Obama and Netanyahu at the UN GA: It could have been worse

The annual opening of the UN General Assembly, which took place this week, was attended by the ususal speeches from foreign leaders. Netanyahu’s speech was excellent. Palestinian “President-for-life” Mahmoud Abbas lied, and then lied again.

Mahmoud Abbas, the congenital liar, stands with his terrorist friends

Mahmoud Abbas, the congenital liar, stands with his terrorist friends

As for US President Obama, Israel had been on edge, waiting for “the shoe to drop” in Obama’s speech, but in the end, at least as far as Israel is concerned, it was fairly anodyne, though not without the standard condemnation of the settlements as an obstacle to peace.

President Barack Obama addresses the UN General Assembly

President Barack Obama addresses the UN General Assembly

Here are a few items relevant to Israel, the peace process (such as it is), the Middle East crisis, and our relations with the US both against the background of the UN General Assemby (UNGA) and also the recently concluded deal with Israel granting Israel a military aid package worth $38 billion over 10 years.

First, some background from Arutz Sheva:

In what will be his last speech at the UN General Assembly as President of the United States, Barack Obama outlined what he sees as the great successes in the international sphere of his eight-year term as President.

Really! When you look around the world and see the imposition of tyranny, the rise of despotic regimes, and the alarming rise of Islamic terrorism on every continent – in Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East and even in the United States itself! – how can he say that with a straight face?

During a section of the speech listing accommodations he thinks can easily be made on the international level, Obama mentioned Israel, saying that the Palestinians should certainly end incitement to terror and recognize Israel but also that “Israel must understand it can’t permanently continue to build on Palestinian land.”

Bla bla, same old same old. This sentence simply shows us that Obama and his White House team have learned nothing and forgotten everything.

It’s not only about Israel that Obama misses the point entirely:

President Obama also spoke about the Syrian civil war, once again rejecting the notion of a military solution to the conflict. US and Russian officials are meeting in New York together with representatives of dozens of other countries to discuss further strategy after the recent truce brokered in Syria completely collapsed over the past few days.

“There’s no ultimate military victory to be won,” Obama told the General Assembly, “we’re going to have to pursue the hard work of the diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and
deliver aid to those in need.”

The ONLY solution in Syria is going to be a military one. Diplomacy can only take you so far, but if armies and rebels and allies won’t lay down their arms then military means are the only way to enforce if not actual peace then at least a cessation of violence. The Russians may agree to talk peace and ceasefires till everyone is blue in the face but it is blindingly clear, from evidence on the ground, that what they say and what they do are two entirely different things.  See how the Russians bombed an aid convoy to Aleppo this week. The same applies to Turkey: just look at who they are bombing. It’s not always ISIS.

Interestingly, despite Obama’s (and Egypt’s al-Sisi‘s) views that the settlements are at the root of the conflict, the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama was friendly and positive:

A senior member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s entourage stressed on Wednesday that the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Barack Obama in New York was positive, adding that the two leaders agree on most issues, with the exception of the issue of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria.

“Even President Obama said that the meeting was positive. It’s no secret that there are differences in opinion – but there is consensus on most issues, except for the issue of the settlements,” the official said.

“Everyone in the region and the world understand Israel’s strength,” the official continued. “It is a country with intelligence capabilities like no other. It is clear that President Obama has a certain view and the Prime Minister also has a clear view. But it is also clear that the issue of the settlements is not the root of the conflict. That is nonsense.”

The source added that “to come and say that that is the root of this conflict is simply nonsense. We are ready to meet the Palestinian Authority but it must give up the right of return and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

Israellycool has the video of their last press conference:

Jack Engelhard even called the meeting dull!

They met, the prime minister of Israel and the president of the United States and for the first time, nobody got hurt.

This was no rumble in the jungle, like Ali versus Foremen, or like Ali versus Frazier, when somebody is bound to go down.

… This meeting in New York on Wednesday was dullsville – Thank goodness!

Maybe so because it is the last time these two fighters will be meeting, officially, and they’ve had enough.

… They even came out of their corners smiling, Bibi and Barack, yes indeed, they are now on a first-name basis…. They even ended up smiling. Netanyahu invited Obama to Jerusalem. Obama promised to be there with the Mrs. and the kids, and there was no questioning Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Okay, Obama did mention the two-state solution thing. But it sounded like something he has to say because…well, because.

Same business about “the settlements” that Obama mentioned as an obstacle to peace, but Bibi ducked that and let it slide for another day with another president,…

Netanyahu also ignored other old business, like Obama’s terrible blunder as to the Iran Nuke Deal. This too is for another day.

…The President of the United States appeared to be tired, and tired of this particular brawl.

… This is not to say that there won’t be flare-ups. The next three months will prove if Obama has truly seen the light.

Danger lurks ahead, particularly at the UN. It is still to be determined if Obama will stand with Israel when the votes are counted in the coming days.

Can Obama really be counted on as a friend of the entire Jewish State, including Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria? It would be naïve to say so.

Remember, we are just talking about one day in New York. Remember also that just the other day he spoke of Israel occupying “Arab land.” (Wherever that is.)

Repeated demands against Israel, to have her relinquish territory, at a time when a fattened Iran keeps threatening the Jewish State, qualifies as a sucker punch.

Meanwhile, the two men shook hands and reminded one another of the enduring friendship that exists between the United States and Israel.

Now that…now that is so very exciting and so very welcome.

The JPost looks back at previous bitter meetings between Netanyahu and Obama and remarks how things have changed for the better, or perhaps the two leaders have just run out of steam:

The two men took pains during a cordial photo opportunity to radiate a sense that – after the bitter Iran battle – they were letting bygones be bygones. During the brief photo-op following their meeting, they stressed what united them, rather than what divided them.

Both said what they knew the other wanted to hear. Obama talked about increasing the 10-year military aid package to Israel (which he subsequently has done), and about blunting Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region. He also did not speak about a return to the 1967 lines, or a construction freeze in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

And Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution, and thanked the president for bolstering Israel’s security. He didn’t mention the Iran agreement.

This is not to say that all is rosy between the two governments. Congress is now investigating how the Obama Administration funded a campaign to unseat Netanyahu: [Note: I previously blogged about this scandal here].

Congress on Friday launched a wide-ranging probe into a secret Obama administration-funded campaign to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to information exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The probe comes on the heels of an internal government report determining that the State Department provided hundreds of thousands to an organization that plotted to unseat Netanyahu in the country’s 2015 election.

OneVoice, which was awarded $465,000 in U.S. grants through 2014, has been under congressional investigation since 2015, when it was first accused of funneling some of that money to partisan political groups looking to unseat Netanyahu. This type of behavior by non-profit groups is prohibited under U.S. tax law.

A group of nine leading lawmakers led by Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) are now formally petitioning the State Department to come clean about the effort and provide answers about how U.S. taxpayer dollars were permitted to be spent on an organization working against the elected leader of America’s closest Middle East ally, according to a readout of the investigation obtained by the Free Beacon.

In short, summing up the UN General Assembly and the newly agreed military aid package to Israel, one could safely say “No fireworks, no major disagreements, more of the same, nothing new here, let’s move along”.

But we cannot rest easy even now. We still need to be wary of a President Obama who will feel free to act in the UN as he pleases in the gap between the US elections and the inauguration of the new president. Obama may not have Israel’s back at the UN in that time-frame:

There is significant bipartisan concern in Washington that President Barack Obama “won’t have Israel’s back” at the United Nations following the election of his successor in November, a prominent Middle East expert told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, spoke with The Algemeiner a day after 88 US senators sent a letter to Obama urging him to veto any one-sided resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the remainder of his time in office.

Will those brave senators – a majority of the Senate – have any influence? Are our fears ungrounded? We have to wait and see.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Iran, Israel news | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Good News Friday

The weeks seem to roll round faster than ever, and here we are, time for another Good News Friday post.

My first item is a brilliant, outspoken, very politically incorrect defence of Israel, spoken by British journalist Katie Hopkins on LBC radio.  I couldn’t have put it better myself (besides her occasional hyperbole on the terrorists “chucking rockets for centuries, but I’ll allow her poetic licence):

 

Kol hakavod Katie! Thank you for your wonderful warm words! I wish you could be the British Ambassador to the UN!

On the subject of supporting Israel, here is one of the most unlikely stories you’ll ever hear. A former member of the Neo-Nazi Hungarian Jobbik Party discovered he was Jewish a couple of years ago, abandoned his antisemitic career and returned to his Jewish roots.. And now he and his family are making Aliya!

A one-time MP for Hungary’s extremist right-wing and antisemitic Jobbik party, who quit when he discovered he was Jewish, is now making aliya to Israel.

Csanad Szegedi speaks with Chief Chabad Rabbi Boruch Oberlander in Budapest.

Csanad Szegedi speaks with Chief Chabad Rabbi Boruch Oberlander in Budapest.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew language sister newspaper, Ma’ariv, Csanad Szegedi said that he is waiting with bated breath for the moment that he becomes an Israeli citizen and can contribute from his wide experience to the fight against international antisemitism.

Szegedi, 34, revealed his intention to make aliya with his wife and two children at a World Zionist Organization conference that took place in Budapest over the weekend.

Prior to discovering his Jewish roots, Szegedi was known for his extremist positions and antisemitic statements as a member of Jobbik. He was one of the founders of the Hungarian Guard, an extreme nationalist group whose members don black uniforms and see themselves as the descendants of the Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross Party, which collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Szegedi rose in the ranks of Jobbik through the years, becoming a senior member and even serving as the party’s vice president until 2012, and as the party’s representative to the European Parliament.

In June 2012, Szegedi stunned Hungary, particularly his fellow Jobbik members, when he revealed that his grandparents on his mother’s side were Jewish. His grandmother survived Auschwitz and his grandfather was in forced-labor camps. Szegedi began to learn about Judaism, to observe the Sabbath, to keep kosher and to go to synagogue. He has since had the opportunity to visit Israel.

After discovering his roots, he quit all of his posts in Jobbik, which distanced itself from him, claiming that the reason for his leaving was not his Jewishness, but rather a corruption scandal. Since undergoing the transformation, he has become an activist against antisemitism in Europe as a whole, and in Hungary in particular. He is now completing the transformation by making aliya to Israel with his family.

Read his fascinating interview at the Jerusalem Post. What an extraordinarily courageous man, to expose himself and his family to great danger by admitting his Jewish roots, and then taking the next step to come to Israel. Kol hakavod Mr. Szegedi! May your aliya be a success, and may you continue on your path to deepening your Jewish roots in Israel.

My next item is closer to home for a few reasons. It talks about Emunah, of which i am a proud member, and British Emunah in particular, of which my mother was a life-long member (till she made Aliya and became a life member here instead!). This story is about Neve Landy, an Emunah-run  children’s home for mentally disabled religious children:

Neve Landy, British Emunah funded children's home in Israel

Neve Landy, British Emunah funded children’s home in Israel

Almost two decades ago, one Shabbat afternoon, a social worker named Chana Greenberg approached the then Chairperson of Emunah Israel who had just given a lecture on the weekly portion to the women in her neighborhood and said: “I was in charge of the children and teens department in the Jerusalem office of the Welfare Ministry and I want to convince Emunah to fill a lack in Israel’s aid to children.”

Greenberg explained that there was nowhere to send mentally disturbed elementary school-aged youngsters from religious homes who had been hospitalized and were not able to live at home. These children were being sent to non-religious institutions or to places that were not suited for youngsters.

That conversation was the catalyst. Neve Lande Children’s Home was the result, because the caring social worker had turned to the right address. Emunah, the Religious Zionist Women’s Organization which celebrated the 80th anniversary since its founding this year, has always looked at Israeli society from a practical vantage point – that is, it looks for what is not being done to help those in need and simply buckles down to filling the gap.

Within weeks, Emunah and Israel’s Welfare Department set up a professional committee to plan the establishment of the children’s home and Emunah’s then chairperson set about finding the funding, convincing British Emunah to take on the project and turn to the Lande family and other donors.

Neve Lande is a religious post-hospitalization dormitory for children, the only one in Israel. The children are referred to the facility by the Welfare Ministry and all are considered high risk: they have complex personality problems, have been in psychiatric hospitals before coming to the dormitory and some have been abandoned, neglected or molested at home.

Emunah’s dedicated and professional staff creates a home for them, a physical as well as an emotional one. They number 74 youngsters today, aged 6-16.

Read the rest of the article to learn about the extraordinary work the dedicated staff perform to bring these children to their full potential. Kol hakavod to Chana Greenberg, to the Landy family who provided the funding, and of course to British Emunah and Emunah as a whole for this wonderful project, one of many.

Next is an incredible story that combines Israel’s amazing medical advances with a feel-good factor. Israel doctors have cured a paralyzed 6-year old girl! (via Suzanne):

Six-year-old Ruthie Rosenthal, who suffered from paralysis after she fell and injured her neck, has managed to get back up and walking.

Ruthie, a smiling, happy, Down’s Syndrome child, fell about a year ago and as a result, her hands and legs were paralyzed and she was forced to use a wheelchair, according to a report in Israel Hayom.

She had undergone lumbar spinal fusion surgery which used screws to connect her skull and chest but the resulting pressure on her spine caused her to stop walking and she also lost the function of her hands. The doctor said that “It was clear that she required immediate surgery. I contacted the head of the spinal surgery unit at Hadassah, Dr. Leon Kaplan, in order to draw up a plan for the complicated operation.”

The group of specialists decided on surgery in stages on the anterior and posterior areas of Ruthy’s neck, performed by Dr. Schroder, Dr. Leon Kaplan, Dr. Moni Benifla, a pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Menahem Gross, a pediatric ENT specialist and a group of senior anesthesiologists.

“The last time an operation like this was performed was by Prof. Kaplan himself, the only person who does such surgery in Israel,” said Dr. Schroder. “During the surgery we cut away the upper part of the spine and released the previous fusion in order to free the posterior vertebrae. We then performed a new fusion. Spinal surgery on such a narrow spine is very dangerous and sensitive and requires precise and meticulous work.”

Kol hakavod to all the doctors involved in this very complicated surgery. What a miracle! May little Ruthie go on to have a complete refuah shlema.

Another heart-warming story is the continuation of one I wrote about before. Yisrael Kristal, who was declared the world’s oldest man, is now planning to celebrate his Barmitzvah – only 100 years late!

The world’s oldest man, 113-year-old Yisrael Kristal, a Holocaust survivor living in Israel, will celebrate his bar mitzvah.

Yisrael Kristal, the world's oldest man, to celebrate his Barmitzvah 100 years late

Yisrael Kristal, the world’s oldest man, to celebrate his Barmitzvah 100 years late

Kristal’s daughter, Shulimath Kristal Kuperstoch, told the DPA news agency that about 100 family members will gather in Kristal’s home city of Haifa in the coming weeks to mark the rite.

“We will bless him, we will dance with him, we will be happy,” she said.

Kristal had his birthday last week. He was recognized as the world’s oldest man in March.

He missed his bar mitzvah due to World War I. His father was in the Russian army and his mother had died three years earlier, Kuperstoch said.

Heartiest Mazal Tov Mr. Kristal! May you have many more happy and healthy years with your family until long after 120!

And to conclude, talking of old, this story is seriously old. 3D technology has proven that the Hebrew Bible has remained unchanged for thousands of years (via Brian Goldfarb). The discovery was reported by Real JStreets at Israellycool last year, but this latest report adds to the original discovery itself. From the ToI link:

JERUSALEM (AP) — The charred lump of a 2,000-year-old scroll sat in an Israeli archaeologist’s storeroom for decades, too brittle to open. Now, new imaging technology has revealed what was written inside: the earliest evidence of a biblical text in its standardized form.

Charred scroll as it was found

Charred scroll as it was found

The passages from the Book of Leviticus, scholars say, offer the first physical evidence of what has long been believed: that the version of the Hebrew Bible used today goes back 2,000 years.

The discovery, announced in a Science Advances journal article by researchers in Kentucky and Jerusalem on Wednesday, was made using “virtual unwrapping,” a 3D digital analysis of an X-ray scan. Researchers say it is the first time they have been able to read the text of an ancient scroll without having to physically open it.

The

The “virtually unwrapped” scroll

“You can’t imagine the joy in the lab,” said Pnina Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who participated in the study.

The biblical scroll examined in the study was first discovered by archaeologists in 1970 at Ein Gedi, the site of an ancient Jewish community near the Dead Sea. Inside the ancient synagogue’s ark, archaeologists found lumps of scroll fragments.

The synagogue was destroyed in an ancient fire, charring the scrolls. The dry climate of the area kept them preserved, but when archaeologists touched them, the scrolls would begin to disintegrate. So the charred logs were shelved for nearly half a century, with no one knowing what was written inside.

Last year, Yosef Porath, the archaeologist who excavated at Ein Gedi in 1970, walked into the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls preservation lab in Jerusalem with boxes of the charcoal chunks. The lab has been creating hi-resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copies of biblical texts ever discovered, and he asked researchers to scan the burned scrolls.

“I looked at him and said, ‘you must be joking,’” said Shor, who heads the lab.

She agreed, and a number of burned scrolls were scanned using X-ray-based micro-computed tomography, a 3D version of the CT scans hospitals use to create images of internal body parts. The images were then sent to William Brent Seales, a researcher in the computer science department of the University of Kentucky. Only one of the scrolls could be deciphered.

The researchers say it is the first time a biblical scroll has been discovered in an ancient synagogue’s holy ark, where it would have been stored for prayers, and not in desert caves like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The discovery holds great significance for scholars’ understanding of the development of the Hebrew Bible, researchers say.

In ancient times, many versions of the Hebrew Bible circulated. The Dead Sea Scrolls, dating to as early as the 3rd century B.C., featured versions of the text that are radically different than today’s Hebrew Bible.

Scholars have believed the Hebrew Bible in its standard form first came about some 2,000 years ago, but never had physical proof, until now, according to the study. Previously the oldest known fragments of the modern biblical text dated back to the 8th century.

The text discovered in the charred Ein Gedi scroll is “100 percent identical” to the version of the Book of Leviticus that has been in use for centuries, said Dead Sea Scroll scholar Emmanuel Tov from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who participated in the study.

“This is quite amazing for us,” he said. “In 2,000 years, this text has not changed.”

For us believing Jews, this news is not really news. We know that the Torah has remained unchanged all these thousands of years. However it is indeed a wonderful feeling to have our beliefs scientifically corroborated. Kol hakavod to all the researchers and archaeologists involved in this amazing discovery.

And with these thoughts in mind I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Israel news, support Israel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Netanyahu’s excellent speech at the UN

I missed Bibi’s speech last night as I was at a wedding.  I’ve now caught up on it (via Israellycool) and “excellent” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Here’s the video:

You can read the full text of his speech at Israellycool, but here are some highlights via Times of Israel:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to speak at the Knesset and offered to speak at the PA headquarters in Ramallah to advance peace.

But alongside the overture at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Netanyahu also delivered a scathing rebuke of the Palestinian leadership, accusing it of “poisoning the future” by inciting terror through educational and TV programs and blasting it for its refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

The prime minister insisted that peace talks should resume though direct contact, telling Abbas that he is invited to speak “to the Israeli people in the Knesset in Jerusalem” and that he “would gladly come to speak [at] the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.”

“You have a choice to make,” Netanyahu said, still addressing Abbas, who had spoken in the plenum only minutes before. “You can continue to stoke hatred, as you did today. Or you can confront hatred and work with me to establish peace between our two nations.”

Reiterating that he remains “committed to a vision of peace based on two states for two people,” Netanyahu said that “Israel is ready to negotiate all final status issues,” and that “the road to peace is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York.”

“One thing I would never negotiate is our right to the one, only Jewish state,” Netanyahu said to some sustained applause.

“This conflict is not about the settlements, it never was,” he said in direct contradiction to Abbas’s comments earlier. “It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state.

The prime minister also lambasted the Palestinians over their plan to sue the British government for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” according to its text.

“That’s almost 100 years ago,” said Netanyahu. “Talk about being stuck in the past! The Palestinians might as well sue Iran for the Cyrus declarations, or file a class action suit against Abraham, for buying land in Hebron,” he added, referencing a Persian edict allowing Jews to return to Judea in 539 BCE and the Biblical patriarch.

In his wide-ranging speech before the UNGA, Netanyahu also promised to never let Iran develop nuclear weapons — “not now, not in a decade, not ever” — generating applause.

Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, to the region and to the world, he said, returning to a central theme of many previous UN speeches.

Speaking on other recent regional developments, Netanyahu spoke favorably of developing ties with regional countries, promising that “in the years ahead, Israel will forge lasting peace with all our neighbors.” That remark also generated enthusiastic applause.

Netanyahu said that world nations, notably in the Middle East, were shifting their traditional negative stances on Israel due to a changing region and the rise of common enemies, such as Iran and the Islamic State terror group.

“More than ever, many regional countries recognize that Israel is not their enemy but their ally,” he said, adding that the “common enemy is Iran and ISIS,” referring to the Islamic State.

But the best part of the speech in my opinion came near the beginning:

Netanyahu began his speech at the UNGA by enthusiastically declaring that “Israel has a bright future at the UN,” before launching into a scathing attack against the agency and its bodies for their alleged anti-Israel bias.

“Year after year, I’ve stood at this podium and slammed the UN for its obsessive bias against Israel and the UN deserved every scathing word,” he said.

The UN General Assembly last year passed 20 resolutions on Israel, Netanyahu said, while only three were passed on the rest of the world.

“And what about the joke called the Human Rights Council?” he asked, charging that that body passes more resolution “each year against Israel than any other country in the world combined.”

Netanyahu also slammed the recent UNESCO document eliding the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, arguing that it was like “denying the connection between the Great Wall of China and China.”

“The UN, which had begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce,” he quipped.

If only Netanyahu’s actions on the ground were as forceful as his spoken words are…

But we can be proud that in international forums such as the UN, our Prime Minister comes across as a world-class statesman. If only the UN itself would appreciate that fact.

Posted in International relations, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization, support Israel | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The US military aid deal to Israel: Is it great or could it have been better?

Last week a massive 10 year, $38 billion military aid package to Israel was agreed between the US Administration and Israel:

Israeli Acting National Security Advisor Jacob Nagel (L) and U.S. Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon (R) sign the military aid deal

WASHINGTON (JTA) – President Barack Obama’s near parting gift to Israel, a guarantee of $38 billion in defense assistance over a decade, distills into a single document what he’s been saying throughout eight fraught years: I have your back, but on my terms.

The agreement signed Wednesday in the State Department’s Treaty Room here increases assistance for Israel over the prior Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2007 under the George W. Bush administration and guaranteeing Israel $31 billion over 10 years.

But it also substantially shrinks the role Congress plays in a critical forum shaping U.S.-Israel relations, defense assistance, and in so doing diminishes the influence of the mainstream pro-Israel community, a sector that at times has been an irritant to Obama.

Wrapped into the $38 billion memorandum is $5 billion in missile defense funding, with clauses placing tough restrictions on Israel’s ability to ask for supplements from Congress.

Under Obama and Bush, that’s been an arena where the pro-Israel lobby has flexed its muscle over the last decade or so, consistently asking Congress for multiples of the missile defense appropriations requested by each president – and getting it.

“The MOU as it’s constructed seems to obviate the need for Congress’ traditional role in recent years,” said Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “What this means is that the relationship between Congress and Israel will have to evolve. Members of Congress feel they are being pushed out of a role that they relish.”

Democrats in Congress praised the deal unequivocally, but Republicans had caveats.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee for the Middle East, led passage of a congressional resolution urging an extension of the defense assistance – coincidentally, just hours after the sides announced a deal was in the offing on Monday. Ros-Lehtinen said she intended to subject the agreement to congressional scrutiny.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee dispensing foreign aid, was infuriated by the arrangement.

“We can’t have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to,” he told The Washington Post this week, and pledged to push more funds for Israel through Congress.

Jacob Nagel, the acting Israeli national security adviser who led talks ahead of the agreement, told reporters on Wednesday, before the formal signing, that the Israelis had asked Graham to back off.

“Senator Graham is one of the greatest supporters of Israel in Congress,” he said. “But everyone who spoke with him” on Israel’s team in the talks “said it was not a good idea – Israel is a country that honors its agreements.”

Indeed, written into the agreement is Israel’s pledge to return to the U.S. government any extra monies that Congress approves on top of the memorandum before it kicks in, October 2018. There is an exception for requests for emergency assistance in the event of “major conflicts,” and Nagel noted that the Obama administration has provided such additional assistance quickly.

There are other rollbacks in the deal demanded by Obama and his team, headed by Susan Rice, the national security adviser. Israel is currently the only country allowed to spend some of its defense assistance – up to 26 percent – on its own defense industries. That will be phased to zero by the end of the agreement, and all funding will be spent on U.S. suppliers and contractors.

The deal is being hailed and condemned in equal measure on both sides of the ocean. As mentioned above, Republican senators are pushing the Administration to expand the military aid deal to Israel:

Four Republican lawmakers in the United States said on Tuesday they would seek to overturn parts of a $38 billion military aid agreement with Israel, Reuters reported.

Senators Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, John McCain and Ted Cruz told a news conference they wanted to add a measure giving Israel an additional $1.5 billion in military aid to a bill expected later this year to renew U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Arguing that Congress, not the administration, sets spending policy under U.S. law, they objected to a provision in the agreement preventing Israel from asking for additional funds from Congress after the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), begins at the end of fiscal 2018.

The four senators also object to Israel’s agreement to return any money if Congress tries to send it more than $3.8 billion per year before then.

Graham told the news conference he would introduce legislation to overturn a provision in the agreement that phased out a special arrangement that has allowed Israel for decades to use 26.3 percent of the U.S. aid on its own defense industry instead of on U.S. weapons.

Graham has been at the forefront of the efforts to ensure Israel receives more funding. Reports last week indicated that he was responsible for the delay in signing the MOU concerning the security aid to Israel, due to the fact that he believed Israel deserved more funding.

After the agreement was signed last Wednesday, Graham opined that Israel made a mistake by signing a new $38 billion security agreement with the Obama administration, saying Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could have gotten a better deal if he had waited until President Barack Obama left office.

The senators insisted that Netanyahu had been forced into signing because Iran is growing stronger as it obtains billions of dollars unfrozen under a nuclear agreement reached last year.

“Now is not the time to say that we’re going to nickel and dime Israel,” Graham said, according to Reuters.

Yaakov Amidror

Yaakov Amidror

In Israel too, as expected, there have been many kibbitzers on the side arguing that Israel could have gotten a better deal. Putting paid to those negative voices, the former National Security Advisor to Netanyahu, General Yaakov Amidror, says that the aid package reveals a wealth of friendship:

There were those in Israel who thought it wise to ask for even more, given the threats Israel faces, and to give Israel a better jumping off point for negotiations. Those familiar with the state of the US economy, and aware of the discord between the Democratic administration and the Republican Congress over the need to introduce cuts to the US budget, foresaw a huge decrease in aid. The realists, however, understood that the aid package would end up around these figures.

Washington never tried to “extort” anything from Israel, such as making Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renounce his March 2015 speech warning Congress of the dangers of the nuclear deal with Iran.

… The value of the defense aid package extends beyond the unprecedented amount of money it guarantees. The entire budget for active defense, which is usually decided after discussions between the White House and Congress (which traditionally gives Israel more than the White House wants to sign off on), is now guaranteed for years.

As a result, there will be no need to renegotiate the aid package every year. Israel will not have to explain its defense requirements and get caught up in the perennial friction between the White House and Congress.

With such recurring clashes in mind, the administration asked Israel to pledge that it would not ask Congress for additional funds beyond the $3.8 billion. Israel agreed, although the deal leaves room for additional aid in the event that war breaks out.

Amidror relates to the one major flaw with the deal: the fact that Israel cannot use any of the money within Israel:

The Americans did request a fundamental change in the agreement. Up to now, about 24% of American defense aid was spent in Israel. Now, all the money the US gives Israel will go toward US defense companies. This represents a transfer of a total of about $800 million of the defense budget to the US instead of to Israel. This figure will come at the expense of Israeli defense companies, and will not be an easy transition.

Israel’s acting National Security Council head, Brig. Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel, was responsible for the majority of negotiations over the past four years, and he succeeded in ensuring that the change will be gradual and will not come into effect immediately. If Israel’s defense industry makes a genuine effort to save money and prioritize, it can make the best of a difficult situation.

David Horovitz of the Times of Israel rebukes ungrateful Israel who owes the US  a simple thank you: (although the headline should rather read “ungrateful opposition MKs”).

Former PM Ehud Barak

Former PM Ehud Barak

Most of the complaining, it’s true, has not been directed at the Obama administration. Led by former prime minister Ehud Barak, it has, rather, been a case of utilizing the deal to score political points against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Barak (“believe me, I know what I’m talking about”) has been writing op-eds and giving interviews declaring that Israel could have secured billions more if only Netanyahu had handled the negotiations better — and specifically if Netanyahu had eschewed his anti-Obama lobbying speech in Congress in March 2015 against the Iran nuclear deal. Others, including disgruntled ex-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, and the Zionist Union’s failed candidate for defense minister Amos Yadlin, have also weighed in to say, albeit more politely, that the package is inadequate.

… Now, maybe Israel could have gotten a better deal, and maybe it really does need more US military assistance than will be forthcoming. (Extra funds can be sought, it should be noted, in times of conflict.) Maybe the P5+1’s effort to thwart Iran’s rogue nuclear program is so weak, hole-filled and dangerous that Israel’s defense challenges have indeed grown dramatically, or will do soon.

… Maybe Netanyahu could have negotiated some of the key clauses more effectively, rather than, say, agreeing to the condition that will gradually require Israel to spend all of that military aid inside the United States, rather than allowing a substantial proportion to be spent in Israel as has been the case to date. And maybe he need not have accepted the provision that will prevent Congress from securing or seeking to secure additional funding.

But the bottom line is that Israel, not notably naive under Netanyahu’s leadership, chose to agree to this deal. Israel, doubtless after a great deal of consideration and after many months of negotiation, opted not to hold out for the possibility of more, evidently concluding that the risk of better terms under a different president somewhere down the line was outweighed by the danger of worse ones. Nobody put a US-funded gun to our head.

I found the following interesting in a depressing kind of way: The blogger Abu Yehuda  weighs up the good and the bad and concludes that the deal is bad for both countries.

Yakov Nagel

Acting National Security Advisor Yakov Nagel

The Israeli official responsible for the deal, Acting National Security Adviser Yaakov (Jacob) Nagel himself blasted critics for their “detachment from reality”:

Israel’s acting national security adviser, who led the negotiations over the 10-year $38-billion military aid agreement signed last with with the US, hit back at domestic critics of the agreement on Saturday, calling the critics “detached from reality.”

In unusually strong language for the usually quiet official, Yaakov Nagel lashed out at “massive disinformation in the media from irresponsible critics, most of whom don’t know the negotiations process we’ve been through for the past three and a half years, or the details of the agreement.”

Nagel rejected the assertion that Iran deal fallout had hurt the negotiations, which he has led on the Israeli side since 2013.

“A large part of the talks” hammering out the deal were begun in 2013, during President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel that year, and so “were carried out before the Iran deal was even on the table.”

Amos Yadlin, the former head of IDF military intelligence and more recently a center-left Zionist Union candidate for defense minister, argued on Friday that Netanyahu could have pressed for additional funding had he not angered the White House with his March 2015 address to Congress.

But according to Nagel’s statement to the media late Saturday, these calculations are “detached from reality.”

The army’s current multi-year funding plan, called “Gideon” by military planners, assumes an annual contributed of $3.1 billion from the US, Nagel said, “so two of the years [covered by] the current plan” – likely a reference to fiscal years 2018 and 2019 – “will already see a boost of $400 million” to the budget the army expected to receive.

Nagel added: “The claim that we could have gotten $7 billion more [over ten years]…lacks all basis in fact and is unprofessional. The American defense budget has legal constraints and is being cut. The offer from certain quarters in Congress, who want to offer as much aid as they can to Israel, came to $3.4 billion in 2017 due to the constraints of the American [federal] budget,” less than the final figure agreed to in the agreement.

I’m not enough of a military or diplomatic expert to assess whether this deal is good or bad for Israel.  Abu Yehuda  weighs up the good and the bad and concludes that the deal is bad for both countries. Certainly in the short term it sounds good.  Politically it is excellent for Israel’s reputation. It puts paid to all the Jeremiads about Israel’s isolation and the dire warnings that Netanyahu’s fervent objections to the Iran deal will derail Israel’s relationship with the United States. This deal proves the precise opposite.

I’m dubious and concerned about the clause regarding Israel’s inability to spend at least some of the money within Israel. But maybe the Republican senators will be able to overturn or adjust some of these clauses.

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Iran, Israel news | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Woes of the Women’s Flotillette to Gaza

We thought that the ridiculous flotillas to Gaza had come to an end after Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was declared legal by the UN itself. But we were wrong.

Flotillette

Flotillette Follies Flop

The latest stunt is a women’s flotilla, henceforth named by me “the Flotillette”, due to set sail from Barcelona heading for Gaza’s coast.

The small fleet of two vessels was slated to carry dozens of women from various nations, including Israel, with the aim of breaching and boycotting Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal Palestinian enclave.

Meanwhile, Israel was prepared to thwart the flotilla from illegally infringing on the maritime blockade of Gaza, which was established in 2007 following the terrorist group Hamas‘s takeover of the Strip.

With the capacity to haul 15 passengers each, the Amal (Hope) and the Zaytouna (Olive) sail boats were expected to dock at various ports on their journey across the Mediterranean. After setting sail from Barcelona following two days of anti-Israel events and lectures, the boats were slated to first stop in Corsica.

Among the pro-Palestinian activists due to board the vessels were European Parliament member Malin Bjork from Sweden, retired US army colonel Ann Wright and doctor Fouzia Hassan from Malaysia.

Among the Israeli nationals expected to take part in the flotilla was the media spokeswoman for controversial Arab-Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List), who was on the 2010 Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla.

Unfortunately for them, the flotillette has suffered certain mysterious delays and of course the female activists lost no time in blaming Israel:

One of the ships, the Amal (Hope) was forced to turn back after facing engine trouble. The second ship, the Zaytouna (Olive), set off only late in the afternoon after being delayed for many hours by local Italian police.

This reminds me of the sinister delays suffered by a previous flotilla, which were also attributed to the dastardly Israeli government. The blame-game continues:

The flotilla’s organizers accused Israel of causing the delays and stated that they hope the Amal will be able to return to sea after being repaired.

One of the passengers of the Flotilla, Zohar Regev, an Israeli who grew up on a kibbutz and has since relocated to Spain, spoke in an interview on the flotilla’s website. Regev discussed her expectation of Israel to use force to stop the flotilla.

“We are committed to non-violence. We will not give Israel a reason to attack us violently,” Regev stated.

She continued, “You need courageous people to set out on a flotilla like this. Silence on Israeli actions would be an outrageous injustice and shame.”

As with similar anti-Israel stunts, the flotillette floptivists raise a straw man, only to knock it down. Israel has never attacked any flotillas, violently or peacefully. Israel has legally prevented the boats from entering Gaza’s waters, and the only violence occurred on the Mavi Marmara after the IDF boarding party was violently attacked by the terror-supporters on board.

As for calling themselves “courageous” to sail in such a flotilla, that is the biggest load of codswallop I have heard in a long while (probably since the last flotilla). The only reason these women feel safe enough to sail is precisely because they know the IDF will not attack them as long as they keep the peace.

The entire enterprise is a pathetic publicity stunt that is not fooling anyone at all, possibly not even themselves.

Arguably, more humanitarian aid flows into Gaza than ever before. And strong evidence indicates that Hamas chooses to divert significant amounts of construction material that should be used to rebuild housing in order to gear up for future terrorist attacks against Israel.

And so a flotilla aimed at drawing attention to Palestinian suffering hopes to set sail shortly and make it to Gaza by Oct. 1.

Its message: Israel is to blame for everything.

The Jewish Press article has some practical suggestions for the flotillette activists:

There are things the passengers can do to help, however, if their agenda truly is about improving life for Palestinians and not some feckless attempt to discredit Israel.

Start by condemning Hamas political leaders for making jihad a priority over improving living conditions. As much as 95 percent of cement meant for rebuilding Gaza gets diverted to tunnel building. The Los Angeles Times also described a concern among some Gaza residents that the money that does go toward home construction benefits Hamas insiders and mosques first.

The boat women also can demand that Hamas stop indoctrinating Palestinian children with messages glorifying violent jihad and martyrdom. It has been going on for years. Simply put: It is indefensible.

Finally, a flotilla of women hoping to improve life for Palestinians in Gaza should say something about the treatment of women under Hamas rule. Something is amiss in a society when women riding bicycles creates a stir. Women in Gaza also cannot dance or smoke in public or have their hair done by men

The article notes that the flotillette is not even going to be bringing in any goods for poor starving comfortably middle class Gaza. No surprise there, considering the desperate state of “concentration camp Gaza”:

Even Hamas itself has been publicist Gaza’s amazing attractions in a bid to lure tourists! Seriously! And I must admit they seem to be doing a blooming good job. Shame about the rockets…

But wait! There’s more! Israel is about to enjoy some more entertainment value as Israeli fishermen and sailors plan to meet the Flotillette when it arrives:

A group of sailors from the South, including some who had been expelled from Gush Katif, are a planning a flotilla in reaction to the “Women’s Flotilla” of left-wing activists to depart this week from Barcelona, Spain for Gaza.

Avi Farchan, who was expelled from the community of Alei Sinai in Gush Katif and is organizing the alternative flotilla of southern residents, called on all boat and ship owners to join him in greeting the pro-Arab flotilla as it arrives. “If they want to talk about humanitarianism, they should sail to Syria and not Gaza. Gaza is not lacking for anything.”

“We will recommend that the leftist women take the humanitarian aid that they brought and divert it to Syria via the Lattakia port, for the good of hundreds of thousands of refugees there,” he said.

However I think the Israeli sailors can remain sunbathing on the beach because it looks like the Flotillette might not make it to Gaza, or even Israel, at all. They seem to have gotten lost after stopping to ask for directions: [satire unfortunately, via the brilliant Daily Freier]:

Barcelona: A Women-Only “Flotilla to Gaza” has run into an unexpected problem after getting lost somewhere between Barcelona and Sardinia.  The Flotilla, which set out to show Solidarity with a regime that promotes Honor Killings and Polygamy the women of Gaza, has been at sea for four days and according to the latest Blog entry of Bree Skyfire-Williams, one of the Ship’s four Co-Captains, they have “like no idea where they are” and “need to maybe stop another ship and ask for directions or something.” The Daily Freier was able to communicate further with the crew via What’s-App whenever they got some decent Wi-Fi.

I think our problems started before we even got on the boat.” explained Jade, who took a month off of work from her job at the World Bank in order to participate. Jade, who was appointed to the Packing and Supply Committee, described the chain of events. “I mean our  Ships’ Manifest didn’t account for everyone packing way too much stuff for the trip.” To further drive home this point, Jade showed us the packing list of Melissa from the (Fair Trade) Coffee Committee:

A cold weather outfit, a warm weather outfit, some formal wear in case we go some place nice, a hat, boots, my laptop, Uggs, a yoga mat, yoga pants, French press, a little black dress, 5 swimsuits, hair dryer, 9 pairs of shoes, waffle iron, Crocs, coconut oil, scrunchies, my journal, crystals, ‘The Alchemist’ by Tony Coelho, a headscarf, and my rice cooker.”

Jade continued. “Now just multiply that by 20 women, and, well, we had to unload the two boxes of stuff we had for Gaza.

Smiley Crying With Joy Smiley Face, Emoticon  Smiley Crying With Joy Smiley Face, Emoticon  Smiley Crying With Joy Smiley Face, Emoticon

Just keep reading and enjoy a good belly-laugh.

I know the above is satire, but I just cannot bring myself to take these stupid flotillas seriously. The “activists” are either radical-chic ex-hippies looking for a cause they can join, or they are antisemitic politicians looking to raise their profile amongst voters who have lost interest in their antics.

May their engines continue to founder, may their sails always tangle, and may they find other fish to fry.

Or maybe they should just try sailing to Syria where they really could use any help they can offer.

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Defence and Military, Incitement, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bombings and stabbing in America – but were they terrorism?

A series of apparent terror attacks took place over the weekend in the United States, although the authorities seem to be having great difficulty in pronouncing the word “terror”, let alone “Muslim”.

The biggest attack took place in Chelsea, Manhattan, where an explosion injured 25 (some say 29) people:

Police spokesman J. Peter Donald said on Twitter that the explosion happened at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday on West 23rd Street, which is a major thoroughfare with many restaurants.

He says several people were taken to hospitals with injuries. The Fire Department tweeted that none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.

No detail about the extent of damage was immediately available. A number of New York City subway routes have been affected by the incident.

Watch the CCTV video of the explosion (via Arutz Sheva):

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference at the scene of the explosion that it was an “intentional act”, but not connected to terrorism, as far as initial indications go.

I really do not understand how the Mayor can come to that conclusion while the investigation has hardly begun!

The Mayor made sure to emphasize, however, that the investigation into the incident is only in its preliminary stages, and that additional information is expected.

Widespread shutdowns were conducted by the NYPD in the aftermath of the explosion, and what appears to be a second explosive device was found.

A pressure cooker with wires attached to it was located four blocks away from where the explosion occurred.

Pressure cookers were the method used at the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 (see the next item below).

This Manhattan bombing followed an earlier pipe bomb explosion in New Jersey that was timed to go off during a charity race to benefit US Marines. The bomb was also attached  multiple devices which did not go off, as Sky News reports:

A small bomb that exploded along the route of a road race in New Jersey on Saturday morning contained multiple devices that failed to go off, authorities have said.

No one was injured in the blast on Ocean Avenue in the town of Seaside Park, which happened at around 9.30am, shortly before 3,000 runners were due to take part in a charity race to benefit US marines and sailors.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was no specific connection between the New Jersey blast and the explosion in Manhattan on Saturday evening that left 29 people injured.

Again, Mayor de Blasio is jumping to conclusions before any investigation! Is he trying to preempt panic? If so, he’s going the wrong way about it. Coming out with baseless reassurances is certain to arouse suspicion and mistrust in the public. He should just advise the public to heed the authorities’ instructions, and take the usual precautions about safety.

The article continues:

Officials say the device was timed to detonate during the race but the start was delayed while a suspicious rucksack was investigated.

The incident is likely to evoke memories of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 which killed three people injured hundreds more.

The weekend of violence was topped off by 8 people injured in a terrorist stabbing in a Minnesota mall, who asked his victims if they were Muslim before stabbing them:

At least eight people were hospitalized late Saturday after a stabbing attack at a Minnesota shopping mall that ended with the suspected attacker, who reportedly made references to Allah, shot dead by an off-duty police officer, authorities said.

The assailant “made some references to Allah,” Blair Anderson, police chief in the city of St. Cloud, told journalists. “We have confirmed that he asked at least one person if they were Muslim before he assaulted them.”

But he emphasized that the investigation remains ongoing and that “whether that was a terrorist attack or not — I’m not willing to say that right now because we just don’t know.

How many pointers do Americans need before they admit that an attack was in fact terrorism? It seems blindingly obvious to us Israelis.

Anderson said during a news conference shortly after midnight the eight victims were taken to St. Cloud Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries following the attack, which was first reported about 8:15 p.m. One person was admitted. No further details were released.

I am glad that no serious injuries have been reported, and I wish all the injured in all the attacks a speedy recovery.

But: note to America: you cannot fight terrorism if you refuse to name your enemy.

Posted in Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments