Friday, March 17, 2017

Israel’s Next Big War

From the Forward, 16 March 2017, by Yossi Alpher:

Getty Images

Israel’s next big war is almost certainly going to pit it against some combination of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah forces along its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon. To be sure, an additional confrontation with Hamas in Gaza (Israel’s opponent in the costly 2014 Gaza War. which led to the death of roughly 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis) could also be in the offing. But the forthcoming war in Israel’s North — home to an estimated 1.2 million people — could be closer to the kind of all-out war that the Jewish state hasn’t fought since 1973.

The reasons have far less to do with the Arab-Israel conflict than with the ongoing civil war in Syria and the continuing confrontation between Iran and Israel. The outcome could result in considerable destruction inside Israel, but also in a strengthening of Israel’s burgeoning strategic ties with its Sunni neighbors — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — who alongside their reservations on the Palestinian issue share Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s aggressive regional ambitions. In this sense, a confrontation in Israel’s north would decisively reflect current far-reaching changes in the Middle East strategic balance of power.

Syria’s civil war is winding down, at least in the Western or non-desert part of Syria facing the Mediterranean — appropriately termed “Useful Syria” — and in the South, along Syria’s borders with the Israeli Golan Heights and Jordan. Iranian and Russian intervention has turned the tide in favor of the Assad regime in Damascus. In helping Bashar al-Assad to win on the ground, Tehran has mustered a broad war coalition of Shiite mercenaries from as near as southern Lebanon’s Hezbollah and as far afield as Afghanistan and Iraq. The end of fighting in Useful Syria is liable to leave all these battle-tested forces near the Golan. Alongside them will be al-Assad’s ally, Hezbollah, with its estimated arsenal of close to 100,000 rockets and missiles capable of targeting most of Israel, as far south as the Dimona nuclear reactor.

True, Iran’s proxy army, as well as Hezbollah, suffered losses in Syria and is battle weary. But Iran now has the financial resources to speed its return to battle-readiness. This force is understood by Israeli military intelligence to represent the primary military threat to the country for several reasons.

First, both Iran and Hezbollah continue to issue a barrage of threats against Israel — hardly the pose of someone shying away from a fight. In February, Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, pictured above, referred to Israel as “a cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut.”

Second, victory in Syria will represent a major Iranian strategic success in projecting its power in the region. Iran, which is zealously buying top-flight weapons from Russia, is trying to develop a Mediterranean naval presence as well, with a port on the Syrian coast.

Forward Graphic

Third, a combination of Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah pressure has spurred a political shift in Lebanon. President Michel Aoun, a Christian who owes his recent election to Hezbollah support, stated on February 12 that Hezbollah’s weapons are complementary to those of the Lebanese army: “The resistance’s [meaning Hezbollah’s] arms are … an essential part of Lebanon’s defense.”

This groundbreaking and, inside Lebanon, controversial statement abrogates Lebanese policy that once proclaimed that only the Lebanese army defends the country. Lebanon used to at least project a certain distance between Hezbollah’s strategic aims and activities and those of sovereign Lebanon.

Already there are signs that the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon is deferring to Hezbollah forces along Israel’s border. Given the [collaboration] between the Lebanese military and Hezbollah’s forces, Israel is justified in deeming another attack by Hezbollah an act of war by Lebanon itself and responding militarily against the Lebanese army and the country’s infrastructure. Yet this could have a devastating effect on both Lebanon’s delicate internal ethnic equilibrium and Israel’s otherwise improving relations with the Arab world.

On March 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow for a summit with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, for the fourth time in the past 18 months. Since Russian forces entered Syria in September 2015 to rescue the Assad regime, Jerusalem and Moscow have had much to talk about, including ways to ensure that Israeli and Russian combat aircraft don’t get into dogfights in the skies over Damascus. Changed global strategic circumstances may also now dictate that Netanyahu exploit his close contacts with both Putin and President Trump to pass messages between the two. But Netanyahu very pointedly stated after his meeting that the main agenda item was Iran: not the Iran nuclear deal, which is a fait accompli, but the growing Iranian military threat to Israel from Syria and Lebanon.

These developments raise weighty questions.

  • Can Putin be persuaded to escort Iran’s forces and proxies out of Syria as part of the Russian endgame there? 
  • Will the Israeli threat to target all of Lebanon next time around succeed in deterring another war with Hezbollah, or could it have the unfortunate effect of widening that war? 
  • And if war breaks out and Hezbollah rains tens of thousands of missiles over most of Israel, will an all-out Israeli response that targets large portions of both Syria and Lebanon succeed in ending the next war quickly? 
  • Will Iranian forces suffer enough damage in the fighting to deter Tehran in the future? 
  • Will Israel, too, suffer heavy civilian and infrastructure damage?

Last but not least, where does the Trump administration weigh in regarding the increasing Iranian threat to Israel from Syrian and Lebanese soil? 

The United States and Russia are potentially the only parties capable of changing the reality on the ground in Syria. The Arab world certainly won’t.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A sick new low for UK aid to the PA

From The Daily Mail (Australia), 16 March 2017, by Ian Birrell In Hebron:

Palestinian boys and girls pretend to execute an Israeli soldier – as teachers at schools funded by YOU tell their pupils that terrorists are heroes 

  • Palestinian schools funded by British foreign aid are named after terrorists 
  • Pictures of 'martyrs' and revolutionary slogans are posted all over the walls
  • Despite this millions of pounds of aid continues to pour into the region
  • The Mail on Sunday is calling on the government to end foreign aid madness 

Britain is pumping huge sums of foreign aid into Palestinian schools named after mass murderers and Islamist militants, which openly promote terrorism and encourage pupils to see child killers as role models.

A Mail on Sunday investigation has found 24 schools named after Palestinian terrorists and evidence of widespread encouragement of violence against Israel by teachers, with terrorists routinely held up as heroes for schoolchildren.

Pictures of ‘martyrs’ are posted on school walls, revolutionary slogans and symbols are painted on premises used by youngsters, sports events are named after teenage terrorists and children are encouraged to act out shooting Israeli soldiers in plays.

In a sick classroom play children at the Al-Surra School surround a classmate dressed as an Israeli soldier to play out a mock 'execution'
In a sick classroom play children at the Al-Surra School surround a classmate dressed as an Israeli soldier to play out a mock 'execution'

Head teachers openly admit flouting attempts by British and European donors to control the curriculum at schools. They print overtly political study aids for pupils, some even denying the existence of Israel, and teachers boast of encouraging pupils to emulate teenage attackers killed in the most recent wave of terrorist attacks in the region.

One senior teacher from a prominent West Bank school, asked what he would say to a pupil threatening to attack Israelis, told this newspaper: ‘I would tell them go in the name of God.’

This is all despite a review of the hundreds of millions of pounds in donations poured into Palestinian public services last year, which came after Western donors raised concerns about the indoctrination of children.

The changes to aid handouts followed a furore sparked by a previous Mail on Sunday investigation exposing how British taxpayers’ cash supported monthly payments to convicted terrorist killers and the families of suicide bombers.

 After the soldier was 'shot' dead the photo was posted on the school's Facebook page 
 After the soldier was 'shot' dead the photo was posted on the school's Facebook page 

The investigation also discovered that British aid was funding salaries for thousands of civil servants who had not worked for nine years, despite many admitting they had second jobs. These payments were stopped three months ago.

The investigation was part of this newspaper’s long-running campaign against the Government’s commitment to foreign aid which is set to reach £12 billion.

Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel and MP for Enfield North, said she supported sending aid to Palestine but urged Ministers to make the Palestinians stick to funding agreements. She said: ‘We cannot stand idly by while the Palestinian Authority sanctions anti-Semitic incitement which poisons young minds and makes a two-state solution ever more difficult to achieve.’
Girls play outside Dalal Mughrabi high school. In 1976 Mughrabi led an attack that left 37 people dead, 12 of them children 
Girls play outside Dalal Mughrabi high school. In 1976 Mughrabi led an attack that left 37 people dead, 12 of them children 

This year alone Britain is giving £25 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA). It will help fund salaries for 30,000 officials in West Bank health and education.

The EU, which gets one-tenth of its aid budget from Britain, is donating £272 million. More than half of this goes to public servants in education, health and social services in Gaza and West Bank.

Dalal Mughrabi was a member of the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)
Dalal Mughrabi was a member of the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)

Both the Department for International Development and the EU say the use of such money is carefully vetted by accountants. But a new report prepared for Labour Friends of Israel by Palestinian Media Watch, a respected Israeli monitoring organisation, has discovered:

  • Twenty-four schools named after prominent Palestinian terrorists, including four named after the man who planned the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, one after the founder of militant Islamist group Hamas and one after Amin al-Husseini, the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who backed Hitler and helped recruit for the SS.
  • Sports events being regularly named after terrorists. Typical was a football tournament, hosted by a school in al-Bireh, named after a 13-year-old who stabbed two Israeli citizens a few weeks earlier. His 15-year-old friend was shot dead in the attack.
  • Plays put on at schools and summer camps have pupils staging ‘executions’, such as one in Hebron featuring a child draped in Palestinian colours ‘shooting’ another dressed as an Israeli soldier. The images were posted on the school’s Facebook page.
  • The Palestinian ministry of education planted trees to commemorate terrorists killed in ‘the ongoing popular uprising’. It was a means of ‘honouring the martyrs, among them school students, and to strengthen the sense of belonging to the land.’

Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch, said British aid was backing the glorification of terrorism and indoctrination of Palestinian children to see murderers as role models
‘Britain and the European Union bear responsibility for this terror when they are funding a school system that is actively promoting, and thereby creating, terrorism,’ he said. ‘This is simply child abuse, encouraging kids to die in armed struggle.‘It is a terrible message for the next generation. Children are the key to peace but look at what they are being exposed to from a young age, growing up in an environment of terror and told the killing of Israelis is a heroic action.’
One of the schools he identified was Khalil al-Wazir elementary school for girls in Hebron.

This is named after the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s former military mastermind known as Abu Jihad, who was blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis.

The smart hilltop school has an image of his face painted inside its grounds alongside the words: ‘Abu Jihad. First the bullets and first the stones.’ The logo for political group Fatah, which runs the West Bank, is sprayed beside the main gate with its familiar crossed guns.

In one corner of the courtyard can be found a plaque marking the ‘construction and rehabilitation of toilets, storage facilities and drinking fountains’ funded by EU aid.

Another of the schools is Dalal Mughrabi high school for girls in al-Shuyukh, Hebron. It is one of three named after the woman who led the most lethal terror attack in Israeli history, a 1978 bus hijacking that left 37 people dead, including 12 children.

A mural nearby Khalil al-Wazir girls' school depicts PLO terrorist Abu Jihad, blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis 
A mural nearby Khalil al-Wazir girls' school depicts PLO terrorist Abu Jihad, blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis 

A map of Israel and the Occupied Territories was painted on the wall beside the front door – filled in entirely with the Palestinian flag to illustrate the ‘illegitimacy’ of Israel’s existence. Pupils told me they knew little about Mughrabi. But girls at another school named after her told Palestinian television three years ago of their pride in attending a place named after ‘a great leader’. One said her ‘life’s ambition’ was to emulate such a hero.

A teacher also hailed Mughrabi as ‘one of the brave female fighters who carried out martyrdom-seeking operations.’

An education official in Hebron told me they did not see such a person as a terrorist since she was defending the people’s rights against repressive occupation. ‘We do not consider her a child killer,’ he insisted. ‘Where is the problem in calling schools after such martyrs?’

As we talked, a colleague tapped away on a computer with a USAid sticker on it, one of 25 recently donated to the municipality.

One of Barack Obama’s last acts as President was to hand $221 million (£181 million) to the PA hours before Donald Trump succeeded him.

The move highlights how a corrupt regime is propped up by foreign aid, with £14 billion handed over during its 23-year existence. Foreign support has fallen recently, causing financial problems in the struggling region, yet terrorists and their families are still being paid £246 million a year.

Western donors, stung by accusations of aiding terrorism, forced the PA to change its school curriculum at the start of this school year by weeding out controversial issues in history, geography and religion.

In the courtyard of Khalil al-Wazir girls' school a plaque marks out that it's funded by the EU
In the courtyard of Khalil al-Wazir girls' school a plaque marks out that it's funded by the EU

Teachers told me they were now meant to be barred from discussing the 1948 Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were exiled or fled from their homes during Israel’s war of independence. Koranic verses referring to jihad are also off limits.

But they brazenly said they ignored the bans, claiming their leaders agree controls just to get through the vetting process and obtain aid cash in full knowledge any restrictions will be brushed aside in classrooms.

‘This is how it works,’ said Anwar Abu Quak, an English teacher in Ramallah. ‘They apply for funds, they get funds and they claim they will remove things from our textbooks. Then the principals tell teachers to take it upon themselves to teach the right things. Why should we listen to the foreign donors? They are buying the politicians and civil servants with their money, not those of us teaching the kids.’

He admitted they talked about the Nakba and ‘martyrs’ in lessons. ‘We tell them they are the foundation of our people,’ he said. ‘It is important to name schools after the martyrs. There should be monuments in schools celebrating them.

A Hamas demonstration in Palestine. Nabil Samara, a headteacher, said: 'If I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation' 
A Hamas demonstration in Palestine. Nabil Samara, a headteacher, said: 'If I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation' 

‘Where does all this aid money go?’ he asked. ‘First look at the schools, with no libraries or playgrounds and 45 children to a class – then look at the well-furnished offices of officials.’ He added that he had never seen a Western donor visit his school premises.

Nabil Samara, head of the 850-pupil school, spent two spells in prison for affiliation to a terror group and one for encouraging teachers to incite violence. He has seen five pupils shot dead in protests during his decade in charge (their pictures are displayed in the school) and about 20 jailed. ‘As long as the occupation continues it is impossible for us not to be inciting violence,’ said Samara, 58.

‘The donor countries put in their rules but if I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation.’

He admitted they printed their own leaflets to flesh out the new curriculum, including ones for geography lessons showing Palestine occupying all the territory of Israel, as before its creation in 1948.

‘The geography of Palestine has been removed from the curriculum,’ he said. ‘We should not take money with all these conditions. It is my job to teach children our history, our geography and our religion.’...

Samara insisted that he would seek to stop any of his pupils from actively participating in attacks on Israel
Stone-throwing "students"actively participating in attacks on Israeli civilians

Netanyahu urges Putin to block Iranian power corridor on Israel’s border

From the Washington Post,  March 9, by David Filipov and Ruth Eglash:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Moscow. (Pool photo by Pavel Golovkin via European Pressphoto Agency)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [is] seeking reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country’s presence in Syria would help Israel block arch-nemesis Iran from taking advantage of the chaos to position itself permanently on Israel’s northern border.

Until now, the Israeli government has stayed relatively quiet about developments in the six-year-old conflict raging in neighboring Syria, acting militarily only when it feels its security threatened. But now, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad receives a boost from the strategic alliance between Russia and Iran, Tehran’s expanding influence across the region is causing alarm in Israel.

...Netanyahu noted the significant progress made by Russia and other players in the region in fighting Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. He added, however, that
“the victory over the terrorism of ISIS cannot lead to an upsurge in terrorism by Iran and its proxies. We will not exchange terrorism for terrorism.” ...
...Although Russia is unhappy with some of Iran’s strategic objectives in a postwar Syria, it is unclear how far Putin would go in supporting Israeli action to prevent Iran from building a sphere of influence from Tehran to Lebanon, via Syria and Iraq.

“Syria is at a crossroads right now. On one side, there is a cease-fire that seems to be holding and Assad has managed to regain control of parts of his country. Israel is worried that Iran and its proxies will gain a permanent foothold in Syria,” said senior Israeli minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu.

Ever since Russia entered Syrian territory two years ago, Israel has repeatedly emphasized to Putin its red lines regarding Iran and the groups it supports — Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Shiite militias involved in the fighting in Syria. Netanyahu has visited Moscow four times over the past 1½ years, and the two sides have struck cooperation agreements aimed at preventing confrontations between their warplanes in Syrian airspace.

 With rapid changes on the ground, however, Hanegbi said Israel feels it is time to focus on the future.

In its official statements, Moscow has been unwilling to make predictions about what would happen with Iran’s military buildup after the end of hostilities in Syria.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, in an interview with the newspaper al-Hayat on Sunday that was quoted by the Interfax news agency, said that any decision on the withdrawal of Iranian forces would rest with Syria’s leaders.
“The lawful authorities who will be lawfully chosen in Syria would be the ones with the right to demand the withdrawal of all foreign powers from the country,” Bogdanov said.
This official stance reflects the reality that Putin has neither the ability nor the intention to exclude Iran from a settlement in Syria, not when Iran’s role in supporting Assad far exceeds that of Russia, said Vladimir Frolov, a foreign-policy analyst based on Moscow.

 During the course of Syria’s war, Iran has provided billions of dollars to shore up Assad’s regime and contributed much of the manpower that has sustained the depleted Syrian army’s capabilities, in the form of Shiite militias recruited from the region and elsewhere.

In the process, Iran has significantly expanded its reach across Syria, giving it new strategic depth in any future conflict with Israel. Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are now present along the 1967 cease-fire line with Israel in the Golan Heights, putting them directly opposite Israeli troops for the first time. 

Hezbollah, which has fought wars with Israel and has an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 fighters in Syria, is also active in the Golan.

 On Wednesday, an Iranian-allied Shiite militia from Iraq, Hezbollah al-Nujaba, announced that it had established a new unit, the Golan Liberation Brigade, dedicated to liberating the remainder of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel since 1967.

...Iran is also thought to have deployed missiles in Syria capable of reaching deep inside Israeli territory.

While refraining from commenting on the war in Syria, Israel is believed to have carried out unclaimed airstrikes inside Syria targeting suspected Iranian and Hezbollah weapons storage sites and missile depots in recent years. Russia has turned a blind eye to the strikes.

Putin, who has made support for Assad a cornerstone of his policy, would probably be unwilling to go beyond that and support an Israeli incursion.

“Given all this, it is hard to see what Putin could promise to Netanyahu,” Frolov said. “He might, and likely will, promise a lot, but is in no position to deliver.”

U.S. envoy to U.N. says 'we need to get Iran' out of Syria

From Reuters, 8 March 2017, by Michelle Nichols:

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks while Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho (L) and South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae-yul (R) look on during a press encounter after meeting on North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles at the United Nations in New York, U.S., March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks while Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho (L) and South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae-yul (R) look on during a press encounter after meeting on North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles at the United Nations in New... REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The United States supports the U.N.-led Syria peace talks, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday, saying Syria could no longer be a "safe haven for terrorists" and that it was important "we get Iran and their proxies out."

Haley spoke to reporters after U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the Security Council behind closed doors on 10 days of talks between the warring parties in Geneva, which ended last week.

She did not respond to questions on whether the United States believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, should step down.

All eyes have been on how Washington would approach ending the six-year war in Syria, given pledges by President Donald Trump to build closer ties with Russia, especially in the fight against Islamic State. Trump's Syria policy has been unclear.

"The United States absolutely supports Staffan de Mistura and the work that he's doing, we support the U.N. process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue," Haley said.

"This is very much about a political solution now ... and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists, we've got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we've got to make sure that, as we move forward, we're securing the borders for our allies as well," she said.

Iran is backing fighters in Syria from Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah....

Iran Poses the Greatest Threat

From the US Department of Defense, 9 March 2017, by  Lisa Ferdinando:

Iran poses the most significant threat to U.S. Central Command's complex area of responsibility, Centcom commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Centcom has dealt with a number of significant challenges over the past 12 months, including in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt and the Sinai, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, he said.

"We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region," the general said at the hearing on the posture of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command.
"It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world," Votel said.
Iranian activities of concern, according to Votel, include "malign influence across Iraq and Syria," and efforts to prop up the Syrian regime and exploit Shia population centers.

'Highly Complex Area'
The Centcom area of responsibility, which covers four million square miles from the Arabian Gulf region into Central Asia, remains a "highly complex area, widely characterized by pervasive instability and conflict," he said.

The region is "increasingly crowded" with external nation-states, including Russia and China, that are pursuing their own interests in attempting to shift alliances, Votel said.

...Violent extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are taking advantage of the fragile security environment of heightened ethno-sectarian tensions, economic uncertainty, and weak or corrupt governance, Votel explained.

VIDEO | 01:01 | Centcom Commander Discusses Organization’s Mission, Goals at Senate Hearing

..."While we must take the necessary actions to counter immediate threats, such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria," Votel’s written statement to the committee said, "we also need to find ways to address these and other root causes of instability if we hope to achieve lasting positive effects in that part of the world."...

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran

From Israel Hayom, 9 March 2017, by Ariel Bolstein:

...Russia, which has exhausted its military moves in Syria, is searching for a future strategy that will allow it to integrate into the world of U.S. President Donald Trump. 

Russia has paid a high price for its confrontation with the West. True, as a result of the United States' geopolitical retreat under former U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian influence has grown on a few fronts, primarily in the Middle East, but this achievement is not worth much without American recognition of Russia's new-old status as a world power.

The changing of the guard in Washington provided Moscow with a unique opportunity to turn the page on its relationship with the West, but the significance of such a change would also mean concessions on its part.

It seems that Russia may meet Trump halfway on the Iranian issue. Russia did not have much in common with the country of Islamic revolution from the outset, and the collaboration between them stems more from a desire on the part of both countries to challenge the existing world order.

Indications of Russia's openness to the idea of turning its back on Iran have been noted on Russian state television. ...In recent weeks, these programs have raised the possibility of placing Iran on the sacrificial altar between Moscow and Washington, and this was received with understanding by a majority of participants. 

One must remember that Putin and as a result the Russian public are determined to witness Russia's inclusion in the select club of world powers, but they have no interest in dragging others who also claim the crown along with them, and certainly not Iran.

From Israel's perspective, Netanyahu is now the only statesman to enjoy the trust of and an unprecedented friendship with both the White House and the Kremlin. Israel has succeeded in preserving its interests in the tempest of upheaval in the Middle East, in large part due to the relationship Netanyahu has forged with Putin. The Russians have been forced to honor Israel's freedom of action in the region and have come to understand full well Israel's determination to act whenever Israeli considerations require that it do so.

In the Trump era, Israel's stock has risen even more in the eyes of the Russians. Moscow could not help but notice the special affinity Trump has shown toward Netanyahu and the feelings of solidarity they share. Israel is clearly not operating within a vacuum -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia after Netanyahu, and later in the month, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will do the same -- but those in the Kremlin must understand the differences in influence among these three figures.

The possible resolution in Syria and its de facto division into regions of influence underscores the need to stop the expansion and strengthening of Iran. Russia needs to understand that Hezbollah's murderousness and lack of humanity is no different from that of the Sunni terrorists it so mercilessly bombed. There should be one law for the Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham -- formerly Nusra Front -- and Hezbollah. If Russia operates according to this principle, its standing and the security of the region will vastly improve.

"Progressive" Jews fuelling antisemitism

From Isi Leibler, 15 March 2017:

...the crass political exploitation of their Jewish identity by American leaders of purportedly “nonpartisan” mainstream Jewish organizations is unprecedented. Today, in what must be described as self-destruction, a substantial number of irresponsible leaders of the most successful and powerful Jewish diaspora community seem to have gone berserk and are fueling anti-Semitism.

Nobody suggests that Jews should not be entitled, like all American citizens, to engage in political activity of their choice ...but as leaders of mainstream religious and communal organizations, they are obliged, as in the past, to assiduously avoid being perceived as promoting partisan political positions.

...Let us set aside the fact that many of these liberal Jewish organizations have also distanced themselves from or even abandoned Israel. They have done so even though the Trump administration has the potential of restoring the U.S.-Israel alliance that then-President Barack Obama undermined in a vain effort to appease Muslims. 

It is also clear that, for many assimilated liberal Jews, Israel is no longer a priority, especially now that President Donald Trump has signaled his intentions to renew the alliance.

The facts are that liberal Jewish leaders have declared a hysterical war against the Trump administration. Led initially by the Anti-Defamation League but rapidly joined by the Reform and Conservative wings of the Jewish community, many Jewish community leaders have exploited their positions to endorse a vicious campaign in which Trump is portrayed as a satanic anti-Semite promoting fascism and racism, representing the antithesis of Jewish values. This, despite the reality that his presidency highlights an unprecedented acceptance of Jews at the highest levels of government.

Headed by CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Obama staffer, the ADL initiated its campaign during the elections by effectively echoing the far-left J Street. It accused Trump of tolerating and encouraging anti-Semitism and white supremacy and engaging in Islamophobia. Greenblatt went so far as to proudly announce that if immigration restrictions weighed against Muslims, he would proclaim himself a Muslim and called on Jews to do likewise.

At the same time, some progressive rabbis, usually without a mandate from their constituency, organized fasts and days of mourning in their synagogues and, donning prayer shawls and kippot, they paraded at the forefront of anti-Trump demonstrations that vulgarly undermined the presidency, emphasizing that their political stance was a product of their religious Jewish values.

Furthermore, they supported and participated in demonstrations led and hijacked by vicious anti-Israel Muslim activists such as Linda Sarsour and even convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh. In a similar vein, the ADL continues to promote Black Lives Matter despite its hatred of Israel and support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The constant false accusations of anti-Semitism were highlighted by the biased liberal media emboldening right-wing degenerates who were provided with enormous exposure. This created a perception of a sudden rise in radical right anti-Semitism.

There has been a huge flurry of anti-Semitic outbursts in social media. Jewish organizations have been plagued with bomb threats and several cemeteries were desecrated.

The media highlighted these developments and many Jews panicked, in the belief that this was evidence of a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism, and accepted the false allegation that this was a Trump factor. Last week, Greenblatt went so far as to make the preposterous statement that Trump had “emboldened” anti-Semites and encouraged acts of terror in his own country.

Fortunately, to date, not a single Jew has been harmed. It only takes a few fanatical scoundrels to ignite a flow of anti-Semitic tweets and social media activity. It only takes a handful to telephone bomb threats to Jewish organizations. The campaign to blame Trump and accuse him of indifference to anti-Jewish agitation is simply nonsensical.

It is also noteworthy that the first person arrested for having made numerous bomb threats was no alt-right extremist but an African-American notorious for his tweets against “white people” and the “white media.”

Alas, the reality is that in promoting their personal political agenda and vulgarizing and demonizing Trump while posing as Jews motivated by religious principles, they are hypocritically exploiting their leadership positions and fueling anti-Semitism.

This becomes even more stark in contrast to the eight years of Obama’s administration, during which not a single condemnation was uttered against the outrageously biased statements in relation to Israel. Obama’s repeated statements attributing moral equivalence to Israeli defenders and Palestinian terrorists, his accusations of disproportionate Israeli response to terrorism, and his refusal to condemn the Iranians as they repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map, were all ignored. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was treated despicably in Washington while Obama was groveling to the Iranian terrorists.

There is no distinction between anti-Semitism of the Right and Left and the forces of bigotry that are mushrooming globally, including within the U.S., albeit the most tolerant nation in the world in relation to Jews.

The reality is that today, the prime global anti-Semitic threat emanates not from neo-Nazis but from the witches’ brew of far-left and Muslim anti-Jewish incitement, which has transformed many American university campuses into hotbeds of anti-Semitism. Jewish students are being intimidated and pro-Israel speakers denied the opportunity of making their case. This has deteriorated over recent years and today represents the central source of anti-Semitic agitation in the U.S. Where are the shrill voices against this manifestation of anti-Semitism from those that blame Trump for anti-Semitic threats? Greenblatt went as far as to oppose the legislation against BDS, insisting that some of its promoters still loved Israel and should not be condemned.

A large proportion of Trump supporters are Christian evangelicals whose passionate support for Israel more than compensates for liberal Jews who are more concerned about Muslims, a substantial proportion of whom hate and would kill Jews, endorse jihadism and support the destruction of the Jewish state. Obviously, witnessing Jews purporting to be upholding Jewish values by engaging directly in the demonization of their president must outrage them.

It is surely time now for responsible Jewish leaders to intervene and condemn this distortion of Judaism, making it clear that these liberal officials and rabbis have no mandate to speak on behalf of the Jewish community and are simply promoting their personal political agendas.

The Zionist Organization of America and some Orthodox Jewish groups are trying to dispel the perception that these attacks on Trump are officially Jewish-sponsored. To his credit, Abe Foxman, himself a liberal, who headed the ADL for three decades prior to Greenblatt, urged Jewish leaders to “cool it” emphasizing that “Trump is not an anti-Semite.” He warned that the issue “has been hijacked politically by Democrats who’ve made it a political issue to attack Trump,” though he also noted that “Republicans made it a political issue to defend him.” His conclusion: “The whole issue has become a political football and that doesn’t serve us.”

It is sad and ironic that the decline of the most affluent and successful community will have been engineered by some of its leaders who, in their fanatical liberal zeal, exploited their Judaism and Jewish affiliations to advance a partisan political agenda. Unless this tide of official Jewish anti-Trump demonization is reversed or halted, there will be major long-term negative ramifications on the standing and influence of the American Jewish community.