Evelyn Gordon: Syria is the wrong issue for a pro-Israel fight with Trump
This brings us to the second reason why a pro-Israel fight with Trump over Syria seems counterproductive. Though Israel benefited significantly from the American troop presence in Syria, its most pressing needs are diplomatic support in general and support for its ability to defend itself in particular. And on both, Trump remains a vast improvement over his predecessor.
Granted, Israel hasn’t fought any wars since he took office, so there’s no guarantee of how he would act. But there’s no reason to think that he wouldn’t provide the needed support, given his administration’s staunch defense of Israel at the United Nations to date.
In contrast, Israel did fight a war while Barack Obama was president, so it knows what it’s like to be without American support. During the 2014 Gaza war, Obama’s administration famously refused to resupply Israel with Hellfire missiles. It sought to pressure Israel into a cease-fire agreement that met all of Hamas’s demands and none of Israel’s. It issued an endless stream of condemnations of Israel during the fighting, rather than supporting Israel’s right to self-defense against the thousands of rockets Hamas fired at Israeli cities.
Then, in 2016, Obama also stripped Israel of America’s diplomatic protection. The U.N. Security Council resolution against the settlements, which he allowed to pass, laid the groundwork for international sanctions against Israel and even prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
And that’s without even mentioning the minor detail that it was Obama who abandoned Syria to Iran and Russia to begin with. Tehran financed its massive Syrian intervention with the billions of dollars it reaped from Obama’s flagship act of diplomacy, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. And Moscow entered the Syrian war only after waiting more than three years to make sure that America wasn’t planning to get involved. By the time Trump took office, Russian-Iranian domination of Syria was a fait accompli to which America’s scant 2,000 troops could make little difference.
None of this justifies the Syria withdrawal. It’s a terrible idea, and not only, or even primarily, because Israel benefited from having American troops blocking Iran’s long-desired land route through Syria to Lebanon. It further empowers Russia, Turkey and Iran—none of which wish America (or Israel) well. It also may enable a resurgence of the Islamic State, just as America’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 did. Abandoning the Kurds to Turkey’s tender mercies after they have been America’s best foot soldiers against the Islamic State for years is not only a moral crime, but a strategic one, as it will undermine America’s ability to recruit local allies in the future. And America will save little in terms of either lives or money by ending this low-cost, low-casualty mission.
But from a pro-Israel perspective, none of this changes two basic facts. First, there are things Israel needs from Trump more than troops in Syria. And second, asking America to keep soldiers anywhere for Israel’s sake violates a sine qua non of both the Israeli ethos and the bilateral alliance—that Israel defends itself by itself.
As Abbas’ Fatah Movement celebrates its 54th anniversary, its dominant messages to its people are celebration of 54 years of violence together with the promise of more violence in the future. Fatah is declaring to Palestinians once again, similar to what Palestinian Media Watch documented in previous years, that Fatah has not and will never “drop the rifle” or abandon terror – what it euphemistically calls “the armed struggle.”
The image of the rifle is the main theme of this year’s celebrations. In the picture above, which Fatah posted on its official Facebook page, two young girls holding assault rifles are shown leading a march of uniformed men, who are also holding assault rifles.
This picture also posted by Fatah includes four assault rifles. In addition to the large rifle, one is part of the logo of the 54th anniversary, and two are in Fatah’s regular logo in the upper left.
Fatah’s posted text promises more violence: “We will not relinquish our right to resist the occupier using all available ways and means.” The expression “all ways and means,” particularly when accompanied with the rifles is a reiteration of Fatah’s promise of continued violence and terror.
Text on image: “The Palestinian National Liberation Movement – Fatah Long live the anniversary of the outbreak of the Palestinian revolution Jan. 1, 1965” [Official Fatah Facebook page, Dec. 27, 2018]
Another post which Fatah labeled “The official logo of the 54th anniversary,” includes the four most important symbols for the PA and Fatah. The first is the map that includes all of Israel covered by the colors of the Palestinian flag symbolizing future destruction of Israel and Palestinian rule over all the land. The second symbol is once again the rifle in the center. The third symbol is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The fourth is the key symbolizing the future “return” of Palestinian “refugees” to the homes they claim in Israel. [Official Fatah Facebook page, Dec. 26, 2018]
Taking a step back, ethnic cleansing is, generally speaking, an organized attempt by an ethnic or religious group to remove a different ethnic or religious group from a given area or territory through expulsion or murder. The PA forbids the sale of land to Jews, encourages and rewards the murder of Jews, and refuses to accept the existence of a Jewish homeland. It endorses attacks, both physical and political, against Jewish civilian communities in the West Bank (i.e., Israeli settlements), and has refused multiple peace offers from Israel to become a state. The clear logical conclusion is that the PA wants no Jews in a future Palestine. How is this not an attempt at ethnic cleansing?
Accusations of ethnic cleansing against Israel, however, would be laughable if they were not so vile, so full of visceral hatred. Such claims are also obviously false and easily refuted. First, 1.878 million Arabs currently live in Israel, 20.9 percent of the country’s total population. These Arabs enjoy full rights as Israeli citizens, living in a thriving democracy. Many even take to the streets to protest Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, without fear of punishment. Moreover, recent polls indicate that the Arabs will again have the third largest party in the next Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Ethnic cleansing would mean expelling or killing Arabs, not embracing them.
In the West Bank, Palestinians effectively run and control their own government. Yet many Palestinians still try to work in Israel, where they earn much higher wages. Furthermore, by all estimates, the Arab population in the Palestinian territories has skyrocketed since the founding of Israel in 1948—in other words, literally the exact opposite of ethnic cleaning or genocide. In fact, the Palestinians themselves claim that Arabs will soon outnumber Jews in the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Regardless of the truth of such claims, victims of ethnic cleansing would not make them in the first place.
So next time someone accuses Israel of committing ethnic cleansing, ask a very simple question in response: What about the Palestinians?
Caroline Glick: The next stop on my Zionist journey
When I was 12 years old, my family took our first trip outside the United States.
We came to Israel on a two-week family tour. It was July 1982. The Lebanon War had just begun. In retrospect, it was the first step on what has become my lifelong Zionist journey.
I was moved by everything I saw. The IDF soldiers hitchhiking home for leave from the battlefields in Lebanon looked like movie stars. Ma’aleh Adumim, now a major city, was a clutch of mobile homes in the desert but the gleam in the eyes of the settlers showed the promise of what was to come.
The markets of Jerusalem, the beaches in Tel Aviv, the shells of Syrian tanks on the Golan Heights and the fish in the Sea of Galilee captivated my imagination.
The Western Wall awoke me to the immutable fact that the Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Law of Israel are indivisible.
Hearing Hebrew, the language of prayer shouted out from every corner filled me with awe. And seeing the multiethnic society of Jews from every corner of the world shook me to my core. After two thousand years, in an act of will with no parallel in human history, Jews of all races, backgrounds, and cultures; Jews with unique, fervently kept traditions came home and began patching together a people forcibly separated for 50 generations.
During that first trip to Israel, I understood that the future of the Jewish people was being forged in Israel, not in the Diaspora, not even in my warm community on the south side of Chicago.
I loved America. But I wanted to move to Israel.
Danon said that the Palestinians were shocked by the results, and saw that the UN General Assembly – for so long their “home field” – is no longer “absolutely in their hands.”
“They understand that they no longer have carte blanche, and that we can fight back,” he said. He added that the Palestinian delegation at the UN waged a huge campaign to keep the resolution from being adopted, including closely working with Hamas, Iran and Turkey.
Despite the setback in that vote, however, Danon said the Palestinians have announced that they will once against seek full membership in the United Nations, something that needs to pass the Security Council.
In 2014 they tried a similar maneuver, but it failed when they were unable to get the nine votes needed for a resolution to pass the Security Council. Israel and the US worked hard to prevent the Palestinians from getting those nine votes, so that the US – which, along with the four other permanent members on the council, has veto power – would not have to use its veto and show that they were isolated on this matter.
Danon said that the Trump administration has less qualms than the Obama administration did about using its veto, and would almost certainly use it against this measure. While the Obama administration used its veto only once in the Security Council to block an anti-settlement resolution in 2011 (it let another pass in 2016), the Trump administration has already used the veto twice – in December 2017 to block a resolution condemning the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and in June when it blocked a resolution condemning Israel for violence in Gaza.
But if the Palestinians know the measure has no chance of passing, why are they going through the motions? To put the issue back on the public agenda, Danon said, to make sure that people continue to talk about it in capitals around the world.
In other words, to stay relevant – something Danon will also have to figure out how to do politically, once his term as ambassador to the UN ends, and since he has now opted out of competing for the next Knesset.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has confirmed he will move his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and said the main nation objecting to that is Iran, not Arab countries.
Bolsonaro, speaking in an interview to SBT television late Thursday, said: “The decision is taken, it’s only a matter of when it will be implemented.”
The comment confirmed a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Brazil this week to attend Bolsonaro’s January 1 investiture.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former paratrooper intent on forging close ties with the US and Israel, signaled before taking office that he planned to follow President Donald Trump’s lead in moving Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the Trump administration has helped facilitate cooperation between Israel and a number of Arab countries with which it has no diplomatic ties.
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Pompeo was asked whether the unofficial anti-Iran alliance between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan could lead to a major peace breakthrough.
“Undoubtedly. We have set the conditions in the Middle East where these countries are now working together across multiple fronts,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo did not specify the nature of this cooperation, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed the development of clandestine ties with unnamed Arab states and noted their shared hostility to Iran.
The only Arab countries Israel currently has formal relations with are Egypt and Jordan, though Netanyahu visited the Gulf sultanate of Oman last year and said further diplomatic openings were in the works.
Reports in recent years have indicated the establishment of close security ties between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which — like Jerusalem — view Iran as its main nemesis in the Middle East.
In the interview, Pompeo also addressed Trump’s abrupt announcement last month that he would pull out all US troops from Syria, a move that has sparked concerns in Israel of an emboldened Iran.
“We’re still going to be able to effectively, with those partners, counter the threat from ISIS in the region and we’ll do it without those 2,000 soldiers on the ground,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State jihadist group and without mentioning Iran’s presence in Syria.
“We haven’t changed our policy about continuing to make sure there is no ISIS resurgence and we’re just going to do it in a way that is smarter and better, and we can do that because of the alliances that President Trump has built,” Pompeo added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the planned US withdrawal from Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, the Kremlin said.
The leaders stressed the need to strengthen military and diplomatic cooperation in Syria during the phone call, which was initiated by Netanyahu.
“The discussion focused on developments in Syria, including in light of the United States’ plans to withdraw its troops from that country,” the Kremlin said according to TASS.
The two leaders agreed on the need to “defeat terrorism and speedy achievement of a political settlement in Syria.”
“To that end, the parties reaffirmed their mutual determination to strengthen coordination through military and diplomatic channels,” it said.
Netanyahu’s office later confirmed the call, saying that Netanyahu told Putin that “Israel is determined to continue its efforts to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.”
Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin: Our Strategic Goal Is to End the Global Hegemony of the U.S. Dollar pic.twitter.com/pC7586NXrP
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) January 4, 2019
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Thursday he was advised to normalize ties with Israel in a bid to help to stabilize the growing domestic unrest that is threatening his iron-fisted rule of the country.
Bashir made the remarks during a meeting with Sufi leaders in the capital Khartoum held to discuss the violence and clashes throughout Sudan in recent weeks that have seen at least 19 protesters killed, according to Turkey’s Andalou Agency.
The president did not specify who gave him the advice, but told the religious leaders he believed that “sustenance is in the hands of God,” according to the report.
The Thursday meeting comes after nearly two weeks of clashes that initially began in protest of rising bread prices but have rapidly evolved into anti-government rallies. The rallies have grown across Sudan in recent weeks, with at least 19 anti-government protesters killed. Human Rights group Amnesty International said 34 protesters have been killed in that time, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an investigation into the violence.
Israel has long been wary of Sudan, which was traditionally seen as close to Iran. However, in early 2017, Khartoum joined Sunni Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in severing its ties with the Islamic Republic.
The Taub Center reports that the employment rate among Arab women rose 3.8% in 2018.
The most prominent trend in the labor market in 2018 was a steep rise in employment among Israeli Arab women, a report by written by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies president Avi Weiss and researcher Hadas Fuchs has found. The employment rate of Israeli Arab women has risen by 3.8% since the beginning of 2018, following a 2.5% increase in 2017. The employment rate among Arab women is now nearing 40%, two years ahead of the target set for 2020 and getting closer to the employment rate among haredi (Jewish ultra-Orthodox) men. The report attributes the increase to higher education levels among Arab women, a trend that has continued since the beginning of the decade.
Another important, albeit less surprising, point highlighted in the report is that the population group that has derived most of the benefit from the prosperity in the Israeli high-tech sector is non-haredi Jewish men. Employment figures show that the proportion of people in this group employment in high tech rose from 8% to 15% in the course of a decade, compared with 7% among non-haredi Jewish women, 3% among haredi Jewish women, and less than 2% among haredi men and Arab women and men.
A photo published December 27, 2018 showed Jordanian Information Minister and government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat stepping on an Israeli flag painted on the floor of the entrance to the Trade Unions Complex in Amman. The trade unions are known for their hostility to Israel and opposition to the Jordan-Israel peace agreement. It should be mentioned that Jordanian Prime Minister ‘Omar Al-Razzaz, who attended the same meeting as the minister, entered the complex through a side entrance.
In response to Israel’s protests over the incident, Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Qatarneh said that the trade union building was a private venue and that the minister had entered it through the main gate, while stressing that the Jordanian government is committed to the peace agreement with Israel.
Following the publication of the photo, Minister Ghunaimat received supportive reactions from Jordanian politicians and journalists as well as from individuals on social media, and MPs greeted her with applause when she arrived for a December 30 parliamentary session. MP Khalil Attiya even wrote on his Facebook account: “Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat represents me and every self-respecting Jordanian and Arab, who would be happy to trample the flag of the murdering Zionists…” Articles in the Jordanian press likewise praised the minister’s action, and a January 1, 2019 article in the daily Al-Dustour was headlined “May Your Foot Be Blessed.”
However, amid the numerous supportive responses, former Jordanian information minister Saleh Al-Qallab expressed a different position in his January 1, 2019 column in the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai. Criticizing Ghunaimat’s action, he wrote that what she did should never have happened, because it was a violation of the Jordan-Israel peace agreement freely signed by Jordan – and on the part of a minister in a senior position in the country. He added that had such an incident taken place in Israel, with the Jordanian flag dishonored in such a way, Jordan would have “raised hell against Israel” and threatened to suspend diplomatic relations with it.
A top Jordanian unionist has said Israeli flags will be drawn on the ground of all entrances to Jordan’s Professional Unions complex in Amman as well as its satellite offices around the country.
“We will draw the flag on all entrances to the complex in Amman and its branch offices in the provinces,” Ibrahim al-Tarawneh, the head of the Jordanian Dentists Union, told the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour in an interview published on Thursday.
Last week, a photo published on the Jordanian website Jfranews showed Jordanian Information Minister Jumana Ghneimat stepping on a large image of the Israeli flag as she made her way through the main entrance to the Professional Unions complex.
While the main entrance of the complex featured an image of an Israeli flag plastered on to the ground, its other entrances did not as of earlier this week.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it had filed a protest to the Jordanian government over the incident.
TV Report: Jordanian Public Supports Minister Who Walked over Israeli Flag pic.twitter.com/0gRPX8QiWZ
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) January 4, 2019
Egypt’s president has confirmed that Israel is helping Egyptian troops battle jihadists in the restive Sinai Peninsula.
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told CBS News that cooperation between Cairo and Jerusalem was tighter than it had ever been, in comments published late Thursday.
“That is correct… We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis,” he told the US news outlet when asked if the military coordination between the countries was closer than it had ever been.
The comments came during an interview with the channel’s “60 Minutes” program that is slated to air Sunday evening. According to CBS, Sissi has subsequently demanded that the interview be pulped, apparently over questions about human rights abuses and the deaths of protesters, but the channel has insisted it will be shown nonetheless.
In February, The New York Times reported that Israel was covertly carrying out a full-blown aerial campaign against Islamic State targets in Sinai, with Sissi’s blessing. The Israeli aircraft are reportedly often unmarked and sometimes use indirect routes in a bid to cover up the origin of the strikes.
The IDF is preparing to deploy a fleet of small drones to combat the use of incendiary kites and balloons by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Thursday.
Incendiary devices, though crude, have caused millions of shekels in damage in the Gaza border area since Hamas-orchestrated riots began there last March.
According to Walla, the IDF on Wednesday began a series of tests with small drones designed to thwart the threat.
The relatively small drones are hovering models that employ multiple rotors to stay airborne. They will be used both to locate incoming balloons and to destroy them. After the balloons are identified, a drone operator will direct their drone to the devices and blow them up before they reach Israeli territory.
Some 10,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests along the Gaza border on Friday, burning tires and hurling rocks and explosive devices at IDF soldiers.
The army said it foiled two attempts to breach the border fence and was responding to the demonstrators with tear gas and live fire in accordance with rules of engagement.
Photos showed several youths trying to climb over the fence.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 15 protesters were injured by live fire in clashes with Israeli security forces along the border. It also said five medics were hurt, all hit by gas canisters.
The ministry “condemns the Israeli occupation forces’ violations against medical personnel,” it said in a statement that cam days after a New York Times report into the killing of a female Palestinian medic in June.
The report found that IDF troops likely fired into a group of protesters and medical personnel who posed no threat to them.
The IDF said the army’s internal investigations body was “probing to clarify the reasons behind the death of Razan al-Najjar. The results of the investigation will be sent to the military advocate general upon their completion.”
The Iranian navy will send warships to deploy in the Atlantic from March, a top commander said on Friday, as the Islamic Republic seeks to increase the operating range of its naval forces to the backyard of the United States, its arch foe.
Iran sees the presence of US aircraft carriers in the Gulf as a security concern and its navy has sought to counter that by showing the flag near American waters.
A flotilla will leave for the Atlantic early in the Iranian new year, starting from March, Iran‘s naval deputy commander said.
“The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
He said Sahand, a newly-built destroyer, would be one of the warships. Sahand has a flight deck for helicopters and Iran says it is equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and has electronic warfare capabilities.
Hassani said in December that Iran would soon send two to three vessels on a mission to Venezuela.
A senior Iranian military official said last month that the navy could sail in the Atlantic near American waters since US aircraft carriers were allowed to move around in international waters near Iran.
US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has called out Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif online, accusing him of hypocrisy in a New Year’s tweet.
Zarif tweeted, “Wishing everyone across the globe — from all races, religions and ethnicities — a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.”
“Let us all resolve to ensure that no innocent man, woman or child is killed or starved due to conflict, terror, aggression and coercion in 2019,” Zarif added.
Grenell retweeted Zarif, with the comment, “From the Regime who pushes gays off buildings, plans terrorist attacks in Europe & won’t allow their people free access to the internet. #fakewishes #sanctionsareworking.”
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) January 1, 2019
Kuwait rejected the opportunity to co-host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar because the country did not want to comply with FIFA regulations, where it would have to allow all nationalities to enter the country, according to Israeli and Kuwaiti media.
“It is difficult to apply some of the major Fifa conditions in Kuwait, most notably allowing all nationalities … to enter the country or to issue visas upon arrival. Fifa rules prohibit banning the entry of any nationality, whether they are members of the teams or fans,” KFA President Shaikh Ahmad Yussef said to Al Rai, a Kuwaiti daily newspaper.
Yussef was likely referring to Israel, as Israel and Qatar have no diplomatic relations.
Kuwait also listed other reasons hosting would be problematic, including dealing with alcohol permits and allowing certain advertisements in Kuwaiti stadiums.
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