Posts Tagged ‘Jewish state’

Why Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter rivals

November 18, 2017
  • 18 November 2017
Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. REUTERS/EPA

Saudi Arabia and Iran are at loggerheads. They have long been rivals, but it’s all recently got a lot more tense. Here’s why.

How come Saudi Arabia and Iran don’t get along?

Saudi Arabia and Iran – two powerful neighbours – are locked in a fierce struggle for regional dominance.

The decades-old feud between them is exacerbated by religious differences. They each follow one of the two main sects in Islam – Iran is largely Shia Muslim, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leading Sunni Muslim power.

Map showing Sunni distribution in Middle East

This religious schism is reflected in the wider map of the Middle East, where other countries have Sunni or Shia majorities, some of whom look towards Iran or Saudi Arabia for support or guidance.

Historically Saudi Arabia, a monarchy and home to the birthplace of Islam, saw itself as the leader of the Muslim world. However this was challenged in 1979 by the Islamic revolution in Iran which created a new type of state in the region – a kind of theocracy – that had an explicit goal of exporting this model beyond its own borders.

Map showing Shia distribution in Middle East

In the past 15 years in particular, the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been sharpened by a series of events.

The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq overthrew Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab who had been a major Iranian adversary. This removed a crucial military counter-weight to Iranian influence in Iraq, which has been rising since then.


Fast-forward to 2011 and uprisings across the Arab world caused political instability throughout the region. Iran and Saudi Arabia exploited these upheavals to expand their influence, notably in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, further heightening mutual suspicions.

Iran’s critics say it is intent on establishing itself or its proxies across the region, and achieve control of a land corridor stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean.

How have things suddenly got worse?

The strategic rivalry is heating up because Iran is in many ways winning the regional struggle.

In Syria, Iranian (and Russian) support for President Bashar al-Assad has largely routed rebel group groups backed by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is trying desperately to contain rising Iranian influence and the militaristic adventurism of the kingdom’s young and impulsive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the country’s de facto ruler – is exacerbating regional tensions.

Five things about Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

He is waging a war against rebels in Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour, Yemen, in part to stem perceived Iranian influence there, but after nearly three years this is proving a costly gamble.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, many observers believe the Saudis put pressure on the prime minister to resign in order to destabilise a country where Iran’s ally, Shia militia group Hezbollah, leads a politically powerful bloc and controls a huge, heavily armed fighting force.

There are also external forces at play. Saudi Arabia has been emboldened by support from the Trump administration while Israel, which sees Iran as a mortal threat, is in a sense “backing” the Saudi effort to contain Iran.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (left), Salman bin Adbulaziz (centre) and Donald Trump put their hands on an illuminated globe, Riyadh (21/05/17)

The Jewish state is fearful of the encroachment of pro-Iranian fighters in Syria ever closer to its border. EPA photo

Israel and Saudi Arabia were the two countries most resolutely opposed to the 2015 international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programme, insisting that it did not go far enough to roll back any chance of Iran obtaining the bomb.

Who are their regional allies?

Broadly speaking the strategic map of the Middle East reflects the Shia-Sunni divide.

Map showing who supports whom

In the pro-Saudi camp are the other major Sunni actors in the Gulf – the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, as well as Egypt and Jordan.

In the Iranian camp is Syria’s government, which has been strongly backed by Iran, and where pro-Iranian Shia militia groups, including the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, have played a prominent role in fighting predominantly Sunni rebel groups.

The Shia-dominated Iraqi government is also a close ally of Iran, though paradoxically it also retains a close relationship with Washington on whom it has depended for help in the struggle against so-called Islamic State.

How is the Saudi-Iranian rivalry being played out?

This is in many ways a regional equivalent of the Cold War, which pitted the US against the Soviet Union in a tense military standoff for many years.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are not directly fighting but they are engaged in a variety of proxy wars around the region.

Syria is an obvious example while in Yemen Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of supplying ballistic missiles fired at Saudi territory by the Shia Houthi rebel movement – an incident which heightened the war of words between the two countries.

Houthi rebels in Sanaa (file photo)
Yemen is one of a number of battlegrounds fuelling Iranian-Saudi tensions. Reuters photo

But having become bogged down in Yemen and essentially defeated in Syria, Saudi Arabia seems to have its eye on Lebanon as the next proxy battlefield.

Lebanon risks being tipped into Syria-like chaos but few analysts see Saudi interests prevailing there.

Conflict in Lebanon could so easily draw in Israel in opposition to Hezbollah and this could lead to a third Israel-Lebanon war far more devastating than any of the previous encounters.

Some cynics wonder if the Saudi crown prince’s game plan is to trigger a war between Israel and Hezbollah and deliver a heavy blow to the group this way!

Are we heading towards a direct war between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

So far Tehran and Riyadh have fought via proxies. Neither is really geared up for a direct war with the other but one successful rocket attack on the Saudi capital from Yemen could upset the apple cart.

Will Saudi Arabia go to war with Iran?

One obvious area where they could come into direct conflict is in the waters of the Gulf, where they face each other across a maritime border.

But here too fighting could risk a much broader conflict. For the US and other Western powers, freedom of navigation in the Gulf is essential and any conflict that sought to block the waterway – vital for international shipping and oil transportation – could easily draw in US naval and air forces.

Graphic showing military balance between Saudi Arabia and Iran

For a long time the US and its allies have seen Iran as a destabilising force in the Middle East. The Saudi leadership increasingly sees Iran as an existential threat and the crown prince seems willing to take whatever action he sees necessary, wherever he deems it necessary, to confront Tehran’s rising influence.

The danger is that Saudi Arabia’s new activism is fast making it a further source of volatility in the region.


Killing of the Innocents — Many have lost sight of “moral obligations”

October 5, 2017

By Charles Gardner

Israel Today

As the earth is ravaged by an unprecedented series of natural disasters, accompanied with threats of war and terror, world leaders have been presented with a heavenly vision.

In challenging the “fake history” of those who deny Jewish links with Israel’s holiest sites, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has sounded a clarion call for the United Nations to acknowledge the divine authority of the world’s greatest book – the Bible.

Three times he referenced the Bible in a powerful speech to the UN in which he claimed that Israel’s right to exist and prosper as a nation rooted in God’s Word.

Referring to July’s declaration of Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs as a Palestinian World Heritage site, he said you won’t read the true facts of its history in the latest UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report.

“But you can read about it in a somewhat weightier publication – it’s called the Bible,” he mocked, adding that it was “a great read”, that he read it every week, and that they could purchase it from Amazon.

How refreshing that at least one nation’s leader takes his stand on the Bible, though it is entirely appropriate as Bibi leads the people who gave it to us! As well as a sacred book written by divine authority, it is also an historical record which validates Israel’s claim to the Promised Land they now occupy.

But in making such a divine claim for the territory, Bibi must also seek to apply the Law – that is, the Lord’s teaching on ethical matters – to his domain.

He is right in saying that the words of the prophet Isaiah – that God called Israel to be a light to the nations – is being fulfilled as the tiny Jewish state becomes a rising power. But their call “to bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49.6) must mean more than hi-tech innovation and being good neighbours through their search-and-rescue teams sent to disaster areas and medics tending to wounded Syrians on their northern border, though we praise God for all that.

Israel is nevertheless rife with immorality – and I am thinking particularly about abortion, a killing of innocents that echoes previous turning points in Israel’s (and the world’s) history at the time of Moses and of Jesus. I appreciate that its practice in modern Israel is less prevalent than in most parts of the West, but some 650,000 children have nevertheless been denied life in a country that gave God’s law to the world, including the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’.

In the UK, shockingly, nine million babies have been murdered in the 50 years since the passing of the Abortion Act, originally designed to prevent backstreet abortions and meant to apply only where a mother’s life was threatened. Now it is virtually a case of abortion on demand as further calls are made for relaxing the law. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Lesley Regan believes terminations should be the same as any other medical procedure, requiring consent from only one doctor, just as if they were having a bunion removed. But the fact that 650 doctors have signed a petition against it is very encouraging.

Paradoxically, the killing of innocents has accompanied the greatest rescues mankind has witnessed. Moses survived the edict of the Egyptian Pharaoh calling for the slaughter of all Hebrew babies to lead his people out of slavery to the Promised Land. Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, survived King Herod’s massacre of infants – ironically by fleeing with his family to Egypt in response to God’s warning – to bring salvation to the world through his sacrificial death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem.

Moses also received the Law of God; now Jesus writes the Law on our hearts (Ezekiel 36.26, Jeremiah 31.33). Moses was hidden among the bulrushes of the Nile and became the saviour of his people; Jesus was raised in the backwaters of Nazareth but became the Saviour of the world as he brought true freedom to all who would trust in his redeeming blood (John 8.36).

My colleague, Clifford Denton, tells me of a conference held in Israel in 1996 at which Messianic leaders gathered to discuss the Jewish roots of Christianity. “Unknown to me until afterwards,” he said, “it turned out that the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) was voting on an abortion law at the very same time that we were discussing Torah (the Law of Moses). In fact the Knesset was struck by lightning at that very time.”

With innocents around the world being butchered as never before, the Messiah is about to be revealed to the nations. Jesus indicated that his coming again would be as in the days of Noah (Luke 17.26) when the world was full of violence (Genesis 6.13). Terrorism stalks the planet as unbelievable cruelty mars even supposedly enlightened societies while nuclear holocausts have become a distinct possibility, with both North Korea and Iran making ominous noises. And all this while nations reel under the ferocious effects of earthquakes and hurricanes – also spoken of as signs of the Messiah’s imminent return (Luke 21.25-28), especially when they follow in rapid succession and increasing severity, as on a woman with labour pains. (Matthew 24.8)

Of the three major Jewish feasts, Jesus has fulfilled both Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost). Many Bible commentators believe he will soon fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles (shortly to be celebrated throughout the Jewish world) when he returns to reign from Jerusalem. The One who protects his people, and provides for them, as he did in the wilderness so long ago, will finally bring in the harvest of those who believe in him as he comes to ‘tabernacle’ (or live/make his dwelling) among us. (See John 1.14)

The day is coming – very soon, it seems – when the killing of the innocents will give way to the glorious return of the Son of Man “coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21.27) to avenge every wrong as he passes judgment on a cruel world.

Israel – you are truly called to be a light to the nations, and indeed you have impressed so far with many marvellous inventions. But the brightest light is the fulfillment of the Law through Yeshua HaMashiach, who brings hope, not despair; and life, not death.

Netanyahu under fire after reneging on Western Wall deal

June 26, 2017


© AFP / by Mike Smith | Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men (L) and women (R) pray in different sections of the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 2, 2016

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel’s shelving of a deal to allow mixed-gender prayers at the Western Wall echoed far beyond religion Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused of abandoning reform efforts for political gain.

Netanyahu’s cabinet voted Sunday to back out of the hard-won deal, provoking a flood of criticism and warnings it could damage Israel’s relationship with the United States’ influential Jewish community.

That followed pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who are part of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition and follow a strict interpretation of religious rules.

Such parties have often played a kingmaker role in Israeli politics and have opposed years of efforts by more liberal Jews to win equal rights for women at the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

Women and men currently pray in separate areas at the site in Jerusalem’s Old City, where religious affairs are overseen by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox establishment.

A compromise reached more than a year ago would have created a third space near the wall, open to both women and men.

Sunday’s cabinet vote froze the deal — effectively cancelling it — despite the government having earlier endorsed it.

In a sign of the tensions the decision provoked, the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental organisation that helped mediate the deal, heavily criticised the move and cancelled an event with Netanyahu scheduled for Monday evening in response.

Yair Lapid, an opposition figure and leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said the decision meant Israel was “the only democracy in the world without equality for Jews.”

“Did Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ministers decide to cancel the framework because they thought it was the right thing for the people of Israel?” Lapid said on his Facebook page.

“Of course not. They did it because the only thing which motivates them is political pressure.”

Netanyahu had not publicly commented on the decision.

His coalition, seen as the most right-wing in Israel’s history, holds 66 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

Ultra-Orthodox parties control 13 of the coalition’s seats. Some 10 percent of Israel’s population are considered ultra-Orthodox.

– ‘One Western Wall’ –

The Western Wall, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is venerated by Jews as a remnant of a wall supporting the Second Temple complex, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.

Israel’s cabinet initially approved the mixed prayer plan in January 2016 after careful negotiations.

It was however never implemented, as ultra-Orthodox parties, under pressure from their supporters, moved to block it.

A case being examined by Israel’s top court has put pressure on ultra-Orthodox parties to move to have the deal revoked.

The supreme court is expected to rule soon on a petition filed by more liberal religious movements to force the government to implement the agreement and create the mixed prayer space.

Sunday’s move to back out of the deal prompted anger among Jewish movements in the United States, home to more than five million Jews, most of whom are not Orthodox.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to say ‘no’ to his previous ‘yes’ is an unconscionable insult to the majority of world Jewry,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the US-based Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement.

It is a sensitive issue for Israel, which relies on the United States as its most important ally, providing it with strong diplomatic support and more than $3 billion (2.7 billion euros) per year in defence aid.

Many Israelis see support from Jewish communities in the United States and worldwide as essential.

“We cannot let narrow-minded politicking threaten the unity of the Jewish people,” Yohanan Plesner, president of the respected Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said in a statement.

“If we expect Jews abroad to support the state of Israel, we must also ensure their religious equality. Israel’s national security is at stake.”

But for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox establishment, changes such as mixed prayer betray Jewish tradition.

“There was and shall remain one Western Wall to one people,” Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party told army radio.

“I won’t accept attempts to impose a different Jewish law or Torah.”

by Mike Smith

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to help broker Middle East peace

June 22, 2017

Mr Kushner holds separate talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

By Alexandra Wilts Washington DC
The Independent


White House senior adviser Jared Kushner AP

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, has met Israeli and Palestinian leaders with the aim of helping revive a US effort for a peace deal.

A former real estate developer with little experience in international diplomacy, Mr Kushner met the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to Ramallah, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, for a late-night meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Jared Kushner with Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Getty Images)

Mr Netanyahu warmly greeted Mr Kushner with a smile and hug. “This is an opportunity to pursue our common goals of security, prosperity and peace,” Mr Netanyahu said. “The President sends his best regards and it’s an honour to be here with you,” Mr Kushner replied.

Mr Kushner’s trip follows the President’s visit to the region last month, when Mr Trump also had discussions with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Appearing at a press conference with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Mr Trump declared that the Palestinians are “ready to reach for peace”.

Mr Kushner played a key part in planning Mr Trump’s stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Rome during the President’s tour abroad. The 36-year-old also appears to be taking on a more public role in his father-in-law’s administration, giving his first public remarks as a White House adviser this week.

The President has tasked Mr Kushner with the ambitious goal of laying the groundwork for what he calls the “ultimate deal,” but significant obstacles remain

This month marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Mideast war — a seminal event in which Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians claim these territories for their future independent state. Mr Netanyahu opposes a return to the 1967 lines and also rejects any division of Jerusalem. The eastern part of the city, which the Palestinians claim as their capital, is home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

The White House appeared to play down expectations for a breakthrough ahead of the visit, saying that “forging a historic peace agreement will take time” and that Mr Kushner and envoy envoy Jason Greenblatt will likely make “many visits” to the region.

For now, the United States is expected to pressure each side to make goodwill gestures in hopes of improving the overall climate.

Mr Greenblatt landed in Israel on Monday for preliminary talks in both Jerusalem and Ramallah, and will also remain for follow-up discussions after Mr Kushner has left.

“Part of it is to figure out how to make incremental change that results in a lasting peace,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said on Monday. “Part of this is really to utilise the trust that has been built up, and not have these negotiations out in public. But I think that they had a very successful visit when the President was over there, and they’re going to continue to build on that.”

For more than 20 years, the US has pushed for a “two-state solution”, meaning an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side and at peace with Israel.

But during a February meeting with Mr Netanyahu in Washington DC, Mr Trump declared that he was not fixed on two states saying, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like”.

Discussions over a peace deal will mean putting pressure on Israel to restrain its construction of settlements on occupied lands sought by the Palestinians. It also could mean working with Israel to take new steps to help improve the struggling Palestinian economy, such as easing restrictions to allow more development of West Bank lands.

However, hours before Mr Kushner’s arrival in Israel for his 20-hour vist, Mr Netanyahu announced the beginning of construction on a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank, despite the White House’s position that “further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace”. In the past, the Palestinians have called for a stop to settlement building before any peace negotiations can occur.

“This is the way Mr Netanyahu is meeting Trump’s envoys,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian official told Reuters. “The real question here is will the administration of Trump tell Israel that it is enough and they have to stop immediately all settlement activities, or they will accept this Israeli provocation?”

Mr Netanyahu had vowed to compensate the residents of Amona with a new settlement, after their previous illegally built outpost was dismantled in February under orders from the Supreme Court.

As for the Palestinians, they are under pressure to halt what Israel sees as incitement to violence in their official media, speeches and social media.

Israel has also demanded that the Palestinians stop making welfare payments to families of militants who are either imprisoned or were killed while committing attacks on Israelis. Israel says the so-called “Martyrs’ Fund” provides an incentive for Palestinian violence.

After arriving early on Wednesday Mr Kushner paid a condolence visit to the grieving family of a young female Israeli police officer who was killed by Palestinian attackers last weekend in Jerusalem. Mr Kushner said Mr Trump asked him to personally convey the condolences of the American people.

Reuters contributed to this report 

Can a Corrupt, Dysfunctional, Anti-Semitic Palestinaian Authority Leadership Be a Partner?

May 7, 2017
MAY 7, 2017 17:28


Speaking at the JPost annual summit, Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz laid out two conditions that should be met before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resume.

 Image may contain: 1 person, suit and text

Yuval Steinitz at the JPost Annual Conference 2017 . (photo credit:SIVAN FARAG)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political ally, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz called Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas “anti-Semitic” in an address at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York.

Steinitz said Trump’s upcoming visit to Jerusalem was a golden opportunity to strengthen the alliance of Israel and the US. But he warned Trump against relying on Abbas.

Trump Abbas

Donald Trump welcomes Mahmoud Abbas to White House in Washington , May 3, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

“An anti-Semitic leader is no partner for peace,” Steinitz said. “We always hope to achieve peace and security with our neighbors. But I question whether Abbas can be trusted as a partner to achieve peace and security. Can a corrupt, dysfunctional, anti-Semitic Palestinian Authority become a partner to achieve peace?”

Abbas must terminate anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment in the Palestinian Authority’s education system, Steinitz stressed.

As the situation stands today, Steinitz continued, Palestinian children are taught that Jews are “horrible creatures” and “should be gotten rid of.”

Steinitz laid out two conditions that should be met before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resume.  Firstly, that the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment in the PA education system be terminated, and secondly that Gaza must be demilitarized.

“We got a commitment in Oslo that Gaza would be totally demilitarized,” Steinitz said. “If he is incapable of demilitarizing Gaza, how can we trust him as a partner? It’s a necessary condition to moving the diplomatic process forward. We are always ready to promote peace and negotiate it and give it a try, but I am not optimistic if those conditions are not met.”

During his speech, the minister also turned to Israeli achievements in natural resources, saying for the first time in history, Israel will export natural gas to Western Europe.

Western Europe was dependent on Arab natural gas supply in the past, he said, noting that the move was important for Israel economically and strategically.


Middle East: Before Netanyahu talks, Steinmeier vows to back Israel

May 7, 2017

On his first trip to Israel as Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has expressed his country’s “unfathomable guilt.” He had visited Israel during his three years as foreign minister.

Bundespräsident Steinmeier in Israel (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid a solemn visit to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Sunday.”We Germans have burdened ourselves with unfathomable guilt,” Steinmeier said on Sunday, adding that commemorating the Holocaust served as a reminder of his country’s “pain, sadness and shame.” “As part of taking responsibility for what happened, we stand firmly alongside Israel and are working together for our common future.”

Earlier on Sunday, Steinmeier met the writer David Grossman in Jerusalem. The author, whose son died in Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has emerged as a frequent critic of Israel’s settlement policy.

Steinmeier, who had a beer with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Saturday, planned to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters in the occupied West Bank on Monday.

The Netanyahu-Gabriel affair

The former foreign minister has his work cut out for him after a diplomatic dispute between Germany and Israel escalated in April. Last month, Netanyahu called off an April 25 meeting with Steinmeier’s replacement as foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, after the German foreign minister refused to cancel talks with groups critical of Israel’s government. Gabriel met members of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli veterans group that highlights military abuses in the Palestinian territories, and B’Tselem, which works on a number of rights issues and strongly opposes the expansion of settlements.

Netanyahu’s right-wing government has complained that such groups unfairly tarnish Israel’s image and provide support to the country’s critics. Steinmeier has not scheduled meetings with either group.

After the snub, Gabriel told journalists in Jerusalem that he regretted the prime minister’s decision. However, Gabriel added, he did not think that the events would necessarily have a negative impact on relations between the Germany and Israel.

Such disputes regularly arise between visiting officials and Israel’s government. In February, Israel reprimanded Belgium’s ambassador after Prime Minister Charles Michel met members of both B’Tselem and Breaking The Silence during a visit.

About 700,000 people live on more than 100 legally dubious Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. In December, the UN Security Council urged Israel to cease its expansion of settlements, which could reduce the amount of land that Palestinians can claim for their eventual state. German officials have repeatedly criticized Israeli settlements.

In a 2015 visit to the Gaza Strip as foreign minister, Steinmeier described living conditions as “catastrophic” a year after a Israeli military assault on the Palestinian territory left about 1,500 civilians dead and thousands more wounded and destroyed much of the local infrastructure.



For Arab Gulf States, Israel Is Emerging as an Ally — Coalition opposed to Iran and the radical Islamists

May 6, 2017

Sunni monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia, increasingly see the Jewish state as a partner in a common struggle against Shiite Iran

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (second from left), who wants a more vigorous response to Iran, at a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, April 19, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (second from left), who wants a more vigorous response to Iran, at a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, April 19, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

May 5, 2017 1:10 p.m. ET

For decades, rejection of Israel—sometimes mixed with outright anti-Semitism—has been a defining theme of Arab politics, uniting bickering countries against a common foe.

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who was deposed in a 2013 coup, had gone on TV three years earlier to brand Jews as “descendants of apes and pigs.”

In 1988, the Palestinian militant group Hamas adopted a covenant that cited the notorious anti-Semitic forgery known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as proof of a global Jewish conspiracy.

But attitudes are beginning to change in some parts of the Arab world. Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, a Saudi-based global organization that has been accused of spreading extremism, recently pointed to a lesson in coexistence from Islam’s past. “The neighbor of the Prophet [Muhammad] was a Jew, and when that Jew was ill, the Prophet visited him and gave him kind words,” said Mr. al-Issa, who is also a former Saudi minister of justice. “The hard-liners don’t wish to know that.”

This new tone toward Jews—and, to a lesser degree, Israel—is becoming particularly prominent in the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia. For these wealthy Sunni monarchies, it is Shiite and Persian Iran that poses the most pressing current threat to their interests. They view the Jewish state—a foe of the regime in Tehran and its regional proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia—as their de facto ally.

This unlikely partnership has gathered steam with the rise of Saudi Arabia’s new deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of the Yemen war, who wants a more vigorous response to Iran. And it has received new momentum since the election of Donald Trump, the preferred candidate of Israel and the Gulf states. The White House said Thursday that Mr. Trump’s first foreign trip as president will feature stops in both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“We have the same enemy, the same threat,” Saudi Maj. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, now the kingdom’s deputy intelligence chief, said in February. “And we are both close allies of the Americans.”

Pressure from the Gulf—particularly from Hamas’s longtime backer Qatar—played a key role in the Palestinian group’s decision Monday to remove slurs against Jews from its revised charter. Israel scoffed at the changes, noting that Hamas retained its goal of “liberating” all of historic Palestine—which would mean eradicating the Jewish state.

Still, some Israeli officials have praised the Gulf monarchies’ shift on Hamas. “Most of [Hamas’s] support came from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in the past,” said Ayoob Kara, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the only Arab minister in Israel’s cabinet. “Now the Saudi Arabian coalition understands more and more that Hamas is an extremist organization and that extremism and terror are also against them, not just against Israel.”

The Gulf states also shape opinion across the Arab world: Most of the influential TV news channels and pan-Arab newspapers are owned by Saudis, Qatari or Emiratis. “On TV, we no longer hear the usual words ‘Israeli aggression.’ Now, it’s mostly about the ‘Persian aggression,’ ” said Ahmad al-Ibrahim, a Saudi businessman and political analyst.

Sympathy for the Palestinian cause and rejection of Israel still run deep in the region, particularly in countries far from Iran that don’t view it as much of a threat. Such feelings are widespread among the people of the Gulf states too, so most of the recent cooperation with Israel—focusing on intelligence and security matters—has occurred in secret.

But some small steps have been public. An unofficial Saudi delegation, led by a retired general, visited Jerusalem last year and met with Israeli officials. The United Arab Emirates has permitted a small Israeli mission to the U.N.’s renewable-energy agency, based in Abu Dhabi, and Emirati officials are weighing whether to allow low-key Israeli participation in the 2020 Dubai World Expo.

Such an erosion of Arab hostility to Israel rattles many Palestinians. “I am in favor of normalizing between Israel and all Arab countries—one minute after an independent Palestinian state is established,” said Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab bloc in Israel’s parliament. “Agreements between Israel and Arab countries before the Palestinian issue is solved will weaken the Palestinian cause.”

Many in the Gulf shrug at such complaints. “Saudi Arabia has always wanted to support the Palestinian cause. It negotiated on their behalf, it spent a lot of money on their behalf,” said Mr. Ibrahim. “But unfortunately, the Palestinian leaders do not want to get along and are not working for their own people. You cannot just say no to everything.”

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at

Trump Makes A Tragic Mistake — What Does Trump Stand For?

May 5, 2017
MAY 4, 2017 22:31


Israel is the most immediate casualty of Trump’s decision to embrace Abbas and the PLO, because the PLO is Israel’s enemy.

Trump Abbas

Donald Trump welcomes Mahmoud Abbas to White House in Washington , May 3, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

By all accounts, US President Donald Trump is a friend of the Jewish state.

It is due to Trump’s heartfelt support for Israel and the US-Israel alliance that his meeting Wednesday with PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas at the White House is most discouraging.

By meeting with Abbas, and committing himself to working toward achieving a peace deal between Abbas and his PLO and Israel, Trump undermines Israel.

He also undermines himself and his nation.

Israel is the most immediate casualty of Trump’s decision to embrace Abbas and the PLO, because the PLO is Israel’s enemy.

Abbas is an antisemite. His doctoral dissertation, which he later published as a book, is a Holocaust denying screed.

Abbas engages in antisemitic incitement on a daily basis, both directly and indirectly. It was Abbas who called for his people to kill Jews claiming that we pollute Judaism’s most sacred site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with our “filthy feet.” The Palestinian media and school system which he controls with an iron fist both regularly portray Jews as evil monsters, deserving of physical annihilation.

Abbas’s PLO and his Palestinian Authority engage as a general practice in glorifying terrorist murderers. As has been widely reported in recent weeks, his PA and PLO also incentivize and underwrite terrorism to the tune of $300 million a year, which is paid, in accordance with PA law, to convicted terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons and their families.

And that’s just the money we know about.

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In welcoming Abbas to the White House, Trump chose to ignore all of this in the interest of fostering a peace deal between Israel and the PLO.

There are three problems with this goal. First, the peace process between Israel and the PLO is predicated on the notion that the US must pressure Israel to make massive concessions to the PLO. So simply by engaging in a negotiating process with the PLO, Trump has adopted an antagonistic position toward Israel.

The second problem is that Abbas himself has proven, repeatedly, that he will never support a peace deal with Israel. Abbas opposed Israel’s peace offer at Camp David in 2000. He rejected then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s peace offer in 2008. He rejected then-president Barack Obama’s peace offer in 2013. Since then, Abbas made no sign of moderating his position.

The third problem with Trump’s decision to engage in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is that any hypothetical deal a hypothetical Palestinian leader would accept, would endanger Israel’s very existence. So in the unlikely event that he reaches “the deal,” his achievement will imperil Israel, rather than protect it.

Again, Israel isn’t the only party harmed by Trump’s decision to embrace the Palestinian dictator whose legal term of office ended eight years ago.

Trump himself is harmed by his move.

Trump moves is self-destructive for two reasons. First, he is setting himself up for failure. By positioning himself in the middle of a diplomatic initiative that will fail, he is guaranteeing that he will fail.

Trump’s move also endangers the support of one of his key constituencies. Evangelical Christians in the US voted overwhelmingly for Trump in both the Republican primaries and in the general election. They rallied to his side due to Trump’s pledge to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, and to support Israel. By initiating a diplomatic process that pits his administration against Israel, Trump places that support in jeopardy.

Then there is the US itself.

Trump’s engagement with the PLO harms US core interests in two ways. First there is the issue of coalition building.

Consider for a moment the other anti-American autocrat Trump reached out to this week.

Trump’s recent invitation for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to visit him in Washington has been roundly criticized by Washington’s foreign policy elite. Last year Duterte stunned Washington when he launched an expletive-filled denunciation of Obama and announced he is ditching the Philippines’ longstanding alliance with the US in favor of an alliance with China.

Obama did nothing to convince Duterte to change course. While understandable from Obama’s perspective, the fact is that the US needs to restore its alliance with Manila to secure its interests in the Far East.

The most acute threat the US now faces is North Korea’s threat to launch a nuclear attack against America. Due to the passivity and hapless diplomacy of Trump’s predecessors, Pyongyang may well have the means to carry out its threats.

To protect itself and its interests against North Korea, the US must build up and strengthen a coalition on allies in the Far East. The Philippines, with its strategic location and naval bases, is a key component of any US coalition against North Korea.

In the longer term, the US has a vital interest in restoring its alliance with the Philippines to contend with the rapidly rising strategic threat China poses to its interests.

Hence, despite the fact that Duterte is a potty-mouthed strongman and bigoted authoritarian, US interests require Trump to embrace him.

This then returns us to Abbas.

In contrast to Duterte, no US interest is served by embracing Abbas.

The US’s chief challenge in the Middle East today is to form a coalition of states and actors that can help it stem Iran’s rise as a nuclear-armed, terrorism- sponsoring regional power. The members of such a coalition are clear.

Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE stand united today in their opposition to Iran, its nuclear program, its support for Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists and terrorist groups, and its moves to establish an empire of vassals that spans westward through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, southward to Yemen and eastward through Afghanistan.

The members of Iran’s coalition include its Lebanese foreign legion Hezbollah, the Assad regime, the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Hamas, other Sunni terrorist groups aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemen’s Houthis.

By embracing the PLO, rather than build and strengthen the anti-Iranian alliance of Israel and the anti-Iranian, anti-Muslim-Brotherhood Arab states, Trump is tearing that alliance apart. In its place he is cobbling together an anti-Israel alliance comprised of Iran’s allies in Qatar and to a degree in Turkey, the PLO, and at least passively, Hamas. This anti-Israel alliance is supported, grudgingly, by the Saudis, Egyptians and others who cannot afford to be seen abandoning the Palestinians.

In other words, by embracing the PLO, Trump is strengthening Iran and its supporters at the expense of Israel, the US-aligned Sunni states and the US itself.

Moreover, by embracing the PLO Trump is directly undermining the US’s goal of defeating terrorism in two key ways.

First, Trump’s move undermines congressional efforts to block further US funding of Palestinian terrorism. Today, the Taylor Force Act, which enjoys massive support in both houses of Congress, is making its way through Congress. The act will block US funding of the PA due to its payments to terrorists and their families.

On Wednesday Trump pledged to keep those funds flowing. This pits him against the Republican-controlled Congress. Congressional sources relate that the Taylor Force Act is just the first move toward holding the PLO accountable for “its monstrous behavior.”

To embrace Abbas, Trump will either have to veto the Taylor Force Act and other congressional initiatives or insist on receiving a presidential waiver for implementing them. Such waivers, like the presidential waiver to block the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, will ensure that US taxpayers will continue to incentivize Palestinian terrorism against Israel.

The second way Trump’s decision to embrace the PLO harms the US’s efforts to fight terrorism became clear this week with Hamas’s new PR document. Hamas’s new policy document departs not one iota from the Muslim Brotherhood group’s devotion to the goal of destroying Israel.

In adopting its new document, which calls for Israel to withdraw, first and foremost, from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, Hamas has adopted the PLO’s wildly successful strategy of engaging in a dual campaign against Israel, waging terrorist war against Israel on the one hand while winning the support of the West on the other.

Hamas’s document is a restatement of the PLO’s 1974 phased plan for destroying Israel.

The PLO’s plan – which it continues to implement today – involves accepting limited territorial gains from Israel. The territory that Israel cedes in each phase will not become a Palestinian state. Rather it will serve as a launching ground for a new war against Israel.

Under the phased plan, the PLO adopted the ruse that it is interested in territorial compromise with Israel, in order to advance its actual goal of destroying Israel piece by piece.

Trump’s decision to become the fourth US president to welcome a PLO chief to the White House, and his apparent decision to continue funding the terrorist group are new evidence of the wild success of the PLO’s strategy.

Just as the Hamas document neither contradicts nor abrogates its genocidal pledge to eradicate Israel boldly asserted in its covenant, so the PLO’s phased plan and its subsequent embrace of the “peace process” neither contradicted nor superseded its founding charter that calls for Israel’s destruction.

PLO leaders simply stopped discussing their founding documents in their dealings with gullible Westerners keen to win peace prizes.

In a similar fashion, the Western media received news of Hamas’s PR stunt with respect and interest. Given the reception, Hamas has every reason to expect that in due time, its transparent ruse will open the doors of the chanceries of Europe and beyond to its terror masters.

In other words, by embracing Abbas and the PLO on Wednesday, Trump empowered Hamas. He signaled to Hamas – and to every other terrorist group in the Middle East – that to receive international support, including from his administration, all you need to do is say that you are willing to follow the PLO’s dual strategy of engaging simultaneously in terrorism and political warfare and subterfuge.

There is no upside to Trump’s move. It will not bring peace. It harms prospects for peace by empowering Abbas and his terrorist henchmen.

It will not strengthen Israel. It places Israel on a collision course with the Trump White House and undermines its regional posture.

It will not help the US to build a coalition to defeat Iran and its vassals. It subverts the coalition that already exists by embarrassing the Sunnis into siding with terrorists against Israel.

It does not advance the US war on terror. It empowers terrorists to kill Israelis and others by using US tax revenues to fund the PA, providing a blueprint for other terrorists to wage political war against the West and Israel.

And it harms Trump by alienating a key constituency and undermining his relations with Congress.

It is hard to see how Trump, now committed to this dangerous folly, can walk away from it. But to diminish the damage, a way must be found, quickly.


Israel says it uncovered planned mass cyber attacks

April 26, 2017


© AFP/File | Israel is a global player in the cyber-security industry with about 400 specialist companies

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli authorities said on Wednesday that they had detected planned cyber attacks against 120 public and private targets in the Jewish state but did not specify the intended victims.

A statement from Israel’s National Authority for Cyber Defence said that “in recent days” it had uncovered plans for a mass e-mail attack by what it described as an assailant masquerading as a “legitimate organisation” using a bogus security certificate.

It did not say what countermeasures it had taken but said the attacks threatened “government ministries, public institutions and private individuals”.

Haaretz newspaper said that the attackers “tried to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Word.”

In November two main Israeli TV newscasts were taken over by hackers who beamed an Islamist message threatening divine fire against the Jewish state.

Hackers ostensibly supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad posted messages on an Israeli army Twitter account during the 2014 Gaza war and in 2012 hackers disrupted the websites of the Tel Aviv stock exchange and national airline El Al.

Israel is a global player in the cyber-security industry, with about 400 specialist companies.

Its success is partly due to graduates of elite army units who take their electronic warfare skills with them into civilian life at the end of their military service.


Peace between Israelis and Palestinians requires “the fundamental acceptance of the Jewish State” — Must stop “rewarding those who engage in terrorism”

April 21, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and suit

Palestinian Authority leader Abbas and Israel’s Netanyahu in 2010. AP photo by Charles Dharapak

Fox News

The spokesman for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News’ “Hannity” Thursday that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians requires “the fundamental acceptance of the Jewish State.”

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Sean Hannity at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, where Palestinian terrorists shot and killed four Israelis and murdered 16 others last year.


“They ordered brownies. They were dressed in suits. They tried to blend in,” Keyes said of the attackers, “and they stood up and they murdered four people in cold blood.”

Keyes noted that “every time we’ve had a real partner for peace, Israel has actually worked out peace deals which have lasted decades, [as] in the case of Egypt and Jordan.”

“Look, everyone in this region deserves to live in peace,” Keyes added, “and there’s nobody who would want peace more than the Israeli people and the Israeli Prime Minister.”

Hannity also toured the market with Dore Gold of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who decried Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for “rewarding those who engage in terrorism.”

“The real stumbling block for making peace,” Gold said, “is the culture of hatred that the Palestinian Authority has built.”

Includes video: