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Latest Israel News – 4th August

Public opinion poll: ‘No Palestinian state in five years’

Researchers spoke face-to-face with 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and held telephone conversations with 900 Israelis, including settlers and Israeli-Arab citizens.

Israelis and Palestinians by a small margin still support a two-state solution but most do not think it can happen in the next five years, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday.

Some 53% of Israelis and 52% of Palestinians support a two-state solution.

That is a drop from the 71% of Israelis and 57% of the Palestinians who supported the idea in 2010.

A larger number, 71% of Palestinians and 72% of Israelis, think a Palestinian state will not be created in the next five years.

The lead researchers in the study, Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and Dr. Khalil Shikaki, told reporters at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem that surface results of their report, “Palestinian-Israeli Pulse: A Joint Poll,” could be viewed as discouraging.

But Israeli and Palestinian leadership can reverse the downward trend with regard to the peace process, they said.

Joint poll measures preferences for conflict resolution among Palestinians.

“We show why [support for the peace process] is declining and going in the wrong way. We are saying there is another reality.

Dig deeper, you can find things,” said Shikaki.

In the late 1990s and into the mid-2000s, public support for a two-state solution was much higher, Scheindlin noted, giving former Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak the rationale they needed to move forward with a two-state solution.

“It is easy for policy makers to look at [the study’s results] and say, we can coast because the public isn’t demanding that we move ahead on this.

But if they were to show political leadership, if they had vision, they could get the public to support them,” Scheindlin said.

Shikaki explained that participants in the poll were asked to look at a package of nine elements related to the peace process.

Those included such issues as refugees, borders, security and Jerusalem. They then presented respondents with a package of incentives to help assuage doubts over some of the concessions that would need to be made to resolve those issues and lead to a peace agreement.

Joint poll measures preferences for conflict resolution among Jews.

Among the Palestinians surveyed who said they opposed a deal, 56% said if Palestinian prisoners were part of the package they would support one. Some 42% said they would do so if Israel recognized the Arab and Islamic character of a Palestinian state.

Similarly, 43% of Israelis who were against a deal said they would support one if Palestinians recognized the country’s Jewish nature.

One-third of Israelis and Palestinians said they would support a deal if changes were made to textbooks on the issue of incitement.

The study was conducted in June and early July of this year, prior to the Temple Mount crisis.

Joint poll measures support for two-state solution.

The study showed that in spite of their pessimism, 45% of Israeli Jews and Palestinians believe a peace agreement is the preferred next step.

Among those who nixed the possibility of a deal were 18% of Israeli Jews and Palestinians, who said the status quo should remain.

Some 21% of Palestinians, 13% of Israeli Arabs and 12% of Israeli Jews said they felt armed conflict would occur next, while 9% of Israelis said they believed their government would annex the West Bank.

Among settlers and Jews living in east Jerusalem, 35% of said they believed the status quo would remain in place and only 24% said they thought the West Bank would be annexed.

Joint poll measures support for two-state solution among Jewish constituencies.

A more detailed look at the data showed that Israeli-Arabs were the most optimistic about the two-state solution, with 81% supporting it compared to 47% of Israeli Jews.

Joint poll measures support for alternatives to two-state solution.

A more detailed look at the data showed that Israeli-Arabs were the most optimistic about the two-state solution, with 81% supporting such an arrangement, compared to 47% of Israeli Jews.

An additional 15% of the Israeli Jews in that part of the survey said they preferred a solution that involved expelling Palestinians. Another 15% said they supported an apartheid solution, the report said. Some 17% of Israeli Arabs, 12% of Israeli Jews and 11% of the Palestinians said they supported a one-state solution.

Some 52% of Israelis and 44% of Palestinians targeted settlement expansion as the reason that they did not think a two-state solution was viable.

The report on the findings was published by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.

The work was funded by the European Union and the Netherlands.

The poll was conducted face-to-face with 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and by telephone with 900 Israelis, including settlers and Israeli-Arab citizens. The margin of error on the poll is +/-3%, according to the researchers. (Jerusalem Post)

70 Percent of Israeli Jews Support Death Penalty for Terrorists, Survey Shows

An overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews support the death penalty for terrorists, a new poll published Wednesday shows.

The Peace Index, a monthly survey published by the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, found that 70 percent of Israeli Jews “strongly” or “moderately” support the death penalty.

Close to two weeks ago, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death an elderly Israeli and his two adult children at a West Bank settlement while they were eating Shabbat dinner. Since then, various right-wing Israeli politicians have expressed support for imposing the death penalty as punished for such acts.

Israel has only once in its history exercised the death penalty, and that was in the case of Adolf Eichmann, a key mastermind of the Holocaust.

Almost as large a share of Israeli Jews – 66 percent – said they favored the death penalty for those convicted of murdering Israeli soldiers.

According to the survey, two out of every three Israelis do not think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dealt prudently with the recent crisis on the Temple Mount. After Israeli Arabs shot dead two Israeli policemen guarding the Temple Mount last month, the government responded by installing metal detectors at the entrance to the Mount, which is the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Muslims responded by praying outside rather than entering the site. Under pressure from Jordan and the Arab world, Israel ultimately backed down and removed the metal detectors.

The respondents were asked whether they thought Netanyahu had an interest in keeping the Temple Mount crisis brewing to divert attention from investigations into various corruption scandals involving his close associates. A small majority of Israelis (about 52 percent) said they did not attribute cynical motives to the prime minister. Fifty percent of those questioned, however, said they believed Netanyahu was aware of the involvement of his close associates in one of these corruption scandals involving a submarine deal with Germany.

The survey was based on responses from a representative sample of Israelis (500 Jews and 100 Arabs) and had a margin of error of 4.1 percent.  (Haáretz)

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Stokes Temple Mount Conspiracy Theories at Islamic Summit

Any hopes that Israel’s leaders might have entertained of a reduction in Palestinian incitement over the Temple Mount were swiftly dashed this week by the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, who gave a speech that once again stoked conspiracy theories across the Muslim world about Israel’s ultimate aims for the Jerusalem holy site.

Addressing a meeting of the foreign ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states in Istanbul on Tuesday, Riyad al-Maliki warned that Palestinians were preparing themselves for a new round of “nasty” actions by Israel at the Temple Mount — revered by Jews as the location of the First and Second Temples, and considered by Muslims to be Islam’s third-holiest site, as it houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Recent efforts by Israeli authorities to install metal detectors and other security equipment at the Temple Mount — following the July 14 murder of two Israeli policemen at an entrance to the site — were abruptly withdrawn in the face of a wave of Palestinian violence. Al-Maliki described the Israeli move as a “small victory in the long battle for freedom.”

“We know that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is not going to accept defeat and he will try again and again with different methods and different means to impose his own status-quo over the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) and al-Quds (Jerusalem),” al-Maliki said. “We have to be prepared for the next round which could come very soon and could be very nasty.”

The meeting’s host, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, called on the OIC nations to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of an independent state of Palestine.

“We should show our support to the Palestinians, who have been living under Israeli occupation for fifty years, millions of them who had to leave their home, not just with our dry words, but with our actions,” he told the OIC meeting,” Cavusoglu said.

Echoing al-Maliki’s dark warnings about the Temple Mount, Cavusoglu declared, “We should all be very careful against provocations. No bans or limitations, including the age restrictions to the Temple Mount, can be accepted.”

OIC Secretary General Yousef al-Othaimeen called on OIC nations to provide the “necessary international protection to the Palestinian people and assume their responsibility to end Israeli aggressions and infractions in  al-Quds.”  (the Algemeiner)

Plan for new synagogue in Australia blocked over terror fears

A local council in Sydney, Australia, has blocked plans for a new synagogue, saying it may become a terrorist target and poses an unacceptable security risk.

Members of the Jewish community in the Bondi Beach neighborhood reacted angrily to the ruling, saying it rewards terrorism.

The refusal of Waverley Council to approve the new Orthodox house of worship was upheld in court on Wednesday.

The council said the proposed building raised “concerns as to the safety and security of future users of the Synagogue, nearby residents, motorists and pedestrians,” news.com.au reported.

The Land and Environment Court upheld the decision, basing its decision on the risk assessment submitted with the application along with proposed security measures.

“It would seem that a more sophisticated risk assessment process could be required for matters such as a potential terrorist threat,” Commissioner Graham Brown said.

The council told the court that “strong anti-Semitic undertones pervade much of ISIS’s online presence and literature” which has “manifested itself in both attacks and prevented attacks that have been aimed at Jewish communities in various parts of the world,” The Australian reported.

At the same time the council refused to allow architects to change the design of the planned building to increase security, saying that would make the building too ugly.

“It’s a very sad day for Australia if an established community, which needs a house of worship, is refused permission to build it because of fear that others may pose a threat,” New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff told news.com.au.

“This simply shows how we’re all losing our freedoms. Those who want us to be afraid are winning, and this ill-conceived judgment represents a dangerous precedent.”

The rabbi of the Chabad house that applied to build the synagogue, Yehoram Ulman, said the decision was “unprecedented” and that it “came as surprise and shock to the entire Jewish community.”

Ulman said that the court’s ruling to uphold the council’s decision threatened Jewish life in Australia.

“By pulling the terror threat argument they have shown that they are completely out of touch both with the reality and with needs of their constituency,” he said. “They have effectively placed in jeopardy the future of Jewish life in Australia.”

On Saturday Australian police stopped a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane, arresting four men in raids on homes in several Sydney suburbs. Four men of Lebanese origin were accused of plotting to bring down a plane using poisonous gas or a crude bomb disguised as a meat mincer.

Australia’s national terror alert level was raised in September 2014 amid concerns over attacks by individuals inspired by organizations such as the Islamic State group  (the Times of Israel)

In first, police say cases against PM involve bribery, fraud

Israeli police on Thursday for the first time explicitly said that a number of corruption investigations involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deal with “bribery, fraud and breach of trust.” The police stopped short of saying that the Israeli leader was directly suspected of these crimes, even as a gag order was imposed on details pertaining to the cases.

An Israeli court approved a police request to place a gag order on details surrounding negotiations for a former Netanyahu aide, Ari Harow, turning state’s witness as part of two criminal investigations where the prime minister is a key suspect.

“Case 2000,” as it has been dubbed by police, involves a suspected quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes in which the two seemed to discuss an illicit agreement that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

The investigation began after police found recordings on Harow’s computer of the meetings between Netanyahu and Mozes in late 2014 and early 2015. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Harow has been under investigation since mid-2015 on suspicion of having used his ties to Netanyahu to advance his private interests. Police have recommended he be indicted for bribery and breach of trust in the case, but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has yet to file formal charges against him.

The gag order also affects “Case 1000”, in which the prime minister and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Netanyahu is the primary suspect in the case. The couple has denied wrongdoing.

Recent reports indicated efforts were under way for Harow to become a witness for the prosecution against his former boss.

In their request, granted Judge Einat Ron of the Central District Magistrate’s Court, police said media coverage of the negotiations with Harow “seriously damage the investigation.”

Earlier Thursday, Mandelblit appeared to confirm that prosecutors were working alongside police to reach an agreement with Harow.

“We are progressing and working with police on this matter,” Mandelblit said at a ceremony for outgoing Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran. “I think that these things speak for themselves. We are doing our jobs; give us time to work and we will get to the truth.”

While preventing publication of the details, the gag order confirmed negotiations were underway to reach a deal.

Harow has repeatedly declined requests from the Times of Israel to comment on the legal proceedings against him or police efforts for him to sign a plea bargain.

Importantly, the order acknowledged that both investigations “deal with suspicions of crimes of fraud and breach of trust.” Netanyahu has been questioned under caution as a criminal suspect in both cases. In “Case 1000,” he is the only suspect.

Harow is reportedly willing to provide information in both probes, having served as chief of staff during the time of the alleged deal with Mozes and while Netanyahu is said to have received gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels.

On Wednesday, Channel 2 news reported that Harow would also provide testimony in the so-called “submarine affair,” also known as “Case 3000,” an investigation into the allegedly corrupt purchase of naval vessels from Germany that could lead to indictments of senior public officials. Netanyahu is not a suspect in that case, although he is likely to be called to testify.

Harow first worked for Netanyahu as foreign affairs adviser during his stint as leader of the opposition. He then spearheaded the 2009 election campaign that catapulted Netanyahu back into office. Following the election, he served as the prime minister’s bureau chief until 2010, managing Netanyahu’s schedule and advising him on a range of issues.

He took a break from politics in 2010, when he founded 3H Global, a consultancy firm whose sale he is suspected of fabricating. Harow later returned as chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014, serving there for a year before leaving to run the 2015 election campaign for Netanyahu’s Likud party.

In a fourth corruption case, sometimes called “Case 4000”, police were investigating Shlomo Filber, the director-general of the Communications Ministry, over suspected securities offenses related to a merger involving the national telephone company Bezeq.

Israel’s state comptroller released a report earlier this month that accused Netanyahu of failing to originally disclose his close ties with Bezeq head Shaul Elovitz, and raised suspicions that the prime minister — who at the time held the post of communications minister — and Filber made decisions at the ministry in favor of Bezeq.      (the Times of Israel)

Israel foils international Hamas funding mechanism

A large-scale investigation recently uncovered a Hamas money transfer mechanism funneling cash from Hamas headquarters in Turkey and Gaza to operatives in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The investigation, a cooperative effort between the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security agency and the Israel Police, was placed under gag order, lifted Thursday.

The investigation revealed that the money transferring mechanism began operating in 2016, set in motion by Muhammad Maher Badr, a senior Hamas official in Hebron and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Badr recruited two messengers, Mussab Hashlamoun, a Hamas operative from Hebron who was sent to Turkey under the pretense of business, and Taha Othman, also a resident of Hebron.

Hashlamoun was instructed to transfer money from Turkey to Hebron to fund terrorist activities in Hebron, with much of the money designated for Hamas members in the Legislative Council. Hashlamoun was also told to transfer money to Hamas terrorists who were released from prison.

Two of Hashlamoun’s colleagues — his brother Yusri and Omar Kimri — maintained ties with Majed Jabah, a Hamas operative in the Gaza Strip, originally also from Hebron, who coordinated the transfer of funds from Turkey. Jabah was released from an Israeli prison in the 2011 prisoner exchange that saw IDF soldier Gilad Schalit freed from Hamas captivity in Gaza.

Hashlamoun and Othman met several times with Haroun Naser al-Din, a Hamas headquarters official in Turkey who was also released in the Schalit deal.

Naser al-Din gave the messengers tens of thousands of dollars to buy goods in Turkey. The two imported the goods through international delivery companies and sold them in Hebron. After deducting their fee, the profits from the sales were then handed to Hamas operatives in Hebron. As part of his operation, Naser al-Din told the messengers to speak to Hamas terrorists in Hebron and offer them money from the headquarters.

The investigation revealed that until it was exposed, the mechanism allowed for almost $200,000 to be transferred to Hebron. The investigation further revealed that Hamas planned to build a multi-million dollar cement factory to launder money for terrorism.

The Military Prosecution is expected to request indictments in the case in the near future.

According to the Shin Bet security agency, the “exposure of this infrastructure illustrates Hamas operatives’ constant motivation to step up Hamas terrorist activity in the West Bank. Hamas operatives in Gaza and abroad have been recruiting messengers, residents of the West Bank who travel abroad, for the purpose of transferring terrorist funds to operatives in the field.

“Quite often, Hamas operatives abroad recruit relatives of Hamas members in the field, or enlist the help of merchants and businesspeople, who end up paying a steep personal and financial price for this activity,” the Shin Bet said.

“The Shin Bet security agency, in cooperation with the IDF and the Israel Police, will continue to take action to expose and thwart this terrorist activity orchestrated by Hamas operatives abroad and in the Gaza Strip,” the agency said.  (Israel Hayom)

Israeli soccer team attacked in Poland

Players from the Hapoel Petah Tikva soccer team on Wednesday evening experienced a very frightening and anti-Semitic incident on Polish soil.

The players, who played an exhibition game in Sochocin, located about 70 kilometers from Warsaw, were attacked following the game by a number of masked men in what appeared to be a planned ambush by local fans.

“After most of the players returned to the hotel, a number of masked fascists who are fans of Legia Warsaw burst unto the field and tried to beat a number of crew members who were left behind, two of whom were lightly injured,” the club’s official Facebook page said.

The incident occurred “despite the fact that there was police presence during the game, and occurred after police forces left the scene in what looks like a planned ambush,” the club continued.

“The players who witnessed the incident began to chase after the attackers, who fled. The players and the professional staff are safe, and there were no injuries in the surprising incident,” it added.

The Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport said in response that it is working with the authorities in Poland in order to find those responsible for the attack and severely punish them.

This is not the first display of anti-Semitism against Israeli athletes in Europe.

Last August, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flags were seen during a soccer match in France between Israeli Beitar Jerusalem and Saint-Étienne.

A week earlier, supporters of Glasgow’s Celtic Football Club waved PLO flags during their Champions League qualifier against Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva, prompting the Union of European Football (UEFA) to launch disciplinary proceedings against Celtic.

Two years ago, players from the Israeli club Ashdod were chased from the field by fans during a game against CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria                 (Arutz Sheva)

When a murderer is called a martyr

Washington Times Editorial


Ethics now get short shrift nearly everywhere, and what was once normal behavior is regulated only by moral ambiguity. But murder, whether by an angry spouse, street hoodlum or terrorist driven by religious fanaticism, still has no sanction. There’s no justification for outbursts of butchery, and cash doled out to Palestinian terrorists and to their families is blood money, and it’s to the shame of the U.S. government that some of that blood money is lifted from the pockets of Americans.

The practice of paying for murder is front and center now following the execution-style shootings of two Israeli Druze policemen at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. The families of three Israeli Arabs who carried out the attack are eligible for money from the Palestinian Martyrs Fund, as well as the families of the attackers who stabbed an Israeli policewomen at the Damascus Gate in June.

The Palestinian Authority, in its 2017 budget, allocates $355 million to “direct terror funding expenditures,” according to Palestinian Media Watch, and of that $158 million goes to “salaries” for imprisoned terrorists, an increase of 13 percent above last year. Another $197 million is paid to the families of “martyrs,” as terrorists slain in the act are called, an increase of 4 percent. Rather than encourage productive citizens, the Palestinian leaders encourage acts of terrorism, including murder, as a way of life.

More than 20,000 Palestinian families receive monthly payments, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and another 500 families of “martyrs” are eligible for a free religious pilgrimage to Mecca, paid by Saudi Arabia. It’s a telling indicator of where the powers that be place their priorities, that peaceful families with incomes under the poverty line receive smaller welfare payments than killers of Jews.

Despite the flow of blood money to these killers of Jews, the U.S. State Department seems to regard Israel as the primary villain in what was once called the Holy Land. In its 2016 human rights report, the department plays down Palestinian violence and abuse. In a July 20 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Rep. Peter Roskam, Illinois Republican, says “the report wrongly insinuates Israeli security measures on the Temple Mount and a stalled peace process as key forces behind terrorism.” Citing a wave of recent attacks, Mr. Roskam observes that “President Abbas, who deemed this wave a ‘peaceful uprising,’ was a key supporter of these heinous attacks.”

The United States sends an average of $400 million annually to the Palestinian Authority, a sum more than enough for President Abbas to give $355 million to terrorists dedicated to the extermination of Israel. The Taylor Force Act, named for a U.S. Army officer fatally stabbed by a Palestinian in Israel, would prohibit such assistance until the Palestinian Authority has done something about eliminating such terrorism. Congress should act. The geopolitics of the Middle East may be complicated, but the morality of terrorism is not. It’s evil and U.S. dollars should not pay for it.

Why Israel Is Concerned About American-Russian Understandings on Syria

by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser               Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Why Israel Is Concerned About American-Russian Understandings on Syria

The agreement reached during the G-20 meetings in Hamburg between U.S. President Trump and Russian President Putin on July 7, 2017, about establishing a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria was accepted with mixed feelings in Israel.

Jerusalem, of course, welcomes stability in the southern part of Syria. But Prime Minister Netanyahu voiced concern about the agreement mainly because it focused on the de-escalation zone. It tacitly gave legitimacy to the prolonged presence of Iranian and Iranian-backed forces throughout the regions of Syria nominally controlled by the Assad regime.

Israeli doubts about this American policy will probably intensify following Trump’s decision to curtail U.S. assistance to opposition groups that were supported by the CIA.  Moreover, Israel is alarmed by recent reports about negotiations between Russia and the United States that practically allow Assad to stay in power and that guarantee a favorable division of the territory between Assad and his supporters and the forces who cooperate with the United States.

Israeli Concerns about Iran in Syria

Israel has five major concerns regarding the Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Two of them are an immediate concern. Israel regards these specific two as tripwires that if and when crossed, Israel will react. These are:

1.Iran’s ongoing effort together with its proxy Hizbullah to turn the northern part of the Golan Heights into a base from which the Iranians could launch – via their proxies – terror activities against Israel. Throughout the civil war in Syria, Israel countered Iranian efforts to establish a launching pad for terror attacks in the northern Golan Heights with the decisive reaction that foiled these attempts. Last year, it seemed that Iranians got the message, and they have been much more cautious about this idea.

2.Iran’s presence in Syria allows for the acceleration of the delivery of military equipment to Hizbullah through Syria, including the supply of “tie-breaking” weapons and weapons components, such as –

  • precision guidance for Iranian-made missiles such as the Fatah 110 and missiles with heavier payloads;
  • land-to-sea missiles produced by Iran, China, and Russia (C-704, C-802, Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missile with a 600 km range;
  • SA-22 air defense system and a wide variety of anti-aircraft missiles produced in Russia and Iran);
  • unmanned air vehicles, drones;
  • mini submarines (Ghadir type);
  • anti-tank missiles, etc.

So far, Israel has not been shy about hitting those armed shipments on Syrian territory. Recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu even admitted that Israel carried out “dozens and dozens” of such attacks. If Iran managed to solidify its presence in Syria and most of all, establish an Iranian-controlled ground corridor stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon (the “Shia Crescent”), it would be able to deliver these arms with greater safety and with fewer limits on the kinds of weapons to be delivered. In the meantime, due to ongoing Israeli interdictions, the Iranians have already embarked on building weapons production factories in Lebanon and maybe in Syria that will facilitate the supply to Hizbullah of advanced weaponry. (To some extent Iran did the same with Hamas in Gaza.)

But beyond these two well-known concerns, the Iranian presence in Syria should worry Israel for three other reasons, which are no less dangerous.

  1. Iran almost assuredly wants to turn Syria into an Iranian military base. Iran plans to build in Syria a naval base, and it may move ground forces, missiles, and maybe even aircraft to Syria so that instead of threatening Israel from 1,300 kilometers away, the Iranian forces could sit on Israel’s doorstep. This would bring about a dramatic change in the nature of the threat Israel is facing. In fact, Israel’s neighbor to the north would no longer be Syria anymore, but Iran, using a Syrian facade with impunity.
  2. An Iranian stronghold in Syria will significantly weaken the pragmatic elements in the Sunni Arab world and put the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan under threat – with its geo-strategic importance for Israel and the Sunni Arabs. This is not only a concern of Israel but of course, denies sleep from other Arab states.

5.The Iranians may take advantage of their continuous presence in Syria and Assad’s deep dependence on Iranian support for the survival of his regime and his Alawite sect to make progress on Syrian territory in their nuclear program. Under the JCPOA, the IAEA can monitor nuclear activities in Iran but has no authority to monitor Iranian activity abroad or to follow Iranian scientists. Iran may use these loopholes to conduct research and development of nuclear-related material in Syria.

As a reminder: ten years ago, Syria nearly completed a secret nuclear facility in Deir Ez-Zor with Iranian and North Korean assistance.  The facility was destroyed in September 2007.

The Russian interest in this negotiated deal reflects the Russian commitment to keep Basher al-Assad as president of Syria and to secure the ongoing presence of Russian military bases in Syria. Russia considers Iran as an irreplaceable protector of Assad. Putin is also motivated by the Russian interest in weakening radical Sunni forces that constitute the most effective elements of the opposition to Assad. Russia is also plagued by radical Sunni opposition within Russia itself. Continuous Iranian presence in Syria is a strategic interest for Moscow. In the long run, if Assad again becomes capable of standing on his own feet, the value of the Iranian presence may erode, but since this is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, the strategic alliance between Russia and Iran will remain strong.

For the Islamist regime in Iran, their interests in Syria go far beyond strategic. It is part of its ideology. The entire regime is committed to spreading its version of Islam, turning Iran into the hegemonic force of the Middle East and Muslim world and bringing about the end of the Jewish State. The taking over of Syria goes hand-in-hand with the Iranian regime’s efforts in Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the Arab world. Therefore, Iran will not show any readiness to leave Syria unless the price for staying there becomes very high.

Former U.S. President Obama granted Iran a free hand in Syria in return for the JCPOA because he believed that Iran is a force for good that may contribute to stability and help in destroying the Islamic State. He wondered why the Saudis were not ready to share power in the Middle East with the Iranians.

Trump was expected to adopt a different attitude based on his declarations that “Iran is evil” and the impression he gave that in return for allowing the Russians to keep Assad temporarily in power, he would demand from them a commitment to oust the Iranians from Syria. But the latest deal reached between Trump and Putin seems to ignore this commitment. That worries Israel not only because it allows Iran to stay with all the above-mentioned consequences, but because it casts doubt over the depth of American commitment, the ability of the Americans to deliver, or the relevance of the “Art of the Deal” to the Middle East and international politics.

Russia and the United States announced that they took Israeli security concerns into consideration. But so far it seems that only Israel’s first two concerns have been into account – possibly even only one. That leaves Israel on its own because the last three other concerns aren’t taken into account.

As always, Israel will have to take care of its interests first of all by itself. It is, therefore, no surprise that given this situation, Israel exposed its “Good Neighbor” program, under which it supplies humanitarian aid to the Syrian population in the Golan Heights. By doing so, Israel sent a message that left alone, it will find ways to protect its interests in Syria.

Israel’s bad PR: Our fault – and theirs…

By Gil Troy                  The Jerusalem Post


I recently completed a week-long, 15-lecture speaking tour in London. I was impressed by how much more connected the British Jews I met feel with one another and with Israel than do many American Jews – yet distressed by how much more beleaguered they feel, scarred by European anti-Zionism. The last question asked during my last talk addressed this blight.

The questioner wondered whether this intensifying hostility toward Israel and Zionism represented Israel’s tactical failure to defend itself effectively or the antisemites’ irrational hatred. I answered: “yes, both.” We haven’t explained ourselves well, yet our efforts are doomed. Antisemitism, the world’s longest – and hippest – hatred, persists no matter how brilliant our arguments, or selfless our actions. Anti-Zionism grew in academia, and Europe, during the Oslo peace process, when Israel was conceding territory.

True, for too long, Israel too frequently defended itself abroad with unappealing bureaucrats making heavy-handed arguments. And while Foreign Ministry advancement too often reflects one’s skills at self-promotion not national defense, Israel has sent exceptional, eloquent ambassadors to the UK. Daniel Taub, and now Mark Regev, represent a new generation of media-savvy diplomats who understand that representing Israel involves winning PR wars.

Still, while worrying about Israeli PR, I reject the Diasporist critique that particular Israeli policies “don’t do us any good” abroad. That approach reflects the victim’s obsession with the oppressor. We need Israeli policies that are good, not policies to make Israel look good.

Let’s also acknowledge the massive Jewish educational failure regarding Israel and Zionism. Most Jewish day schools excel at motivating kids to get into the right college, not motivating them to defend Israel while at college. Too many Jewish educators and parents describe Israel in such glowing terms, they neglect any problems, any complexities. They transform Israel into this perfect, and perfectly fragile, vase. The first time a professor, a roommate, an author, criticizes Israel the glass shatters for the propagandized student. Many, feeling betrayed, then turn on Israel, and the Jewish community.

Propagandists call it inoculation – introducing minor criticisms in safe frameworks fights off the “germs” of doubt. I call it education: the moral teacher is honest, and open to multi-dimensionality. I educate toward complexity, not to score propaganda points but to hew to the truth, confident that a well-balanced assessment shows that Israel, despite occasional sins, is more democratic, liberal, virtuous, than it was in the past – and than its democratic sisters have been when facing similar dilemmas.

We need a vibrant, deep, romantic yet critical educational process and explanation effort – not for others but for ourselves. This is especially because no argument will sway the bigots, whose hatred is metastasizing, fed by post-modernism and intersectionality – a system that privileges certain forms of suffering as sacrosanct but dismisses the trauma of antisemitism.

My shtetl-born grandfather Leon Gerson saw antisemites behind every tree, even in America. Born into the post-Auschwitz covenant, I disagreed, insisting: “the world learned its lesson.” I discovered how wrong I was in 2000. As soon as the Palestinians decided to turn from negotiations back to terrorism, the world blamed Israel, without giving Israel credit for its many Oslo concessions. Then, in 2002, the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, killed my illusions. “What kind of fool wanders back alleys in Pakistan while reporting about the mass murderers who supported 9/11,” my students asked me.

I was that kind of a fool. I never met Daniel Pearl but I understood him. We were both born into the post- World War II Pax Americana. He was lucky enough to go to Stanford, I, lucky enough to go to Harvard. He became a journalist, I became a professor. He worked for a world-class newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. I worked for a world-class university, McGill. We felt quadruply protected from history. I would have decided, as Pearl fatefully did, that these terrorists wanted him to tell their stories; they wouldn’t hurt him.

The Islamists kidnapped Pearl as an American – but murdered him as a Jew. They forced him, in that infamous snuff video I forced myself to watch, to say: “My mother is Jewish, my father is Jewish, I am Jewish.” Then, they cut off his head. With that, my illusions died. Antisemitism lives.

I smell the fetid smell of antisemitism in the harsh, disproportionate singling out of Israel, the blame-Israel- firsters, treating it as the Jew among nations. I see it when academic colleagues violate their core ideals, their professional standards, their commitments to liberal democracy, only to demonize Israel.

I see it when the UN, especially UNESCO, denies our history, our stories, our roots in Hebron, at the Temple Mount, in the Land of Israel, our homeland. (And asserting our rights doesn’t necessarily negate other claims. I condemn many current expressions of Palestinian nationalism, but acknowledge their collective identity).

I abhor this antisemitism and resist it. I will continue teaching our Zionist narrative, celebrating our Jewish state, refuting the lies, proving the truths. I’d rather be a romantic than a cynic. I’d rather be a truth-teller than a pop star. I’d rather be disliked than dead. Golda Meir said “you can’t be a Zionist and a pessimist.”

I am a Zionist, and I am an educator, which means, instinctively, I am an optimist and an idealist too, despite the world’s hippest and longest hatred.