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Updated: 1 hour 32 min ago

The Czech Donald Trump

2 hours 16 min ago

Andrej Babis, one of the Czech Republic’s wealthiest people, presents himself as a non-ideological results-oriented reformer. He has pledged to run the country like a business after years of what he calls corrupt and inept management. He is demanding a return of sovereignty from the European Union and rejects the euro.

Babis’s anti-establishment party ANO (which stands for “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens” and is also the Czech word for “yes”) is centrist, technocratic and pro-business. ANO, which rejects political labels, has attracted voters from both left and right, pulling support away from the established parties.

“The West European politicians keep repeating that it is our duty to comply with what the immigrants want because of their human rights. But what about the human rights of the Germans or the Hungarians? Why should the British accept that the wealth which has been created by many generations of their ancestors, should be consumed by people… who are a security risk and whose desire it is not to integrate but to destroy European culture?” — Andrej Babis, candidate for prime minister of the Czech Republic.

A “politically incorrect” billionaire businessman opposed to further EU integration is on track to become the next prime minister of the Czech Republic.

Andrej Babis, a Slovak-born former finance minister who has been sharply critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migration policy, is leading the polls ahead of general elections, set for October 20.

Babis, one of the country’s wealthiest people, presents himself as a non-ideological results-oriented reformer. He has pledged to run the Czech Republic like a business after years of what he calls corrupt and inept management. He is demanding a return of sovereignty from the European Union and rejects the euro; he argues that it would “be another issue that Brussels would be meddling with.” He has also said he plans to cut government spending, stop people from “being parasites” in the social welfare system, and fight for Czech interests abroad. Babis is often referred to as “the Czech Donald Trump.”

Babis’s anti-establishment party ANO (which stands for “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens” and is also the Czech word for “yes”) is centrist, technocratic and pro-business. ANO, which rejects political labels, has attracted voters from both left and right, pulling support away from the established parties. Babis has said that ANO aims to replace left and right with “common sense.”

A recent poll shows that support for ANO has grown to 30.9%, while the support for the Czech Social Democrats has dropped to 13.1%. The pro-Russian Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia has 11.1%; the nationalist Civic Democratic Party 9.1%. TOP 09, the only openly pro-EU party, will not pass the 5% barrier of entry into Parliament; it is supported by only 4.4% of Czech voters.

Babis’s approach to the EU is pragmatic: “They give us money, so our membership is advantageous for us.” He does not want the Czech Republic to leave the EU, but he is opposedto the country joining the eurozone:

“No euro. I don’t want the euro. We don’t want the euro here. Everybody knows it’s bankrupt. It’s about our sovereignty. I want the Czech koruna, and an independent central bank. I don’t want another issue that Brussels would be meddling with.”

Andrej Babis (left), then Finance Minister of the Czech Republic, meets with Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (right) on February 13, 2015. (Image source: Austrian Foreign Ministry)

Babis has expressed opposition to mass migration: “I have stopped believing in successful integration and multiculturalism.” He has called on Merkel “to give up her political correctness and to begin to act” on securing European borders:

“In return for billions of euros, she should make sure that Greece and Turkey completely stop the arrival of refugees in Europe. Otherwise, it will be her fault what happens to the European population. Unfortunately, Mrs. Merkel refuses to see how serious the situation is in Germany and in other EU nations. Her attitude is really tragic.”

Babis blamed Merkel for the December 2016 jihadist attack on a Berlin Christmas market:

“Unfortunately, the migration policy is responsible for this dreadful act. It was she who let migrants enter Germany and the whole of Europe in uncontrolled waves, without papers, therefore without knowing who they really are. Germany is paying a high price for this policy. The solution is peace in Syria and the return of migrants to their homes. There is no place for them in Europe.”

Babis has rejected pressure from the European Commission, which has launched infringement procedures against the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles for refusing to comply with an EU plan to redistribute migrants. In August 2016, he tweeted:

“I will not accept refugee quotas for the Czech Republic. The situation has changed. We see how migrants react in Europe. There is a dictator in Turkey. We must react to the needs and fears of the citizens of our country. We must guarantee the security of Czech citizens. Even if we are punished by sanctions.”

In June 2017, Babis reiterated that the Czech Republic would not be taking orders from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels:

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“We have to fight for what our ancestors built here. If there will be more Muslims than Belgians in Brussels, that’s their problem. I don’t want that here. They won’t be telling us who should live here.”

Babis has called on the EU to establish a system to sort economic migrants from legitimate asylum seekers: “The EU must say: You cannot come to us to be unemployed and immediately take social benefits.”

In an interview with the Czech daily Pravo, Babis said:

“We are not dutybound to accept anyone and we are not even now able to do so. Our primary responsibility is to make sure that our own citizens are safe. The Czech Republic has enough of its own problems, people living on the breadline, single mothers. The West European politicians keep repeating that it is our duty to comply with what the immigrants want because of their human rights. But what about the human rights of the Germans or the Hungarians? Why should the British accept that the wealth which has been created by many generations of their ancestors, should be consumed by people without any relationship to that country and its culture? People who are a security risk and whose desire it is not to integrate but to destroy European culture?

“The public service media in some countries have been brainwashing people. They have been avoiding problems with the immigrants. Politicians have also been lying to their citizens. This has only increased tension between the indigenous population and the immigrants. It is not acceptable that Europeans should have fewer rights than immigrants.

“It is unthinkable that the indigenous European population should adapt themselves to the refugees. We must do away with such nonsensical political correctness. The refugees should behave like guests, that is they should be polite, and they certainly do not have the right to choose what they want to eat. Europe and Germany in particular are undergoing an identity crisis. There is a deep chasm between what people think and what the media tell them….

“Many of the Middle Eastern refugees are unusable in industry. Many of them are also basically illiterate and they only know two German politicians: Merkel and Hitler.”

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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Trump and Obama’s Third Term

3 hours 17 min ago

In an interview with Walla news site Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that “the more active the US is [in the Middle East], the better it will be for Israel.”

On paper, Liberman’s sentiments seem reasonable enough. President Donald Trump is far friendlier than his predecessor Barack Obama was. The tone of US-Israel relations has vastly improved since Trump took office.

The problem is that substantively, there is no real difference between the two administrations – not in the Middle East and not anywhere.

Take Iran’s nuclear program for example.

In accordance with the US Nuclear Agreement Review Act (2015), on October 15, Trump is obligated to make his quarterly report to Congress certifying or decertifying Iranian compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal it concluded with Obama two years ago.

The issue of whether or not to certify Iranian compliance has been the beginning, middle, and end of all US policy discussions on Iran’s nuclear program since Trump entered office.

Despite Trump’s stated opposition to the deal, his top advisers Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have pressured him into twice certifying Iranian compliance.

On the face of it, the debate about Iranian compliance ought to be about competing interpretations of Iran’s behavior. In practice, though, facts play little role in the discourse.

The Iranians announced as soon as the deal was concluded that they would not permit UN inspectors to enter any nuclear site they define as a “military installation.”

This hollowed out the entire inspections regime.

After all, if Iran can bar inspectors from its nuclear installations, there is no way for inspectors to know if Iran’s nuclear operations accord with or breach of the restrictions it agreed to in the agreement.

In other words, neither Obama nor Trump has had any way to credibly certify Iranian compliance, because the US has no idea what Iran is doing.

And everyone knows this.

Since everyone knows this, the debate about presidential certification of Iranian compliance clearly is not about Iranian compliance.

Instead, the debate has been about one thing only: reality.

Specifically, does reality have a place in US policy regarding the nuclear deal with Iran? Because if reality does have a role to play, obviously, Trump cannot certify Iranian compliance.

To date, proponents of barring reality have won the debate. In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis said that in his opinion, maintaining the nuclear deal is the US interest. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.

Joseph Dunford told lawmakers that “Iran is not in material breach” of the accord.

According to an AP report Tuesday, national security officials involved in the recertification process now aim to change the Nuclear Agreement Review Act in a manner that would deny Trump the power to determine whether or not Iran is complying with the deal.

According to AP, the issue is being framed as a way to free Trump from the embarrassment of having to certify the deal every three months.

The worst thing about the entire debate about certifying Iranian compliance is not that it is delusional.

It is that it is irrelevant.

Obama’s nuclear pact is yesterday’s news.

Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran gave the Iranians all the benefits up front. In exchange for a handshake, Iran received a $100 billion in cold hard cash and foreign direct investment. The international arms markets opened to them. The international financial markets opened to them.

Non-certification won’t bring back the money.

More important than the financial advantages Iran has already won, and will not lose if the US decertifies, is the fact that due to the deal, Iran has had two years to freely advance its nuclear program without meaningful inspections and without sanctions.

And again, while the Iranians have advanced, the US has debated the two-year-old deal over and over again as if it matters. This instead of constructing a strategy to block Iran’s entrance into the nuclear club.

This brings us to Iran’s ally North Korea, which thanks to feckless US policy-makers of previous administrations, is already a member of the nuclear club.

During Mattis’s testimony Tuesday he said that despite the fact that he and Trump are threatening to annihilate North Korea and Tillerson is trying to appease North Korea, there is no contradiction in the administration’s policy.

Substantively he is right. Since both of the policies being discussed are imaginary, whether the administration talks about military action or diplomacy, its statements are meaningless.

The fact is that unless the US is willing to see tens of thousands of South Koreans vaporized in a North Korean artillery assault on Seoul in response to a US military strike on Pyongyang, the US has no viable military option for dealing with North Korea. Since the Trump administration has given no indication that it is willing to see that sort of destruction in South Korea to achieve the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, its threats to annihilate North Korea are not credible.

As for Tillerson’s search for a diplomatic solution, this too is futile. For 24 years, three US administrations reached “historic deal” after “historic deal” with Pyongyang, and Pyongyang breached all of them as it raced to the finishing line of its nuclear weapons program.

Now, with Kim Jung Un testing hydrogen bombs and ICBMs and threatening to nuke Guam, there is no chance that US diplomacy will fare any better than it did in the past.

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And so the US is back where it has always been. It has one card to play with North Korea: China.

China is the only actor that can end North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship without war. But to compel China to act the US requires far more leverage over the Chinese than it has presently mustered or brought to bear.

So the only way for the US to avert war with North Korea is to escalate its competition with China on America’s terms.

Unfortunately, once Trump’s senior strategist Stephen Bannon left the White House in August, no senior administration official has been working on building leverage over China.

Back to Iran. As bad as North Korea is, at least it’s a Chinese client state. If Trump can make China an offer it can’t refuse, he can achieve the US’s strategic goals without a devastating war.

Iran, on the other hand, is no one’s client. Iran has its own client states.

And just as the Trump administration is unable to extricate itself from Obama’s legacy of delusion and failure with respect to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and North Korea, so it cannot – or will not – shift away from Obama’s delusional policies toward Iran’s client states.

Consider Syria.

In Syria, the Trump administration has maintained Obama’s policy of pretending that the most dangerous actor and gravest threat to the US and its interests in Syria are Islamic State.

Although under pressure by Israel, the administration has begun to talk about the threat of Iranian expansionism in Syria, it has no policy for blocking Iran’s empowerment. The same is the case with relation to Russia’s rise as a regional power broker – at the US’s expense – through its deployment in Syria.

As bad as the US’s Syria policy is, its Lebanon policy is even worse.

In Syria, the US is simply pretending its enemies do not exist, or if they exist, that they do not threaten the US.

In Lebanon, the US is collaborating with its enemies.

In June Liberman told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, “Today the Lebanese army is a subsidiary unit of Hezbollah and [Lebanese President] Michel Aoun is another [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah operative.”

Liberman’s assertions were not a theory. They were grounded in statements made by Aoun himself and by Lebanese military commanders.

But the Americans will not listen to what the Lebanese say or see what they are doing.

Instead, they remain devoted to their fantasy that the Lebanese government is independent and the Lebanese Armed Forces is not a subsidiary of Hezbollah. In support of this lie, this year the US pledged and delivered the bulk of $100 million worth of sophisticated weapons to the Hezbollah- controlled LAF.

In August, the US delivered eight M1-A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. According to US Ambassador Elizabeth Richard, they were the first of 32 set for delivery by the end of the year. The US had also delivered M-4 assault rifles, howitzers, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars, hellfire missiles, night vision devices and thermal sight technology to Hezbollah’s proxy force.

As Middle East analyst Tony Badran noted, the weapons the US supplied to the LAF “have been on Hezbollah’s shopping list consistently for almost a decade.”

And the US is not only arming Hezbollah through its surrogate. It is also fighting alongside Hezbollah through its surrogate.

In August, US special forces fought alongside LAF forces to wrest control of the Lebanese border with Syria from Islamic State-associated Sunni militia.

The battle was a joint LAF-Hezbollah operation – commanded by Hezbollah.

Quoting a source “close to Hezbollah and the LAF,” Al-Monitor’s Nour Samaha wrote, “US Central Command called the Lebanese army chief and asked him to deny any cooperation [with Hezbollah], telling him that while they are aware of cooperation, it has to be denied publicly.”

In other words, it isn’t that the Pentagon isn’t aware it is empowering Hezbollah. It knows what it is doing. It just doesn’t want the American public to know what it is doing.

This brings us finally to the Palestinians. On Tuesday Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin was the first senior minister to publicly criticize the Trump administration’s policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.

Elkin told Yediot Aharonot that despite the friendly tone of administration officials and the fruitful cooperation Israel enjoys with the administration on a host of other issues, on the issue of Jewish property rights in Judea and Samaria, “they are walking on the same path as the Obama administration.”

The same of course can be said of the Trump administration’s policy toward Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. No matter how open PA President Mahmoud Abbas is about his cooperation with Hamas and no matter how many hundreds of millions of dollars he transfers to the bank accounts of terrorists, the Trump administration continues to treat Abbas and the PA as moderates and peace partners. Even worse, the administration is coercing Israel to do the same.

No matter where you look around the globe, in the Middle East, in Asia, in South America, and in Europe, you see the same thing. The Trump administration has changed America’s tone in foreign affairs.

But substantively, there has been little change.

Trump may be the anti-Obama. But his policies indicate that all the same, he is the second Obama.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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How Naked Is the Iranian Emperor?

4 hours 17 min ago

The clock appears to be ticking on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); more than some may think, less than others may hope. Whatever President Donald Trump decides to do with the unsigned, unratified, unagreed-upon text of the untreaty, it should be clear that the agreement did not moderate Iran’s ambitions — nuclear or otherwise — and pretending will not make it so.

The JCPOA was not designed to end Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

One reason there is no agreed-upon text is that the sides were negotiating different ends: the U.S. wanted to constrain Iran’s enrichment and other nuclear weapons-related capabilities for a period of time during which President Obama and others said/hoped Iran would become a constructive regional player. Iran was negotiating the terms under which it could continue to enrich uranium with an international imprimatur. Deal supporters acknowledge as much. Paul Pillar of Georgetown University recently wrote, “If there were no JCPOA, then instead of Iran being free of some restrictions on its nuclear activity 10 or 15 years from now, it would be free from those same restrictions right now.”

It wasn’t presented that way, of course. President Obama presented Congress and the American people with a binary choice — the JCPOA or war. The threat of war is so powerful that JCPOA supporters still use it. Ali Vaez, the senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, wrote last month, “If the Trump administration kills the deal with Iran…  [that] the rest of the international community is highly satisfied with, it should forget about peacefully settling the nuclear standoff with North Korea.”

Vaez threatens the United States with war in Asia, not for attacking Iran, but for exposing the emperor’s nakedness.

How naked is Iran? For a country that was supposed to moderate its international behavior in light of Western acceptance, money, and trade, Iran has behaved more like a country determined to pursue its own ends with little concern for the opinions of the West.

There is ample evidence of illicit missile trade with North Korea. The infusion of Western money has allowed Iran to field proxy Shiite militias in Iraq; Somali and Afghan mercenaries in Syria – including children, according to Human Rights Watch — along with its Hizb’allah allies; pursue its ballistic missile program in defiance of UN sanctions; arm Houthi rebels in Yemen in defiance of UN arms sanctions; plan billions in military equipment purchases; hold  four (or five) Americans without rights (or charges in two cases); harass American ships in the Persian Gulf; and generally deny its own people civil liberties, including freedom from arbitrary arrest or torture. Iran executed at least 567 people in 2016, making it one of the top three in the world.

Iran’s behaviors threaten large parts of the world and many of its most vulnerable citizens even before the question of whether Iran is actually making progress on its nuclear weapons capabilities now — cheating on the deal it never signed.

For understandable reasons, the IAEA is loath to say it doesn’t have the access it should have to Iran’s military sites to fully understand what the regime is doing. But remember two things: shortly after the deal was agreed (though not signed) the IAEA made a separate deal for Iran to inspect its own facilities at Parchin and other military sites. And, the IAEA does not certify Iran’s compliance, as the inestimable and indefatigable Mark Dubowitz at FDD reminds us:

The IAEA’s mandate with respect to the JCPOA primarily entails monitoring and reporting on Tehran’s nuclear-related actions (or lack thereof) pursuant to the JCPOA’s provisions. The determination of whether Iranian conduct constitutes compliance with the JCPOA remains the prerogative of the individual parties to the agreement: China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Iran, with the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy.

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The Trump administration has been busy setting the stage for a new American policy. In May, there were 40 new sanctions connected to Iranian missile and terrorism activities and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force — including on Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, and on his brother, Sohrab Soleimani, for his role in running Teheran’s notorious Evin prison. In July, Treasury designated 16 entities and individuals for supporting “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity.” The State Department separately designated two organizations involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. The White House is presently considering IRGC a terrorist organization.

Iran’s violations are clear. It remains to be seen how our allies and our adversaries would react to an American decertification of Iran under the JCPOA, or withdrawal from the deal in its entirety.

Vaez, having threatened the U.S. with war in Korea, is more nebulous but no less adamant in threatening disaster. “The IAEA has never had better access to Iran’s military sites. If the Trump administration loses this unprecedented access… it will soon wish for it.”

Our allies are a mixed bag. Generally unwilling to support President Trump, and very fond of the contracts Iran has been throwing their way, they are nervous. Longtime analyst Dennis Ross points out that France’s President Emmanuel Macron is seeking a renegotiation of the agreement — and he is not the only one, Democrats in Congress are suggesting the same. Richard Goldberg, staff member to then-senator Mark Kirk, believes allies will get in line with American policy should more sweeping sanctions be called for.

Most important, however, is Iran’s response. While the IRGC threatened missile attacks on U.S. bases should the president sanction the Revolutionary Guard, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made overtures to the countries of the P5+1 during the UN session in September, suggesting that Iran’s ballistic missile program — illegal and under UN sanction — could be discussed (modified? adhered to?). That is not the same as discussing or adhering to the JCPOA, but suggests that Iran does not want to be completely cut off from conversation with the West.

It is a dangerous moment. Iran has become more, not less, threatening to global peace and security, and has no intention of transparency in its nuclear programs. But that is as it has always been. The difference now is that the American government is willing to say so.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish Policy Center

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Christian Journalists Reporting Favorably on Israel Fulfill Psalm 126: CBN Head

4 hours 47 min ago

At the first full day of the inaugural Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, one theme was clear: Christian journalists have a Biblical responsibility to spread the word of Israel’s blessings and challenges to the world.

“We have to get this story out,” urged Gordon Robertson, CEO of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), as he spoke to a room full of international Christian media assembled in Jerusalem for a four-day summit on Monday. “Israel has made a huge difference.”

Robertson emphasized the Biblical imperative for Christians to support Israel, pointing to Psalm 126.

When Hashem restores the fortunes of Tzion —we see it as in a dream—our mouths shall be filled with laughter, our tongues, with songs of joy. Then shall they say among the nations, “Hashem has done great things for them!” Psalms 126:1-2

“For you, covering Israel, remember that verse,” Robertson told the journalists. “You can be a part of that fulfillment, ‘the Lord has done great things for them’.”

He spoke about the importance of recognizing Israel’s contributions to the world and condemning efforts to harm it, including United Nations resolutions which seek to sever ties between Israel and the Jewish people.

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“As a Christian, I say, ‘No way, that should never happen,’” he said, to loud applause from the audience.

“As Christian journalists, and Christians who live in Israel, this is an amazing time,” added Erin Zimmerman, director and writer of “In Our Hands: the Battle for Jerusalem”, a film bringing the Six Day War to life. “We have this opportunity to build a partnership.”

She encouraged reporters to appreciate “where you are in history. God has put you at this wonderful place where there’s such a [remarkable] friendship now” between Israel and Christian supporters.

Zimmerman also thanked the Israeli government, which organized the first-ever Christian Media Summit, for the “amazing privilege” of participating.

Over the course of the four-day media summit in Jerusalem, the first of its kind, dozens of Christian broadcasters, publishers, journalists and communicators from all over the world will attend lectures, panels and discussions on the biggest issues, both political and religious, facing Israel. Participants will also tour Jerusalem’s holy sites and have the opportunity to meet Israeli leaders and thinkers in the fields of innovation, security, and Biblical archaeology, among others.

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Turkey Plans Move to Box in Kurds in Northern Syria

5 hours 17 min ago

The Turkish military this week scouted Syria’s Idlib province, in the north-west of the country, in preparation for a military operation in the province.  The deployment of a reconnaissance team into Idlib came days after Turkish troops and armor massed on the Turkish Syrian border, and a section of the border wall was dismantled to allow the passage of military vehicles.

Turkish President Recep Tayep Erdogan told a rally of supporters of his AKP party in the town of Afyonkarahisar on Saturday that a ‘serious operation’ was underway in Idlib.  The operation, he added, would be carried out by fighters of the ‘Free Syrian Army.’  Rebels from a variety of Turkish backed factions, in turn, are assembling at the border in the Reyhanli area.

What is the background to this latest move? Why does Turkey appear to be preparing another major incursion into Syria?

Idlib province is currently controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group.  This is the latest iteration of the organization once called Jabhat al-Nusra.  Nusra was the franchise of the al-Qaeda network in Syria.  HTS claims to have cut links to al-Qaeda, though few analysts regard this move as more than tactical.

While there is strong evidence of cooperation between Turkey and HTS in the past, the issue of HTS dominance has now become a matter of concern for Ankara.

US official Brett McGurk described Idlib in July as ‘an al-Qaeda safe haven right on the border of Turkey.’  It is clear that there is pressure from both the US and Europe for the termination of the de facto al-Qaeda safe zone that has emerged in Idlib Province.  From this point of view, the west may well welcome a Turkish move to reduce the power and autonomy of HTS in Idlib.

However, Turkey’s move toward intervention in the province relates most centrally to Ankara’s broader agenda and concerns in Syria – most specifically with regard to the Kurdish forces in the country, with which the west is currently aligned.

The impending Turkish move into Idlib takes place in the context of the Astana agreement between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, which envisaged the creation of four ‘de-escalation zones’ in western Syria.  These were to be in Idleb, in the Rastan-Talbiseh area, in Eastern Ghouta close to Damascus, and in Quneitra, Dera’a and Suweydah provinces in the south, adjoining the Golan Heights.  Turkish media reports suggest that Turkey will take control of an area of northern Idlib province, close to the Turkish border, in a move analogous to the ‘Euphrates Shield’ operation in August 2016.  On that occasion, Turkish forces captured the area between Jarabulus and Azaz on the border.

In both cases, the central Turkish ambition related not to the general Syrian situation, but rather to Ankara’s specific agenda of restricting the advance of the Syrian Kurdish forces of the YPG/Syrian Democratic Forces.

Euphrates Shield inserted Turkish armed force between the Kurdish controlled cantons of Jazeera/Kobani and Afrin.  In so doing, it effectively ended Kurdish hopes of uniting the cantons and attaining Kurdish control of the entire 900-kilometer long border between Syria and Turkey.  The Kurdish authority in Syria is aligned with the PKK, (Kurdish Workers Party), which has been engaged in an insurgency for greater Kurdish rights in Turkey since 1984.  From a Turkish point of view, therefore, preventing Kurdish control of the entire border was essential.

The expected move into Idlib looks set effectively to be the second phase of this effort, in which Turkey will seek to isolate the Kurdish Afrin enclave from its south by occupying northern Idlib.  Afrin would then be entirely boxed in, with the Turks to its north, east and west, and the regime to its south-east.

This would prevent any possibility of the SDF moving against al-Qaeda associated forces in Idlib and thus expanding the Kurdish enclave.  It might also presage a later Turkish move against the Afrin enclave, though at present this is unlikely because of the US alliance with the Kurds, and also because of the presence of a small Russian military presence insideAfrin.

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The centrality of the anti-Kurdish agenda in Turkey’s planning illustrates the extent to which the Turks have now conclusively abandoned any notion of ‘regime change’ in Syria.  Assad is clearly here to stay, in Ankara’s view.  Any move into Idlib would be conducted in full cooperation with the regime’s Russian patrons, and probably with Russian air support.

For this reason, while a Turkish move into Idlib would be an ostensibly pro-rebel move, many exiled Syrian supporters of the rebellion in Turkey are unenthusiastic about it.  They see the move, correctly, as solidifying Turkish cooperation with Russia, which the rebels regard as the main enemy of their cause.  Russia, after all, is the factor which turned the tide of the Syrian war. Its entry in September 2015 was in response to a period of rebel advances.  The Russian intervention reversed the rebel advance and enabled the ascendance of the regime side.

Turkish cooperation with Russia in Idlib offers further grim confirmation for the rebels of the failure of their cause.  For many rebel supporters, also, HTS is considered comrades in arms, albeit extremist ones.  The notion of Turkey acting against them, even partially and symbolically, with Russian cooperation, is a hard morsel to swallow.  Nevertheless, the Turkish move indicates that Erdogan still sees himself as the patron and ally of the rebels, and evidently does not intend simply to abandon them to the mercies of the Assad regime.

The Turkish move could not, of course, take place without Russian permission, since Russia controls the skies of northern Syria.  This indicates that for now at least, Russia is content to see Syria continue to be divided into zones of influence, with the concerns of bodies other than the Assad regime being taken into account.  From an Israeli point of view, given Israel’s concerns to prevent Iranian and Hizballah encroachment in south-west Syria toward the Golan Heights, this may be an encouraging sign.

However, it should be borne in mind that for the moment, the focus of Russia, Iran, and the regime is in eastern Syria, where the fight against Islamic State is still underway.

Russia wants to grab as much of the oil and gas assets of Deir a Zor province as it can before the US-supported SDF do.

Iran, meanwhile, is engaged in seeking to secure its contiguous corridor between the Iraqi border and the Mediterranean.

Once the war against IS is complete, the issue of arrangements further west will come back onto the agenda.  At this point, the current zones of influence may once again become a subject for discussion.  For now, Turkey is mainly concerned with the urgent matter of seeking to box in and strike at the Kurds.  It is in this context that the apparently impending move on Idlib province needs to be understood.  Final arrangements in northern Syria remain to be decided.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Jonathan Spyer

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IAF Destroys Syrian Anti-Aircraft Battery That Fired On Israeli Planes

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 07:09

A Syrian surface-to-air missile (SAM) SA-5 battery fired a missile at Israeli Air Force planes on a routine reconnaissance flight over Southern Lebanon on Monday. The IAF responded by dropping four bombs on the site 30 miles east of Damascus two hours later, rendering it “unoperational”.

No Israeli casualties were reported, and no IAF planes were damaged.

Earlier today,an anti-aircraft missile was launched from Syria towards IDF aircraft during a routine flight over Lebanon. No hits confirmed

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) October 16, 2017

““We know according to our intelligence it was a battery controlled by the Syrian regime. We hold the Syrian regime responsible for the anti-aircraft fire and any attack originating from Syria,” said IDF spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus.

The IDF added that it views the IAF response as an isolated incident following the Syrian provocation and that Israel is not seeking to escalate tensions with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. According to Conricus, the Syrian battery targeted on Monday had carried out a previous attack against Israeli planes in March.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-in_article'); });  “We’re prepared for any possibility,” said IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis. “This was a Syrian provocation, and we will not allow it. On the other hand, we have no intention of escalating.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was due to begin a visit to Israel later on Monday. Conricus said the Israeli military informed Russia of its Syria strike “in real time or immediately before” it took place and would brief Shoigu.

There was no immediate response from the Syrian government.


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PSALMS 115:9

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 07:07

The stirring declaration “trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield” is repeated three times in Psalm 115. The three repetitions of this phrase connote three different ways of serving Hashem. There are those who serve Hashem out of a feeling of love. The second way of serving Hashem is out of fear of punishment. The third way of serving Hashem is with complete trust and faith, comparable to the relationship between a young child and his parent. Every individual has a unique and personal relationship with Hashem!

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Israelis Protest 11 PM Muezzin Calls with Shofars and Whistles

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 06:47

In the past month, the Arabs of At-Tuwani village in the south Hebron Hills have installed loudspeakers on their mosque aimed at Ma’on, an Israeli moshav located in the Judaean Hills south of Hebron and north of Beer Sheba, essentially to harass the Jewish residents, Hakol Hayehudi reported Sunday. The Jewish residents have been complaining about the extreme disturbances they are enduring at all hours of the day, especially at dawn.

It should be noted that many of At-Tuwani’s Arab residents are cave dwellers, so their dedication to ruin the peace and quiet of their Jewish neighbors is undoubtedly immense. Allah must be very pleased.

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After repeated appeals to the army, the police and the Civil Administration have not yielded a solution, on Saturday night Ma’on residents decided to do something about the noise. Around 11 PM, the Jewish residents arrived outside the Arab village, equipped with shofars, drums, and whistles, and began a noisy neighborly statement of their own.

After about two hours of that, according to local residents, army and police forces arrived at the scene and agreed to let the protest rally carry on some distance from At-Tuwani. Eventually, local Arabs lacking in awareness of geese and ganders came out and threw stones at the demonstrators. Army forces repulsed them using crowd dispersal measures, and according to Arab media, one of the Arab rioters was wounded.

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Wonder Woman Sends Pro-Israel Message by Speaking Hebrew on SNL [WATCH]

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 06:30

Israeli ‘Wonder Woman’ Gal Gadot, who rocketed to world fame with her starring role as comic book lore’s most popular female superhero, has become a proud spokesperson for the Holy Land by speaking in Hebrew during her recent stint as host of the popular American show Saturday Night Live (SNL).

During her opening monologue, a time when most SNL guests either poke fun of their public image, sing, or advertise their latest movie, Gadot first quipped that she knows that she speaks with an accent, because she is from Albuquerque. She then proudly stated that she is actually from Israel, throwing out, “Hi to Imma [אִמָא] and Abba [אַבָּא],” using the Hebrew terms for mother and father. She also gleefully noted that, for the first time, SNL was being broadcast live into Israel.

Gadot then did what many wish Israeli representatives in the United Nations would do: she spoke in Hebrew. “Hebrew is a living language,” Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, a company which teaches Hebrew language and Biblical studies online, told Breaking Israel News. “The more people speak Hebrew, especially well-known individuals, the more the message is spread that Israel is here to stay, along with the Jewish people.”

Gadot spoke in Hebrew for nearly half a minute of her three-and-a-half minute monologue. Saying that she has a special message to her Israeli family and friends, she looked into the camera and said in Hebrew with English subtitles, “Hi to everyone at home, I just want to say that… this could be a huge mistake. The writers don’t have any idea what’s happening in Israel, and in every sketch they have me eating hummus. I mean, I love hummus, but come on! They’re very nice, but not very sophisticated. They think I’m actually Wonder Woman. In short, wish me luck!”

The October 7 show received high ratings for NBC, with fans praising the first-time host. “Gadot has consistently made a kiddush Hashem (קידוש השם)‎‎ with her ‘Wonder Woman’ public appearances,” continued Segal. “She always proudly states that she is from Israel and promotes a positive view of the country and its people.”

Kiddush Hashem is a Hebrew term meaning “sanctification of [the Name of] God”. The phrase is a frequently-used expression in Judaism based on the Biblical precept, “And ye shall not profane My holy name” (Leviticus 22:32).

A praiseworthy action publicly performed by a Jew that brings honor and respect to God is considered a kiddush Hashem, giving glory to God’s name. Through her stardom, Gadot’s public embracing of her heritage and Hebrew language has sent the message that Israel is a modern country which respects its ‘wonder women’. Through her many talk show appearances, Gadot has worked to change the face of an often politically negative image of the country.

When Gadot ended the show with the usual “thank yous” to the cast and crew, she made a special thank you to Israel-born Lorne Michaels, the longtime executive producer of SNL, who is Jewish, saying that he was responsible for getting her on the show.

“Lorne Michaels was born on a kibbutz in pre-state Palestine before he moved to Toronto as an infant,” noted Segal to Breaking Israel News. “With Gadot starring in ‘Justice League’, coming out November 17, and signing on for four more Wonder Woman movie sequels, we can only wish her yashar koach (יישר כח) – may it be with strength – on her successes.”

To study Biblical or modern Hebrew, please visit here.

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UN Ambassador Nikki Haley: Hold Iran Accountable for Nuclear Violations

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 06:28

In an interview with Meet the Press on Sunday, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that when it comes to Iranian violations of the nuclear deal, “the world looks the other way”. She also explains the connection between Iran and North Korea. The subject is the focus of fierce debate, as President Trump decertified the agreement with Iran last Thursday, calling for the return of economic sanctions. Congress now has 60 days to decide the future of US-Iran relations.

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US to Spend $750,000 Conserving Ancient Jewish Site as ‘Palestinian Heritage’

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 06:13

Jerusalem-based US Consul General Donald Blome last Friday joined “Palestinian officials and dignitaries” in launching a major conservation project to protect and preserve Solomon’s Pools, an archaeological site in Bethlehem.

The $750,000 project is funded by a $500,000 grant from the State Department’s Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and a complementary $250,000 grant from the Consulate General in Jerusalem. The project will be run through a partnership with the Solomon’s Pools Preservation and Development Center (SPPD), and will help protect the historic site, which has been damaged in recent years by erosion. The US consulate is hoping the pools would encourage tourism and help the PA economy.

In his original remarks, Consul General Donald Blome called the Pools “Palestinian” heritage, rather than Jewish heritage.

“This contribution from the US government not only underscores America’s respect and admiration for Palestinian heritage and its treasured antiquities, but also the imperative of supporting the Palestinian economy as an essential element for peace,” he said.

The three large reservoirs known as Solomon’s Pools were part of a complex ancient water system, initially built between 100 BCE and 30 CE. At its high point, the system was providing water to the city and Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, as well as to the desert fortress and town of Herodium. At that time the pools were fed by two aqueducts, by several springs of the surrounding countryside including one situated underneath the lower pool, as well as by rainwater that descended from the overlooking hills.

There were no “Palestinians” around throughout that period, nor in consequent years until the mid-1960s.

Update: Following an inquiry by Jewish Press, the US Consul in Jerusalem issued the following statement:

“Thank you for raising this to our attention. The statement you cited had been included in an earlier version of remarks, but then removed after a discussion on the history of the site. It was not delivered in remarks and should have been removed from the press release – it was left in due to a clerical error.

We are removing the press release from the website and will issue a corrected copy. Thank you for flagging.”

The entire press release has been removed from both the English and Arabic language sections of the Consulate’s website.

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Ancient Roman Theater Unearthed Below Western Wall Testifies to “Deep Connection of Jewish People to Jerusalem”

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 05:30

In a surprising find by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), archaeologists have unearthed an ancient theater, the first ever found in Jerusalem, which proves Jewish heritage reaches back thousands of years. Dating back to the Roman period, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the Western Wall rabbi have deemed the finding to be affirmation of the eternal bond between the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the Western Wall, which predates the Roman structure.

Yohanna Bisroar of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation told Breaking Israel News that the Roman structure, which is found near the Western Wall, or Kotel, is “another testimony of the deep connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and to the Western Wall.”

“The Roman structure is found near the Western Wall. So when we see that the Western Wall was first here and then the Roman structure arrived, for us that’s the most exciting part,” she explained.

Similarly, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, lauded the archeological findings that “allow our generation to actually touch the ancient history of our people and Jewish heritage and its deep connection to Jerusalem.” He continued, “I am certain that the deeper we dig, the earlier the periods we will reach, further anchoring the profound connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem.”

Monday’s press conference was conducted with the participation of IAA director Israel Hasson, Western Wall Heritage Foundation director Mr. Mordechai (Suli) Eliav, IAA district archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch, and the excavation directors.

In collaboration with The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the IAA excavated the Roman theater-like structure under Wilson’s arch in the Western Wall Tunnels beneath the Kotel. The excavations have exposed a large, preserved portion of the Western Wall stone courses that has been hidden for 1,700 years.

According to site excavators Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman, and Dr. Avi Solomon, from a research perspective, this is a “sensational” and “emotional” finding, as it confirms historical writings from the Second Temple period and after, such as the writings of Romano-Jewish scholar Flavius Josephus, which describe theater-like structures near the Temple Mount.

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“The discovery was a real surprise. When we started excavating, our goal was to date Wilson’s Arch. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater.

“There is no doubt that the exposure of the courses of the Western Wall and the components of Wilson’s Arch are thrilling discoveries that contribute to our understanding of Jerusalem,” said the site excavators.

Eliav spoke of the “living historical mosaic of Jerusalem” that this discovery creates, saying, “There is no doubt as to the immeasurably rich scientific value of the discoveries in this area. The findings symbolize the guests from past empires that were here and have been here ever since and always.”

The excavated area measures eight meters deep, 15 meters wide, and contains the foundations of approximately 200 seats. Dating of pottery and coins in the area indicate that the theater is from the late Roman period in the second and the third centuries CE, when Jerusalem became the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina.

The location of the excavations, Wilson’s Arch, is the only intact, observable edifice remaining from the Temple Mount compound of the Second Temple period. The arch was once part of an enormous bridge leading to the Temple Mount from the west and served as a passageway for people entering the Temple. Until now, the location of the Roman public buildings that were described in historical sources was unknown.

According to the excavation directors, a final analysis and carbon-14 dating of the structure conducted by the Weizmann Institute will be released in approximately six months. However, archaeologists hypothesize that the structure is an unfinished and unused odeon used for acoustic performances from the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina. Alternatively, the structure may have been a bouleuterion, the building where the city council met.

Archaeologists note that the staircase found at the site was never completely hewn, indicating that the building was likely abandoned before it was used, perhaps because of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.  

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Ghana River Turns Blood-Red Preceding Local Exodus Festival [WATCH]

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 05:27

In the midst of a festival celebrating a tribal exodus, a river in Ghana turned blood red, causing a dispute between local chieftains, who dismissed the significance of the shocking phenomenon, and religious leaders who insisted on exorcising demons from the cursed waters. The festival, commemorating a story with several parallels to the Biblical account of the Hebrews’ miraculous escape from Egypt, is the focus of tensions between Christians and the local culture.

Residents of Koforidua, the regional capital in Southern Ghana, were shocked when they woke up and discovered the waters of the Nsukwao River had turned blood-red in the early hours of October 7.

According to witnesses, the colorless water was running normally until at 5 AM when it turned blood red in the space of just a few minutes. At the time, the cause of the strange phenomenon was unclear. Kumikasa, a local news service reported that some locals believe butchers poured a large quantity of blood from animals slaughtered into the river.

One resident said, “The really weird thing is that we have always been able to catch fish and can even drink sometimes because it’s just normally so good. Nobody has any idea how it could have ended up being polluted because there are no factories that dump anything in the water here.”

A local religious conflict arose in the wake of the phenomenon. Dr. Lawrence Tetteh and Bishop Yaw Adu, local Evangelical leaders, quickly rushed to the scene with other Christians to offer prayers. They attributed the change in color to the “wrath of God that had visited the people of Koforidua because of their sins”.

Upon arrival at the blood red river, Dr. Tetteh said, “We cast out every demon. We say Koforidua shall be peaceful. There will not be bloodshed; there will not be anything evil. The people of Koforidua will be blessed.”

He added, “As we see this thing in the river, the river is looking like blood. Whatever it is and wherever it comes from, we bless it…, Amen!”

Bishop Yaw Adu stated his belief that God had “turned the water into blood” because “the traditional authorities placed a ban on crusades (Christian celebrations) in the town as a result of the ongoing Akwantukese festival.”

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The Akwantukese festival, celebrated to mark the epic journey of the Gyaman people from Juaben in the Ashanti Region of Ghana some 135 years ago, has several similarities to the Biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt. The Gyamans migrated from their original home in Akwamu near the Volta River Volta due to harsh family feud, reminiscent of the fraternal discord that led to Biblical Joseph being taken to Egypt as a slave as a precursor to the Exodus of the Hebrews. Similar to the Hebrew Exodus, the Gyamans wandered in the wilderness, sojourning in several places before finally arriving at Koforidua. The celebrations began on August 24th but the main event was held last Friday, less than one week after the river turned red.

The festival has been the source of tension between Christians and the local culture. During the month-long celebrations, Christian celebrations and services are restricted to church premises and funerals.

The Krontihene (honorific of sub-chief/local leader) of New Juaben, Baffuor Tutu Boateng Nyantakyi, reacted strongly to the Evangelical response, holding an emergency press briefing. He dismissed the pastors’ claims as deceptive and baseless.

“The incident has nothing to do with miracles,”  the Krontihene told the press. “It is a criminal offense and the traditional council wants the police to arrest the suspect.”

He claimed a nearby dye manufacturer based in Tema with a connecting stream was responsible for the shocking change in the appearance of the river. As yet, there have been no arrests in connection with these claims of industrial pollution.

“I have personally gone round and realized this is not blood. The Nsukwa River has not turned into blood; it is just color from somebody doing his tie-and-dye,” the Krontihene stated, relating to the underlying tensions between the local culture and the Christians. “It has nothing to do with the Akwantukesie that we are going to celebrate. It has nothing to do with human blood; it has nothing to do with goat blood.”

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Israel Should Accept the Palestinian Reconciliation Deal

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 04:00

There are a thousand and one reasons—all good and justified—to reject out of hand the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. After all, Hamas has not changed its ways: it tunnel digging continues and it is still trying to launch terror attacks, while the Palestinian Authority continues funding terrorism and promoting incitement. Furthermore, the unification with Hamas would only radicalize the PA. Yet, despite all of these reasons, Israel should welcome the agreement.

Because we’ve already been here: In 2006, Hamas won the elections in the Palestinian Authority. Following the blow Fatah suffered, Saudi Arabia came into the picture and in 2007 mediated an agreement between the two warring factions, which was dubbed the “Mecca Agreement.”

The Quartet—an international forum made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—decided that to continue receiving aid, the new Palestinian government, including Hamas, must meet three conditions: Recognize Israel, put an end to terror attacks, and honor previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians. The UN Security Council adopted the Quartet’s conditions, but Hamas never accepted them.

In any case, the Mecca Agreement only lasted several months, until Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Now, Israel is facing a new compromise agreement between Fatah and Hamas. The last thing Israel needs is more declarations that would make it appear intransigent and extreme while the Palestinians seemingly—only seemingly—are trying to present unity that would allow for negotiations.

After all, one of Israel’s excuses for the freeze in peace negotiations has been the division in the Palestinian camp. Now, however, there is one Palestinian entity. It’s possible it would only last several weeks or months, but until then—this is a unified Palestinian entity.

Israel doesn’t have to do much. It just needs to adopt the Quartet conditions and make it clear its positions are no different than those of the international community. If the unified Palestinian Authority wants legitimization, it needs to also accept the Quartet’s conditions.

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And for the PA to not become another Lebanon—meaning, a civil government in a country in which the strongest body is one faction’s militia or terror organization—Israel should accept what the European Union has already proposed: Demilitarization in return for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Only then should Israel cooperate with the PA and allow forces from the West Bank to enter the strip.

What is clear is that Israel should not be seen as one wishing to sabotage the reconciliation agreement. On the contrary, this is an agreement reached under the auspices of Egypt, and Egypt is Israel’s strategic partner in the fight against jihad and Iran.

Precisely in such circumstances, a smart response to the Palestinian unity agreement—which includes a generous proposal concerning the Gaza Strip—will put Israel in a position from which it would only stand to benefit.

If the Palestinians reject the proposal, Israel could say Hamas was and remains part of global jihad, that it has no interest in reaching a compromise with Israel, and that it has taken the Palestinian Authority hostage.

If the Palestinians say yes, it would be a historic turning point that would decrease the chances of another conflict in the south. And that is a lot to gain.

Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News

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Mon, 10/16/2017 - 03:00

David Lewis used to say that a cold peace is better than no peace. He would say this when discussing Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

Today, in the context of Israel’s security, a long-term problem continues.

While Israel and Egypt are “closer” than they’ve ever been, kicking the terrorist can down the road is a large problem. The Egyptians are currently brokering talks between Palestinian terror entities Fatah and Hamas. The view is that the ongoing turf war between the two in the Gaza Strip benefits no one.

Hamas, of course, is a terror organization wholly dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Fatah is from the old PLO and is the “political wing” of that terror group.

Here’s the point: sweeping unpleasant things under the rug—in this case, calls for genocide against Israel—both compounds and lengthens the problem. According to the Time of Israel:

“Reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah are for now ignoring the thorny issue of the future of the terror group’s military wing and weaponry, and with the help of Egypt are concentrating first on asserting the Palestinian Authority’s power in the Gaza Strip, including control over the border with Egypt, according to statements by officials and Arabic media reports.”

On the surface, it seems good that Egypt is behind these talks:

“Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has thrown his weight behind the talks, saying last week that Palestinian reconciliation is ‘preparation for a just peace between Palestinian and Israeli sides.’”

Do you see what the long view is here? “A just peace between Palestinian and Israeli sides.”

Sadly, the decades-long delusion persists with the Americans.  The Trump administration will sponsor a peace summit.

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And there are layers to this story, all involving marginalizing Israel. There is currently a water and electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip, the territory vacated entirely by the Israelis in 2005.

Israel is being blamed, incredibly, for these shortages, even though Israel has not been there in a dozen years! PA terror chief/”president” Mahmoud Abbas recently lowered funding to the Strip by 22 percent, resulting in the electricity rationing, in order to “coerce” Hamas into ceding power.

So a Palestinian problem, continued by the Palestinians, is blamed on the Israelis. This is but one reason the ill-conceived peace summits will always end in failure.

One wonders if/when Trump will return to his early assessments of the Arab-Israeli conflict and do what needs to be done. Evidently, his top advisors and cabinet ministers advocate continuing the failed policies of the past.

In that way, the Egyptian effort is doomed to failure. Much better to bite the bullet now and dismantle Hamas, and then reform or dismantle PA/Fatah.

Only then will the Palestinians even begin the process of accepting Israel. Even that would take generations.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Rapture Ready

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Netanyahu to Christian Press: ‘Israel Has No Better Friends’

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 02:40

Israel “has no better friends in the world than the Christian communities around the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of top Christian media professionals in Israel Sunday evening.

Netanyahu spoke at the opening gala of the first-ever Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, a conference jointly sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and the Government Press Office.  

In his remarks, Netanyahu spoke of the close ties with a staunch support for Israel by the Evangelical Christian world. This bond has been strengthened since the inauguration of the Trump Administration. Trump focused much of his campaign on white Evangelical Christians, which comprise more than 25 percent of America’s Christian population, according to the Pew Research Center. Vice President Mike Pence and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley are both Christian Zionists.

Netanyahu described his relationship with US President Donald Trump as “Excellent. There is a sense of warmth and instinctive understanding on many important things.”

Netanyahu focused most of his talk on praise for and defense of Trump’s “courageous step” to decertify the Iran deal. He said Trump “correctly identifies” that Iran is not part of the solution in the Middle East, but “perhaps the biggest problem in the Middle East, the source of so much aggression, terror, and misery.

“He could have kicked the can forward, he could have said it is not going to happen on my watch – Iran is going to become a nuclear power with a nuclear arsenal but it won’t happen on my watch. He said, ‘No.’

“It is the duty of leaders…to warn of danger before it becomes apparent to everyone, because when it becomes apparent to everyone, it may be too late.”

Netanyahu said that he himself sees the Iranian threat as an “existential threat” and that when Israel and Arab countries in the region see eye-to-eye, the world should pay attention. He noted that Israel would work closely with Trump, and back its own words with deeds.

“The resoluteness with which Trump put forward this case made a big impression…on Iran and they should be worried, trust me so,” Netanyahu said.

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The Christian Media Summit comes at a time when Israel is facing increasing attack by the international community. In recent months, the connection between many of Jerusalem’s historic sites and the Bible and Judeo-Christian history has been called into question by the UN and others.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) Zeev Elkin (R) (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In an interview with Breaking Israel News, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin said he hoped the conference would help bring the truth about the city’s history to the forefront. He said he does not believe the conference is preaching to the choir, but that Christian journalists serve a strategic and important role in telling Israel’s story.

Nitzan Chen, director of the government press office, said the summit is meant to give reporters “an understanding of the real facts on the ground.”

The Christian Media Summit includes expected tracks, such as those focused on security and democracy. It also includes sessions on archeology and Biblical roots, diversity within Israeli society,  and the State of Israel and Christian media. Chen said the conference aims to demonstrate the “fusion of old and new” in the Holy City.

Netanyahu said Israel is not that big of a country, “but it is a gigantic country because we stand on the shoulders of giants, the giants of the Bible, the giants of Jewish history, the people who gave us our deepest values, which we share and we cherish.”

He said Israel is a “towering beacon of light” in the region: “We are a light unto the nations, the fulfillment of the great prophecies.”

The Christian Media Summit runs through October 18 in Jerusalem.

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The Center for Jewish History Saga: Good, But Not Good Enough

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 02:00

After it was revealed earlier this week on these pages that the Center for Jewish History (CJH) in conjunction with the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) was hosting multiple events with the anti-Zionist organization Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) they agreed to cancel said events. In a statement, AJHS said that it canceled the two events because they “do not align with the mission of the AJHS.” The group’s executive director, Rachel Lithgow is a former student, and “close friend” of David N. Myers, CEO of the Center for Jewish History.

The reality remains that it is not disputed that the CEO of The Center for Jewish History (CJH) David N. Myers is an active leader of the New Israel Fund, If Not Now, When, J Street and more. Jewish Voices for Peace has him listed on their website as an advisor, he claims that is inaccurate – and his writings reveal hostile-to-Israel viewpoints, including an affinity for boycotts of Israel and sympathy for the Palestinian “Nakba.” Despite these learnings, the Center for Jewish History has defended Mr. Myers and insisted he will remain in his position.

While Mr. Myers may be a first-rate academic, someone with viewpoints such as his must not hold any position of Jewish leadership. Heads must roll for the fact that multiple JVP events were allowed to be hosted at the Center for Jewish History, the venerable Jewish Library of Congress.

Mr. Myers’ fundraising appeal for If Not Now — an organization that, according to Haaretz, holds “…sit-ins in the lobbies of buildings housing Jewish groups” to protest their ‘not loud enough’ condemnation of Israel’s West Bank “occupation” shows the desire to infiltrate Jewish organizations.

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The Center for Jewish History must not allow Mr. Myers’ radical support for extremist organizations to redefine Jewish history, regardless of how strong a historian he is.

It’s good news that the JVP events were canceled, but it is not enough. This is not a matter of right vs. left – this is a matter of right vs. wrong.  David N. Myers must not continue as head of the Center for Jewish History.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News

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Trump Should Demand an End to the Arab Boycott of Israel

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 01:00

Two months ago, for the second time since Donald Trump entered the White House, the US Treasury Department published a brief notice that warrants serious attention as well as immediate action by Washington.

As required by US law, the Treasury released a quarterly “list of countries requiring cooperation with an international boycott.”

The list, which appears in the Federal Register (Vol. 82, No. 147), consists entirely of nine Arab countries which continue to implement various aspects of the Arab League boycott of Israel. They include failed states such as Libya and Syria, but also ostensible US allies such as Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Though long since written off as a relic of the past, the Arab trade embargo against the Jewish state remains on the books and has never been formally lifted. It is time for this to change and for the US to flex its diplomatic muscles to get the boycott rescinded once and for all.

Launched in 1945, before the Jewish state had even been established, the Arab boycott is nothing less than a form of economic warfare aimed at undermining the existence of Israel. It remains a powerful symbol of the Arab-Israeli conflict even if its enforcement is far more lax than it once was.

Recognizing its deleterious consequences, official US policy has long been to oppose the boycott. In 1977, Congress passed legislation that prohibits American firms from cooperating with any boycott requests, with violators facing civil and possible criminal penalties.

While it is an open secret that businessmen in a number of Gulf Arab states quietly engage in commerce with the “Zionist entity,” it is also a fact that others actually have government departments tasked with preventing such trade.

Take, for example, the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, which is based in Abu Dhabi. On its official English-language website, the ministry brazenly states that one of its responsibilities is to “implement legislation for the Israel boycott and taking necessary decisions on this concern.”

Just recently, the Trademarks Department of the Ministry published a Services Guide 2017 that says explicitly that anyone applying to register a trademark in the UAE must present certification that the item in question has not been “banned from the Israel Boycott Bureau in the Ministry.”

It is not only the Gulf states that present a problem in this regard. On June 1, Lebanese authorities made headlines worldwide when they decided to ban the film “Wonder Woman” because it starred Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

Lebanon’s Ministry of Economy and Trade went so far as to issue an official statement declaring that it had “taken all necessary action” to prevent the movie from being screened.

As CNN Money reported at the time, “Lebanon bans the purchase of Israeli products and its citizens are not allowed to travel there.”

“We refuse to normalize relations with an enemy state,” Rania Masri, a member of the Lebanese group Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel told the network.

“We’re not talking about a political disagreement, we’re talking about resistance against occupation.”

Then there are countries such as Iraq and Kuwait, the governments of which both owe their very existence to US intervention in the region over the past three decades. It simply defies belief that despite everything Washington has done for these two countries, they would persist in defying American pressure on this issue.

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And don’t forget about Saudi Arabia, where President Trump paid his first foreign visit earlier this year.

Back in December 2005, the Bush Administration acceded to Riyadh’s request to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the condition that the desert kingdom would remove the boycott, which it promised to do. But the Saudi royals wasted little time in making a mockery of that pledge. Just three months after entering the WTO, they played host in March 2006 to a major international conference aimed at intensifying the anti-Israel boycott.

As a Jerusalem Post correspondent at the time, I interviewed Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who now happens to be Vice President of the United States. In April 19, 2007, news story I wrote headlined, “Congressmen blast Saudis for continued boycott,” Pence said the following: “Saudi Arabia’s boycott of Israel should never have existed in the first place and they should end it immediately.”

He added that the embargo was “a relic of wars waged decades ago and there is simply no moral or strategic reason there should be a boycott at all.”

Pence also suggested that the continuing boycott could impact the US-Saudi relationship.

“The Saudis clearly need to do a better job of living up to their commitments if they expect to have warm relations with the United States,” he asserted.

That, as I noted, was over a decade ago. Nonetheless, despite its promise to Washington, as well as WTO rules prohibiting member states from engaging in discriminatory practices such as boycotts, Saudi Arabia continues publicly to shun the Jewish state.

Now is the time for Washington to act to bring about an end to the Arab boycott. As an August 25 report by the Congressional Research Service noted, “The Arab League has acknowledged that US pressure has affected its ability to maintain the boycott.”

Cracks have begun to appear, as evidenced by reports last month that the King of Bahrain said he was “tired” of the boycott and that it was time for a change.

As he strives to make progress in the Middle East, Donald Trump can make history with a simple yet firm demand from America’s ostensible Arab allies: if you are serious about peace with Israel, then drop the boycott once and for all.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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Netanyahu, Tell the World the Truth!

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 00:00

This past Shabbat, all across the Jewish world, the yearly Sabbath Torah reading was begun anew with Bereshit, the beginning of Genesis. With the recent reconciliation agreement signed between Hamas and Fatah looming in the background, Trump’s push to renew “peace” negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is seemingly on track again.

Traditionally, every Jewish child who learned Torah was taught the text and the commentary of Rashi – Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki – the famous 11th century French Biblical and Talmudic commentator. In the beginning, literally, of Genesis, Rashi asks a question, “Why does the Torah start with the story of creation? Since the Torah is a book of laws for the Jewish People, why doesn’t it begin with the first law given by G-d to the Jews, the law for establishing a calendar?” He answers that it starts with the creation narrative to establish that G-d is the Master of the Universe. Then, Rashi says the most amazing thing that still resonates almost a thousand years later. Based on earlier sources and a thorough knowledge of the meaning of Judaism, Rashi says, “So that if the nations come to Israel and say, you are thieves – in Hebrew, she-kevash-tem, you conquered and occupied – the land from the nations living there, you can tell them that all the universe is G-d’s, He created it and gave it to the nations, and when He decided, He took it from them and gave it to us.”

Three things have become starkly clear.

First, that Rashi’s explanation of the Torah has, in fact, come true. The nations today claim, as Rashi explained they would, that we stole the land from others, namely the so-called Palestinians. Second, the Israeli Left has used for years the same Hebrew root/term – kibush, occupation – as to denigrate the miraculous victory of the 1967 Six-Day War. It is the same term, “occupation”, used by most of the world in their criticism of Israeli policies in the “territories”. Even Ariel Sharon used it at one point. It is the language of self-hating Jews – those disconnected from Jewish history and tradition – and the Judeo-paths among the nations. Occupation is when you steal someone else’s land. The Jewish People liberated parts of their Promised Homeland in stages, first in 1948 and then in 1967 with G-d’s help. The Jewish People didn’t “steal” anything. And finally, that the only basis for the Jewish People’s national life in their homeland is G-d’s promise as set down in the Bible; not history, not security, but G-d’s promise to their forefathers.

Rashi told the Jewish People to tell the world, “He took it from them and gave it to us.”

A true Israeli leader needs to stand up, not frightened of anyone or anything, and declare, “The Master of the Universe took it from them and gave it to us.” The Promised Land belongs to the Jews exclusively, and not to any other nation.

Any Israeli prime minister who can’t get on TV or go to the UN General Assembly, or any other meeting with world leaders and say these words, should either quit or commit suicide before rejecting the promises of G-d and participating in a process to help another group take over part of the Land of Israel. As King David said, “If I forget you Jerusalem” – a term for the entire Land of Israel – “let my right hand wither” – rather than sign any false peace agreement – “let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth….” (Psalms 137: 5-6) rather than agree to foreigners taking over part of the Jewish People’s homeland.

If someone can blow themselves up to gain a state not their own, if kamikaze pilots can kill themselves in war, if soldiers can risk their lives in suicide missions, then the Israeli prime minister can quit or “step out” rather than lie to the world.

Netanyahu, tell the world the truth, “He took it from them and gave it to us.”

Every Jew, in fact, every Christian and Muslim, know that the Land of Israel was promised to the Children of Israel, the Jewish People, by G-d, forever. The same G-d they claim to worship. The British pro-Zionists who worked to convince her majesty’s government to issue the Balfour Declaration in 1917, believed in the Divine Promise to the Jews. So, why continue to perpetuate this lie called the “Peace Process”? The Palestinians might gain some temporary control over the land – like in Gaza – for G-d’s own reasons, but in the end, it will be taken from them anyway and returned to its rightful tenants, the Jewish People – I didn’t say, owners, because G-d is the only true owner of everything.

It is true that a democratically elected government in Israel might choose, for political expediency, to transfer control over parts of the Jewish People’s homeland to others, like what happened in Gush Katif – Jewish Gaza; and that, in political terms, it might be seen as legitimate; but, in the Court of Final Justice, above, there never will be any Spiritual Legitimacy to the act. Anyone going against the will of G-d will ultimately have to account for their actions. Reward and punishment is a basic concept in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Heaven helps those who try to take away the Divinely Promised Land from the Jewish People. Look what happened to Rabin, Sharon, Olmert, and countless others involved in the “Disengagement”…

Why lie to the Palestinians? Why make them believe they are right, that Israel “stole” their land? Why participate in a peace process? Why fool them into believing that Israel will give them land and a state?

Netanyahu, tell the world the truth, “He took it from them and gave it to us.”

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What’s most important for Israeli leaders and the world to understand is, that no matter what the Israeli government decides to do, it has no Religious Legitimacy in Judaism. No Israeli leader or government has the moral, historical, or spiritual right to take away parts of the Promised Land from the Jewish People and give it to others. It’s not theirs to do with as they please; the Land of Israel is an inheritance from G-d and it is not for one generation to decide what to do with it. It is also for all future generations of Jews. It will never be accepted by Jews steeped in their heritage and tradition, or by G-d.

Ani Ma’amin…” I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even if he takes a long time to come, I believe every day, he’s coming! It is one of the thirteen principles of faith as codified by Maimonides. The Jews will get back their homeland; the Palestinians will not have a state. So why start now, so close to his coming?

The Land of Israel was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Master of the Universe told them that even though their children will suffer terrible exiles – an educational and cleansing process – in the end, He would bring them home. In the 1948 War of Independence, G-d gave political sovereignty to the Jews for the first time in almost 2,000 years. In the 1967 Six-Day War, G-d returned the Holy City of Jerusalem in its entirety – including eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – to the Jewish People. Hebron – Judaism’s second holiest city – with the Cave of the Patriarchs, the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and King David’s first capital city, before Jerusalem – was returned as well. Truthfully, Judea and Samaria – the so-called West Bank – is drenched in Jewish history and Jewish holy sites. That’s why it’s commonly referred to as the “Biblical Heartland”.

The Jewish People have been brought home.

Those who have built their world-view on security needs and have claimed that we cannot allow a Palestinian state to come into existence because of that, have missed the point. The Palestinians and the world are playing the “Peace Card”. Even if they promised up and down, that there would be a thousand years of “Peace”, how can Israel spurn G-d’s promise?

Once there was a nice family who lived in a rough neighborhood. They wanted to get along with their neighbors, but the neighbors hated them and used to throw rocks and break their windows all the time. One day, the leader and toughest of the neighbors came over and said, this is my house, and demanded it. The owner, father of the nice family replied, no it’s not, its mine. The neighbor insisted. Not wanting any more trouble, the owner invited him in to talk. The neighbor demanded the house and refused to leave; he threatened the owner. The owner decided to be nice and offered him a room to stay in.

Later, the neighbor claimed that the owner’s wife was, in fact, his wife. He implied he would kill the owner. The owner of the house, though for a moment, my wife, my life, and then decided to share his wife. Why cause problems, he thought to himself. The neighbor, emboldened with his successful intimidation, next claimed the owner’s arm. Give me your arm, or else, he demanded. Well, the owner had a tough time at first, then he thought, my arm or my life, hmm, a small price to pay, and he meekly cut off his arm. Finally, the neighbor demanded, in the most insolent way imaginable, give me your heart…

The Land of Israel is the Jewish People’s heart.

Members of the ruling Likud Party and the National Camp have for years based their claim to the “occupied territories” on the historical claim, and, more importantly, have said that for security reasons, they couldn’t give them away. The Israeli Left, in contrast, has argued for quite some time that controls over Judea and Samaria is a security liability and not an asset. They have argued that the only true security is in “Peace” with the Arabs and not the status quo. American presidents, from Clinton to Obama, have basically said the same thing. Trump seems to be following their examples.

And what about settlement leaders, those so-called “right-wing extremists”, who spurn all talk of “Peace”?

When the Israeli cabinet decided to accept the “Roadmap,” with objections in 2003, the spokesman for the Yesha Council – of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza – Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, said, “What is done is done. What we can do is try to amend the Roadmap and shift it to the right.” Shift it to the right? It wasn’t a matter of a little shift here and a little shift there. And, this is a so-called leader of the “Settlement Movement”! Their unsuccessful resistance to the expulsion of Jews from Jewish Gaza in 2005 confirmed the failure of their “moderate” policies.

The Likud, the National Camp, and the Yesha Council at the time, all missed the point. The Israeli Left never had it. To the world, well what can we say? Except, “He took it from them and gave it to us.” There is no spiritual legitimacy to retreat from the Land of Israel. There is no spiritual legitimacy in refusing to graciously receive G-d’s Promised Land, and fight for it. There is no spiritual legitimacy to any of these so-called “Peace” agreements, Oslo, the Roadmap, or any other future agreement.

Netanyahu, tell the world the truth, “He took it from them and gave it to us!”

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Baroness Deech Stands Proudly Behind Balfour Declaration in Powerful Speech

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 06:45

Baroness Deech tells you everything you need to know about the Balfour Declaration – and how incredibly important it is!

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