Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Combating PA "Pay to Slay"

From JPost, 7 May 2018, by Lahav Harkov:

Bill going after Palestinian pay-for-slay passes first reading
FAMILY AND FRIENDS mourn at the graves of Yosef, Chaya and Elad Salomon, who were buried at the Modi’in Cemetery, on July 23.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A bill meant to combat the Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying terrorists passed the first reading in the Knesset on Monday evening.

The Defense Ministry’s proposal, which had support from the coalition and much of the opposition, would allow the cabinet to deduct the amount of funding for terrorists from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the PA.

The PA paid terrorists more than NIS 1 billion ($347 million) in 2017 and upped the amount to over NIS 1.4b. ($403m.) in its 2018 budget, according to a Defense Ministry report based on the PA’s budget.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman expressed hope the bill will pass a final vote this summer.

He cited the American version of the bill, called the Taylor Force Act, which states that the US will not send aid to the PA as long as they continue the terrorist payments.

“We can’t ask others to deduct the terrorist funding” before Israel does, Liberman said. “We can’t lag behind the US. The PA is the largest funder of terrorism against Jews... We must act on this matter.”

Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, who proposed a version of the bill, said it “will harm the PA’s means of encouraging terror and will bring us closer to peace.“We must stop the economic incentive that the PA gives terrorists,” he said.

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said: “Today, the State of Israel is saying no more... We will show zero tolerance for terror. According to the Defense Ministry’s findings, the PA pays over a billion shekels in a year to terrorists and their families. Imagine how many preschools and schools could be built with that money.”

[Defense Minister] Liberman released calculations of how much the terrorists in several recent attacks are expected to be paid by the PA ahead of Monday’s vote.

The PA is expected to pay the terrorist who slaughtered three members of the Salomon family more than NIS 12.6m. ($3.48m.) over the course of his lifetime.

Omar al-Abed murdered Yosef Salomon and two of his adult children, Elad and Chaya, and wounded Yosef’s wife, Tovah, when they were celebrating the birth of a grandson in their home last year. Elad’s wife hid their children in a nearby room in the house, where they heard the massacre take place. Abed was given four life sentences.

The three terrorists who shot and killed Naama and Eitam Henkin in 2015 while they were driving home with their four children in the car will receive a between NIS 10m. and NIS 11.23m. ($2.77m.-$3.1m.) over the course of their lifetimes.

The lifetime estimate for terrorist payments is calculated based on if they live to age 80.

Security forces arrested Abed al-Karim Adel Asi, the Israeli Arab terrorist who murdered Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal outside the settlement of Ariel, on March 18, and he has already received his first NIS 1,400 monthly payment. He is expected to receive more than NIS 12.6m. ($3.48m.) during his lifetime.

The average income of a working Palestinian in the West Bank is NIS 2,092 ($580) per month, according to the Defense Ministry, which is what the PA pays terrorists sentenced to three to five years in prison.

The PA pays terrorists who are sentenced to 20 years or more in prison – in other words, those who committed more severe crimes and likely were involved in killing Israelis – five times that amount each month for the rest of their lives.

Terrorists who are Israeli citizens receive a NIS 523 ($145) bonus, which, when added to the amount the PA pays for the most severe crimes, comes to more than NIS 10,461 ($2,900) a month, more than the average Israeli income of about NIS 9,740 ($2,700). There are also increases in pay for being married and for each child a terrorist has.

If a terrorist is released from prison early or dies in prison, he or his family can continue to receive a monthly salary without a time limit on how long the payments are made.

...The Defense Ministry bill states that the amount the PA pays terrorists each month will be deducted from the tax and tariffs Israel collects for the PA.

At the end of each year, the defense minister will present a report to the Security Cabinet on how much the PA paid terrorists that year. The report will be classified unless the minister decides to release it or parts of it.

The Security Cabinet can vote not to deduct the funds or to only withhold part of the amount, “for special reasons of national security and foreign relations of the state,” the bill states. This is a controversial clause, which several MKs in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee opposed.

The funds that are deducted will be invested in a fund to pay damages to victims of terror, among other areas.

USA will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will pull out of the nuclear accord with Iran...

"The United States does not make empty threats," he said from the White House in a televised address.

"At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction. That a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program," Trump said. "Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie."

He cited intelligence documents published last week by Israel, saying those documents "conclusively" showed Iran's "history of pursuing nuclear weapons. The fact is, this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made."

"It didn't bring calm, it didn't bring peace and it never will."

Iran, Israel react 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reacted quickly to Trump's announcement in a live address on state television, saying there is a "short time" to negotiate with the countries remaining in the nuclear deal and he will be sending his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to meet with them. 

Rouhani warned Iran could start enriching uranium "in the next weeks." 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, praised Trump's decision, calling it a "historic move."

Netanyahu, a leading critic of the deal, said leaving it unchanged would be "a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world."

Iran Lied

From Atlantic Council, 1 May 2018, by Matthew Kroenig*:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 provided a twenty-minute PowerPoint presentation of secret Iranian nuclear documents, acquired by Israeli intelligence. The information revealed will be unlikely to change many minds about the wisdom of the nuclear deal with Iran, but it is significant. It shows that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was concluded under false pretenses and that Iran may currently be in violation of the accord.

To understand the significance of the information acquired for the nuclear deal, however, we must first review the steps necessary to build nuclear weapons. For Iran to go nuclear, it must complete three steps: (1) enrich significant quantities of uranium to weapons-grade levels; (2) develop a functioning nuclear warhead; (3) and possess a ballistic missile or other means to deliver the device to an enemy. Step 1 is the most difficult technical hurdle and the subject of the most contentious debates on the Iran nuclear deal. But all of the revelations in Netanyahu’s presentation were about Step 2.

That is why the revelations will be unlikely to change any minds. Iran deal proponents are pleased that the JCPOA puts caps on Iran’s uranium enrichment program in a manner that buys time and forestalls difficult decisions about bombing Iran or allowing Iran to get the bomb. Deal opponents dislike that the JCPOA gives a stamp of approval to Iran’s enrichment program and that the limits on enrichment expire in several years due to sunset clauses. The information presented by Netanyahu does not affect either of these calculations.

But, the revelations are, for lack of a better word, revealing.

Most importantly, Netanyahu claimed that illegal nuclear weaponization work continues to the present day. He said that “today, in 2018, this work is carried out by SPND, that’s an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry.” His presentation claimed that the name of the program for Step 2 changed in 2003, but that substantive work has continued under a new label with the same lead scientist and some of the same staff under the euphemism of “scientific knowhow development.” If true, this would be a clear violation of the JCPOA, which explicitly prohibits work on nuclear warhead design in Section C, Part 16 and Annex 1, Part T. This is a subject that deserves further scrutiny and on which the international community should press Iran.

Next, these revelations show that the Iran nuclear deal was consummated under false pretenses. A condition of the deal in a section labeled “Transparency and Confidence Building Measures” (Section C, Part 14) was that Iran “fully implement the ‘Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues.’” This was a euphemism for Iran coming clean about the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program. Netanyahu’s presentation shows that Iran did not come clean, but lied about many aspects of the PMD of its program in its reporting to the International Atomic Energy Agency  (IAEA) in 2015. The IAEA certified in December 2015 that it was satisfied with Iran’s answer to inquiries about PMD, but we now have 55,000 new pages related to this subject. At a minimum, the IAEA should reopen its investigation into PMD based on this new information.

Finally, this information helps to resolve a key debate between deal supporters and critics. Many supporters argued that Iran’s willingness to sign the JCPOA in 2015 reflected a strategic decision to give up the nuclear weapons option altogether. Netanyahu’s briefing lends more support to critics who have argued all along that Iran is merely waiting out the clock in order to resume its march to the bomb.

What does all of this mean for US policy toward Iran? It largely depends on one’s predisposition before Netanyahu’s presentation. Supporters can argue that this shows the value of remaining in the deal and constraining Iran on Step 1. Opponents can claim that these revelations provide grounds for pulling out of the deal because it was concluded under false pretenses and Iran may be in violation at present. Those in the middle can argue that we should use the mechanisms within the deal to press Iran on this new information and, if necessary, snap back international sanctions consistent with the deal’s terms.

The only untenable conclusion is the widespread, but incorrect hot take that Netanyahu’s briefing contains nothing new.

*Matthew Kroenig is deputy director for strategy at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, associate professor of government at Georgetown University, and a former adviser on Iran policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

US has a permanent military base in Israel

Did you miss this? I did, from Times of Israel, 18 Sept 2017, by Judah Ari Gross:

For the first time in history, the United States ...established an official, permanent military base in Israel: an air defense base in the heart of the Negev desert.

Dozens of US Air Force soldiers home the new base, located inside the Israeli Air Force’s Mashabim Air Base, west of the towns of Dimona and Yerucham.

Col. Liran Cohen, head of the IDF’s air defense school, left, and Col. David Shank, of the US 10th Army Air & Missile Defense Command, cut the ribbon to open the first American military base in Israel, inside the Mashabim Air Base, on September 18, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, head of the IAF’s Aerial Defense Command... told reporters the establishment of a permanent US base in Israel “allows us to improve our defense, in discovery and in interception and in preparedness.” ...he said, the permanent presence of a US base on Israeli soil sends a “message to the region and our surroundings that our partnership with our friend the United States is important.”

The “base within a base” will be run by the US military’s European Command (EUCOM). It includes barracks, offices and support services.

In his speech, Maj. Gen. John Gronski, deputy commander of US Army National Guard in Europe, said the base “symbolizes the strong bond that exists between the United States and Israel.”

It is located not far from a US military radar installation east of Dimona that tracks ballistic missiles once they are launched and provides details on their flight paths to defense systems.

US military forces are routinely based in Israel, both for joint exercises and for routine cooperation with the IDF, but Haimovitch described the new base as a meaningful change.

“We established an American base in the State of Israel, in the Israel Defense Forces, for the first time, with an American flag,” he said.

Gronski also discussed the already close relationship between the two militaries.

“The United States and Israel have long planned together, exercised together and trained together. And now, with the opening of this site, these crucial interactions will happen every day,” he said....

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Iran has Totalitarian Control of Lebanon

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies have won just over half the seats in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, while Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri, with close ties to Saudi Arabia sustained losses. His Future Movement party has so far lost five seats in Beirut, once considered his party’s stronghold. 

An Israeli security cabinet minister said the gains in the vote showed that Israel should not distinguish between the Lebanese state and Hezbollah in any future war.