Netanyahu tells Putin that Iran must not replace IS in Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that his talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin were focused on keeping Iran from filling the vacuum left by the Islamic State in Syria and combating Iranian-sponsored radical Islamic terrorism.
“One of the things that we are fighting against together is radical Islamic terrorism. Of course, there was significant progress last year in the fight against the terrorism of radical Sunni Islam led by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and Russia has a very important contribution,” Netanyahu said ahead of his meeting with the Russian president.
“It’s obvious that we wouldn’t want this terror to be replaced by radical Islamic Shiite terror led by Iran,” he said.
While Russia has played a major role over the last year in Syria combating the Islamic State and the Syrian rebels, Israel is concerned that the Kremlin not allow Iran, Russia’s ally in supporting Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, a permanent foothold in the country.
After their meeting, Netanyahu said Putin had “internalized” his warning, telling Israeli reporters that he expressed Israel’s “strong opposition to Iran’s entrenchment Syria.”
Iran is “seeking to build its military forces, military infrastructure, in order to establish itself in Syria, including an attempt to build a seaport,” Netanyahu said, calling this “grave for Israel’s security.”
During their discussion, Netanyahu said he also brought up the Golan Heights, telling the Russian leader that Israel will never leave the area. “He already knows this issue,” Netanyahu said, indicating that he has discussed the matter with Putin during their previous meetings.
The prime minister further said he asked for Putin’s help in bring back from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip two missing Israeli civilians and the bodies of fallen soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who died in the 2014 Gaza war. Netanyahu said Putin “promised to do anything in his power to help us with this.”
Absent from the discussion, however, was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Moscow’s possible interest in Jerusalem as a channel of communication to the White House was also not mentioned, Netanyahu said. “We talked about Israeli interests,” he indicated.
Following their talk, at the Kremlin, Netanyahu thanked Putin for his wishes ahead of the Jewish festival of Purim, which starts Saturday night, noting that modern Iran now threatens the Jews as the ancient Persians did then.
“Twenty-five hundred years ago in ancient Persia, there was an attempt to wipe out the Jewish nation that was unsuccessful, which is being marked with this holiday,” the prime minister said.
“Here today in Persia’s successor, Iran, there is another attempt to wipe out the Jewish state. They say this as clearly as possible. They inscribe it on their ballistic missiles,” he said.
Netanyahu said that Iran was a threat not just to Israel, but to the whole region.
“Today, Israel is a state with an army and we are able to defend ourselves. But the threat of Shiite Islamic extremism is not just a threat to us, but rather to the entire region and world peace. I know that we share the desire to prevent any victory for radical Islam from any direction,” he said.
During the meeting, Putin said he was “very pleased” with his “close and trusting contact” with Netanyahu.
“We meet regularly in person, are regularly in contact by telephone, and work together at the ministry and agency level,” Putin said. “You often come to Russia right on the eve of holidays, and so I want to take the opportunity to congratulate you on the upcoming Purim holiday and wish everyone in Israel happy holidays and prosperity.”
Netanyahu was on a whirlwind visit to Moscow for his third meeting with Putin in a year, and headed straight home on Thursday evening.
He was greeted at the airport by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. On the tarmac, Bogdanov, Moscow’s point man for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warmly embraced his Israeli guest.
Ahead of the visit, Netanyahu’s office said: “The prime minister will express Israel’s strong opposition to the presence of Iranian forces, and those of its proxies, on our northern border and in the Mediterranean Sea in the context of the talks on a settlement of any kind.”
“The prime minister also intends to reiterate to President Putin the fact that the [Syrian-held] Golan Heights is not part of the discussion on any outline” of a peace agreement, his office said in a statement.
Netanyahu and Putin were also expected to discuss the ongoing military coordination between the two countries to ensure their forces don’t clash over Syria’s skies.
A source close to Netanyahu reportedly said Wednesday, hours before he arrived at the Kremlin, that “Moscow allows us to act against Hezbollah in Syrian airspace.”
Russian and Israeli authorities denied the report. “There is just no such agreement or coordination,” a senior official in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel.
Israeli officials have long accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of trying to build an anti-Israel front on the Syrian Golan, alongside Hezbollah forces and local Druze opposed to Israel. Netanyahu has sought Russia’s help in seeking to thwart the attempts of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah to use Syria as a base from which to attack Israel.
Last week, Chagai Tzuriel, the director-general of the Intelligence Ministry, told The Times of Israel that keeping Iran and Hezbollah from getting a foothold on the Golan was at the top of the agenda for Israel’s security apparatus.
“Since Russia began intervening in the Syrian war a year ago, Russia became an important actor in Syria itself,” said Eyal Zisser, a Middle East expert from Tel Aviv University. “But of course this intervention has to do with the strategic interest of Israel. Russia became a neighborhood country, so you need to coordinate, you need to establish open channels of communication in order to ensure that no accidents will occur along the border.”
Russia partnered with Iran to assure the survival of the Syrian regime, which gives Netanyahu and Putin much to discuss, Zisser said, especially as the civil war appears to be at a turning point. Forces of President Basher Assad have recently recaptured the city of Aleppo from the rebels and it is currently unclear what the Syria-Russia-Iran alliance will attempt to achieve next.
“The future of Syria might be dictated by Russians, Turks and Iranians. And Israel probably wants to share with the Russians its ideas and concerns about such a process,” Zisser said.
The Golan Heights, which are close to Damascus, pose a particular headache for Israel, he added.
“The Syrian regime, with the support of the Iranians and Hezbollah, might want to make a comeback and recaptured those territories which were lost several years ago to the rebels,” Zisser predicted.
Forces affiliated with the Islamic State group are making territorial gains on the Golan Heights’ south, which also worries Jerusalem, although they are careful not to engage in a direct confrontation with Israel, he said. “They have other priorities, such as fighting each other and fighting the regime. But IS on the border is not something Israel is happy with.”
Netanyahu, who flew to Moscow in a small jet, taking with him no press and a small number of advisers, is expected to return to Israel on Thursday evening, leaving Russia immediately after his meeting with Putin. He is accompanied by Minister Ze’ev Elkin — who also serves as his personal translator — acting national security adviser Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Jacob Nagel, his chief of staff staff Yoav Horowitz, his Military Secretary Brig.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano and the head of the IDF’s intelligence branch Herzl Halevy. (the Times of Israel)
Liberman to Pence: ‘We have true friends in the White House’
After meeting with US Vice-President Mike Pence at the White House on Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman expressed appreciation for the friendship shown to Israel by the Trump administration.I
“We have true friends in the White House,” said Liberman. “The Americans, led by Donald Trump, are Israel’s true partners in dealing with the various challenges facing us, among them the Iran issue.”
“Israel is happy to see that US President Donald Trump understands the great danger of the Ayatollah and Israel’s need to fight them effectively.”
President Donald Trump, whose former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, put “Iran on notice” over a month ago, held a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday about confronting the threats emanating from Iran.
Liberman also noted the Trump administration’s demonstration of friendship to the American Jewish community.
“The fact that you helped repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery proves more than anything else that the US has zero patience for anti-Semitism and that the American nation and government know Jews are an important and integral part of the American nation,” Liberman said, referring to Pence’s help in cleaning up a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, that was vandalized.
Liberman added that he expects to see Trump fulfil his previously stated plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (WIN)
Liberman urges US to cut ties with Israel-bashing UN bodies
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday asked US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reconsider American support for the United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, as well as for the UN Human Rights Council.
During a meeting at the State Department, Liberman urged Tillerson to consider quitting the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and to stop funding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA.
The agencies do not fulfill their mission, he told the secretary, according to readout of the meeting issued by Liberman’s office. “Instead, the Human Rights Council deals with demonizing Israel and with efforts to harm it by distorting reality.”
He said it was unacceptable that 60 percent of the council’s resolutions targeted Israel instead of dealing with the dire human rights situation in Iran or North Korea or Syria.
Last week, the US envoy to the Human Rights Council, Erin Barclay, criticized the council for its outsize focus on Israel.
“Regrettably, too many of the actions of this council do not support these universal principles. Indeed, they contradict them,” she said.
“No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item… The obsession with Israel… is the largest threat to this council’s credibility,” added Barclay, a career diplomat. “It limits the good we can accomplish by making a mockery of this council. The United States will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel.”
Israel has claimed that almost all the Gazan employees of UNRWA are members of the Hamas terrorist group.
On Tuesday it was reported that an employee of the body, Muhammad al-Jamassi, was elected to Hamas’s political bureau, the top governing body of the terrorist organization the rules the Strip.
Jamassi has held various positions within Hamas since 2007, including in the group’s public relations department and its affiliated charities, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
He currently serves as board chairman for the UNRWA engineering department in central Gaza, and oversees all off the agency’s infrastructure projects in the area.
Another UNRWA employee, Suhail al-Hindi, a teacher heading the agency’s employee union in Gaza, was suspended by the organization after he was elected to a top leadership position in Hamas.
Liberman, who met with Vice President Pence on Tuesday, was set to meet with Congressman and National Security Adviser H.R. Macmaster later on Wednesday. (the Times of Israel)
Netanyahu: Israel can normalize ties with Arab states if ‘we act wisely’
Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East and it should use this for leverage, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday.
Netanyahu stressed that Israel is strong both diplomatically and militarily and only getting stronger, so by understanding the region’s interests Israel could achieve diplomatic ties with more Arab countries other than Egypt and Jordan.
“Our military power is stronger than ever – not only in absolute terms but also in relative terms,” the prime minister said, mentioning the Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the US in 2016.
“Only recently I signed on an agreement with former US president Barack Obama that will give us NIS 38 billion in military assistance. This stable aid with allow the IDF and other military services to use the most recent and sophisticated technology in the world.”
Netanyahu then noted that Israel is broadening its influence in the diplomatic sphere. “Three weeks ago I met with US President Donald Trump,” he said.
“Tomorrow I will arrive in Moscow to meet with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. In about 10 days I am scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi [Jinping] after receiving an invitation from him, and in several months Indian President [Narendra] Modi will come here to visit. The biggest world powers are tightening their ties with us – and they are not the only ones.”
Netanyahu added that in 2016 he met with some 250 senior world leaders from all five continents.
“Israel is being sought after, it is a wanted country – first of all because of our cyber technology knowledge – both civilian and military,” he said.
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) interrupted Netanyahu and asked why this is occurring, after the passage of Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning it less than three months ago.
“We can see support to Israel in the different international bodies, but not always – as we saw in the Security Council when the Obama administration ended,” he replied.
“But everyone can see the positive changes in the diplomatic arena that are opening new markets for us and brings with it new opportunities.”
Regarding threats to Israel’s security, Netanyahu repeated his statement last week that 80% of security threats against Israel emanate from Iran. “Iran and its satellite forces such as Hezbollah, the Islamic Movement and Hamas are accumulating weapons, and their aggression can be felt all over the region,” he said. “This challenge is always in front of us and we are prepared.”
Netanyahu added that the change of power in the US is being viewed as positive when it comes to dealing with Iran. “One of our ways of dealing with Iran is encouraging this change of approach in the US, which helps us stand strong against the Iranian threat.”
This change has already resulted in an ad hoc regional coalition forming against Iran and could open doors for normalizing Israel’s relations with its neighboring countries. “I believe in nurturing these interests,” he said. “In my opinion, if we act wisely, it could assist us normalizing ties with countries in the region and opening new diplomatic streams – that could be more efficient – between us and the Palestinians.” (Jerusalem Post)
Will WikiLeaks CIA data harm Israeli intelligence?
By Yonah Jeremy Bob The Jerusalem Post
Tuesday’s bombshell, massive data dump by WikiLeaks of CIA documents, code and spying techniques has raised a plethora of questions, one of which is what will be the impact on Israel?
When US leaker Edward Snowden made his initial dump of National Security Agency documents in June 2013, it took time for some of the Israel-related documents to come out.
Some of the biggest finds were not released or discovered until September 2013 and some Israel connections were not fully revealed until February 2015.
In the first 24 hours, no one has reported on an Israel connection yet and the name Israel does not obviously appear in the volumes and volumes of documents, most of which do not make much sense to persons without advanced computer coding skills, but there is a strong chance that Israeli intelligence will take a hit in the not so distant future.
Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni, cyber director at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said, “We don’t know yet all of the technology which has been exposed, but in the past, Israel has had tight cooperation with the US,” implying there is a strong chance aspects of Israeli intelligence, coding or spying techniques will be made public as the WikiLeaks dump unfolds.
“One can imagine that somethings could have been exposed. I don’t know if this is the situation, but if it is, it may be that some exposure is just part of cooperation” with allied intelligence agencies, said Siboni.
The cyber expert clarified again that he was not saying Israeli intelligence had been compromised, and that his commentary was “based on plausible assumptions” in light of past exposures of Israeli intelligence from the Snowden leaks and leaks regarding US-Israel cyber cooperation against Iran with the Stuxnet and Olympic Games viruses and programs.
He added he assumed that US and Israeli intelligence are already in touch regarding the issue.
Israel Space Agency Chairman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Ben Israel, a professor for Tel Aviv University’s Security Studies Program, said if Israeli intelligence was exposed it was “not the end of the world, but could cause damage. Whoever did not know that we could spy on them using one method or another will now be aware.”
At the same time, Ben Israel said, “there is nothing to do. When you cooperate with someone else, you are always taking a risk that intelligence you share could leak to others. And if you do not cooperate with others then you won’t get anywhere.”
Further, Ben Israel said that the problem was not unique to the cyber hacking age.
He noted past top American CIA and FBI agents who turned into Soviet spies, such as Aldrich Ames, to show that there is no way to foolproof even the most secretive intelligence agency from leaks.
He acknowledged that “there is always a danger of leaks and you try to reduce the danger, but this is not new and this is part of the rules of the game.”
How could the CIA, the world’s most powerful intelligence agency, get hacked? Siboni said this “strengthens what I have claimed for a long time: that defense needs to be the biggest priority of intelligence agencies. They do cyber attacks and spying, but they cannot let down on defense.”
Intelligence agencies such as the CIA need to “change their state of mind and invest in defensive cyber capabilities not just after a crisis, but systematically and on a permanent basis,” he said.
“This requires a major cultural change, because cyber defense is a gray profession and is not rewarding. You don’t get a prize and you cannot show off your success like on attack,” noted Siboni, since successful cyber defense just means that nothing bad has happened.
He added that after the hacking of the NSA last year, the CIA should be able to do better, since clandestine organizations have an ability to isolate their systems and vet their employees that other organizations do not have.
Also, Siboni said that intelligence agencies needed to do a better job in checking that the cyber security and defense for outside contractors are as strong as their own, since a security lapse there can endanger the whole system.
Ben Israel returned to his theme that the security problem is usually a human problem, and not necessarily a weak cyber defense. Probably “a traitor or an idealist or someone with 1,000 other motivations” gave over the information, he said.
Agencies “can reduce their risk with a little bit less outsourcing, but you can never be completely insulated as there will always be a human factor,” he said.
Palestinians: Fake News and “Alternative Facts”
by Bassam Tawil The Gatestone Institute
There is no shortage of Palestinian and Arab news websites that publish hoaxes, propaganda, lies and disinformation disguised as real news. This garbage is accepted as factual by many Palestinians and other Arabs.
This is a form of incitement to which the West is deaf, largely because journalists working for Western mainstream media do not wish to understand what is being reported in Arabic, or even in English.
Blood libels against Jews were once thought to be part of the dark past. They are not. What do such stories accomplish? Excuses for the murder of Jews.
Another “new” old blood libel that Palestinians have been spreading against Israel claims that Israelis are flooding Palestinian communities with narcotics in order to spread moral corruption and destroy the health of Palestinians. This lie helps Palestinians avoid responsibility for the smuggling of drugs (by Palestinians) into the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt.
That leaves us with some questions: Where is the international community’s exposure of the lies that fuel the Palestinian murder of Jews? And: Will the international community once again in history fail to speak the truth about the murder of Jews?
One after another, young Palestinians continue to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews. Why? We might start at the beginning: the campaign of incitement, indoctrination and lies that Palestinian media outlets wage against Israel. This campaign has poisoned the hearts and minds of millions of Arabs and Muslims. It ought to be no surprise, then, when the poisoned Palestinian youths grab a weapon and set out to do the death-work they are taught to cherish.
The anti-Israel incitement can even be quite subtle. Those injecting the venom do not always issue a direct call for Palestinians to go out and kill Jews. It is enough, for example, to tell Palestinians that Jews are “defiling with their filthy feet” Islamic holy sites, to drive a Palestinian to go out and stab a Jew.
Or when a Palestinian leaders repeatedly accuse Israel of seeking to “Judaize” Jerusalem and change its “Arab and Islamic character.” This is like urging Palestinians to “defend” their city against Israel’s “evil conspiracies.”
The vicious rhetoric and the fairy tales they feed Palestinians provide ample incentive and ideology for would-be terrorists.
While Palestinian mosque preachers, political activists, journalists and senior officials have long been preoccupied with the mission of delegitimizing Israel and demonizing Jews, other Palestinians also fabricate “news” in order to further the Israeli death count.
The epidemic of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” which has recently flooded the internet, is not new to Palestinian culture. In fact, “fake news” has long been an essential component of the Palestinian campaign to delegitimize Israel, demonize Jews and even to cite false claims. Historically, for example, Jordan illegally seized Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1948 war and proceeded to ethnically cleanse the area of Jews; in the 1967 war, the Israelis merely took their land back.
The head of Apple, Tim Cook, was recently quoted as saying, “Fake news is killing people’s minds.”
Palestinians have long been fed fake news. It is a tried and true method for recruiting terrorists and jihadists in the fight against Israel and Jews. As, in Islam, jihad is allowed to “defend Islam,” narratives sometimes have to be provided to give the impression that Islam is being attacked.
There is no shortage of Palestinian and Arab news websites that publish hoaxes, propaganda, lies and disinformation disguised as real news. This garbage is accepted as factual by many Palestinians and other Arabs.
This is another form of incitement to which the West is deaf, largely because journalists working for Western mainstream media do not wish to understand what is being reported in Arabic, or even in English. These journalists either deliberately turn a blind eye to this indoctrination or underestimate how it deforms the hearts and minds of Palestinians.
Take, for example, a recent story published on Palestinian news websites, claiming that Israel has been spraying agricultural fields in the Gaza Strip with pesticides. According to the report, Israel uses planes to destroy Palestinian agricultural products in order to ruin the Palestinian economy and deprive farmers of their livelihood.
Last week, some Palestinian news websites came up with a story that sounds as if it were lifted straight from an action movie. What do such stories accomplish? Excuses for the murder of Jews.
The story goes as follows: “An Israeli plane dropped suspicious objects that look like candies near the Palestinian city of Jenin in the northern West Bank.” According to the report, Palestinians who examined the “candies” discovered that they contained toxic material. In other words: Israel is seeking to poison Palestinian children. Is it any wonder when a Palestinian teenager who hears such a story runs out to murder Jews, as in Petah Tikva last month, when a 19-year-old Palestinian shot and stabbed several Israelis.
Another recently resurrected old blood libel that Palestinians have been spreading against Israel claims that Israelis are flooding Palestinian communities with narcotics in order to spread moral corruption and destroy the health of Palestinian youths. This particular lie helps the Palestinians avoid responsibility for the smuggling of drugs (by Palestinians) into the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt.
At a recent seminar in the Gaza Strip, a group of Palestinian “experts” claimed that “hidden parties backed by Israel” were responsible for “drowning the Gaza Strip with various types of lethal and dangerous drugs.”
Similar false charges were made by the Palestinian police in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last year.
Ayman Al-Batnihi, a police spokesman in Gaza City, went as far as claiming that the widespread use of narcotics was the product of an Israeli “conspiracy” to destroy Palestinian youths and prevent them from engaging in the fight against Israel. Needless to say, the spokesman, like the Palestinian news websites, never provides any evidence to back up his false claims.
The libels and lies are not coming from Hamas alone. The Palestinian Authority (PA), which relies almost solely on American and European funding, offers similar “information” to its readers. Here is a news report that appeared in the PA’s Ramallah-based Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda newspaper, claiming that Israel is “flooding” the Arab residents of Jerusalem with narcotics. The report claims that some 20,000 Arabs have fallen victim to the purported Israeli “conspiracy” and have become drug addicts. “Israel’s goal is to destroy the Arab youths of Jerusalem and empty the city of its Arab inhabitants,” the report went on to explain.
According to reports such as these, Jews also supposedly use pigs to persecute Palestinians. Palestinian news websites regularly inform their readers that Israel releases wild pigs in the West Bank to destroy Palestinian crops and drive Palestinians out of their homes. The wild pigs, the reports tell Palestinians, are brought by Jews to Palestinian villages as part of a scheme to destroy the crops and intimidate villagers (some of whom claim the wild pigs attack them). An interesting facet of this “fake news” is that the Jewish settlers accused of using pigs to wage war against Palestinians are mostly religious, the last people in the world interested in getting involved with swine.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the lies about Israelis that Palestinians are fed daily by their leaders, journalists and media outlets. This is also what Palestinians think of when they pick up a knife to thrust into the body of a Jew.
Blood libels against Jews were once thought to be part of the dark past. They are not. That leaves us with some questions: Where is the international community’s exposure of the lies that fuel the Palestinian murder of Jews? And: Will the international community once again in history fail to speak the truth about the murder of Jews?