Israeli officials told Channel 10 on Friday that they are convinced the
Obama administration has already agreed to most of Iran’s demands in the
P5+1 negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
to unnamed officials, Washington “has given the Iranians 80 percent of
what they want” out of the negotiations, Channel 10 is reporting.
officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the United States will
soon strike a deal with the Iranian regime that will leave it with a
“breakout capacity” of months during which it can gallop toward a
The practical significance of the American
compromises in the talks is that Iran will be permitted to keep over
7,000 centrifuges, enough for the Iranians to produce enough enriched
material to sprint toward the bomb within a matter of months.
These developments have apparently fueled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sense of urgency in traveling
to Washington and addressing Congress in hopes of lobbying American
lawmakers to pass tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party reached the top spot in a Panels Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister newspaper, Ma’ariv Sof Hashavua, on Thursday for the first time since Labor and Hatnua joined forces on December 10 to create the Zionist Union.
poll found that the Likud would win 25 seats, the Zionist Union 24,
Bayit Yehudi 14, the Joint Arab List 12, Yesh Atid 11, United Torah
Judaism and Koolanu eight, Shas seven, Meretz six, and Yisrael Beytenu
five. The parties polled that did not cross the 3.25-percent electoral
threshold were Green Leaf and both Yahad Ha’am Itanu and Otzma Yehudit.
Last week, the Zionist Union was ahead of the Likud by two seats, and two weeks ago the lead was three.
The percentage of respondents calling themselves “undecided” fell from 30% to 18%.
While all other polls taken since the election season began found that
the issues Israelis vote on most are the gap between rich and poor and
other socioeconomic matters, the new poll found that the security
situation is now the voters’ top priority, 39% to 25%. Only 1 percent of
respondents said the issue that would decide the vote most would be
Israel’s foreign relations.
Thirty-five percent of respondents
said their personal security situation had worsened in recent days, 60%
said it had not changed, and 3 percent said it had improved.
For those doing the Right-Left count it's Right 59, Left 49 plus 12 seats for the Arabs (who have never been in a coalition).
Krauthammer: 'Obama has less personal sympathy for Israel than any other President'
A reminder that I am in Boston where the Sabbath has not started yet.
Over the past week, I've heard a lot of talk comparing President Obama's relations with Israel with those of American Presidents who seemed more friendly, but with whom we also had disagreements: Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and so on.
But with Obama... it's different. Here's Charles Krauthammer. Let's go to the videotape.
Yes, Obama's different. Even George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter had less antipathy toward Israel than he does.
School Retaliates Against Student For Parent’s Pro-Israel Stance
Received via email earlier today:
A state education department found that a school district and
School Committee Chair retaliated against a student because of her parent’s
complaint about inaccurate and biased materials.
The decision by the Massachusetts
agency found that the Newton Public Schools (NPS) and School
sent confidential information about the student and her family to local media,
which published it. The media entities - a newspaper and a blog - also
published false claims that the parent was associated with anti-Muslim groups.
The student’s family said that both the newspaper and blog
knew that the family had previously been stalked and that publishing the false
allegations put them in danger. They also stated they suffered emotional
distress and other harm due to the district’s actions.
Parents and education groups have accused the school of
distributing inaccurate and anti-Israel material, resulting in the removal of
several widely used resources. One resource, the Arab World Studies Notebook,
has been been subject to intense criticism by education groups and removed from
other school districts. The district also removed a website and whited out a
textbook’s claim that the Catholic church was “reconsidering polygamy as a
Parents’ complaint are supported by organizations including
the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA),
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East,
StandWithUs, and Zionist Organization of America.
Last September, the education research organization Verity
Educate issued a report on materials used in NPS history classes. The report
found numerous inaccurate and deceptive material, including altered primary source
documents. It also found substantial anti-Israel bias, including material
described as ‘neutral’ which had been prepared by anti-Israel activists.
The district denies that any bias or inaccuracies exist.
Officials also told parents that they would ‘never’ read the report issued by
Verity Educate or any other organization and that parents upset about deceptive
or racist class material “should find another school for their children”.
“The retaliation by school officials against a child because
of a parent’s legitimate complaints about biased and deceptive class materials
is outrageous”, said Evan Jacobi, president of the group Parents for Excellence
in Newton Schools (PENS). “Their goal is to further intimidate parents who object to their children being
told that biased and grossly inaccurate material is true.”
Hills was also found to have violated state Open Meeting law
several times in 2014 in an attempt to cover up a plagarized speech given by
Newton Superintendent David Fleishman, and advised Fleishman and others to
violate state and federal law by withholding documents from responses to public
records requests. No sanctions have been imposed on Hills for these violations.
Sen. Cruz: Has President Obama Launched a Political Campaign Against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz,
R-Texas, and Congressman Lee Zeldin, R-NY-1, today sent a letter to
Secretary of State John Kerry asking for information regarding media
reports that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to fund efforts to
influence upcoming elections in Israel. This is from Senator Cruz's press release.
President Obama launched a political campaign against Prime Minister
Netanyahu and his representatives?” Sen. Cruz asked. “This
administration’s relentless harassment of Israel is utterly
incomprehensible. The Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing the deadliest
weapons on the planet, and there can be no doubt that their first
target will be Israel, followed by the United States. This
administration should be focusing its animosity on the very real enemies
we face, not on our staunch allies.”
is completely unacceptable to use U.S. tax dollars to influence the
elections in Israel,” said Rep. Zeldin. “State Department grants should
never be given to entities working to overthrow strong allies like
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We have great allies around
the world, but Israel is our strongest, and a beacon of freedom in a
region filled with radical Islamic extremists and state sponsored
terrorism. Today, I join with Sen. Ted Cruz in calling for a U.S.
Department of State investigation into this important matter.”
specified in the letter, a recent article in the Israeli newspaper
Haaretz reports that a U.S. taxpayer-funded non-profit organization
called OneVoice is actively working with a campaign operation called
Victory 2015 (V15) in an effort to influence the upcoming elections in
Israel on March 17, 2015.
As a result, Sen. Cruz and Rep. Zeldin request answers to the following eight questions:
much funding has the U.S. Government provided to OneVoice, PeaceWorks
Network Foundation, and any connected initiatives, projects or
Who approved providing such funds?
What is the oversight and accounting process for how these funds are being spent?
How often and on what dates has such funding been provided?
What were the specific reasons and terms for providing funds, and how are these funds specifically being spent?
the Department of State guarantee that none of these funds have been or
will be used in the endeavor detailed above, namely the partnership
with V15, or any similar effort to exert undue influence over the
Israeli political process?
there any knowledge from the State Department or other U.S. government
officials of the partnership with V15 prior to providing funds to
OneVoice’s work with V15 violate its 501(c)(3) status (or the status of
the PeaceWorks Network Foundation) as a tax-exempt organization and
should such status be revoked?
the letter, Cruz and Zeldin write, “Of course private American citizens
are free to engage in political activities according to their
inclinations, but given the overtly partisan nature of this particular
case, we are deeply concerned by the relationship that also exists
between OneVoice and the U.S. Department of State.”
Here's a pretty strong indicator that the Senate has had enough with President Obama's dithering on Iran. The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday reported out the Kirk-Menendez bill that would increase sanctions on Iran. It wasn't even close. The vote was 18-4.
The Banking Committee vote suggests that the a veto-proof 68 Senators now support the Kirk-Menendez bill. Here's how that calculation comes about:
52 Republicans (everyone but Flake and Paul) 10
Democrats on the Menendez letter indicating support (Menendez, Schumer,
Blumenthal, Peters, Casey, Cardin, Coons, Manchin, Donnelly, Stabenow) 3 Democrats on Banking who voted 'yes' today but weren't on the Menendez letter (Tester, Heitkamp, Warner) 3 Democrats who cosponsored Kirk-Menendez during its last iteration (Booker, Bennett, Gillibrand)
The bill has been moving forward quickly. Consider this:
The Senate Banking committee held hearings to discuss the legislation
(that was the same day 10 Democrats signed the Menendez letter
indicating support). Tuesday (night):
The legislation was introduced with 16 co-sponsors (7 Democrats and 9
Republicans, including McConnell, indicating that it has a clear path
to the floor). Thursday: The legislation got voted out of committee 18-4.
2 IDF soldiers killed, 7 wounded in Hezbullah attack near Har Dov
Two IDF soldiers have been killed and seven wounded - two moderately and the rest lightly - in an RPG attack on an IDF jeep near Har Dov, where the borders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon all meet. This is from a constantly updated post on the IDF blog. It's in reverse chronological order.
19:24 PM: The IDF has confirmed that during today’s attack, Hezbollah militants fired 5 anti-tank missiles at the patrolling force near Mt. Dov. One soldier and one officer were killed:
Sergeant Dor Chaim Nini, 20, from Shtulim. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Captain Yochai Kalangel, 25, from Har Gilo. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major.
Maj. Kalangel was a company commander in the “Tzabar” Battalion of
the Givati Brigade. Staff Sgt. Nini was an infantry soldier. Their
families have been notified.
Seven additional IDF soldiers were injured, two of them moderately. The injured soldiers were evacuated to a hospital. 14:20 PM: The IDF has confirmed that two soldiers
were killed in this morning’s attack. Additionally, seven other soldiers
were wounded, two of them moderately.
13:50 PM: The IDF responded to attacks with combined aerial and ground strikes at Hezbollah operational positions.
13:36 PM: The IDF holds Hezbollah responsible for the attacks in northern Israel today.
12:51 PM: Mortars hit a military position on Mt. Hermon. The IDF closed the site and is evacuating civilians from the area.
11:35 AM: An anti-tank missile was fired at a military vehicle near Mt. Dov in northern Israel. Several injured in the attack.
I'm almost surprised the IDF only went after Hezbullah assets and not after Lebanon's infrastructure. I would expect that if Hezbullah continues to escalate, Lebanese targets will be hit.
A terrorist attack on the Pakistani
national grid plunged more than 140 million people into darkness before
power was restored, prompting U.S. experts to warn that terrorist cells
and “lone wolves” in the United States could cause similar damage to the
vulnerable national electric-grid system.
The blackout in Pakistan affected more than 80 percent of the
country’s population and all public services in all the major cities,
including the capital, Islamabad.
A separatist group in the Naseerabad district of Baluchistan province
in the country’s southwest caused the blackout by blowing up a major
transmission line connected to the national grid.
It was the third such attack in two weeks.
“It shows the bad guys definitely do know what they’re doing when
they want to – in a country with upwards of 100 nuclear weapons,” said
Clare Lopez, vice president for research and analysis at the
Washington-based Center for Security Policy.
In the latest attack on a major transmission line in Pakistan, two
nuclear plants went offline after the outages while problems occurred at
the country’s main international airport in Lahore.
Ten Senate Democrats have sent a letter to President Hussein Obama threatening to vote for time-triggered sanctions if Iran does not agree to a framework by March 24.
"In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on
legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on
the Senate floor before March 24," said the letter, led by Sen. Robert
Menendez (D-N.J.), who is the co-author of Iran sanctions legislation.
March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if
Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses
all parameters of a comprehensive agreement," they wrote.
letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Richard
Blumenthal (Conn.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Ben Cardin
(Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.),
and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).
The White House had been pressuring
Democrats to hold back on the sanctions bill, warning it could blow up
the negotiations and empower hard-liners in Iran who want to walk away
from the table.
With Democrats now pledging to hold their fire
until March, it could set the stage for a last-ditch push to try and
reach the outlines of a deal.
It is doubtful that any sanctions deal could be passed before then anyway.
All but two of the signatories — Peters and Stabenow — were co-sponsors
of a previous version of the sanctions bill. But two Democrats who had
previously sponsored an Iran bill — Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — did not sign the letter to Obama.
letter describes the signatories as "supporters" for a new Iran
sanctions bill, which could bring the bill closer to a veto-proof
majority. If Republicans were united, they would need at least 13
Democrats in order to override a presidential veto.
Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 — a
bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a
comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline," the letter said.
While the Democrats pledged not to vote for the bill on the Senate floor, it says nothing about a Senate Banking Committee vote on Thursday, when some of the Democrats are expected to vote for advancing the bill.
An aide to Menendez said he still plans to co-sponsor and vote for the bill this Thursday.
A senior IDF source remarked on the two rockets fired from Syria that hit the Golan Heights Tuesday afternoon, saying the IDF response strike took out the rocket launcher.
The rockets were fired from territory under the control of Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad according to the source, who added that those
who actively launched the rockets were members of the Iran-proxy
Hezbollah terrorist organization, which has been fighting for Assad.
In the attack on Tuesday, two rockets hit two separate regions on the
Golan Heights, one in the Hermon region and the other in El Rom.
Mount Hermon, which is a skiing site, was evacuated on IDF orders
following the attack - it is to reopen on Wednesday. The IDF responded
with tank and cannon fire at the sources of the rocket strike in Syrian
I'm kind of disappointed they didn't hit Hezbullah assets in Lebanon as well. Next time....
An Iranian general killed in an alleged Israeli air strike last Sunday in Syria may have died because he did not turn off his cellphone.
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Joumhouria
reported on Saturday that a Hezbollah investigation into the strike
found that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammed Allahdadi
kept his cellphone on in a sensitive area targeted by Israeli
According to the report, Allahdadi was in the
Quneitra area on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Sunday with
Hezbollah personnel at outposts that the Syrians and the Iranian built
in order to counter Syrian rebels along with Syrian army forces. A few
days before Allahdadi's visit a joint "operations room" was established
Allahdadi reportedly was killed along with his personal assistant, his driver and a more junior Iranian officer.
people total were killed in the airborne attack, including Jihad
Mughniyeh the son of the late Hezbollah military leader and Imad
Mughniyeh Mohammed Issa, the head of Hezbollah's operation in war-torn
Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group which is backed by
Iran and fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, said six of its
members died in the strike.
Good morning to all of you from snowy Boston where, at least from looking out my window, the storm does not appear to be overrated. My boots are arriving tomorrow (I do have rubbers for my shoes in the meantime).
The IDF is reportedly digging trenches on the Golan Heights to prevent infiltration from Syria. That won't stop rocket fire like what happened this morning (see below), but at least it will keep Hezbullah outside the border.
The IDF has begun digging trenches along the border with Syria, Walla! News reports Monday night, amid fears of real escalation between Israel and Islamists in neighboring Syria and Lebanon.
The mechanical engineering company of the IDF's Northern Command has
employed tractors and borders to dig the trenches, a source told the
news site, amid specific concerns regarding terrorist infiltrations by
car via border crossings.
"The trenches are being dug along vulnerable spots on the border,
after a thorough analysis [of the risks], to prevent free traffic in the
area and reduce infiltration," the military source stated. Outposts
near the Syrian border are not far from rebel positions from the
Al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army, who patrol the border regularly
in cars and motorcycles.
In addition, Western diplomatic officials said that Israel has
imparted to Lebanon a stronger warning than before, emphasizing that
Jerusalem will respond to any attack on Israel or Israeli institutions
anywhere in the world.
This was conveyed today the Arabic Al Hayat newspaper,
published in London, which claimed that Israel has given warning,
through foreign ambassadors, that Hezbollah would be perceived as
responsible for any harm to Israeli targets, "even at the other end of the world."
It's been less than a week since the Obama administration started seething over a surprise invitation extended to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress by Speaker of the House John Boehner. The Obama administration whined to anyone who would listen that the invitation was a 'breach of protocol.'
The Obama administration is reinventing diplomatic protocol. It is sending a team to Israel - led by Obama's own campaign manager from the 2012 elections - to defeat Netanyahu in Israel's March 17 election. I hope that all Israelis are outraged by this patronizing interference in our country's election. Yet another reason to vote against Livni and Herzog's non-Zionist party (as if you needed one).
This is from the next to last link.
The anti-Netanyahu, left wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports a
group called “One Voice,” reportedly funded by American donors, is
paying for the Obama campaign team. That group is reportedly being lead by Obama’s 2012 field director Jeremy Bird.
As Jerusalem Post columnist and putative Knesset candidate Caroline
Glick reported on her Facebook page, “Obama won’t meet Benjamin
Netanyahu in Washington when he addresses the Joint Houses of Congress
in March because of Netanyahu’s visit’s proximity to the Israeli
elections. And Obama, of course believes in protocol and propriety which
is why he won’t get involved.” And yet, Glick adds, “He’s just sending
his 2012 field campaign manager to Israel to run a campaign to defeat
For all the harsh accusations of foreign interference currently being leveled against GOP Speaker John Boehner, Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, reports
of Obama operatives actively working to unseat a democratically elected
leader of a strong U.S. ally is hardly the news it might appear to be.
The Obama White House has aggressively worked to defeat allied
leaders it has not liked and to elect or re-elect foreign leaders it
does like. As the Times of Israel recently reported, the list of Obama Administration meddling in foreign elections is a long one.
My flight was supposed to land at 5:55, and after circling to get the most weather-favorable approach, it landed around 6:15. We were one of four international flights that came in at the same time. The international flight after ours, which was scheduled to land at 6:35, was canceled. I have been told that the airport was officially closing at 7:00. I cannot confirm that one. There were signs on the Massachusetts Turnpike (which I took to get to where I was going - probably a good idea, although I considered taking Storah Drive) that said there's a travel ban from Midnight. Skidded once (turning onto Hahvahd Street) and got stuck on ice trying to park in the parking lot (half a dozen people pushed the car into a parking space).
I figure this is my penance because during the Great Blizzard of '78, I was a college senior in New York, and did not come up to Boston until I took the overnight train (the only thing running) on Thursday night. That storm hit on a Monday (Great pictures at that link by the way - beats any Jerusalem snow storm).
If I can stay awake for a while, I will try to post a little more....
So yes, I am in London, and yes, I am heading to Boston and there's a warning for an 'epic snow.'
Will this make up for the fact that I spent the 'Great Blizzard of '78' in school in New York and just took the overnight train up on Friday? (That storm started on Tuesday and by Friday the streets still were not open).
Rivlin will be in New York this week to speak at
UN Headquarters, for an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event. The
President’s Residence had informed U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro in early December
of Rivlin’s planned visit, and the information was conveyed to the White
A senior Israeli official said that at first
Rivlin did not want to impose himself on Obama, and that he would be happy to go
to Washington if invited by the White House. The deputy spokesman for the White
House National Security Council, Alistair Baskey, said that Rivlin had asked in
December about the possibility of a meeting as part of his visit to New York,
and that there had been contacts between the two presidential bureaus over the
matter in recent weeks.
The White House did not suggest a date for the
meeting for some time, but on Saturday night contacts became more concrete. The
White House suggested that Rivlin come to Washington toward the end of the week,
after Obama returns from his trip to India and Saudi Arabia. The White House
also updated the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Journalist Chico Menashe first reported the
talks regarding the visit on Sunday.
After consultations, Rivlin finally declined the
American suggestion. His advisers explained to the Americans that the two
leaders’ schedules do not overlap, because Rivlin is expected to return to
Israel before Obama gets back to Washington.
However, beyond scheduling conflicts, it may be
assumed that the high tension between the White House and Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s bureau over the latter’s planned speech to Congress contributed to
Rivlin’s decision to forego a meeting at this time. Rivlin did not want a
meeting to be perceived by either side as a political move.
The President’s Residence and the White House
released coordinated statements last night identical in their wording, that
there had been contact between the relevant parties in Israel regarding a
meeting while Rivlin was in New York.
“At this stage, it has been agreed not to hold a
meeting during his visit, due to the schedule constraints of both leaders, and
that a meeting would be scheduled at a later date,” the statement
In other words, the White House wasn't interested in a meeting until it became a useful tool to 'get' Netanyahu. Rivlin didn't take the bait.
The only two politicians in this country who might meet with Obama are Tzipi Livni and Yitzchak Herzog. Right now, I'm not sure even they want to risk the fallout.
If Obama wants to destroy the US-Israel relationship, let him try. But let him suffer the consequences.
As many of you already know, I'm a big Patriots fan, so I hope you'll forgive me if I share this Saturday Night Live skit from last night regarding Deflategate (if you don't know what Deflategate is, you can go crawl back under your rock now).
In the previous post, I noted that Lebanon understands that if Hezbullah attacks Israel from its territory, Lebanon will suffer. While Lebanon gets it, Hezbullah could care less. Moreover, it is possible that even if Hezbullah attacks Israel from Syria, Israel may respond by hitting Lebanon. Israel is also threatening that if it is dragged into the conflict in Syria, it might just put an end to the Assad regime. In the meantime, Hezbullah cannot stop bragging about its activities in Syria. This is from the second link, a lengthy analysis by Lee Smith.
The throngs attending the younger Mughniyeh’s funeral on
January 19 yelled “Death to America” only once. “I counted,” says Lokman
Slim, an anti-Hezbollah Shiite activist. “And they said ‘Death to
Israel’ only a few times. Then they went to more religious slogans.”
According to Slim, the scaled-down rhetoric and modest
size of the funeral are evidence that Hezbollah is caught in a bind.
“The [Lebanese Shiites] don’t want another war with Israel,” says Slim,
“but they also want to know Hezbollah can protect them like it says.”
“The Shia are supposed to side with justice against
injustice,” says Slim. “Shia stand with the underdog. And now Hezbollah
is fighting alongside a dictatorial regime.” Moreover, Hezbollah has
also staked the Shiites to a position against the regional Sunni
majority in a war whose best outcome, says Slim, can only be a political
settlement. “Hezbollah will have fought this war, and at the end the
Shia will ask to what purpose did we sacrifice so much?” The worst
outcome, says Slim, is a war that won’t end.
“Maybe trauma,” says Slim, “is the only way back from
divinity.” Maybe. We’re on the road heading south to the Shiite
heartland to see.
Outside of Lebanon’s Shiite regions, it is very difficult
to get a sense of how profoundly the war in Syria has injured the
community. Exactly how many Lebanese Shiites have been killed there is
unknown—high-end estimates are more than a thousand in the last two
years—or even how many are fighting. Slim says the numbers miss the
point. “Let’s say there are 3,000 Hezbollah combatants in Syria, but
then take into account all the other things you need, everything from
intelligence to logistics, and there are perhaps 20,000 committed to the
war. For instance, a father and his two sons have a bulldozer, and
Hezbollah needs them and their machine in Syria, so they pay them double
to be there.”
Hezbollah is unaccustomed to waging a long war of
attrition like this, far from the Lebanese villages where it fought
guerrilla wars against Israel. To be sure, its fighters are becoming a
battle-hardened expeditionary force, but the nature of the war is
reconfiguring Shiite society.
“Boys are dropping out of school to join
the fight,” says Slim. “They enjoy the benefits of manhood earlier than
before, but it’s becoming a community without men, or men who are simply
on leave from Syria and waiting to return. The result,” he says
smiling, “is that the women will become more powerful.”
Black humor underlines how far Hezbollah has fallen from
its divine status. “We have the phenomenon of the widows of the fighters
killed in Syria,” says Slim, “beautiful young girls being courted by
the organization’s senior officials. ‘Hey, if you need anything, just
text me. And if it’s evening, you can reach me on Whatsapp, too.’ ”
The fact that Israel presumably weighed Hezbollah’s
predicament before striking the Mughniyeh/Allahdadi convoy—how the scope
of its deployment in Syria limited its ability to avenge its fallen—is
one of several indignities Nasrallah has to swallow. There’s also the
ongoing issue of treason. Not long before the strike in the Golan,
Hezbollah disclosed that it had found a spy in its ranks, Mohamed
Shawarba, a high-ranking official who allegedly worked for the Mossad.
If Hezbollah was eager to boast of its ability to root out traitors,
Israel’s operation—netting major Hezbollah and Iranian figures—suggests
that its counterintelligence wing has plenty of work left to do, because
the organization is still riddled with spies.
We discuss whether Nasrallah will retaliate for last week’s attack and,
if so, when and how. Will there be rocket fire from Lebanon, terrorist
operations abroad, an IED on the border targeting Israeli troops, or an
operation from the Golan? The last, which would come from Syrian
territory, seems safest to most of the Lebanese I’ve spoken with.
However, it’s worth considering that Israel may have struck not because
of an urgent threat near Quneitra, but rather to prevent Iran and
Hezbollah from opening another front from which to attack Israel.
Israelis have been watching the Syrian border with concern. Given Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reputation for being risk averse, it’s
notable that he chose to risk the possibility of war with elections only
two months away. Clearly, the Israeli government will not allow Iran to
use the Golan as a launching pad, and firing on Israel from there in
retaliation would effectively make it a second front. Accordingly,
chances are that an Israeli response, in any escalation, would target
Hezbollah in Lebanon, with the south again bearing the brunt of the
conflict, likely including, according to Israeli strategists, a large
That's the first I've heard of a possible Israeli ground operation in Lebanon, but it's not too surprising. Israel may want to hit Hezbullah while it's down. Read the whole thing.
While Israel prepared for the fallout from last week's elimination of
a top Hezbollah terrorist and an Iranian general on the Golan Heights,
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon had a message for anyone planning to
attack Israel from the direction of Syria: Israel would hold Damascus
responsible for any “revenge attacks” coming from Syrian territory, to
the extent that Jerusalem would side itself with forces seeking to
unseat Bashar Assad from the leadership of Syria, if necessary.
Tensions remained high in northern Israel in the aftermath of the
elimination of Jihad Mughniyeh, said to be Hezbollah's “commander of the
Golan Heights area,” along with a crew of Hezbollah terrorists, and
Iranian general Abu Ali Tabtabai. Roads in the area of the
Israel-Lebanon border have been closed, and tanks and armored personnel
carriers were reportedly deployed along the northern border. Lebanese
media outlets are reporting Israeli jets and helicopters over the Har
Dov area along the Lebanese border.
This is a scene that Lebanon would not like to see repeated. It's Beirut Airport on fire during the early hours of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Lebanon is so eager to avoid being attacked that it is making sure that everyone knows that although Hezbullah is part of its government, Lebanon is not responsible for Hezbullah actions outside Lebanon.
....Lebanese circles have taken into consideration Israeli warnings and
informed the ambassadors of the major countries, with emphasis on the lack
of responsibility of Lebanon for any action aimed at Israel or Israelis from
outside Lebanese territory...
These circles confirmed for Al-Anbaa that Hezbollah understands that
officials fear of Lebanese land being used to respond to the Israeli
aggression, in any place or direction, and Minister Mohammed Fneish advised
the Council of Ministers on Thursday that whenever the response will come,
Lebanon’s interest will be taken into account before anything....
Video: Fox News' Chris Wallace goes ballistic over Netanyahu visit
Fox News' Chris Wallace is not very happy that Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to 'sneak' into Washington to speak to Congress about a subject that's an existential threat to Israel.
Let's go to the videotape.
Meanwhile, with all of this week's events, the poll numbers moved slightly (putting Likud and Labor in a tie for the lead), with the Right still leading the Left overall. The only Israeli politician who seems upset over Netanyahu's move is the insufferable Tzipi Livni.
Sorry. There's a lot I don't like about Netanyahu, but he's 100% right about this. As Jennifer Rubin wrote on Friday:
The entire episode suggests unseemly cooperation between the White
House and Senate opponents of Menendez-Kirk sanctions legislation. “The
idea that the Mossad would stake out a position against the prime
minister is hard to fathom. The Mossad is actually an arm of the prime
minister’s office. That’s why the entire episode strained credulity,”
says Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“But even if it were true, leaking an off-the-record statement from a
foreign intelligence official strikes me as both dangerous and
underhanded.” Especially suspicious is the speed with which the phony
Mossad story leaped from a Senate briefing to Secretary of State John
Kerry, who actively worked to fan the story. It seems the administration
and weak-kneed senators have a common interest in seeking to submarine
critical sanctions legislation that commanded a large bipartisan
majority just a year ago.
Given this contretemps, it is laughable
then that the White House will not meet with Netanyahu when he visits
in March so as not to interfere with the Israeli elections. Snubbing the
prime minister and trying to manipulate his own intelligence service
into undercutting Israel’s elected government are far more politically
inappropriate than a routine visit between two allies’ leaders. In a bit
of sarcastic commentary, the conservative Emergency Committee for
Israel sent out a release on Thursday announcing, “In order to do our
part to make the Israeli Prime Minister feel welcome in Washington, ECI
will host a reception in the Prime Minister’s honor to make clear, in
case there’s any doubt, that whatever the president does or says,
Americans value our friendship with our ally Israel.”
Senator Menendez (D-NJ) was right when he said last week that the Obama administration is peddling talking points from Iran. Netanyahu is coming to Washington to tell the truth. The timing and who invited him are irrelevant.
'Palestinians' protest Charlie Hebdo, Steimatsky's to sell it in Israel but backed off special event
'Thousands' of 'Palestinians' turned out at protests in Judea and Samaria today. This time, they're protesting the selling of the Mohammed satirizing French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Palestinians rallied in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to protest
against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in
French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
were held in the cities of Ramallah and Hebron less than three weeks
after Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people in the Paris office of Charlie
Hebdo, which has repeatedly featured cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
"France is the mother of terrorism. America is
the mother of terrorism," the protesters chanted. They carried
black-and-white banners which read "There is only one God and Mohammad
is his messenger."
were called by the Islamist Tahrir Party, which advocates the
establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Muslim countries.
have taken to the streets in order to demand Muslim armies act the way
France and the West deserve in response to the repeated offences against
the Prophet, peace be upon him," said Baher Saleh, a member of the
Steimatsky's, the largest bookstore chain in Israel, has sold Charlie Hebdo for years, and says that they will continue to do so. But after 'warnings' from an 'Israeli Arab' Knesset member, they have canceled a special event that was planned to promote the current issue, and say that they will sell it online instead.
Following the threats
and warnings, the book seller backtracked on its decision to hold the
launch event at its flagship store. "Steimatzky decisively supports in
freedom of expression. The company has sold the magazine for years and
will continue to do so. However, the firm has decided the sale of the
specific issue will not occur at a special event in our store, but be
held online starting Monday at 5 pm."
In a letter to the prime minister, [MK Masoud] Ganaim said, "Steimatzky intends
to distribute images which hurt the Prophet Mohammed. This is a very
serious, dangerous, and stupid step. This is not freedom of expression
but a hard hit on the holiest of holies to Muslims, which will bring
about unrest and anger among the Arabs and Muslims in the country… and
no one can predict the results."
The Arab legislator urged the rightwing leader to stop the
distribution of offending magazine. "I hereby appeal to your sense of
honor; please personally intervene to prevent Steimatzky from
distribution the magazine and the damaging images of the Prophet
Mohammed, lest the Israeli government and Steimatzky be responsible for
It will be interesting to see whether the Arabs will try to build on their 'success' to bar the sale of Charlie Hebdo altogether.
World leaders have been streaming into the country to pay their
respects to the powerful kingdom, which controls one of the world's
largest reserves of oil. The late King Abdullah had been a close friend
of the United States, but the new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud is
less known in the West.
The president has been on a bad streak of late. He skipped the Paris
march after the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, instead
watching NFL playoof football. The White House later acknowledged that
it should have sent someone with a "higher profile" than just the U.S.
ambassador to France.
Then this week, the White House announced that Obama will not see the
Israeli Prime Minister on his March visit to address Congress, calling
the invitation from House Speaker John Boehner a breach of protocol. But
the president did make time on Thursday to visit with a YouTube star
who once took a bath in a tub filled with milk and Fruit Loops,
prompting much ridicule.
Now, with the change announced Saturday by the White House, Biden will
stay in Washington as Obama makes the trip to Saudi Arabia.
But once again, Obama will be a day late and a dollar short. He won't
stop in Riyadh until Tuesday, while Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry
Medvedev, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, French President
Francois Hollande and Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito will visit on
Saturday and Sunday to offer condolences.
Well, maybe Obama is afraid that Hollande will treat him about as well as Netanyahu does.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will represent the United States at the
70th anniversary ceremony for the liberation of the Auschwitz
concentration camp on Tuesday—rather than President Barack Obama or Vice
President Joe Biden—while other countries are slated to send their
heads of state.
Tuesday’s ceremony will likely be the last major anniversary where a
significant number of survivors of the Nazi camp are present. About 300
are expected to attend, and most of them are in their 90s or older than
100. Nazi authorities killed 1.1 million people at the camp, mostly Jews, which was liberated by the Soviet army in January 1945.
The New York Timesreported on the foreign dignitaries that would be present:
A preliminary list of those attending includes President
François Hollande of France, President Joachim Gauck of Germany and
President Heinz Fischer of Austria, as well as King Philippe of Belgium,
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Crown Prince Frederik of
Denmark. The United States delegation will be led by Treasury Secretary
Jacob J. Lew.
The White House claims that Obama will be in India on a 'long-scheduled' trip. As if they didn't know when the liberation of Auschwitz took place. At least he'll avoid Hollande there too.
Leading the effort to raise the $50 million or more he’ll need to run in
the Republican primaries will be Anna Rogers, currently the finance director for American Crossroads, the conservative group started by Karl Rove that raised more than $200 million to help elect Republicans over the past two elections.
Rogers will begin working at Rubio’s political action committee on February 1 and would become the finance director of Rubio’s presidential campaign.
Rubio, 43, will gather on Friday and Saturday at the Delano Hotel in Miami with 300 supporters and major donors to his Reclaim America PAC to discuss his political future.
Aides expect Rubio will make a final decision in the comings weeks, but
his schedule for the next month already looks more like the schedule of a
presidential candidate than a senator.
ABC News has learned Rubio plans to skip all votes in the Senate next
week and instead take a campaign fundraising swing through California with events in Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, Rancho Sante Fe and Costa Mesa. He also plans fundraising stops in Texas and Chicago.
Rubio has also scheduled a book tour that will take him to all the early primary states. A senior aide to the Florida senator tells ABC News Rubio’s book tour will include stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada. The first stop is tentatively scheduled for February 13 in Des Moines.
Here's wishing Marco Rubio all the success in the world. If you need someone to work on your campaign among American ex-pats in Israel (there are lots of us), please call. Promise to repeal FATCA and you'll get lots of votes here.
Must see video: New York City Councilman blasts pro-'Palestinian' 'activists'
New York City Councilman David G. Greenfield makes remarks on the floor
of the council moments after Pro-Palestine activists protested the
commemoration of 1.1 million people killed in Auschwitz. Greenfield is
the grandson of holocaust survivors.
The real reason Obama - and Kerry and Biden - won't meet with Netanyahu
Barak Ravid reports that the real reason why President Obama - and Secretary of State Kerry and Vice President Biden - won't meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he's in Washington in March has nothing to do with pique over the way Netanyahu's invitation to Washington came about. It also has nothing to do with the Israeli elections which will take place two weeks after Netanyahu's visit.
The real reason why Obama, Kerry and Biden won't meet with Netanyahu is a 'policy disagreement.' Obama has asked Netanyahu to stop lobbying Congress for more sanctions against Iran, and Netanyahu, with his country's best interests at heart, won't let up.
U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded that Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu stop encouraging U.S. senators and congressmen to
advance new sanctions legislation against Iran.
A senior American official, who asked to remain
anonymous due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, said Obama
gave Netanyahu this message during a telephone call on Monday, January
Obama stressed to Netanyahu that he is seeking to
reach an agreement with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining nuclear
weapons and assure the international community in a verifiable fashion
that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, the official
added. But new sanctions legislation is liable to sabotage the
negotiations that Obama and five other countries are conducting with
Iran, the president said. He told the Israeli leader that should such
legislation pass Congress, he intends to veto it.
Obama also warned Netanyahu not to meddle in the
battle he is waging against Congress over the sanctions legislation, the
official said. This warning was issued more than a week before Speaker
of the House John Boehner publicly invited Netanyahu
to address a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu’s address, which will
take place at the height of the battle between Obama and the
Republican-controlled Congress, is expected to focus on the Iranian
nuclear issue and what he sees as the need to ratchet up the pressure on
At Netanyahu’s behest, both Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer
and members of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, have
been urging members of Congress in recent weeks to advance legislation
to impose new sanctions on Iran. Netanyahu has also urged new sanctions
on Iran in all his meetings with American legislators, including his
meeting earlier this week with a delegation headed by Republican Senator
"We thought we've seen everything," a senior American official said.
"But Bibi managed to surprise even us. There are things you simply don't
do. He spat in our face publicly and that's no way to behave. Netanyahu
ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to
his presidency, and that there will be a price."
Obama is about as lame a duck as one can find. He's in the home stretch of his second and final term as President. The Republicans control both houses of Congress. He needs Netanyahu to have any kind of foreign policy legacy that's connected to the Middle East. And if he goes too far, he will drive pro-Israel donors away from the Democratic party for years to come.
who headed the IAEA’s safeguards section during the 2003-2005 talks
between Iran and three European powers (United Kingdom, France and
Germany), said “it is true that 20-percent enriched uranium stocks have
decreased, but Iran is still producing uranium enriched up to 5-percent
uranium. The latter stocks have actually increased when you talk about
stocks of UF6 [uranium hexafluoride] and other chemical compounds.”
while there has been no installation of new centrifuges, “it appears
that the production of centrifuge components continues. Same with the
Arak reactor. No new nuclear components have been installed, but it does
not mean that the production of those came to halt.”
put it, “the JPOA is just a step to create negotiation space; nothing
more. It is not a viable longer term situation. The nuclear caravan of
Iran continues and sets a step after a step another fait accompli.”
who heads Institute for Science and International Security, said the
president’s language was “a little bit odd.” He said that the halt in
Iran’s program from 2003 to 2005 was a more substantial suspension of
enrichment activities. (At the Senate hearing, Blinken acknowledged the
United States and its negotiating partners had abandoned United Nations
Security Council demands that Iran halt enrichment as it was clear “Iran
was not going to give up as a practical matter some very limited forms
of enrichment in the event of an agreement.”)
said it was not correct that the 3.5-percent enriched stock had been
reduced; instead it has been converted from one form (“hexafluoride”) to
another (“oxide”), a step that he said was taken largely for cosmetic
(political) purposes. A significant portion of 20-percent enriched
material has also been retained as scrap, rather than converted into
fuel for a research reactor. A key aspect of the talks is to extend the
“break out” period under which Iran could manufacture a nuclear weapon,
but he said as a practical matter the conversion of 3.5 percent to oxide
form would only add about two weeks to the break-out period, since Iran
could reconvert it back into hexafluoride. (Here’s his report on this issue; this paragraph was updated for clarity.)
In effect, the amount of nuclear material available to Iran has gone up “about a bomb’s worth during the JPOA,” Albright said.
is where Obama’s speechwriters went awry. Iran’s stock of low enriched
uranium — a “nuclear material” by the IAEA’s definition — has gone up
during the negotiations, largely as a consequence of the dilution of the
near 20-percent material.
"The fraudulent claims against the Mossad Head were raised by the
Americans yesterday, despite a message that had been transmitted to them
on Tuesday by Intelligence Minister [Yuval] Steintz,” the senior
Israeli source told Channel 2 news.
He added that Israel had gone over the minutes of the meeting between
Pardo and the delegation of senators, and that Pardo had not said what
was attributed to him.
"Leaking the Mossad Head's statements, even if they had not been
falsified, is a serious breach of all the rules,” the senior source
added. “Friends do not behave like this. Information from a secret
meeting must not leak out.”
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner now admits that the death of AMIA terror bombing investigator Alberto Nisman was not a suicide. But now Kirchner claims that Nisman was murdered to frame her.
The government says two key witnesses in Nisman's case against the president had been falsely presented to him as state intelligence agents.
Fernandez said the deception discredited Nisman's charges against her and points to a conspiracy to smear her name.
"They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead," she said in an open letter to the country, adding that his death was "sad and terrible".
She did not say who killed him and no one has been arrested in the case, which has shocked Argentines. Social media networks are seething with conspiracy theories, some pointing at Fernandez and her government.
Thousands took to the streets this week to protest the slow pace of justice for the victims of the bombing and demanding answers to the questions around Nisman's death.
Fernandez again defended herself in a Facebook post on Thursday.
"Nisman's accusation not only collapses, but becomes a real political and legal scandal ... That's the key. Prosecutor Nisman did not know that the men identified as intelligence agents were in fact not," she said.
"The spies who were not spies. The questions that turned into certainties. The suicide that I am now convinced was not a suicide."
But there are a lot of suspicious things happening here. One of them is the fact that Nisman's apartment has a back door that was unlocked - contradicting earlier reports that Nisman's apartment was locked from the inside. The existence of a third door only rouses more suspicions.
Lead prosecutor Viviana Fein said there was no evidence
of anyone else involved in the death, but said Nisman left no suicide
note. A test of his hand showed no residue of gunpowder, though she said
that may have been due to the small caliber of the gun. The fact that
national Security Secretary Sergio Berni quickly turned up in the
apartment also fed doubts.
Moreover, the locksmith who opened the back door to
give investigators access to the home where Nisman was found dead said
it was barely closed, raising questions about whether a killer might
have entered or exited what was earlier described as a 13th-story
apartment locked from the inside.
After testifying to investigators, the man who gave
his name only as Walter said he was able to quickly open the door with a
hook. He added, "If someone entered or not, I don't know."
The official news agency Telam, meanwhile, said
investigators had found a third access to the home, a narrow passage
holding air conditioning equipment that connects to a neighboring
apartment occupied by an unidentified foreigner. They were investigating
a seemingly recent footprint and fingerprint found inside.
Opposition leaders denounced Kirchner's statements as an opportunistic about-face.
"It's very serious. To go from supporting the thesis of a suicide, to an assassination, she must assume the consequences," said Senator Ernesto Sanz, a member of the opposition.
Another Kirchner opponent, deputy Francisco de Narvaez, expressed outrage that Kirchner would take a position on such a sensitive matter while an investigation was underway.
"You do not have the right to trample on the independence of the judiciary in this tragedy. I ask you to stop acting like an adolescent trying to gain influence through your Facebook account," he said.
I would bet on Kirchner being involved. The question is how to prove it.
Obama invents new US policy to avoid meeting with Netanyahu, meets and endorses Cameron for UK Prime Minister
Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to a joint session of Congress has been moved to March 3, when he was supposed to be in Washington anyway for AIPAC's annual convention (a trip that the Obama administration had approved). But Obama has invented a new policy and will use it to avoid meeting with Netanyahu during his trip.
The decision, said the White House, is in line with US policy not to meet foreign leaders on dates that are close to national elections in their countries.
"The president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu
because of the proximity to the Israeli election," said National
Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan
The date for Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to Congress has been
pushed back by a fortnight to March 3, House Speaker John Boehner
announced Thursday on his Twitter feed.
Boehner said that Netanyahu asked that the speech be rescheduled so that he can participate
in the annual AIPAC conference as well. This means that the speech to
Congress will be delivered just two weeks before the Israeli elections
on March 17.
Boehner: "I am honored by this invitation, which reflects the special
friendship shared by Israel and the United States as well as the strong
bipartisan support for Israel across America.
"Just last week I
discussed with President Obama the common challenges we face from
Islamist extremism, including resurgent terrorism and Iran's pursuit of
"I look forward to
being able to share with the joint session Israel's vision for working
together to address these threats and to reiterate Israel's commitment
to the bond that unites our two democracies."
US President Barack Obama today handed David Cameron an extraordinary pre-election endorsement, hailing the British Prime Minister as a 'great friend'.
With less than four months until voters go to the polls in the tightest UK election for years, Mr Obama used a press conference in the White House to give the strongest possible backing to a fellow world leader.
Mr Cameron has been in Washington for a high profile visit just months before the British general election. The two men dined together in the White House last night, on mushrooms, lamb and warm pear cake.
Images of Mr Cameron with the US President, who is more popular in the UK than in America, will be seen as a huge boost to Tory hopes of contrasting Mr Cameron with Labour's Ed Miliband to be PM.
But the highly unusual personal support from a Democrat President will delight Tory strategists and cause dismay for Labour, who hoped a visit to Washington last year had bolstered his image as a potential statesman.
Mr Cameron revealed in an interview this month that Mr Obama often calls him 'bro' when they meet.
'Yes, he sometimes calls me 'Bro',' the PM said.
The US President today said commentators had got into a 'tizzy' about he meant meant by it and sparked a debate about even the definition and origin of the word 'bro'.
Seeking to clear up the confusion, Mr Obama said: 'Put simply, David is a great friend. He is one of my closet and most trusted partners in the world. On many of the most pressing challenges that we face we see the world the same way.
'Great Britain is our indispensable partner, and David has been personally an outstanding partner - and I thank you for your friendship.'
In response, Mr Cameron told the President: 'You are a great friend to Britain, and me personally.'
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-five years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 12 to 33 years and eight grandchildren. Three of our children are married and a fourth is engaged! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com