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Battle of the Benjamins: Israeli Elections End in Tie

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 08:31

The Israeli elections ended Tuesday night with a tie: Likud under incumbent Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu receiving 35 mandates and Blue and White under Benjamin “Bennie” Gantz receiving an identical 35 mandates. Ironically, both parties declared an election victory.

Likud had its best showing ever under Netanyahu, winning 26.27 percent of the vote. Blue and White, a new part formed by political alliances, won 25.94 percent of the vote.  Only some 14,000 votes separated the two parties.

Next week, President Reuven Rivlin will consult with the elected party leaders, chooses the Knesset member most likely to have the ability to form a viable coalition representing at least a 61 seat majority. While this typically is the leader of the party receiving the most seats, it is not required to be so.The leader of the party deemed the most likely to form a majority coalition has up to 42 days to negotiate with the different parties, and then present his or her government to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. If the Knesset approves the proposed government (by a vote of at least 61 members), he or she becomes Prime Minister.

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The other parties won the following number of seats in the Knesset. Shas, the Sephardi religious party, won eight seats. United Torah Judaism, the ultra-Orthodox party, also won eight seats. The Labor party, the dominant left-wing party for many years, had its worst showing ever with six seats. Hadash-Ta’al won six seats. The Union of Right-Wing Parties won five seats. Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Home) won five seats. Kulanu won four. Meretz won four. Ra’am-Balad (Arab parties) won four seats.

The New Right with 3.14 percent of the vote, Zehut with 2.53 percent, and Gesher with 1.75 percent did not pass the minimum 3.25 percent threshold to enter the Knesset.

Based on these results, the right-wing bloc allying with the religious parties can form a coalition of 65 Knesset seats, while the left-wing bloc allied with the Arab parties wins only 55 seats.

Several of the right-wing parties had as a central aspect of their party platform annexation of Judea and Samaria, a rallying cry that Netanyahu adopted in recent weeks.

Election officials said turnout was 67.8%, down from 2015’s turnout of 71.8%.


Wed, 04/10/2019 - 05:52

Hoshea promises that despite the period of punishment and separation, ultimately Israel will return and seek Hashem, their God and David, their king. He says this will take place b’acharit ha’yamim (באחרית הימים), translated here as ‘in the days to come,’ but often translated as ‘the end of days.’ However, as Prime Minister Menachem Begin pointed out in a speech to the delegates of the United Nations Disarmament Conference in 1982, “Acharit hayamim does not mean ‘the last days’ or ‘the end of days.’ On the contrary! The key word, acharit, is a synonym for a bright future. It means hatikva, ‘hope,’ as we find in Jeremiah (29:11): latet lachem acharit v’tikva (לתת לכם אחרית ותקוה) — ‘to give to you a future and a hope,’ or, ‘to give you a hopeful future.’ Acharit can also mean progeny, as we find in Ezekiel (23:25), and in progeny there is future. Hence, b’acharit hayamim really means the days of redemption, when mankind shall enjoy the full blessings of eternal peace for all generations to come.” The Prime Minister taught the UN delegates that no matter how difficult the present may be, one must maintain our hope for a bright future and the days of redemption.

Jewish, Pro-Israel Groups React Positively to Designating IRGC as Terrorist Group

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 05:02

Prominent Jewish and pro-Israel organizations reacted positively to the Trump administration announcing on Monday that the United States will officially designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including its Quds Force, as a terrorist group—the first time that a part of a foreign state has been officially designated a terrorist group by the United States.

“Iran’s IRGC owns and/or controls a large part of Iran’s economy, and has, in fact, been attacking American troops and our allies for years. The Pentagon recently reported at least 603 Americans were killed in Iraq by Iranian forces,” Jewish Policy Center senior director Shoshana Bryen said.

“Designating it a terrorist organization allows the Trump administration to constrict the travel of its officials and the funds available for its use,” she continued. “It is another way of denying Iran the ability to fund terrorism and war in Syria, Gaza, Iraq and elsewhere—and that is to be applauded.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said the designation “will subject the IRGC to further U.S. sanctions & economic pressure,” and is an important element of the administration’s efforts to “increase financial pressure & raise the costs on the Iranian regime … until it abandons its malign and outlaw behavior,” as stated by the White House.

“To accomplish this objective, the administration will need to further strengthen its enforcement efforts and limit waivers so to drive Iranian oil exports toward zero,” tweeted AIPAC.

Christians United for Israel’s public-policy arm called the move “a good step” in exerting maximum pressure on Tehran.

“The Islamic Republic is a theocratic dictatorship, and the IRGC is the core source of their power,” said CUFI Action Fund chair Sandra Parker. “From subjugating the Iranian people to supporting terrorists and rogue regimes, the IRGC is the backbone of Tehran’s tyranny.”

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“[U.S.] President [Donald] Trump has shown courage in recognizing the realities of the modern Middle East in a way that other world leaders do not,” said American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen in a statement. “The Iranian government is a threat to the region and to global security at large, and an undeniable source of terrorist violence against civilians. We cannot afford to stay in denial about Iran.”

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) said that the move sends a warning not only to the IRGC itself, but also to those who may want to work with the terrorist entity.

“The IRGC’s designation as the terrorists they are should serve as a major warning to any business investing in Iran and will deny Tehran the financial assistance it needs to realize its hegemonic ambitions,” said UANI chairman and former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace in a statement.

“Any company entertaining the notion of doing business in Tehran should first recognize that it is at significant risk of transacting with an IRGC front company,” added UANI in the statement. “It is flatly illegal for American and international companies to do business with the IRGC, but corporate compliance officers and country managers are simply powerless to know for sure if their companies are doing business with a reputable Iranian company or one that is secretly operated, managed and even owned by the IRGC.”

Along with echoing the aforementioned sentiments, StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said, “This is an acknowledgement of reality.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon tweeted, “Israel thanks the US for another step to recognize Middle East realities: designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization! The IRGC is the main exporter of Iran’s regional terrorism. The world should follow this example & increase the pressure on Iran!”

The American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International were also among the Jewish and pro-Israel groups to applaud the move.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the designation will take effect on April 15, and that doing so is “recognizing a basic reality.”

‘New York Times’ Blunder Gets Israeli Campaign Ad Backwards

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 04:07

The New York Times came under withering criticism on Sunday after a photo caption mistranslated—or as some say misreported—a campaign ad for Israel’s April 9 election.

The photo caption accompanying the Times article, “In Israeli Election Ads, Anything Goes” by Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger, mistakenly attributed a billboard to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for re-election.

In fact, the billboard is an attack ad against Netanyahu by the Blue and White Party.

The billboard shows Netanyahu with chin up alongside leaders of the right-wing Jewish Home Party and the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party, apparently meant to suggest that Netanyahu is a close ally of political extremists.

The slogan written underneath Netanyahu, “Kahana Lives,” is the rallying cry of the radical Kach Party, banned from the Knesset in 1988 for inciting racism.

In the accompanying article, Halbfinger wrote that Israeli election billboards “are in Hebrew and Arabic, but much of what is shown in the ads requires little or no translation.”

The Times photo and article caught the eye of media watchdog CAMERA, whose Israel office director, Tamar Sternthal, tweeted that Times editors could actually “have used a little translation help.”

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She said “it’s frankly astounding that the paper blundered on the meaning of the billboard.”

“As is readily apparent to any Israeli, and as should be understood by journalists tasked with explaining the elections to outsiders, the ad for Gantz’s Blue and White paints the prime minister as a close ally of the extremist … politicians known for anti-Arab racism,” she continued.

Others on social media soon joined in the criticism. Seth Frantzman, an editor at The Jerusalem Post, tweeted: “This is embarrassing, NYT didn’t know that the entire billboard … was actually anti-Netanyahu? Do they not bother to check and think before captioning this?”

“By misidentifying the billboard as a campaign for ‘Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies,’ the New York Times inflames,” said Sternthal, echoing the words of a CAMERA billboard currently located across the street from The New York Times headquarters in Manhattan which says, “The New York Times inflames with biased coverage.”

Frantzman said, “In fairness, captions can be wrong and unrelated to the story, but in a charged political atmosphere, a paper like the NYT should endeavor with their resources to be extra careful.”

“The Times’ erroneous caption—whether it stems from ignorance, negligence, hostility, bias or a combination of factors—is just the latest testament to the paper’s woefully unreliable coverage of Israel,” said Sternthal.

Prophecy News Talk, Israeli Elections

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 03:51

Prophecy News Talk’s Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz goes to his local polling station to cast a vote for the party that should lead Israel for the next four years.

Health of 10,000 Israelis Over 40 Will Be Monitored for Decade

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 03:38

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel have launched a clinical study among Israeli Hebrew speakers only to attempt to predict diseases before they appear in patients.

The “10K Project,” led by Prof. Eran Segal and his team of the computer science and applied mathematics and molecular cell biology departments aims to use state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technologies to generate personalized predictions for disease-risk factors in Israelis. If successful, it could benefit the health of people around the world.

The  ambitious project is a longitudinal (observational, long-term) study designed to collect lifestyle and clinical data from 10,000 individuals aged 40 to 70 who will be recruited from the Israeli population. They will be followed up for 10 years.

The researchers will monitor the population of subjects over time and analyze the resulting data to find a connection or relationship between exposure to certain factors and the onset of disease. Participants will benefit but not pay anything for the service, and medical confidentiality will be strictly observed.

The 10K Project combines innovative medical tests and advanced artificial intelligence techniques to discover personal characteristics that can help predict future medical conditions long before they break out. The goal is to develop methods that will prevent these situations and improve the quality and longevity of each and every one of us.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading scientific research institutes in the natural sciences and exact sciences. There is a multidisciplinary team of scientists and researchers from the Institute, combining innovations in medicine, biology and computer science. The team is comprised of researchers who are responsible for innovative and groundbreaking discoveries, for example in the field of gastrointestinal composition and their significance for diseases and personalized nutrition. “On the basis of this characterization, we believe that in the future, it will be possible to develop methods that will improve the ability to predict at a personal level various diseases years before they are discovered,” Segal explained.

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The team will collect data on the volunteers’ personal status through a series of questionnaires and medical tests. Data will be processed using sophisticated artificial intelligence tools.

Participants will receive the results of their tests. In addition to the questionnaires and blood tests that will be conducted each participants community health fund clinic, the team will also conduct a series of tests at the Weizmann Institute some of which are not available outside the research. Such a visit to Rehovot will take about two hours and include, among other things, blood sampling, cheek samples for genetic characterization, obtaining a home kit for fecal collection to characterize the composition of the intestinal population, and body measurements such as fat percentage.

The lab will also store a sample of patients’ blood in an advanced robotic freezer so that they can perform future tests without requiring participants to come again. Technicians will also connect them to the sensor that will measure their blood sugar over a period of two weeks and give them a smartphone application that will allow them to easily record your meals during this period.

The team will then send each participants the results of the tests, such as their genome, sugar levels in response to eating different foods and a breakdown of the composition of their microbiome (intestinal bacteria). In addition, the 10K project offers access to health-related information that they will provide on a regular basis.

“We believe that analysis of the results of this study will help develop methods that may affect the health of all of us in the future. At the initial stage, but there is no direct personal benefit from the tests. We’ll send them important updates as we discover new findings. It is important to remember that participation in the study is not a treatment and that the tests performed in this study are not used in any case for the purpose of clinical diagnosis.”

Segal’s research is supported by the Crown Human Genome Center, which he heads; the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust; the Else Kroener Fresenius Foundation; the Adelis Foundation; Judith Benattar; Aliza Moussaieff; the Fannie Sherr Fund; the Estate of Zvia Zeroni; and the European Research Council.

Airbnb Reverses Decision to Blacklist Jewish Properties in Judea and Samaria

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 03:10

The online hospitality service Airbnb announced on Tuesday that it has reversed its November decision to blacklist about 200 Jewish-owned properties in Judea and Samaria and has settled all lawsuits.

“Under the settlement terms, Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform,” said the company in a statement. “We understand the complexity of the issue that was addressed in our previous policy announcement, and we will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank, but Airbnb will take no profits from this activity in the region.”

Instead, all profits will go towards nonprofit groups “dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”

“Airbnb has always opposed the BDS movement. Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts who are active on the Airbnb platform,” added the company. “We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.”

Alan Dershowitz, constitutional law scholar and professor emeritus at Harvard University Law School, said that he has been in contact with Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs, urging him to reverse the decision. Following a tour of the West Bank in December, Lehane was apparently “under consideration” at the time.

“Let’s hope they stick with it,” said Dershowitz. “Previously, they said they would do it, and they didn’t.”

“It’s a good result,” he added. “I will call Chris Lehane, and congratulate him for doing it and urge him to make sure he keeps it.”

Shurat HaDin Law Center and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations were among the pro-Israel groups that celebrated the reversal after months of ongoing pressure from the pro-Israel and Jewish communities.

“This is a powerful defeat for the anti-Israel boycott movement,” they said in a statement. “Other international companies need to learn [similar] lessons.”

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“This a critical decision given the high visibility of Airbnb and the attention given to its earlier announcement,” said Conference of Presidents chairman Arthur Stark and executive vice chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein. “The concern was that it was not only discriminatory, but that it would set a precedent for other companies and be portrayed as an endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement.”

“We applaud the individuals and organizations who spoke out against this policy and placed pressure on Airbnb with a unified voice, and congratulate the plaintiffs who filed lawsuits challenging the legality of the policy, and the states that went on record that application of the policy would disqualify Airbnb from eligibility for state contracts,” StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said. “This outcome demonstrates that companies wishing to engage in discriminatory boycotts against Israel will be the ones most harmed by such a decision.”

“@Airbnb’s policy was discrimination against Israelis,” tweeted the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “Today they reversed this misguided policy and announced they are opposed to the BDS movement. We must call BDS what it is: anti-Israel, anti-peace, & damaging to U.S. interests.”

Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, said that Tuesday’s decision represents “a tremendous victory against the prejudicial and discriminatory policies of the BDS movement,” and that “other companies who have decided to support the BDS movement would be wise to take heed.”

She said that “Muslim and Christian owners of properties in Judea and Samaria were clearly allowed to list their properties on the site, while Jewish home owners had been prohibited from doing so, which is clearly discriminatory against those who practice Judaism.”

B’nai B’rith International also commended the decision, saying that its “earlier, highly discriminatory action only served to embolden Palestinian rejectionists and gave encouragement to the BDS movement aimed at delegitimizing Israel.”

Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein stated her message for Airbnb: “Shame on Airbnb for thinking that it could, even for a second, implement a policy that so blatantly discriminated against Jews and still do business in the United States.”

Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said the decision was a “necessary and important retraction.”

“Airbnb has done the only right thing, and rescinded its earlier decision to stigmatize and target Jewish properties in this way,” said Klein.

“We appreciate that Airbnb and [its co-founder] Brian Chesky listened to us and the wider community, and course-corrected on how they implement their listing policy. We also welcome their clear rejection of BDS and embrace of the Israeli market,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Claims Victory

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 03:03

After a hotly contested and divisive campaign, sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in Israel’s latest election.

Anticipating Trump’s “Deal of the Century”

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 02:00

President Trump’s peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict surfaced two years ago and to this day – remarkably – only he and a handful of aides know its precise details. A stream of leaks, however, contains enough internal consistency that their collation, supplemented by conversations with administration officials, provides a plausible outline of the plan’s contents.

These suggest the plan boils down to a grand exchange: The Arab states recognize Israel and Israel recognizes Palestine, both with capital cities in Jerusalem. This approach builds on elements forwarded by Egypt’s President Sisi in 2016, the Obama administration in 2009, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and even my 1990 symmetry plan.

These prior plans either had Israel go first or called for simultaneous steps; in contrast, Trump’s has the Arab states initiate, with Israel responding. This change prompted Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (PA) immediately to reject the “deal of the century” when he met with Trump in May 2017; one report noted that “Abbas has long feared such a plan” and “vehemently opposed” it.

Despite that reaction, the purported deal contains many elements favorable to the Palestinians:

  • Palestine consists of Areas A and B on the West Bank in their entirety and parts of Area C; in all, it will constitute 90 percent of the West Bank;
  • The capital is within or near Jerusalem’s expansive municipal boundaries, perhaps in an area stretching from Shuafat to Isawiya, Abu Dis, and Jabal Mukaber;
  • An international body oversees a joint PA-Israeli administration governing Jerusalem’s Holy Basin (including the Old City);
  • A joint PA-Jordan body controls Jerusalem’s Islamic sanctuaries;
  • Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon give more rights to their Palestinian residents;
  • Jewish residents in smaller West Bank towns are relocated;
  • A land passage connects the West Bank and Gaza;
  • Gaza joins Palestine when the PA regains control of it;
  • Washington organizes a gigantic economic aid package (perhaps $40 billion, or roughly $25,000 per Palestinian resident of the West Bank) for the PA;
  • Palestinians enjoy temporary access to select Israeli seaports and airports until foreign funds build exclusive PA facilities.

In exchange, the Palestinians apparently will be asked to accept several limitations:

  • Continued Israeli military control over Palestine’s borders, its air and sea access, and the Jordan Valley;
  • Legal recognition by the U.S. government (and perhaps annexation by Israel) of larger Jewish towns amounting to 10 percent of the West Bank;
  • Giving up the “right of return” for Palestinians living outside Israel in favor of compensation;

Assuming this outline to be correct in the essentials, it raises three main worries. First, the benefits to Israel are illusory. Its peace treaties with Egypt (signed 40 years ago) and Jordan (25 years ago) led not to significant trade, friendly diplomatic relations, or an increase in human contact. Rather, they intensified anti-Zionist sentiments among Egyptians and Jordanians while improving their governments’ arsenals. The same pattern of heightened hostility also followed other Arab diplomatic agreements with Israel – Lebanon in 1983, the PLO in 1993; why should Saudi or Bahraini recognition be otherwise? In other words, Arab state recognition hardly benefits Israel and could hurt it.

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Ending the Palestinian claim to a “right of return” is Israel’s other illusory benefit. Just recall the farcical 1990s non-change of the PLO charter to drop its call for Israel’s destruction to anticipate the hollow theatrics ahead.

Second, despite the Palestinians gaining real and irreversible benefits (money, territory, legitimacy), they with certainty will continue their century-old pattern of rejecting Israel through campaigns of delegitimization and violence, as has been the case since the first Palestinian-Israeli agreement in 1993. That’s because Shimon Peres’ discredited “New Middle East” idea, that enriching and rewarding Palestinians makes them peaceable, underlies the reported Trump plan. Long experience, however, shows that these benefits makes them more inclined to eliminate the Jewish state. In brief, the PA will pocket “Palestine” and intensify its anti-Zionism.

Third, should Israelis complain to Trump about that delegitimization and violence, he will likely respond with annoyance: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is now “off the table” and they should move on. Should they persist, his predictable rage will damage not just Israel but also the anti-Tehran campaign and anti-Islamist efforts in general.

In short, the reported plan repeats the great miscalculation of traditional Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy by asking too little of Arabs and too much of Israelis. I predict that it will fail, just as did those of Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama.

Therefore, Americans concerned about Israel, Iran, and Islamism need to prepare for the imminent unveiling of what could be a problematic plan. Yes, so far, Trump has been “the most pro-Israel president ever” but, as the Bible reminds us, “put not your trust in princes.”

Reprinted with author’s permission from Daniel Pipes

The Media Cheers Mayor Buttigieg While South Bend Bleeds

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 01:00

On March 31, a South Bend grandma brought her grandson to the hospital. The 11-month-old baby boy had been shot. His grandmother’s car had also taken fire. It was another early morning in South Bend.

Around the same time, Mayor Buttigieg, was toting up the $7 million in donations from his charm offensive as his bid for the 2020 Democrat nomination got underway. The national media never bothered reporting the shooting of an 11-month-old boy in the city he was supposed to be running, but instead confined its coverage of South Bend matters to a publicity stunt wedding officiated by Buttigieg.

The horrifying shooting of an 11-month-old boy on the millennial mayor’s watch was not an unusual incident. In the last few days, even as the media was gushing over Buttigieg’s presidential ambitions, two Indiana University South Bend players were injured in a shooting on Notre Dame Avenue, a blind date ended in a shooting, and yet another shooting added to the bloody toll in the real South Bend.

Those are quite a few shootings for a city of barely 100,000 people. But South Bend is a violent place.

While Chicago is notorious for its murder rate, in 2015, Buttigieg’s South Bend actually topped Chicago’s 16.4 homicides per 100,000 people with a homicide rate of 16.79 per 100,000 people. Those numbers put Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s city on the list of the top 30 murder capitals in the country for the year.

In January, three shootings in one week killed two teens and left a woman paralyzed from the waist down. In one summer week, the casualties included a 12 and a 13-year-old. Last year, a man shot 6 people when he opened fire on 50 partygoers in a house and was sentenced to 100 years in jail.

By 2017, shootings had risen 20% on Mayor Buttigieg’s watch. Rapes increased 27% and aggravated assaults rose from 183 in 2013, the year before Buttigieg took office, to a stunning 563 assaults.

It’s hard to know which are flying faster, bullets in South Bend or dollars into Buttigieg’s campaign.

Some of these stories, particularly the recent shootings of two baseball players which shocked Indiana University, should have been covered by the national media, which instead chose to broadcast Buttigieg’s publicity stunt of officiating at a pregnant woman’s wedding in a hospital. Had the media stuck around, it could have reported on the trail of shooting victims making their way into the hospital.

But reporting on an 11-month-old being shot in their hot new candidate’s city wouldn’t be as much fun.

The media’s bias has never been subtle, but its disinterest in a presidential candidate’s track record has never been this blatant. Mayor Buttigieg’s candidacy is being covered as if he weren’t the mayor of an actual city with actual problems. Instead his prospects have been covered purely in terms of his identity, a gay millennial, his past career before taking office, and his current witticisms and applause lines.

At no point in time does the media stop to tell the viewers and readers it is regaling with stories of Mayor Buttigieg’s charm that he runs the most dangerous city in Indiana, recently rated as one of the “worst cities to live”, where nearly half the residents live at the poverty level, and even the water is bad.

These are significant data points in the track record of a politician aspiring to run the entire country.

The media keeps asking Mayor Buttigieg which of its wishlist of radical socialist policies he’s willing to sign on to, the Green New Deal, eliminating private health insurance, and freeing more convicts, rather than asking him which policies he used to try and solve problems in South Bend. And how they worked.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has tried to pass off South Bend’s crime problem as a national issue. But South Bend’s violent crime rates, double the Indiana and American average, run counter to national trends.

Buttigieg responded by doubling down on Group Violence Intervention, a trendy community outreach strategy to gang members, which despite being widely touted by the media, doesn’t work. Gimmicks, ranging from AI to wonkery, were rolled out and the shootings, the rapes and assaults have continued.

Mayor Buttigieg excels at buzzwords and gimmicks. He’s just terrible at actually running a city.

That’s why property crime in South Bend is rising. It’s why the city is overrun with gangs. It’s why South Bend is poor, blighted and miserable. Violence is just one of the many symptoms of Buttigieg’s failures.

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South Bend’s top employers are the local schools and hospitals, and the local government. And a local casino. Unemployment and taxes are higher than average. Meanwhile the average income is below $20,000. The poverty rate is 25%. African-American poverty rates are double. Hispanic poverty rates are 10% higher than the national average. And even Asian-Americans are poorer than usual in South Bend.

Buttigieg’s failed city is a tragic counterpart to Lake Wobegon where everything is below average.

The media has ignored the reality in South Bend while touting Buttigieg as a rival for the hearts of Rust Belt voters. But Buttigieg hasn’t won by winning over traditional Rust Belt voters. South Bend’s white population has dropped steadily on his watch and the city is on track for majority minority status. The remaining white population is skewed toward a white lefty elite coming for its educational institutions.

South Bend isn’t a typical Rust Belt city. It’s a typical blue city, divided sharply between poor minorities and a leftist elite without any of the culture or tech industries that keep New York or Los Angeles going. Its traditional population has been leaving steadily and that departure only accelerated during Buttigieg’s disastrous time in office.

Much has been made of Buttigieg winning reelection by 80%. This isn’t a testament to his unique charisma. Democrats have had a lock on the mayorality in South Bend for two generations.

The media cheers that Buttigieg won 80% of the vote. It neglects to mention that it was 8,515 votes. That’s about the 8,369 votes that came in during the primaries. Buttigieg raised $337,161 dollars while his Republican opponent, Kelly Jones, had raised $584 dollars. The millennial wunderkind needed $40 bucks a vote while his unknown Republican opponent managed at around a quarter a vote.

Like South Bend’s poverty and crime statistics, these are figures that the media doesn’t report because it would reveal that their shiny new candidate is a hollow façade with nothing inside except spin.

Mayor Buttigieg isn’t winning 80% because he’s universally beloved. That percentage isn’t a testament to his popularity, but to a political system in which hardly anybody except a few lefties bothers to vote.

The truth about “Mayor Pete” is that he’s the son of a Marxist prof working in Notre Dame who used the death throes of a dying city to polish his brand and then jump into the 2020 race over dead bodies.

South Bend is a human tragedy. And while Buttigieg isn’t solely responsible for his woes, he has exploited it, instead of trying to fix it, using buzzwords and gimmicks to build a national brand.

That’s something he has in common with fellow failed hipster mayor and 2020 candidate, Cory Booker.

But Senator Booker was at least clever enough to put a little distance between his tenure in Newark and his 2020 bid. Mayor Buttigieg is betting that the national media won’t bother looking at South Bend.

So far he’s been proven right.

The media keeps touting Buttigieg’s Ivy League credentials, his identity as a gay politician, and his charm. When it mentions South Bend, it’s only to claim that he “turned it around” and that he won his last election by 80%. South Bend hasn’t been turned around. Downtown has gotten a hipster revamp, while the rest of South Bend chokes on crime, violence and misery. But Buttigieg knows that the national media will never bother doing more than reporting on new bike paths and an organic grocery.

The 11-month-old boy who came into the hospital with a wound in his shoulder won’t catch their eye. But as Mayor Buttigieg keeps raising money hand over fist, South Bend continues to bleed and die.

And Buttigieg is hoping that he can sneak into the White House before the blood gets on his hands.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Sultan Knish Blog

Palestinian Authority Targets Students

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 00:00

The Palestinian students are being targeted because of their political affiliations and not because of any crime they committed.

While the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are busy beating up each other’s supporters, “pro-Palestinian” activists on US and Canadian university campuses are busy blaming Israel for Palestinian woes.

For these alleged activists — who are remarkably passive when it comes to truly assisting Palestinians — their protests seem more about hating Israel than anything else. If they really cared about the Palestinians, they might stop abusing Israel long enough to notice the abuse that the Palestinian “leaders” inflict on the people under them.

“Pro-Palestinian” activists at university campuses in the US and other Western countries have long been waging various campaigns to denounce Israel and hold it fully responsible for the continued “suffering” of Palestinians.

These activists, however, seem to care little about violations committed against the Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip — even when fellow students in the West Bank and Gaza are being targeted.

In recent weeks, the PA has been waging a campaign of arrests and intimidation against Palestinian students at some of the West Bank universities. The students, according to the Palestinian Authority, are being targeted because of their affiliation with opposition groups, including Hamas. The students, in other words, are being targeted because of their political affiliations and not because of any crime they committed.

Last month, the largest university in the West Bank, An-Najah University, issued a directive banning the Islamic Bloc student list from carrying out any activities on campus. The university administration did not offer any reason for the ban. The decision was announced shortly after a student list affiliated with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction accused its rivals in the Islamic Bloc of carrying out “political activities” on campus on behalf of Hamas. The Fatah-affiliated students later closed the offices belonging to their rivals on campus.

In response, the Islamic Bloc issued a statement denouncing the university administration’s ban as “unfair and unjustified.” The statement said that Palestinian university students in the West Bank “were continuing to suffer from harassment, repression, torture and politically motivated arrests.”

The university administration defended its decision and said that it also banned the activities of the Fatah-affiliated list on campus. A spokesman for the university pointed out that tensions on campus only escalated after Hamas’s recent brutal crackdown on Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, Hamas security forces used violence to disperse Palestinians protesting economic hardship and increased taxes imposed on residents of the Gaza Strip. Fatah says that Hamas security forces broke the arms and legs of dozens of Fatah protesters, including a senior Fatah official, Atef Abu Seif.

In the past week, the Palestinian Authority security forces arrested two students from An-Najah University, apparently as part of an ongoing crackdown to silence and intimidate political opponents.

video posted on YouTube showed armed Palestinian security officers in plainclothes beating and arresting student Musa Dweikat at the entrance to An-Najah University in Nablus. The security officers are seen knocking Dweikat to the ground and repeatedly kicking him before he is carried to a police van.

The video sparked a wave of protests among Palestinians, including local human rights activists. The Association of Civil Society Organizations in Nablus condemned the Palestinian security forces for the force used against Dweikat and called for holding those responsible to account. The Association also condemned the “ongoing arrests and violations against the Palestinian Basic Law” against students because of their political affiliations and opinions. Noting that politically motivated arrests were also taking place in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the organization said that the human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were “harmful to the image and reputation of the Palestinians.”

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Dweikat was the second university student to be arrested by the Palestinian Authority this past week.

The other student, Ibrahim Shalhoub, was arrested by Palestinian security officers at his home in the village of Deir al-Ghusoun in the northern West Bank. Shalhoub’s family said that the officers conducted a thorough search of their home and confiscated their son’s cellular phone and computer. Shalhoub was arrested after he threatened to appeal the decision by An-Najah University to ban the activities of the Islamic Bloc student list.

Another West Bank university, Al-Quds University, announced last week a similar decision to ban students affiliated with the Islamic Bloc from running in the student council election.

Earlier this month, Palestinian security officers and Fatah activists tore down election banners belonging to the Islamic Bloc at Hebron University in the West Bank. The move came on the eve of elections for the university’s student council. The Palestinian security forces also summoned several students for interrogation, apparently as part of an attempt to intimidate them and undermine the chances of the Hamas-affiliated Islamic Bloc from winning the election.

Hamas and other Palestinian groups accused the Palestinian Authority security forces of acting with a mob mentality against university students in the West Bank. “Our people and sons in the West Bank are facing a gang in contradiction of morals, laws and national values,” Hamas said in response to the crackdown on university students. The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called on the Palestinian Authority to “stop dealing with a mob mentality toward with Palestinian students.”

It is ironic that Hamas is accusing its rivals in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority of acting like gangs.

This is the same Hamas that has repeatedly resorted to repressive measures, including breaking bones and shooting unarmed protesters, to silence its critics in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and the PA have been at war with each other since 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip. Since then, hundreds of Palestinians, including political activists, journalists, writers, and university students, have fallen victim to the power struggle between the two groups.

The latest crackdown on university students in the West Bank is the latest sign of the mounting tensions between the two Palestinian parties. While the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are busy beating up each other’s supporters, “pro-Palestinian” activists on US and Canadian university campuses are busy blaming Israel for Palestinian woes. For these alleged activists — who are remarkably passive when it comes to truly assisting Palestinians — their protests seem more about hating Israel than anything else. If they really cared about the Palestinians, they might stop abusing Israel long enough to notice the abuse that the Palestinian “leaders” inflict on the people under them.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute


Tue, 04/09/2019 - 05:45

Why is it called the Dead Sea in English? In Hebrew, it’s not called the Dead Sea, but the Salt Sea because of the extreme salinity of the water which makes life there unsustainable. However, the Bible says that this was not always the case – and Ezekiel says that in the future, there will again be life in the area. In the land of Israel, this prophecy is already coming to fruition, with fish found living in Dead Sea sink holes!

BIN’s Guide to Israel’s 2019 Elections

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 04:52

By the Numbers

-21st Knesset

-Voting for the general public is on Tuesday, April 9

-10,720 polling stations opened 7AM-10PM

-39 Parties

-6,339,279 eligible voters

-Election day is an official holiday but public transportation operates as usual. Inter-city public transportation will be free on election day.

How It Works

Members of Knesset are not elected directly, but only as part of rosters of specific lists which participate in the general elections. To be represented in the Knesset, a party that takes part in the elections must pass the qualifying electoral threshold, which is currently 3.25%. Following elections to the Knesset, the lists of the parties, which passed the qualifying threshold receive a number of the 120 Knesset seats which is proportional to their electoral strength.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (Photo: GPO)

After the election, President Rivlin will consult with the elected party leaders, chooses the Knesset member most likely to have the ability to form a viable coalition representing at least a 61 seat majority. While this typically is the leader of the party receiving the most seats, it is not required to be so. In the event a party wins 61 or more seats in an election, it can form a viable government without having to form a coalition. However, no party has ever won more than 56 seats in an election; thus, a coalition has always been required. The leader of the party deemed the most likely to form a majority coalition has up to 42 days to negotiate with the different parties, and then present his or her government to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. If the Knesset approves the proposed government (by a vote of at least 61 members), he or she becomes Prime Minister.




Led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, if reelected, will surpass David Ben-Gurion as the longest sitting prime minister in Israel’s history.

Other members are Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, Culture Minister Miri Regev, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Immigration Minister Yoav Gallant, former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.

Likud is anticipated to win 26-31 seats

Note:  Netanyahu, a native English speaker, is a strong ally of President Trump and has stated that he will consider the president’s yet-to-be-revealed Middle East Peace Plan. He has also stated in recent days that he supports annexing Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Biblical Heartland.


Blue and White

Formed in February by former IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, a newcomer to politics, joining with veteran Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF Chief of Staff who served as Israel’s Defense Minister under Netanyahu, and Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party. If the party wins, Gantz and Lapid will split the prime ministry with Gantz sitting for the first 30 months and Lapid serving for the remaining two years.

Though considered hawkish on security and settlements, Lapid passed several laws as finance minister in 2013 that angered the ultra-Orthodox sector.

The party also includes Gabi Ashkenazi, a former IDF Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Histadrut labor union chair Avi Nissenkorn, Yesh Atid MKs Meir Cohen and Ofer Shelah; former news anchor and IDF general Miki Haimovich. Haimovich is a prominent environmental activist.

Blue and White was ahead of Likud in the polls, expected to receive 27-32 seats, but Gantz, perceived as left-wing regarding security issues and Judea/Samaria, will have more difficulty forming a coalition than Netanyahu since most of the smaller parties are right-wing.


HaAvoda (Labor)

The oldest and largest left-wing party. Labor is led by Avi Gabbay, the former CEO of  telecommunications company Bezeq and Minister of Environmental Protection. The party was dominant in Israeli politics from when its formation in 1968 until the early 2000s when it declined sharply. The party claims, “Security above all” as its slogan while it supports creating an independent Palestinian state inside Israel’s borders.

Most polls anticipate the party will receive 10 seats, its lowest ever.


The head of Zehut, Moshe Feiglin, is considered a quasi-libertarian and  is a strong advocate for increasing the availability of medical cannabis and approving its export.

The party’s manifesto includes canceling signed agreements with the Palestinians, making Arab-Israeli citizens pass a loyalty test and offering financial incentives to them to emigrate elsewhere if they refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty over the land. He has also called for Israel to annex Judea and Samaria as a solution to the conflict.

Feiglin stated that he does not have a preference between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election rival Benny Gantz. Since the prime minister is the candidate who can consolidate a majority coalition, this fluidity gives the Zehut party a powerful influence and Feiglin has been dubbed “kingmaker” by political pundits.

This willingness to align with either side of the political spectrum does not come from ambiguity, but rather from a strong adherence to his highest ideal. Feiglin has stated that he will not join a government that is willing to sell out the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, in the current atmosphere of Israeli politics, that limits his options for political partners.

His personal attachment to Jerusalem is undeniable, as he frequently ascends to the Temple Mount and has attended every Temple reenactment. In a rally last week, Feiglin called for building the Third Temple.

The polls predict Zehut will receive 4-7 seats.


New Right

Formed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked after they left Yisrael Beytenu (Jewish Home), the party is, as its name implies, strongly right-wing regarding security. They advocate annexing Judea and Samaria. Bennett, a former commando in the IDF, has stated that he will only join a Netanyahu-led coalition if he is given the plum Defense Minister role. Bennett advocates forgoing any attempts at ceasefires with Hamas and calls for obliterating Hamas through an extensive air campaign. Shaked, a secular Jew who is strongly right-wing, is considered the most prominent, up-and-coming female in Israeli politics.

The polls predict they will receive 4-7 seats.

Union of Right-Wing Parties

Headed by Jewish Home chairman Rafi Peretz, a former IDF Chief Rabbi, the party supports annexing Judea and Samaria and withholding the right to vote from non-Jews over the Green Line. They advocate demolishing terrorists’ homes, expelling families of terrorists, and targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders in Gaza.

The party is expected to garner 5-7 seats.


The party has a loyal following among the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi community. It is headed by convicted criminal Aryeh Deri, who is again currently under investigation. Several of the party’s leaders have been convicted of crimes and in 1999, Deri was convicted of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, for which he was given a three-year jail sentence. The party has a policy of not having any women on their party list.

Founded in 1984 by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party won an all-time high of 17 seats in 1999. Polls estimate the party will win 5-7 seats in this election.


The only party that claims in its platform to be left-wing, it is headed by Tamar Zandberg. Meretz supports the creation of a Palestinian state inside the borders of Israel. They call for immediate negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and the loosening of restrictions on both the Gaza Strip and Palestinians living in the West Bank.

They advocate same-sex marriages as well as full separation of church and state in the Israeli government.

Receiving 12 seats when it was founded in 1992, polls have placed the party at five seats in this election. Some polls have suggested that Meretz may fail to pass the threshold.

Analyzing Gantz and Netanyahu’s Security Policies

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 03:11

Israel’s general elections are taking place, and naturally, the critical question of which security policies should guide the country have returned to center stage.

While security is usually a central topic in Israeli elections, this year’s race has seen the issue compete with a plethora of other topics.

A view of an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip. (Credit: Twitter via IDF Spokesperson Unit.)

The Gaza Strip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pursued a status quo policy when it comes to Gaza and Hamas, the hardline Islamist regime that rules it. This policy has seen Israel agree to facilitate Qatari cash transfers of 30 million shekels (nearly $9 million) a month, which is supposed to go to needy families, health care and the unemployed. When Hamas and other terror factions in Gaza escalate the security situation—as they have been doing for the past year—to try and secure more economic benefits, Netanyahu has ordered the Israeli Air Force to strike high-value Hamas targets to boost Israeli deterrence. These strikes have been conducted in a cautious manner that has not led to full-scale conflict.

Netanyahu, who has come under criticism from Gaza-border residents for the year-long security situation they have endured, summed his Gaza policy in a recent interview to Channel 13, when he stated: “It is impossible to do a real deal with Hamas. They want to destroy us. There is nothing to agree about. What will we agree on—on how to commit suicide? Therefore, we are obligated to deliver blows against them from time to time. Since [the 2014] ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ not a single Israeli civilian was killed there [in the Gaza-border region].”

Referring to the clashes between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas-organized border rioters, exacerbated by intrusion attempts, including some by armed cells, Netanyahu stated that “in the past year, some 300 Palestinians were killed at the fence. Thousands were injured. They wanted to kidnap soldiers.”

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who served as the IDF’s chief of staff during the 2014 war with Hamas, has launched frequent criticisms of Netanyahu’s Gaza policies. In interviews, such as the one he gave to Channel 13 last week, Gantz accused Netanyahu of wasting three-and-a-half years of calm that followed the 2014 conflict—a time period Gantz said could have been used to create a new reality for southern Israel and Gaza.

Offering what he described as an alternative policy, Gantz appeared to hint that he would seek major economic investment in Gaza’s civilian economy and infrastructure to stabilize the enclave, while responding to security challenges with far greater force than Netanyahu has. “We would not exhibit such a weak policy. We would not send money in cash to Hamas,” said Gantz.

Gantz has also capitalized on his role in ordering the targeted assassinations of top Hamas leaders, such as its chief of staff Ahmed Jabari in a 2012 clash.

The West Bank

Significant differences are emerging between the approaches to the West Bank taken by Netanyahu and Gantz. During an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday, Netanyahu said he would he would unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, including far-flung settlements, if he is re-elected on Tuesday.

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated communities,” he said. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have a responsibility [to it] as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu has clashed fiercely with the Palestinian Authority in the diplomatic arena, but under his term, the IDF has continued its close, quiet and daily security coordination with the P.A.’s security forces, which, like the IDF, also target Hamas.

Away from the headlines, Netanyahu does not appear to have given the green light to unlimited settlement expansion. According to a recent analysis by a former deputy Israeli national security adviser, Chuck Freilich, published in the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Netanyahu has “not permitted unbridled settlement activity throughout the West Bank, limiting it overwhelmingly to the so-called ‘settlement blocs’ that even many Palestinians recognize will remain a part of Israel in any final agreement,” [yet] the number of settlers outside the blocs has nevertheless increased steadily.”

In 2009, Netanyahu famously committed himself to a two-state solution at a speech to Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, but since then has spoken more generally of Palestinian self-rule or autonomy.

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Gantz, for his part, together with his colleagues in leadership of the Blue and White Party, has rejected the idea of unilateral annexation. Blue and White’s former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has argued that annexation would imperil the critical goal of preserving Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.

To get a sense of where Gantz and his party would seek to take Israel in regards to the West Bank, it might be worth examining the outline for a future strategy released last year by the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies. Gantz, together with Ya’alon and former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who is also a member of Blue and White’s leadership, were purportedly involved in the drawing up of the outline.

The plan calls for attempting to reach “interim arrangements that build an infrastructure for a two-state solution in the long term in coordination with the Palestinians, if possible,” and if this proves impossible, it calls for “independent steps if the other routes are blocked in order to demonstrate the seriousness of Israel’s intentions” to politically separate from the Palestinians, while ensuring an IDF presence in the West Bank for the foreseeable future.

“In contrast to the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, security will be left completely in Israel’s hands. Not all of the territory will be evacuated, no Jewish communities will be dismantled, and there will be no withdrawal to the Green Line. The process will be coordinated and controlled,” stated INSS director Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin.

Speaking during the proposal’s release,  Yair Lapid, who today holds the number two spot on Blue and White, agreed with the need to avoid “drifting into a single state” with the Palestinians. Lapid criticized the proposal’s unilateral steps as forfeiting concessions, but also said, “Today, the government has no idea regarding the Palestinian issue. They have taken it off the table. The most explosive problem is not being addressed. The government is passing the problem on to our children, who will face 7-10 million Palestinians.”

Damascus skies are lit up by surface-to-air missiles. (Credit: Hassan Ammar/AP/Business Insider Screen capture)

Lebanon and Syria

Gantz and Netanyahu appear to be in full agreement regarding the way to deal with threats in the northern arenas. In 2013, two years after being appointed as chief of staff by Netanyahu, Gantz began overseeing a long-term, low-profile campaign of military strikes in Syria targeting Iran’s attempts to set up military attack bases against Israel there and weapons transfers to Hezbollah.

This campaign continues to this day.

In Lebanon, where the Iranian-backed terrorist armed force of Hezbollah has amassed some 130,000 projectiles, Gantz and Netanyahu both appear to believe in a cautious policy of avoiding an escalation for as long as possible, while preparing intensively for the day that war may come.

Syria in orange; Iran in green. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)


Netanyahu has accused Gantz repeatedly of backing the 2015 nuclear agreement between the international community and Iran. The prime minister has since called for the cancellation of the agreement, and cheered U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral exit from the pact and reintroduction of sanctions.

Netanyahu has made Iran—and its nuclear and regional ambitions—his most central issue, and has unveiled intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program in public. Examples include the April 2018 unveiling of the Islamic Republic’s secret atomic weapons archive, which the Mossad was able to whisk out of Iran in a daring operation.

After completing his term as chief of staff, Gantz did indeed say in 2015 that the nuclear agreement had some benefits, while acknowledging its flaws. “I agree that a better agreement could have been achieved. But I see the half-full glass and the success in pushing Iran away from nuclear weapons by 10 to 15 years,” he said during a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Gantz’s comments appear to be a reflection of Israel’s intelligence assessment of the deal at the time, which recognized many problems with it while also viewing it as a window of opportunity to delay Iran’s nuclear development—a window the IDF planned to use to build up its own military force considerably.

More recently, Gantz described Iran as an “evil regime” during the Munich Security Conference in February, adding that “on my watch, Iran will not have nuclear weapons.”

“It is no secret that Prime Minister Netanyahu is my political rival,” he said. “But please make no mistake. We are both devoted sons of the same nation. When Israel’s security is under threat, there is no daylight between us. On this critical issue, there is no right or left, coalition or opposition.”

On Israeli soil, however, Gantz has repeatedly criticized what he described as Netanyahu’s violation of “the code of security secrecy.” In February, responding to Netanyahu acknowledging an Israeli airstrike in southern Syria, Gantz slammed the “showing off of secret activity by the IDF,” which he said could “endanger the lives of soldiers.”

Jewish Labour Movement’s Vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Corbyn

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 02:57

The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) almost unanimously passed a motion of no-confidence in British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday following an “impassioned debate,” said the group in a statement.

JLM’s annual general meeting of its approximately 2,000 members voted that Labour consists of a “culture of antisemitism” that has created a “crisis.”

“Jewish members of the Labour Party have come together in anger and frustration to make it clear to the leadership that enough really must be enough,” said Labour member Ruth Smeeth. “The mood was very somber. The party has to shine a light on what’s really going on; it’s time for the Labour Party to remove itself from its own disciplinary and complaints process, and hand it to an independent body.”

The vote followed a Sunday Times report about Labour refusing to take disciplinary action in complaints of anti-Semitic incidents.

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The newspaper obtained a hard drive consisting of a confidential database, in addition to leaked emails and documents demonstrating that Labour has intervened in just 101 out of 863 complaints made by March 8, 2019, with 454 cases still unresolved, including 249 where the party has yet to conduct an investigation.

In the cases where a decision was made, 191 members faced no additional action, 145 received a formal warning, and only 29 were expelled.

Members who made remarks, including “Heil Hitler,” “F*** the Jews” and “Jews are the problem,” haven’t been kicked out in spite of complaints filed against them last year, according to the report.

“The Labour Party takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously, and we are committed to rooting it out of our party,” a spokesperson told the BBC. “All complaints about antisemitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.”

“Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are fully committed to the support, defense and celebration of the Jewish community,” added the spokesperson. “One anti-Semite in our party is one too many. We are determined to tackle antisemitism and root it out.”

Netanyahu Faces Tough Political Battle in Competitive Israeli Election

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 02:36

Today, Israel will hold hotly contested elections that will decide whether Benjamin Netanyahu wins another term as prime minister. He is facing his most serious challenger in his current 10-year tenure in Benny Gantz, a former Israeli military chief who previously served under Netanyahu.

For Zion’s Sake I will not be Silent

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 02:00

As an American Christian who has had the privilege of working in senior-level positions for four US presidents and who has enjoyed a close association with three of Israel’s prime ministers, I believe it is my obligation to provide the Israeli people with my views. I think my viewpoint is important because a vast number of American Evangelical Christians believe as I believe. In addition, Evangelical Christians are, without question, Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States.

On the other hand, I am ever mindful that because I am not an Israeli citizen, and not even a Jew, to inject myself into your Israeli election is a highly sensitive act. However, for the sake of Zion, I will not be silent. So I beg your forgiveness in advance.

With that in mind, I trust that the people of Israel will carefully consider the credentials of all those seeking election to the prime minister’s office. Personalities are not what’s important. What’s important is the outcome of what will, or will not be accomplished through their leadership.

For the past several months, I have talked with Israelis and others who have vested interests the future of Israel. Opinions vary greatly. However, the consensus I found is that there is only one candidate who is deemed to be able to move Israel forward, considering the current political climate and the hostile world stage.

Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel has enjoyed unprecedented economic success. Since the 2009 elections, when he began his second term in office, the standard of living in Israel has risen by 55% in real terms; GDP has increased 40% from $30,000 to $42,000; unemployment has dropped from 7.5% to under 4%. Therefore, Israeli citizens are far better off than they were before Netanyahu took office. Average wages have increased by 25%; restaurants are full, and record numbers of Israelis are vacationing overseas; inequality has narrowed; and the percentage of the budget devoted to education, health and welfare has increased significantly.

In my view, and based upon the numerous conversations that I have had with Israeli citizens, Netanyahu is the only Israeli leader with a proven economic track record. Gantz, Ya’alon and Ashkenazi have no experience to draw upon. And Lapid’s record as finance minister was not impressive.

Netanyahu has greatly improved Israel’s international standing. He has translated Israel’s growing economic and technological prowess into impressive diplomatic achievements. He has restored ties with several African nations, including Muslim countries. He has created regional alliances with Greece and Cyprus, and has hosted a non-stop stream of foreign leaders. Under Netanyahu, Israel has become a regional power, developing ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, thereby harnessing common interests – primarily the fear of Iran.

This occurred in spite of protestations that such ties could not be developed without progress on the Palestinian issue. In addition, Netanyahu has also strengthened Israel’s ties in Asia, and has upgraded relations with Japan and India. He has produced a dramatic increase in trade with China and opened new markets in the region. As if that weren’t enough, thanks to Netanyahu, ties with South America have also blossomed. And in spite of the complex situation in Syria, he has strengthened relationships with Russia.

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One of Netanyahu’s greatest achievements is the recognition by the United States and other countries of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In addition, The US and other countries are in the process of recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. Another success is that the label “occupied territory” has been removed from official US State Department language on the West Bank.

No other Israeli leader has had, or would have had, the tenacity and long-term vision to create such dramatic changes in Israel’s diplomatic standing. Nor would they have been willing and able to achieve these strategic foreign policy goals. Netanyahu has also demonstrated an iron-willed backbone stance regarding international pressure. He faced down president Barack Obama on the settlements and on the nuclear deal. Netanyahu’s influence and effort enabled a reversal of the Iran nuclear deal under US President Donald Trump. No other Israeli leader could have generated such achievements on the international stage.

Think about all the critical defense and strategic challenges that Israel constantly faces. During his tenure, Netanyahu has stood up to and handled them very well. For example, he has exercised caution in the use of force, but at the same time he has not hesitated to act on multiple fronts where necessary.

The Gaza belt has experienced significantly fewer numbers of rockets fired at Israel. In fact, residents of the Gaza belt enjoyed the most extended quiet period since the 2005 disengagement, except for the 2018 use of incendiary balloons. In Syria, Netanyahu has managed to keep Iranians from building up capabilities to use against Israel, both through extensive strikes on Iranian targets and weapon deliveries to local proxies. In addition, he leveraged diplomatic influence via Russia.

I trust that the Israeli people will forgive my temerity in offering these thoughts. I believe that the future of Israel is of such vital importance to the world, to the United States and to the Evangelical Christian community that I felt it is my responsibility to overcome my sensitivity to, and my reluctance to being seen as, interfering.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Jerusalem Post

Gaslighting Takes Center Stage in Current Elections Campaign

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 01:00

Does Case 3000 – known as the submarine affair – prove that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is guilty of doing something illegal? Well, all Likud supporters believe with absolute confidence that it’s a political plot. Netanyahu’s opponents, however, believe – also with absolute confidence – that it’s the largest corruption case to ever occur in the State of Israel.

Those who hold the firmest positions are usually the least familiar with the details. And what determines the position is the political alliance. I have looked into the details, and I guess that makes me part of a small minority without an unyielding stance on the issue. I do, however, have a few questions.

For instance, some of Netanyahu’s close associates were involved in the submarine deal (and are accused of receiving kickbacks for the submarine sale), while he claims not to have been aware of anything, TV presenter Ayala Hasson revealed in her Channel 13 news report that the prime minister was fully in the know.

So what exactly did the renewed discussion about the submarine affair bring about? Probably nothing, because it’s highly unlikely that those on the fence about the issue will formulate a concrete position – given that it would take days to process the claims of both sides and distinguish between valid points and manipulations.

I am not an advocate for inquiry commissions, which have become committees that are conducting witch hunts. This time, however, it seems that there is an actual need for such commission, regardless of the upcoming elections.

This is not unique to Israel, this is a global phenomenon. When in the 1950s, the researchers discovered the negative effects of smoking, the tobacco companies’ owners demanded a second opinion. They couldn’t contradict the data but they were able to create confusion and insert doubts. Prof. Robert N. Proctor created an academic concept of agnotology – is the study of intentional, culturally induced ignorance or doubt – and we are currently in the midst of that.

In the current public debate – which we are all part of these days – the eventual result is neither confusion nor ignorance, but rather the establishment of firm positions based on nothing but political alliances.

Agnotology – colloquially known as gaslighting – has many sub-concepts. The professionals in this field working for the prime minister have been spreading hints about alleged evidence of an extramarital affair found on Benny Gantz’s hacked phone. If people affiliated with the ruling Likud know what’s on the former IDF chief’s phone, then it means it wasn’t the Iranians who hacked it but rather some political elements. If they don’t know, however, then this is an especially contemptible type of political propaganda, which basically involves throwing a ton of mud against the wall and hoping something sticks.

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And it’s quite ironic that these rumors are spread by someone who has cheated on all three of his wives. Yes, I’m talking about Benjamin Netanyahu. But this is essentially the idea behind gaslighting – you don’t shy away from using any means necessary.

Once again, this is not specific to Israel. The entire presidential campaign in the United States back in 2016 was a prime example of gaslighting at play.

That same year, a similar thing happened in Britain during the Brexit campaign, when the pro-leave members launched their infamous slogan “We send the European Union £350 million a week.” Although it was nothing more than manipulation, the experts suggest it’s what ultimately decided the outcome. A survey conducted after the Brexit vote shows that 42% of Britons still believe the slogan to be true, 36% think it’s a lie, and 22% say they’re unsure. Those opposing Britain leaving the EU are now planning a class action lawsuit against the mastermind of that slogan – Boris Johnson – who almost became prime minister – and might still.

Gaslighting is an integral part of any election campaign, since it’s the main side effect of freedom of speech. The problem is that during these Israeli elections, this side effect pretty much defines the entire campaign. The media is also to blame for this. We are all suspected of political bias. It’s the downside of any democracy.

Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet

Just War vs Just Plain-Old Jihad

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 00:00

Wherever one looks, the historic crusades against Islam are demonized and distorted in ways designed to exonerate jihadi terror.  “Unless we get on our high horse,” Barak Obama once chided Americans who were overly critical of Islamic terror, “and think this [beheadings, sex-slavery, crucifixion, roasting humans] is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Others, primarily academics and self-professed “experts,” insist that the crusades are one of the main reasons modern day Muslims are still angry.  According to Georgetown University’s John Esposito, “Five centuries of peaceful coexistence [between Islam and Christendom] elapsed before political events and an imperial-papal power play led to [a] centuries-long series of so-called holy wars that pitted Christendom against Islam and left an enduring legacy of misunderstanding and distrust.”[1]

Nor is this characterization limited to abstract theorizing; it continues to have a profound impact on the psyche of Westerners everywhere.  Thus in 1999 and to mark the nine hundredth anniversary of the crusader conquest of Jerusalem, hundreds of devout Protestants participated in a so-called “reconciliation walk” that began in Germany and ended in Jerusalem.  Along the way they wore T-shirts bearing the message “I apologize” in Arabic.  Their official statement follows:

Nine hundred years ago, our forefathers carried the name of Jesus Christ in battle across the Middle East. Fueled by fear, greed and hatred… the Crusaders lifted the banner of the Cross above your people… On the anniversary of the first Crusade, we … wish to retrace the footsteps of the Crusaders in apology for their deeds … We deeply regret the atrocities committed in the name of Christ by our predecessors. We renounce greed, hatred and fear, and condemn all violence done in the name of Jesus Christ.[2]

The great irony concerning the mainstream condemnation of the historic crusades is that a closer examination of them—what they meant, what inspired them, how they were justified, who could participate—in comparison to the requisites of jihad,  not only exonerates the crusades but exonerates the West of any wrongdoing against Islam, past or present.  As outrageous as this may sound, consider some facts:

Just War Theory

First, the crusades were a product of Just War theory, the fundamental criterion of which is that wars “must be defensive or for the recovery of rightful possession,” to quote Crusades historian Christopher Tyerman.[3]  “Christian warriors,” elaborates Reconquista historian Joseph O’Callaghan, “were exhorted to regain land, once theirs, but now wrongfully occupied by Muslim intruders who were charged with oppressing Christianity and despoiling churches.”  As such, “the Christians, certain that their cause was just and that God was on their side, faced the enemy.”[4]

So sure of the justness of their cause, premodern Europeans never failed to explain it to their Muslim opponents.    Before beginning the siege of Lisbon, Archbishop Joao of Braga invited the Muslims to surrender, since they had “unjustly held our cities and lands already for 358 years,” and “to return to the homeland of the Moors whence you came, leaving to us what is ours.”[5]  Fifty years earlier and thousands of miles to the east, Peter the Hermit relied on the same logic to explain to a Muslim commander why it was just for the crusaders—and not for the Muslims—to claim the ancient Christian city of Antioch by force: because it had been Christian for six centuries before Islam invaded.

Indeed, because North Africa and the Middle East were part of Christendom centuries before Islam conquered them, not a few Medieval European thinkers harbored hopes of liberating even these.  “The oriental church shone in antiquity, explained Jacques [de Vitry, a Frankish theologian, b. 1160/70], spreading its rays to the West, but ‘from the time of the perfidious Muhammad until our own time’ has been in decline” and thus needed liberation.[6]   The “idea of proceeding through Spain to Africa and thence to the Holy Land was put forward in the fourteenth century in several treatises on the recovery of the Holy Land.”[7]

As late as the twentieth century, the prolific Anglo-French historian Hilaire Belloc lamented that if the crusades had not failed, “probably we Europeans would have recovered North Africa and Egypt—we should certainly have saved Constantinople—and Mohammedanism would have only survived as an Oriental religion thrust beyond the ancient boundaries of the Roman Empire.”[8]   Even the entire colonial era was a byproduct of Just War.  As Bernard Lewis explains:

[T]he whole complex process of European expansion and empire in the last five centuries has its roots in the clash of Islam and Christendom.  It began with the long and bitter struggle of the conquered peoples of Europe, in east and west, to restore their homelands to Christendom and expel the Muslim peoples who had invaded and subjugated them.  It was hardly to be expected that the triumphant Spaniards and Portuguese would stop at the Straits of Gibraltar, or that the Russians would allow the Tatars to retire in peace and regroup in their bases on the upper and lower Volga—the more so since a new and deadly Muslim attack on Christendom was under way, with the Turkish advance from the Bosporus to the Danube and beyond threatening the heart of Europe.  The victorious liberators, having reconquered their own territories, pursued their former masters whence they had come.[9]

Just Plain-Old Jihad

Now compare Just War logic—defending one’s lands and its people and defanging one’s enemy—with the jihad.  The “Western distinction between just and unjust wars,” writes international relations professor Bassam Tibi, “is unknown in Islam. Any war against unbelievers, whatever its immediate ground, is morally justified. Only in this sense can one distinguish just and unjust wars in Islamic tradition. When Muslims wage war for the dissemination of Islam, it is a just war…. When non-Muslims attack Muslims [including in self-defense], it is an unjust war. The usual Western interpretation of jihad as a ‘just war’ in the Western sense is, therefore, a misreading of this Islamic concept.”[10]

To be sure, a great many Western “experts” on Islam insist that jihad is the Islamic counterpart of Just War, that it is all always defensive and in no way, shape, or form supports offensive warfare.  (Most recently, Juan Cole makes this false assertion in his book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires.)

Or consider the words of Islam scholar Clement Huart (b.1854), writing back at the height of Western power and Muslim weakness:  “The [Western] international conventions that have limited the exercise of the right to wage war [to purposes of defense] have no influence over the Muslim soul, to which passivism is and always will be for foreign. The state of peace has been imposed on it by force; the Muslim soul tolerates it but does not recognize it, and cannot recognize it as long as there are unbelievers on earth to convert.”[11]

Sin, Sincerity, and Sex

What constitutes casus bellum is only the first of many differences between crusade and jihad.  Because the former developed within a Judeo-Christian paradigm, it was surrounded by moral constraints that no other civilization—especially Islam—imposed on itself.

From the very start, at Clermont in 1095, Pope Urban never offered forgiveness of sins (but rather remission of the penances for sins to which crusaders had already confessed).[12]  Those who took the cross were required to be sincerely penitent.

This is a far cry from what Muslims were (and are) taught about fighting and dying in jihad: every sin they ever committed is instantly forgiven, and the highest level of paradise is theirs. “Lining up for battle in the path of Allah,” Muhammad had decreed in a canonical hadith, “is worthier than 60 years of worship.” Muhammad also said, “I cannot find anything” as meritorious as jihad, which he further likened to “praying ceaselessly and fasting continuously.”[13]  As for the “martyr”—the shahid—he “is special to Allah,” announced the prophet. “He is forgiven from the first drop of blood [he sheds]. He sees his throne in paradise. . . . Fixed atop his head will be a crown of honor, a ruby that is greater than the world and all it contains. And he will copulate with seventy-two Houris.” (The houris are supernatural, celestial women—“wide-eyed” and “big-bosomed,” says the Koran—created by Allah for the express purpose of gratifying his favorites in perpetuity.)

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Crusader motives also had to be sincere: “Whoever shall set forth to liberate the church of God at Jerusalem for the sake of devotion alone and not to obtain honor or money will be able to substitute that journey for all penance,” Urban had said.  Similarly, Spanish Prince Juan Manuel (d.1348) explained that “all those who go to war against the Moors in true repentance and with a right intention … and die are without any doubt holy and rightful martyrs, and they have no other punishment than the death they suffer.”[14]

In this, Christian war significantly departed from Islamic jihad.  Allah and his prophet never asked for or required sincere hearts from those flocking to the jihad; as long as they proclaimed the shahada—thereby pledging allegiance to Islam—and nominally fought for and obeyed the caliph or sultan, men could invade, plunder, rape and enslave infidels to their hearts content.

The cold, businesslike language of the Koran makes this clear. Whoever wages jihad makes a “fine loan to Allah,” which the latter guarantees to pay back “many times over” in booty and bliss either in the here or hereafter (e.g., Koran 2:245, 4:95, 9:111).  “I guarantee him [the jihadi] either admission to Paradise,” said Muhammad, “or return to whence he set out with a reward or booty.

In short, fighting in Islam’s service—with the risk of dying—is all the proof of piety needed. Indeed, sometimes fighting has precedence over piety: many dispensations, including not upholding prayers and fasting, are granted those who participate in jihad. Ottoman sultans were actually forbidden from going on pilgrimage to Mecca—an otherwise individual obligation for Muslims, especially those who can afford it, such as the sultan—simply because doing so could jeopardize the prosecution of the jihad.

Little wonder that, whereas there was never a shortage of Muslims willing to participate in a jihad, “85-90 percent of the Frankish knights did not respond to the pope’s call to the Crusade,” explains Tony Stark, and “those [10-15 percent] who went were motivated primarily by pious idealism.”[15]

Little wonder that there are still countless jihadis today but no crusaders.

The crusade’s stringent requirements compared to the jihad’s lax requirements are especially evident in the context of sex.  Crusaders were forbidden from owning or raping slaves.  During the more than eight month long siege of Antioch, desperate crusaders—whose many deprivations included female companionship—resorted to roaming bands of local prostitutes.  These were eventually driven out, “lest they [the crusaders], stained by the defilement of dissipation, displease the Lord.”[16]  Contrast this with the Muslim army that came to face them: it contained numerous beautiful women “brought here not to fight, but rather reproduce,” observed one eyewitness.[17]

Inevitable Atrocities vs. Intentional Atrocities

Because Just War demanded the restoration of a particularly important piece of Christian territory, in this case, Jerusalem, the crusaders marched for years over thousands of miles deep into hostile territory, suffering hunger, thirst, disease, and a host of other plagues to reach their goal.

This comes out clearly in the writings of participants and contemporaries of the First Crusade.  “So, for the love of God,” explained Fulcher of Chartres, “we suffered …  hunger, cold, and excessive rains.  Some wanting food ate even horses, asses, and camels.  Also, we were very often racked by excessive cold and frequent rainstorms…  I saw many, without tents, die from the coldness of the rainstorms….  Often some were killed by Saracens lying in ambush around the narrow passages, or were abducted by them when they were seeking victuals… [But] it is evident that no one can achieve anything great without tremendous effort.  [Thus] it was a great event when we came to Jerusalem.”    Pregnant women, adds Albert of Aix (b. 1060) “their throats dried up, their wombs withered, all the veins of the body drained by the indescribable heat of the sun and that parched region, gave birth and abandoned their own [probably stillborn] young in the middle of the highway in the view of everyone.”

Unsurprisingly, when they finally breached the walls of those who had initiated the need for them to march (and suffer) in the first place—Muslims—the by then emaciated and half-maddened Europeans often responded with unbridled fury.  “As they recalled the sufferings they had endured during the siege” of Antioch, wrote a contemporary, “they thought that the blows that they were giving could not match the starvations, more bitter than death, that they had endured.”[18]  Likewise, during the siege of Barra, the crusaders were so “harassed by the madness of excessive hunger”[19] that they devoured the flesh of already dead Muslims; when they finally took the city, “[t]heir [deranged] appearance … terrified the Muslims,” who were ruthlessly massacred.[20]

Conversely, Muslims never had a specific goal that required them to march thousands of miles deep into hostile territory; rather the jihad took place wherever Muslim territories conveniently abutted against infidels (the ribats or border fortresses).  Thus jihadis rarely suffered hardships or deprivations and were always a short march away from Muslim territories, whence supplies, recruits, and refreshments of all sorts were easily attainable.   Even so, according to the popular view (voiced by academics, politicians, and especially media) the atrocities committed during the crusader sack of Jerusalem—not the countless Muslim atrocities committed in the centuries before and after it that were neither justified nor exacerbated by undue hardships but rather fueled by sadistic hate for “infidels”—is theworst atrocity ever committed in the many centuries of war between Christians and Muslims, and the only one that should be talked about.

Religious Freedom vs Religious Coercion

Finally, because Just War is exclusively concerned with matters of justice (recovering land or repulsing enemies) and, unlike the jihad, is not ideologically driven, so too did it not institutionalize any mechanisms to pressure Muslims into converting to Christianity.  (With notable exceptions as when the Spanish crown found conversion to Christianity the only realistic way for half a million Muslims to abandon their ongoing hostilities and subversions; even this failed as the overwhelming majority of Muslims feigned conversion while internalizing the antagonism in keeping with the doctrine of taqiyya, as documented in Sword and Scimitar, pp. 199-203).

As Constantine the Great had explained three centuries before the coming of Islam, “Let those [pagans] who delight in error alike with those who believe [Christians] partake of the advantages of peace and quiet….  Let no one disturb another, let each man hold fast to that which his soul wishes, let him make full use of this…  What each man has adopted as his persuasion, let him do no harm with this to another.”[21]

A millennium after Constantine, Spanish prince Juan Manuel (d.1348) agreed: “There is war between Christians and Moors and there will be until the Christians have recovered the lands that the Moors have taken from them by force.  There would not be war between them on account of religion or sect, because Jesus Christ never ordered that anyone should be killed or forced to accept his religion.”[22]

“In other words,” concludes crusades professor Riley-Smith, “the Crusades, like all Christian wars, had to be reactive; they could never, for example, be wars of conversion.”[23]  Accordingly, whether during the crusades or the colonial era, European (re)conquerors did not behave like their Muslim counterparts and institutionalize discriminatory or humiliating measures designed to pressure the conquered to convert.   A ninth century letter from Constantinople to the caliphate argues that, “since … the Arab prisoners could pray in a mosque in Constantinople without anyone obliging them to embrace Christianity, the Caliph should also cease to persecute Christians.”[24]

That Just War is morally superior to just jihad can even be seen in the aftermath of both.  Whereas successful jihads almost always culminated in slavery, depopulation, and devastation, Muslims “live in great comfort under the Franks,” wrote Ibn Jubayr around 1180, while passing through the crusader kingdoms on pilgrimage to Mecca.  Muslims “are masters of their dwellings,” he added, “and govern themselves as they wish. This is the case in all the territory occupied by the Franks.”

Distinctions Even a Child Understands

Be that as it may; whatever else can be taken from this excursus on the differences between crusade and jihad, between just and unjust wars, the most fundamental point cannot be overstated: because Islam initiated hostilities against the premodern Christian world—invading and conquering the majority of its historic territory without provocation and in the name of jihad, not justiceeverything the West did in response was justified.   If this assertion strikes some as outrageous, so too does it accord with the most universally held notions of justice, apparent from birth.  For when two school boys are chastised for fighting and one indignantly cries out “but he started it!”—what else does he do but appeal to the innate human conviction that whoever starts, not responds to, violence is the guilty party?

Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim

Report: Saudi Nuclear Facility to be Operational Within One Year

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 09:27

A nuclear facility outside of Riyadh in Saud Arabia will reportedly be operational within one year.

CNN reported that three months after the Saudi government announced its intention to begin building the facility, satellite photos confirmed that construction on a small experimental reactor is making “expeditious” progress. Former director for nuclear inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Robert Kelley, told CNN that the reactor could be completed in nine months to a year.

The Saudis have been open about their developing nuclear program, reporting it to the IAEA. They began the program in reaction to the initiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal. The Saudi government stated that they felt the Obama-brokered agreement opened the way for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons program. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last year that “without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

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The Saudi nuclear program is also intended to replace fossil fuels. Though an oil-rich country, Saudi Arabia consumes roughly one-quarter of its own oil production and their energy needs are expected to triple over the next decade. Saudi Arabia plans to build two more reactors capable of producing 17 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2040, enough to provide 15 percent of its power needs. The Saudi kingdom announced earlier this year that it intends to pursue a non-military nuclear program which would include the construction of 16 nuclear power plants over the next quarter century

Saudi Arabia’s plan to produce its own nuclear fuel, an option that has raised concern among some U.S. politicians.

Director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, said his agency asked Saudi Arabia to sign the comprehensive safeguards agreement under which it pledges not to use fissile material in the production of weapons. He told reporters on Friday that Saudi Arabia has yet to respond to his request.

“They didn’t say no. They didn’t say yes, and they are now giving it thought. This is where we stand now,” he said.