went willingly should have their passports and visas terminated at once. They wanted to help bring hell on earth, let them live in that hell that they wanted for others to have to live in for themselves, turn them over to the Syrian government and the non-Islamic countries need to clear out of Syria as soon as it is possible to do so.)(oldpoet56)  

Should Trinidad and Tobago repatriate the families of ISIS recruits?

A screenshot from a YouTube video titled “Walk through Syria’s al-Hawl camp where thousands of Islamic State brides are held,” uploaded by ABC News (Australia), which shows the living conditions for the thousands of women and children inside the camp.

ISIS, the al-Qaeda offshoot that used to control large parts of Iraq and Syria using brutal, oppressive and violent tactics, lost control of these territories in January 2019. Since then, the families of many foreign ISIS militants have been left stateless.

Approximately 130 citizens from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago have joined ISIS abroad —  the highest per capita source for recruits for the militant group in the Western hemisphere, catapulting Trinidad and Tobago into a debate over the repatriation of the dependents of ISIS recruits.

The exodus of fighters from the small Caribbean nation has declined since Syrian and American forces declared defeat over ISIS. Many of the militants, mostly men, have been arrested or killed, leaving behind wives and children. Their abandoned families now seek shelter and food in detention camps in Syria, most notably the al-Hol refugee camp in northeast Syria.

When Trinidad and Tobago’s parliament met on July 2, 2019, Senator Wade Mark asked whether or not the government plans to facilitate the return of the families of foreign nationals who joined ISIS. National Security Minister Stuart Young replied that he had not yet received confirmation as to whether or not there were Trinidad and Tobago nationals at the camp.

The group Con­cerned Mus­lims of Trinidad & Tobago (CMTT), which maintains there are at least 40 children and 16 women at the al-Hol camp with ties to Trinidad and Tobago, has asked the government to assist in the return of these nationals. However, Minister Young has made it clear that the country must go through security protocols before making any decisions on their return:

This al-Hol refugee camp houses persons who fled from ISIS war zones, and the first thing the government has to do is a verification exercise. The government has policies and procedures which we have implemented, including the use of Team Nightingale, which is a multi-agency task force comprising the Children’s Authority, Counter Trafficking Unit, counter-terrorism units, TTPS, TT Defence Force, Immigration, persons from Ministry of National Security and other agencies [and] our intelligence services.

Young could not say how long the process would take, but some members of the local Muslim community have voiced their concerns about the women and children, who are reportedly living in uninhabitable conditions at the camp. Describing the situation as a hu­man­i­tar­i­an cri­sis, Trinidadian Imam Sher­az Ali recently made a TV appearance in which he said that many of the women and children who went to Syria did so against their will.

In a March 2019 report, The New York Times said that the camp held 72,000 people. More recent investigations by France 24 say that the number has increased to 100,000 people, in the camps and surrounding areas. The al-Hol camp dwellers comprise people from all over the world, some of whom refuse to return home and others who are desperate to leave.

Only a few official reports indicate Trinidadian women and children in the camp — actual numbers are not known. In early 2019, however, a Trinidadian mother finally reunited with her two young sons after their father abducted them and took them to Syria. Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith organised the rescue mission and later criticised the Trinidad and Tobago government for its lack of support, even though a press release by the Ministry of National Security claimed a role in the rescue operation. Calling the release “insulting drivel”, Stafford Smith said that the government’s specialised team meant to deal with nationals in Syria was “utterly useless” and of no help to the mother in her search for her boys.

While many citizens were happy for the young boys’ return, others are a bit skeptical about the return of others — mainly adult women — from the camp.  Countries like France have made the decision to only repatriate children; adults would have to go through an investigation before any talk of a return:

CCN TV6@tv6tnt

Two boys, aged 11 & 7 who were kidnapped by their father (a deceased ISIS fighter) and taken to Syria, are due to return to their mother in Trinidad. Do you welcome their return?

83%Yes
17%No

Shari Paul 🧜🏾‍♀️@ShariKimmyDee

So we’re supposed to jeer at two young, possibly deeply traumatized children, because of their father’s actions? Are you serious?

See Shari Paul 🧜🏾‍♀️‘s other Tweets

Some members of the local Muslim community have kept up their appeals. Until official numbers can be determined and strategies put into place, the futures of any Trinbagonian women and children will remain in limbo.

Iranian Militias on Alert after East Syria Deployment Maps Leaked

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Iranian Militias on Alert after East Syria Deployment Maps Leaked

Saturday, 6 July, 2019 – 11:45
A picture taken on March 22, 2017 near the town of Latamneh in the countryside of the central Syrian province of Hama, shows a displaced Syrian family travelling with their belongings down a road as two rebel fighters on a motorcycle drive past them. AFP file photo
Damascus – Asharq Al-Awsat
“Eye of the Euphrates” has published on its social media sites maps and detailed locations of 13 key Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) positions in the strategic Syrian city of al-Bukamal.

The page, which was created last year and has more than 122,000 followers, published a video showing a truck transporting arms and ammunition from one base to another.

It noted that the Iranian militias have gone on high alert and were changing their deployment locations.

Fatemiyoun leader in al-Bukamal Salman al-Irani has pledged a financial award to whoever provides information on the persons monitoring and taking photographs of Iranian militia bases.

Such developments come amid unprecedented tension between Iranian and Russian forces in the wake of Russian measures east of the Euphrates to limit Iranian influence in the area.

Among the locations revealed by “Eye of the Euphrates” is a site on the banks of the Euphrates river on the other side of al-Baghouz village which now falls under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The site is a main base for Iranian militias, where 150 Fatemiyoun members are located.

Another map showed two key locations in Hay Jamiat, the first belonging to Hezbollah and the second to Harakat al-Nujaba.

This neighborhood also includes two headquarters for intelligence agents, one belonging to Hezbollah and the other to the IRGC.

According to “Eye of the Euphrates,” the headquarters of Zainebiyoun militias who are specialized in night patrols are widespread as well.

In Bukamal’s countryside, there is a base for the Fatemiyoun that constantly erects checkpoints to inspect civilians.

A meeting bringing together the national security advisers of Russia, the US, and Israel was held in Jerusalem last week to discuss Iranian presence in Syria and urged Moscow to engage in downsizing Iranian power.