Ari Harow, the man who could bring down the Prime Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Ari Harow, the man who could bring down the prime minister

The US-born Netanyahu confidant and former chief of staff has signed an agreement to testify against his old boss

 August 5, 2017, 4:46 am 3

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow, left, and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner, right, as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow, left, and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner, right, as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Those who know Ari Harow describe him as a straight arrow. Now some believe he could be the one to bring down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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For years, Harow, 44, has been one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants and a chief cog in his political machine. But despite this, he has remained largely unknown to the Israeli public until now, when it was revealed on Friday that Harow had signed an agreement to turn state’s witness as part of ongoing investigations into alleged corruption by Israel’s premier.

Harow is very “low-key and discreet,” Odelia Karmon, a former Netanyahu adviser, told Channel 2 news on Friday, calling him very modest and saying he was someone who was never involved in the political intrigue that so often dogged Netanyahu’s inner circle. “He is a very straight man.”

Harow fits the mold of the type that Netanyahu has frequently chosen to head or play key roles in his office: young American-Israelis from the national religious camp. While others have sought the limelight — like Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, or current Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer — Harow stayed largely in the background during several stints in the high-profile position as Netanyahu’s chief of staff.

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Harow was born in Los Angeles and moved with his family to Israel in 1985, when he was 12, living in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron.

After completing his army service he moved back to the US to study in New York, before returning again to finish a Master’s degree in Political Science at Tel Aviv University.

It was at this time that he first stated working with Netanyahu, volunteering for him in 2002 as an adviser on Diaspora affairs, and more crucially on fundraising.

He then moved back to the US for several years where he headed the American Friends of Likud.

It was during this period that he was first linked to allegations of financial irregularities surrounding Netanyahu and the so-called Bibi Tours scandal in which, as finance minister a decade ago, Netanyahu had private donors and organizations fund most of his trips as well as cover travel expenses for his wife and children, and failed to clear the information with the Knesset.

According to the Haaretz daily, the American Friends of Likud were also paying the salary of Karmon, who was working as Netanyahu’s media adviser.

Odelia Karmon (YouTube screenshot)

Odelia Karmon (YouTube screenshot)

The Bibi Tours issue was first reported by Channel 10 in 2011 and, while a state comptroller’s report found ethical problems, no charges were ever filed.

By 2008, Harow was back in Israel, started working for Netanyahu as the head of his office, and was with him when he returned to power in 2009.

Harow left politics in 2010 to start a political consultancy firm, which works with politicians and political campaigns. He served a second stint as the PM’s bureau chief in 2014, and directed the election campaign that kept Netanyahu in office in the 2015 national elections.

But police began investigating Harow on suspicion that when he came back to work for Netanyahu in 2014, he only fictitiously sold his consulting firm, rather than genuinely doing so, as was required.

On Friday police announced that Harow is expected to receive six months of community service and a NIS 700,000 fine ($193,000) on breach of trust charges in exchange for his testimony against his former boss.

His former colleagues said that Harow was a particular favorite of Netanyahu and very trusted. He is expected to have crucial information in both cases against Netanyahu.

“Ari Harrow, you have to understand, sat on the seam between the political and the personal, between the family of Netanyahu and the national, between the bureau and the home,” Yoaz Hendel, a former communications director for Netanyahu, told Channel 2. “On these seams — all the grey episodes happened.”

Yoaz Hendel (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Yoaz Hendel (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, through Knesset legislation in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Harow is expected to provide information in both probes, having served as chief of staff during the time of the alleged deal with Mozes and while Netanyahu is said to have received gifts worth thousands of shekels.

The recordings of Netanyahu’s conversations with Mozes were made on Harow’s phone and discovered by police during their investigation into his sale of his consultancy.

On Friday, Hebrew media reported that police would now suggest indicting Netanyahu. A police recommendation does not carry legal weight. It is for state prosecutors to decide whether to press charges.

Netanyahu, who has denied any wrongdoing, dismissed the latest developments, calling them “background noise.”

In a short video posted early Friday evening before the start of Shabbat, Netanyahu said: “I want to tell you, citizens of Israel, I don’t pay attention to the background noises, I continue in my work on behalf of you. Shabbat shalom.”

Harow’s family suggested that his legal problems were all a result of attempts to bring down Netanyahu.

“What really bothers me is that no one is paying attention to the obvious: that this whole exercise against Ari and those around Bibi is to get Bibi,” Harow’s mother told Channel 2, using the prime minister’s nickname.

“What I can tell you is that Ari is one of the most honorable, trustworthy people I know. And I think that he was close to Bibi because Bibi knew he could trust him. That’s what I know,” she said.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Acknowledges His Country’s “Sins” Toward Jews During WW II

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday acknowledged Hungary’s “sin” in not protecting the country’s Jews during World War II, seeking to quell a controversy over his recent praise for Hungary’s wartime leader and Hitler ally Miklos Horthy.

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Standing next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Hungarian leader also promised a “zero tolerance policy” toward anti-Semitism.

“We are aware of the fact that we have quite a difficult chapter of history behind us. And I wanted to make it very clear to him that the Government of Hungary, in a previous period, committed a mistake, even committed a sin, when it did not protect the Jewish citizens of Hungary,” Orban said. “I want to make it clear that it is our belief that every single Hungarian government has the obligation to protect and defend all of its citizens, regardless of their birth and origins.”

Hungary’s Nazi-allied regime instituted anti-Semitic laws modeled on Germany’s Nuremberg laws beginning in 1938. After German tanks rolled into Budapest in 1944, Nazi-installed Hungarian leaders ordered the mass deportation of Jews to Auschwitz. Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed during the war, through deportation to death camps or in massacres on Hungarian soil.

Orban said Hungary failed to live up to its commitment to its citizens during World War II, “both morally or in other ways. And this is a sin, because we decided back then, instead of protecting the Jewish community, to collaborate with the Nazis. I made it very clear to the prime minister that this is something that can never, ever happen again, that the Hungarian government will in the future protect all its citizens.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (right) and PM Netanyahu at the Hungarian Parliament in Hungary, July 18, 2017 (GPO)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (right) and PM Netanyahu at the Hungarian Parliament in Hungary, July 18, 2017 (GPO)

Hungarian officials later pointed out this was the first time Orban referred to Horthy’s actions as a “sin.”

MK Yair Lapid, who had urged Netanyahu’s to cancel his planned trip unless Orban’s apologizes, welcomed the Hungarian’s leader’s statement, but reiterated his outrage over Orban’s previous praise for Horthy.

“We must be clear: Hungary had a significant role in the Nazi extermination machine and was actively involved in the murder of Jews, in the murder of my family. That only heightens the severity of praising Miklos Horthy,” Lapid said. “The State of Israel is a strong and sovereign country and we must fight the increasing expressions of anti-Semitism in Europe which come from both the left and the right. When a prime minister in Europe says that an anti-Semite was ‘an exceptional statesman,’ we cannot be silent. That it is our moral responsibility to the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust.”

During the joint appearance with Netanyahu, Orban pointed out that a “sizable” Jewish minority lives in Hungary today. “I made it very clear to the prime minister that their security, being Hungarian citizens that they are, will be fully guaranteed by the Hungarian state, I’ve also made it very clear to the Prime Minister that the Hungarian government has a zero tolerance policy against all forms of anti-Semitism.”

Regent of Hungary Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya with Adolf Hitler, year unspecified (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Regent of Hungary Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya with Adolf Hitler, year unspecified (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

There is a renaissance of Jewish life here in Hungary, Orban added. “And this is something that we are proud of. We think that the renaissance of Jewish life is a substantial contribution to the common achievements of the Hungarian nation quite clearly.”

Orban praised Netanyahu as a “dedicated patriot,” adding that this is the key to his country’s success.

“There’s a lot for us to learn from Israel, ladies and gentlemen, because Israel teaches the world and us also that if you don’t fight for something, you will lose it,” he said. “Because nowadays, you have to fight for everything in the modern world.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) inspect an honor guard outside the Budapest Parliament, July 18, 2017 (Haim Tzach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) inspect an honor guard outside the Budapest Parliament, July 18, 2017 (Haim Tzach/GPO)

Netanyahu said he raised with Orban “concerns” about his recent praise for Horthy and an anti-immigration billboard campaign, focused on Jewish billionaire George Soros, many Jews felt was anti-Semitic.

“He reassured me in unequivocal terms, just as he did now, publicly. I appreciate that. These are important words,” Netanyahu said.

An anti-Soros billboard with a swastika and Soros's name replaced by Viktor Orban's seen in Budapest on July 17, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

An anti-Soros billboard with a swastika and George Soros’s name replaced by Viktor Orban’s seen in Budapest on July 17, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

The prime minister also thanked his host for standing up for Israel in international forums. “You’ve done that time and again. We appreciate this stance, not only because it’s standing with Israel, but it’s also standing with the truth.”

Budapest is at “the forefront of the states that are opposed to this anti-Jewish policy, and I welcome it,” the Netanyahu added.

Speaking in English after Orban, Netanyahu hailed Hungary as the birthplace of modern Zionism.

“When I come to Hungary, the first thing I think about, before anything else, is that Hungary was the, in many ways, the birth of modern Zionism, the movement that led to the establishment of the modern Jewish state because in Hungary was born our modern Moses, Theodor Herzl,” he said.

“It is probably inconceivable to think of the Jewish state, the State of Israel today, if it weren’t for that man born here in 1860, who envisioned the rebirth of the Jewish state and who saw in his mind’s-eye also the great challenges that would be posed anti-Semitism. He thought that this ultimately was the best solution for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said, adding that he planned to visit the site where Herzl’s house once stood.

Before their statements, Netanyahu and Orban witnessed the signing of a bilateral culture agreement and declarations of intent regarding cooperation in innovation and technology. The culture agreement will enable reciprocal financing of cultural appearances, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Dozens of Israeli shows take place annually in Hungary via the existing culture agreement and dozens more will be added, thanks to the new one, thus allowing additional artists and directors – inter alia – to go to Hungary and expose Hungarian audiences to Israeli culture,” the PMO said.

The innovation and technology agreement is intended to increase cooperation between the Israel Innovation Authority and its Hungarian counterparts to promote Israeli-Hungarian startups. “The goal of the agreement is to promote cooperation between the governments including in the private sector with emphasis on high-tech, autonomous vehicles and new technologies,” according to the PMO.

Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu and his wife Sara were welcomed by Orban and his wife Aniko Levai at the steps of the Parliament in Hungary, where they reviewed a military honor guard. The Netanyahus toured the parliament, which houses the Holy Crown of Hungary, which has been used by kings since the twelfth century.

On Monday afternoon, Netanyahu was met Hungarian President Janos Ader in the presidential palace. He concluded the day with a dinner with Orban at the prime minister’s residence.

On Tuesday, he will meet the leaders of the Visegrad Group, a political alliance of four Central European countries: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He will also hold individual working meetings with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Later in the day, Netanyahu and Orban will attend an economic forum attended by dozens of Israeli companies and more than 100 Hungarian companies from the cyber, high-tech, agriculture, pharmaceutical and technology sectors.

On Wednesday, the two prime ministers will visit the Dohany Street Synagogue and meet with Jewish community leaders. Relations between the local Jewish community and Israel have been tense over recent controversies surrounding Netanyahu’s apparent refusal to confront Orban over moves perceived as promoting anti-Semitism in the country.

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

President Trump discussed how to fight terrorism and improve international relations during a speech alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 23 in Bethlehem. (The Washington Post)
May 23 at 9:40 AM
President Trump told Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday that he knows they are eager to reach a peace agreement with each other and that he is committed to helping them “make a deal.”In a speech at the Israel Museum as he prepared to end his four-day trip to the Middle East and depart for his next stop in Rome, Trump repeated his call for Arab countries and Israel to form a grand coalition with the United States to “drive out the terrorists and the extremists from our midst” and “defend our citizens and the people of the world.”

“This trip is focused on that goal,” he said.

Trump recognized that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a key component of cooperation in the region, although he has not outlined how he hopes to achieve an agreement that has eluded many presidents before him.

Trump on Middle East peace deal: ‘We’re going to get there eventually, I hope’
Speaking in Jerusalem, May 22, President Trump lauded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “commitment to pursuing the peace process.” (The Washington Post)

In some respects, his effusive praise for Israel during his two days here — which also included a Tuesday morning visit to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — appeared to endorse Israeli claims to a united capital in Jerusalem.

Noting that Jerusalem is a “sacred city,” and that “the ties of the Jewish people to this holy land are ancient and eternal,” Trump recalled his Monday visits to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, sites sacred to Jews and Christians in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank, and claimed by Palestinians as the capital of their envisioned state.

To sustained applause, Trump cited the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel, a place he called “a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.” He spoke of “a future where Jewish, Christian and Muslim children can grow up together in peace.”

“America’s security partnership with Israel is stronger than ever,” he said. “Under my administration, you see the difference. Big, big beautiful difference, including the Iron Dome missile defense program . . . [and] David’s Sling,” an aircraft interception system. The former was established here under the Obama administration, the latter under President George W. Bush.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump, who introduced him and praised “the leadership that you bring,” condemned Monday night’s terrorist attack in Britain, claimed by the Islamic State.

But in describing the authors of global terrorism, Trump focused nearly all his attention on Iran and the anti-Israel organizations it supports, Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran’s leaders, he said, “routinely call for Israel’s destruction. Not with Donald J. Trump,” he said. “Believe me.”

Key moments from Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu
Here is President Trump’s May 22 joint news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in less than two minutes. (The Washington Post)

“The United States is firmly committed to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and halting their support of terrorism and militias,” Trump said to sustained applause as Netanyahu stood and pumped his fist.

The audience included U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as prominent citizens from both. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who donated millions of dollars to support Trump’s campaign and then his inauguration, were seated just behind the stage, near first lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Before his speech, Trump and his delegation visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center at Yad Vashem, where he said the Jewish people had built the state of Israel out of the “depths of suffering” as “a testament to [their] unbreakable spirit.”

Earlier, he had traveled to Bethlehem for a private meeting with Abbas to discuss the peace process and his vision for anti-terrorism cooperation.

In joint remarks afterward, Abbas said he welcomed Trump’s efforts, which had “given all the nations across the region so much hope and optimism of the possibility of making a dream come true.”

“Our commitment is to cooperate with you in order to make peace and forge a historic peace deal with the Israelis,” Abbas added.

But while Trump spoke in generalities about the goal, Abbas laid out the specifics of Palestinian demands — which have been supported by the Arabs and rejected by Israel through decades of unsuccessful peace negotiations shepherded by American presidents.

“We reassert to you our positions of a two-state solution along the borders of 1967, a state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, living alongside of Israel,” he said, referring to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank following a war against three Arab armies.

During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the plan has been shelved, at least temporarily.

Abbas said he had also drawn Trump’s attention to more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel who have been on a hunger strike for over a month, led by Marwan Barghouti, whom supporters call the Palestinian Nelson Mandela.

Abbas delivered to Trump a letter from the families of the strikers, who have demanded more family visits, access to telephones, medical care, the freedom to study and cessation of isolation as a punishment.

Israel and some U.S. lawmakers have objected to American aid to the Palestinians, claiming the money is used to make payments to the families of prisoners, who are considered “freedom fighters” among many Palestinians. Trump did not mention the aid or the payments in his public remarks.

Abbas also spoke of Palestinian insistence that all “final status issues” be resolved “based on international law” and United Nations resolutions, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative first offered more than a decade ago. It promised Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state.

Escorted by Israeli police and helicopters, Trump and his delegation sped down Hebron Road and found themselves, just minutes from their Jerusalem hotel, at the gates of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

The closeness of Bethlehem — the physical proximity between Israel and the Palestinian territory — surprised most first-time visitors in the entourage.

Trump and the convoy passed through the 26-foot-tall concrete wall with watch towers that is Israel’s barrier and past “Checkpoint 300,” where thousands of Palestinian workers cross into Israel each morning to reach their jobs on construction sites.

Trump has cited the Israeli barrier as an example of the kind of wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico, but many Palestinians view it as a symbol of oppression.

Bethlehem is lively and crowded, home to Palestinian Muslims and Christians and the Church of the Nativity, the Byzantine-era sacred site built over the grotto where the faithful believe Jesus was born.

The city is also surrounded by hilltop Jewish settlements on three sides, built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, communities that most of the world considers illegal, though Israel disputes this.

Later, Trump told his museum audience that after his meeting with Abbas, “I can tell you the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace … I know you’ve heard it before. I’m telling you, they are ready to reach for peace.

“My good friend Benjamin [Netanyahu], he wants peace.” Both sides, he said, “will face tough decisions. But with determination and compromise … Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.”

There was no applause from the audience.

Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this article.

Allowances for families of Palestinians killed by Israel are intact, says official

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PALESTINIAN NEWS AGENCY ‘WAFA’)

Allowances for families of Palestinians killed by Israel are intact, says official
RAMALLAH, May 2, 2017 (WAFA) – Allowances for families of Palestinians killed by Israel will not be touched and they will be dispersed on Thursday, a Palestinian official said on Tuesday.

The official, Mohammad Sbeihat, secretary general of the National Coalition for Families of Martyrs, was dispelling reports that President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered a halt to these allowances.

“I checked with all official parties related to his issue and they all confirmed that these are just rumors and that the allowances will be distributed on time on Thursday morning,” he told WAFA.

The reason for these rumors is to create confusion and to hurt the Palestinian Authority, he said, and “to shift attention away from efforts by President Abbas in Washington to achieve the dream of independence and statehood.”

Abbas is expected to hold talks on Wednesday in Washington with US President Donald Trump on revival of the moribund Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been using the allowance issue to discredit Abbas before his US visit by claiming that he pays from money provided as foreign aid for families of Palestinians involved in attacking and killing Israelis.

Reports said three  US Republican senators wrote Trump on Tuesday asking him to pressure Abbas to stop these allowances, and one of them has proposed legislation to stop all US funding for the Palestinian Authority if it does not halt them.

M.K.

21 Year Old Female British Student Stabbed To Death In Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A British exchange student was fatally stabbed Friday by a Palestinian attacker just steps from Jerusalem’s Old City, where thousands of Jews and Christians gathered for religious holidays at one of the busiest times of the year, officials said.

Thousands of people filled parts of the ancient city: Jews to celebrate Passover, which ends Monday in Israel; and Christian pilgrims for Good Friday. The attack took place inside a car of the city’s light-rail train near the entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter.

The woman identified as Hannah Bladon, 21, was treated for stab wounds in a hospital and later died, police said.

Bladon was an exchange student from the University of Birmingham in Britain, and she arrived in Israel in January to spend a semester at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the latter said in a statement.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency named the suspected attacker as 57-year-old Jamal Tamimi from East Jerusalem, a mostly Arab area. They said he had mental health issues and had attempted suicide this year while hospitalized. Tamimi was arrested at the scene, the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the attack to other violent acts around the world in recent weeks. “Radical Islam strikes at the capitals of the world and, unfortunately, terrorism has hit the capital of Israel — Jerusalem,” he wrote on Facebook.

Israel considers Jerusalem its united capital, and all of its official offices are based there. Palestinians want part of Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.

Friday’s killing is the latest in a spate of stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians over the past 18 months.

Israel has been accused internationally of being too heavy-handed in response to the attacks, which have left nearly 50 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were attempting to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, soldiers or police officers.

The targeted stabbings and other attacks started in October 2015 with almost daily assaults. Incidents slowed in mid-2016 and, with Israeli forces stepping up their response, fatal attacks are now rare.

The violence contrasts with the first and second intifadas of the 1980s and 2000s, which were centrally organized and included mass unrest.

Israeli Jets Strike Inside Syria; Military Site Near Palmyra Reportedly Targeted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Israeli jets strike inside Syria; military site near Palmyra reportedly targeted

An Israeli fighter jet takes off from the Ramat David ar base, southeast of Haifa, in June.

Story highlights

  • Syria says strikes targeted military site near Palmyra
  • Israeli jets make incursions inside Syria, but IDF rarely confirms it

Jerusalem (CNN) In the most serious clash between Israeli and Syrian forces since the start of the Syrian conflict six-years ago, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in Syria overnight, the Israeli military said Friday.

Israel targeted a military site near the ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian military said, in what would be one of its deepest airstrikes inside Syrian territory since the civil war began there.
Palmyra, once held by ISIS and retaken by the Syrian government, is strategically important to both the regime and its opponents.
Most of Israel’s reported strikes have been around the capital of Damascus, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In response, Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets, saying they downed one aircraft and hit another. Israeli vehemently denied the assertions, calling them “absolutely not true.”
“At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said. The statement is unusual in that Israel rarely comments on airstrikes in Syria.
The intercept triggered alarm sirens in the Jordan Valley. Shrapnel from the explosion, which was heard as far south as Jerusalem, landed in western Jordan, the Jordanian military said.

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed Israeli plane

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed an Israeli plane
Syria’s latest claims are reminiscent of its statement in September about downing an Israeli aircraft near Quneitra, close to the Golan Heights. Israel seized parts of that region from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Israeli military said then that Syria fired two anti-aircraft missiles at its jets targeting artillery positions, but both missiles missed. They were fired long after Israeli jets left the area, the military added.

Arrow missile defense

One of the missiles overnight was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use. Arrow, Israel’s ballistic missile defense system and the long-range version of its Iron Dome, is designed to intercept missiles outside the atmosphere.
The use came more than a year after the first successful Arrow-3 intercept test was carried out in December 2015. At that time, Israeli officials would not say when the missile would become operational.
The Israeli military would not explain why Arrow was used against an anti-aircraft missile, fueling speculation that Israel was either testing the Arrow missile or that its Iron Dome missile defense system wasn’t within range of downing the anti-aircraft missile.

Taking aim at weapons smuggling

Israel has long focused on stopping the transfer of weapons from Syria to terror groups.
In December, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a delegation of European Union envoys that Israel will “prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah.”
It was another acknowledgement of Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria. Last April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel has struck Syria “dozens of times,” breaking with the policy of remaining quiet about involvement in its war-torn northern neighbor.
Netanyahu returned last week from Moscow, where he reaffirmed Israel’s military coordination with Russia in the skies over Syria. The two countries established the coordination last year to avoid conflicts in Syrian airspace, ostensibly to allow both countries to operate freely. Netanyahu also expressed his concerns about a growing Iranian presence in Syria.

Repeated incursions

Israel has attempted to stay out of Syria’s civil war but has reportedly struck the country multiple times in the past, often taking aim at weapons shipments intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
As recently as late February, Syrian media reported that Israeli jets hit military positions and weapons convoys near Damascus.
In November 2012, Israel fired warning shots toward Syria after a mortar shell hit an Israeli military post, the first time Israel had fired on Syria across the Golan Heights since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Israeli jets have been hitting targets in Syria since at least 2013, when US officials told CNN they believed IDF jets had struck nside Syrian territory.
In 2014, the Syrian government and an opposition group both said an IDF strike had hit Damascus’ suburbs and airport.

Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria

 Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency characterized those strikes as “a flagrant attack on Syria, targeting two safe areas in (the) Damascus countryside in Dimas and near Damascus International Airport.”
Israeli strikes have also gone after ISIS fighters inside Syria. Late last year, IDF troops operating in the disputed Golan region came under fire from militants of the ISIS affiliate Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The soldiers fired back, triggering an exchange of gunfire. A subsequent Israeli airstrike destroyed a vehicle carrying four militants, Lerner said.

So Turkey’s Sunni Dictator Er-Dog-an Calls European Countries Nazi Because They Won’t Allow Him To Rule Them

 

So the Sunni Dictator Dog of Turkey, the man who has ruined the lives of his people with his hate and his ego has the gall to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s. When he first took power in Turkey the country and it’s people lived in relative peace with its neighbors and within its own borders. Turkey was the crown jewel in the Middle-East of the countries that had a majority Islamic population as far as people of various religions being free to worship as they pleased. There were many Gothic Churches that were hundreds of years old that dotted the landscape of this beautiful restive country. Now by my understanding of the many different articles I have read over the past few years several of these landmark Churches have either been destroyed or turned into Sunni Mosque.

 

Since Er-Dog-an has been in power he has through his policies created a situation where it is rather common for the people to have to try to survive car and truck bombs as well as suicide attacks on not just Turkey’s police and military personnel but on the civilians themselves. He had created tensions with Russia and with Israel before recently correcting this error, at least publicly. I say publicly because if you honestly think that Russia’s President Putin or Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consider him a friend or that they trust him you are being quite delusional. He has spent his time in power doing mainly one thing and that is to gain more power and control over every aspect of life within the borders of Turkey. He has invaded his Shiite neighbor Syria and is not welcome in Iran or Iraq. Yet personally I believe that one of his biggest most arrogant and stupid policies has been his constant assault on the Kurdish people. The Dog has made it very plain that he wants nothing to do with peace with this huge ethnicity of people that live in the eastern part of Turkey. He could have peace with them if he wasn’t so darn greedy. The Kurdish people simply want their own homeland and being they already had settled in the eastern part of Turkey it would have been easy to have had peace with them by simply letting this small part of Turkey be officially theirs. Then the two Nations could have easily become good neighbors, brothers, sisters and trading partners. There would have been peace this way and many people who are now dead would still be alive. He has been playing the EU against Russia card trying to see how much he can get from both sides. He cared so little for his countrymen that instead of sealing off their border with Syria and not allowing millions of refugees to enter Turkey at all he let them in then has used them as bargaining chips with the EU trying to extort money and EU membership from them.

 

Now this egomaniac Dictator dares to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s because of their policies that he personally doesn’t like. Think about this for a moment please, why is he slandering the leadership of these two countries? In Rotterdam they are going to be having elections very soon and Turkey has a huge number of Turk people living there now and there was going to be a big rally that the Turk Foreign Minister was going to address and the government decided to not let him show up. What is going on is very simple, if the Turk population grows to a high enough level they can then have more control of the laws passed in that country. If a minority population can gain control of a foreign country and they are loyalist to their home Dictator, this Dictator can have a huge effect on being the defacto Ruler of that Nation. Do not be naive, the people who believe in the teachings of ‘the prophet’ Mohammed know that they are ordered to infiltrate Infidel countries and when they have sufficient numbers to attack from within and to take control of the country and then to convert everyone there to Islam. The easiest way to take control of a Democratic country is through the ballot box, then if that doesn’t work, take it by force. Europe is starting to wake up and many of the people of Europe’s Nations are realizing the dangers they are having now and that it will only get much worse if they allow Islamic believing people to settle in their country. It is obvious why this Sunni egomaniac used the slur of Nazism toward Germany because the pain of their past but when this horse’s behind referred to the Netherlands the same way he showed his ignorance and his hate as well as pure stupidity. The worse thing that has happened to the Nation of Turkey since world war two has been allowing this madman to continue breathing within their borders. I say this because as he proves constantly like this upcoming referendum to give him alone even more power to rule as a King or a god would, he is only interested in making as many people as possible bow to his power, even Nations outside of Turkey’s current borders. If the EU Leaders in Brussels ever allow Turkey or any Islamic Nation to become part of the EU, that will be the kiss of death for their Countries and their way of life, and their very lives.

ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

Two very different dialogue proposals are on the table for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, one from a historic enemy, Israel, proposed in conjunction with a crucial partner, the United States. The other is from a historic rival, Iran, which shares the same neighborhood and faith.

The choice the Arab countries ultimately make could determine the future peace and prosperity of the region.

On February 15, President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and during a press conference, both leaders hinted at an approaching Arab-Israeli cooperation.

A few days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Iran’s previously proposed regional platform for dialogue between the Islamic Republic and its Persian Gulf neighbors during a speech at the Munich Security Conference.

The U.S.-Israel proposal encompasses almost all Arab States, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon and Tunisia.

This proposal’s principal objective is a wider Arab-Israeli peace agreement and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the key selling point behind this initiative is mutual concerns regarding Iran, and the proposal has a goal to present a unified front against the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu stated during the press conference that “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” He further stated that “the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach involving our newfound Arab partners in the pursuit of a broader peace with the Palestinians.”

Related: Michael Dorf: Trump’s Deal-Making Skills Won’t Help Israel

While there has been no official confirmation of back channel talks between Israel and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, Trump and Netanyahu’s statements indicate that previous reports alleging secret direct interactions between high-level Israeli and GCC officials have indeed taken place in the past six years if not longer.

The perception left by the Barack Obama administration, that the United States is leaving the region and that an increasingly emboldened Iran is exerting power across the Middle East after the implementation of the 2015 nuclear agreement, has revived longstanding hostilities between Arabs and Persians, and presented an opening to realize mutual interests and foster cooperation between Arabs and Israelis.

Israel has long seen Iran as its major adversary because of Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and nuclear advances.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia along with its GCC partners were alarmed when Iran took advantage of the US invasion of Iraq to become influential in Baghdad. The GCC states also grew intolerant of Iran’s perceived links to the uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as well as Iran’s support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and for the Houthis in Yemen.

03_03_Iran_Israel_01Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud of Saudi arrive at the Hangzhou Exhibition Center to participate in the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016, in Hangzhou, China. Mehran Haghirian writes that if the United States goes forward with plans to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.ETIENNE OLIVEAU/GETTY

At the Munich conference, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman quoted without naming him an old remark by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis that “in the Middle East we are facing three challenges: Iran, Iran and Iran…and I can only repeat and confirm this approach.” Lieberman reiterated that Israel would continue efforts to hinder the Islamic Republic’s reintegration into the international community in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also reaffirmed his country’s objections to Iranian actions across the region. “The Iranians do not believe in the principle of good neighborliness or non-interference in the affairs of others,” Jubeir told the Munich conference. “This is manifested in their interference in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan.”

While the prospect for Iran-Saudi détente looks dim at present, it is crucial to remember that the future of Palestine is an issue that not only unites Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but all people in the Muslim world. The outlook for the US-Israeli proposal to solve the Palestinian issue is unclear and most likely not possible to be implemented.

If the United States goes forward with plans to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.

Countering the US-Israeli proposal, Zarif reiterated the Islamic Republic’s proposition for creation of a regional platform for dialogue between Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors, or as he called them “brothers.”

“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction erecting realistic regional arrangements,” Zarif told the Munich conference. To implement this proposal, he said it must start with a regional dialogue forum that encompasses the littoral neighbors of the Persian Gulf, and under the framework of shared principles and objectives.

The primary goal of Iran’s proposal is to decrease tensions and increase cooperation between neighbors.

“The forum can promote understanding under a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence and security building measures, and combating terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism,” Zarif said. “It could also encourage practical cooperation in areas ranging from the protection of the environment to join investments and tourism. Such a forum could eventually develop into a more formal non-aggression and security cooperation arrangements.”

This proposal is not new. Zarif put it forward shortly after finalizing the nuclear deal in an article on Al-Monitor titled “Choose your neighbors before your house,” and traveledto Qatar and Kuwait shortly afterward.

More recently, on January 24, the foreign minister of Kuwait met with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to deliver a letter on behalf of the GCC. While the details of the letter have not been made public, Rouhani followed with state visits to Oman and Kuwait on February 15, coincidentally the same day Trump and Netanyahu held talks.

Oman and Kuwait, which historically have had less troubled relations with Iran than other GCC members, have indicated a desire to take part in the dialogue forum with Iran, and have repeatedly attempted to mediate tensions between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.

The disagreements between rival powers should not preclude comprehensive and inclusive arrangements that address mutual concerns, and that benefit all participating countries. The Iranian proposal will ensure a sustainable relationship between neighboring states based on mutual respect, and eventually, the cooperation could facilitate an end to the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

The Israeli proposal might lead to a wider peace agreement between Arab states and Israel. However, it will most definitely exacerbate tensions with Iran and increase the chances of a wider military conflict.

There has been no substantial conflict between the Arab States of the Persian Gulf and Israel in the past decade or more, and while a wider Arab-Israeli peace would undoubtedly have a positive impact in the region, it is contingent on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Meanwhile, the rise in contention between some GCC states and Iran in the past decade has arguably had more dire consequences for the region than the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Agreeing to sit at the same table with Iran for dialogue based on a mutually acceptable and beneficial outlook will lead to greater peace in the region and beyond. It is crucial for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf to weigh the rewards and consequences of each proposal before going forward with either approach.

Mehran Haghirian is an Iranian Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C., and he is currently a Project Assistant at Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.

Israel Says It Is Not Ready To Confront Hezbollah’s Rockets?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘ONLY LEBANON.NET’ NEWS AGENCY)

December 7, 2016 Last Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 – 7:58
Israel is ready to confront Hezbollah rockets .. but

Ali Haider – News

Titled “Israel: The home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets,” Ali Haider wrote in the “News”: Ten years after the 2006 war, and three bloody military confrontations against the Gaza Strip, Israel acknowledged that the home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets, and that the government and the leadership of the army’s performance has not lived up to the level of threat that shaped tunnels Gaza Strip.

Read More …

“The state comptroller,” announced that the Israeli home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets, ten years after the July aggression. Although the state comptroller’s report dealt with the readiness of the home front during the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip.

However, the notes and warnings, which involved them, targeting mainly the willingness to confront Hezbollah on its northern front.

He Amos Harel, military affairs commentator in the newspaper “Haaretz”, that this concept is based on the fact that there is no similarity between the seriousness of the threat posed by Hezbollah on the domestic front and fronted by Israel in the recent war with Hamas. The paper warned of the lack of understanding of the threat to Israel from its northern front, in light of Hezbollah’s possession of tens of thousands of rockets that have part of it accurate and extents cover all occupied Palestine.

Can not be separated between the conclusion of the Israeli newspaper, and understood by policymakers and security decision in Tel Aviv that Hezbollah, despite the concern to confront the threat posed by terrorist groups and infidels, we still have the will of the decision to activate its capabilities in the event of Israel to overcome some of the red lines that have evolved during the past years.

The “Haaretz” that the deep gap between the facing Israel on its northern front and facing the South forehead, which could explain the gap between the Israeli discourse firm against Hezbollah, and approaches the operational disorderly and justification for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who as much as possible try to avoid the outbreak war with the party. And Chi-sum referred to by Harel that cost calculations and feasibility of any war with Hezbollah is preparing strongly in the consciousness of policymakers and security decision in Tel Aviv, and explain a lot of the vocabulary of the political and operational performance.

Report of the State Comptroller for the home front put through the process of “steadfast shelf” against the Gaza Strip, is only a pre-emptive strike preliminary final report, which is supposed to be released in January, which will address the core issues that have held the opinion of the Israeli public, and formed the focus of disputes between Netanyahu’s hand and all of the ministers at the time of Naphtali built and Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni. These issues revolve around preparing for the threat of tunnels, and the performance of the cabinet in the war, and the image of intelligence and other dimensions.

In the case of the internal front, the prime minister was not the central goal of the criticism of the State Comptroller’s report, but the criticism focused on the leadership of the army and the Ministry of Security and former its Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The report included a series of flaws, starting with the work of the Cabinet and the government and the end of the field activity. The report, in this context, that the Cabinet as the observer, not until June held this year a broad discussion about the preparations of the home front’s meeting, given that this issue is one of the most critical questions by Israel in any future battle against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against the Gaza Strip.

As for Netanyahu, Vtantzerh three personal notes in the main report, relate not to study alternatives to war, and the failure to involve the cabinet in the seriousness of the threat of tunnels and lack of control on the army’s preparations for the threat. On this issue, Netanyahu still ran a focused campaign to influence the final report of the observer, Joseph Shapira, next month, in order to soften the draft version of the semi-final.

Although Shapira aware that he would be a media attack by the vicinity of the prime minister, but he skewered to the Ministerial Council on ways to warn and protect the population in Israel, especially in light of the expectations of their exposure in any future war with Hezbollah for tens of thousands of rockets, at the time still in it Department of defense systems and objection is not valid, and a large section of public and private shelters is not ready to meet the expectations.

He pointed to the observer that since the government decided to reduce the differences in fortify buildings, partly implemented, and in some places has never carried out, which prevented achieve equality at this level. The report pointed out that there are institutions not been vaccinated in the buildings around the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns, despite a decision in this regard by the Supreme Court. The report also warned that the ability to defend the north of Israel is extremely limited, given the lack of immunization buildings.

On the other hand, the observer’s report confirmed that the army and the Ministry of Security Ablora did not plan to evacuate towns in northern Israel and there were deliberations on the military and political levels about the gaps in the means of air defense of northern Israel. Also included criticism of the National Security Authority for being not pursued as it should implement the decisions of the prime minister, given that this matter of the roles specified in the law.

Kerry, in stinging rebuke of settlements, doesn’t rule out UN action

(ONCE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IS OUT OF OFFICE I AS AN AMERICAN BELIEVE THAT BOTH THE OBAMA FAMILY AND THE KERRY FAMILY SHOULD HAVE TO BE REQUIRED TO HAVE FORCED RELOCATION FOR A PERIOD OF TWO YEARS AT THE ISRAELI BORDER WITH THE GAZA STRIP. WHAT IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THESE HYPOCRITES ISN’T IT?)

 

Outgoing US secretary of state excoriates Netanyahu government, slams Naftali Bennett for ‘disturbing’ remarks on two-state solution

Source: Kerry, in stinging rebuke of settlements, doesn’t rule out UN action  (This article is courtesy of The Times Of Israel) (Please click the ‘Source Link’ above for the full story)

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