Posts Tagged ‘John Kerry’

Former Syrian General Says Assad Retained 700 Tons of Chemical Weapons — Stockpile allegedly held back and hidden during Russia-Syria-U.S. deal to remove chemical weapons from Syria

April 16, 2018

According to a fugitive Syrian General, the Syrian government had hidden hundreds of tons of chemical weapons from the OPCW.

Fugitive Syrian General Says Assad's Government Retained 700 Tons of Chemical Weapons

Fugitive Syrian Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat (L) (Photo: Telegraph / Zaher al-Sakat / AP)

The Telegraph newspaper has published information about chemical weapons of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, provided by fugitive Syrian Brigadier General Zaher al-Sakat, who allegedly had been commanding a subdivision of chemical troops of the 5th Division of the Syrian Army until 2013.

According to al-Sakat, in 2013, the Syrian authorities hid from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) hundreds of tons of chemical weapons. As the fugitive officer claimed, the Assad’s regime had at least 2,000 tons of combat chemical agents, but the Syrian government recognized the presence of only 1,300 tons of such substances.

Al-Sakat said that at least 700 tons of sarin and other poisonous substance, as well as precursors (substances, used in chemical reactions in order to get a target substance), remained at secret warehouses in Syria after the country’s ‘clearing’ of chemical weapons. He noted that these stocks were secretly exported to fortified warehouses in the mountains near Homs and to the coastal city of Jableh, located near the port of Tartus. According to al-Sakat, the Syrian Army still has aerial bombs, capable of carrying chemical charges, and missiles of the Scud class with warheads for chemical charges.

Damascus and Moscow said that accusations of the presence of chemical weapons and means for its usage in the Syrian Army are unfounded. At the same time, the Syrian and Russian authorities have repeatedly claimed that militants of terrorist groups, operating in Syria, have such weapons.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow is puzzled why the fugitive Syrian General hid the information about the remaining chemical weapons in Syria for such a long time.

“I have seen reports on the statements of the fugitive Syrian General. They indicate that he fled in 2013. In the same year, the Russian-American agreement on chemical disarmament of Syria in accordance with its accession to the convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons, which was supported in The Hague and New York, was reached,” Lavrov said.

According to the Russian Foreign Minister, “on the basis of this agreement, as early as in 2014, the OPCW received by the Syrian government data on its stockpiles of chemical weapons and verified them in the same 2014.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov in Geneva (14 September 2013)Image copyrightAFP
John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov reached an agreement after three days of talks

Lavrov noted that “the total amount of chemical substances that should have been disposed was 1,300 tons, while the general said yesterday that there were 2,000 tons of chemical weapons.”

“As the figure of 1,300 tons was announced openly, I have a question why the General, if he knew about the 2,000 tons, was silent for three years. Seven hundreds of tons are not a small figure, you cannot hide it in a test tube from under white powder,” the diplomat said.

Lavrov noted that “any person of sound mind understands that this general has been stimulated either with a carrot or with sticks.”

Will remind, on April 4, about 90 people, including up to 30 children, were killed, and some 560 others were hospitalized with poisoning, injuries and wounds, as the result of an airstrike and subsequent chemical contamination of the area in Khan Shaykhun town in Idlib province. The US accused the Syrian government of the chemical attack. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the Syrian Air Force bombed a warehouse, where terrorists stored their chemical weapons, and this led to the contamination of the area. Later, Moscow declared that it was necessary to thoroughly investigate what happened before setting out any versions and charges.

On the night of April 7, US Navy destroyers fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, targeting the Shayrat airbase, located about 30 kilometers of the city of Homs. The Shayrat airbase was chosen as a target of the missile strikes, as the US authorities believe that the Syrian Air Force departed from there to carry out its airstrikes in Idlib province.

https://southfront.org/fugitive-syrian-general-says-assads-government-retained-700-tons-of-chemical-weapons/

See also:

Syria chemical weapons disarmament deal

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23876085

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Undoing the Nuclear Deal Could Propel Iranian Race for the Bomb

April 8, 2018

John Bolton’s aggressive push for military confrontation combined with Trump’s vindictive obsession with undoing Obama’s legacy could spell disaster for the Iran nuclear deal, which would drive Iran’s nuclear ambitions and erode trust around the globe, says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council

Image result for Trita Parsi, photos

The appointment of John Bolton as national security adviser to President Donald Trump has everyone worried that he will advise the president to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran. In his article in Foreign Policy, titled “Blame Trump When Iran Races for the Bomb,” Trita Parsi argues that canceling the deal will make the U.S. less trustworthy to North Korea, for example, and that it will make reaching a disarmament agreement with Pyongyang very difficult if Trump will, at a whim, just cancel the agreement. It will also give Iran, Trita argues, that it will give Iran a strong incentive to quickly develop a nuclear weapon. Here is Trump speaking about the Iran nuclear deal.

DONALD TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.

SHARMINI PERIES: Joining us now to discuss Bolton in the context of the Iran deal is Trita Parsi. Trita is founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. He’s the author of several books, and his most recent is “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” Thanks for joining me, Trita.

TRITA PARSI: Thank you for having me today.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, President Trump sees the Iran nuclear deal as President Obama’s signature deal, and that the deal somehow offended Israel and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Why is it that Trump is so opposed to the nuclear agreement with Iran, and what will Bolton add to this fierce opposition?

TRITA PARSI: Well, Trump has listed several different reasons. But when you scratch the surface this really seems to come down to what you just mentioned, that this is Obama’s deal. And everything that he’s been doing elsewhere, it’s been quite clear that he’s very eager to undo the legacy of Obama, almost a vindictive approach. And this is the most important foreign policy achievement that the Obama administration had. So it seems to be targeted very much as a result of that.John Bolton has a completely different reason.

John Bolton ultimately wants to have the United States enjoying a hegemonic position in the Middle East and be dominant. Iran is a challenge, an obstacle to that objective. So he has a very aggressive posture towards Iran. And any type of a deal that actually resolves problems between the United States and Iran is a problem in the eyes of John Bolton because he wants a war. He has been very, very clear and honest about his desire for a military confrontation. And as a result he doesn’t want the nuclear deal for that reason. I think he’s now joining the administration because he believes that he can manipulate the Trump, Trump himself, towards taking military action that it’s not entirely clear that Trump would prefer to do on his own.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, you say an aggressive posture towards Iran. Give us some examples of where he’s done this.

TRITA PARSI: Well, John Bolton has a very lengthy career in which he’s rarely missed any opportunity to be able to call for military or other forms of confrontational measures towards Iran. He had a piece in The New York Times not too long ago saying got to avoid an Iranian bomb you have to bomb Iran. He’s even had the piece in which he has argued for preemptive nuclear strikes against North Korea.So this is not a person who, unlike some of the proponents of war, is trying to hide his desire for war and who is essentially trying to claim that look, we’re looking for a peaceful solution, but in reality they’re pushing things towards military action. John Bolton is very frank and honest about the fact that he wants to have military confrontation. He wants to have regime change in Iraq.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Now, the article that you referred to in the New York Times, bomb bomb bomb, bomb Iran, the phrase came out of that article that then got repeated by people like Cheney during the Bush administration. Is there any more recent statements that Bolton has said that concerns you?

TRITA PARSI: Every time he talks about the nuclear deal with Iran he says something. And just a couple of months ago he was at the conference of an organization called Iranian Mujahedin, which is a terrorist organization that has been responsible for killing a very large number of Iranians, Iraqis, as well as U.S. personnel.

But John Bolton has been a longtime supporter of this terrorist organization, and mindful of the fact, of the way that they pay American officials to speak on their behalf. It wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility that he’s actually a paid spokesperson for them. And at that meeting he made similar claims and then he said that, you know, within a year we’re going to have this conference in Iran, meaning that there would be a regime change that probably will be preceded by a military confrontation.So he’s been very clear about this. Debating his desire for war or not war is very, very different when it comes to other voices who have been a little bit more careful not to give up their end objective.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

John Bolton

With Bolton, at least in some ways, perhaps, it’s a little bit easier because he’s very frank about it.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, now, at least there is a buffer in terms of this nuclear agreement. It is not a bilateral agreement with the Iranians. It is a multilateral one. There is P5+1. The Europeans have, you know, very clearly articulated their support for it and not wanting to dismantle it. Is that going to have any influence on the Trump-Bolton efforts?

I guess I should get Netanyahu to the picture as well.

TRITA PARSI: I think there is an effort from the Europeans and others to try to prevent Trump in going in this direction. By now I think the likelihood of success is very little. Trump doesn’t listen to a lot of people who are even in his own administration, let alone listening to Europeans or others. And the fact that he’s now surrounding himself with people that share his view and desire to kill the Iran deal such as John Bolton, such as Mike Pompeo, and the ousting of individuals like Tillerson and McMaster who were not supporters of the deal but at least did not want the United States to just walk away from it, it’s changing the internal balance within the administration.

It’s very difficult to see how the Europeans would be able to be more successful than they have been so far under much better circumstances and trying to protect the deal.I think to a certain extent the Europeans missed an opportunity, because had they been much firmer much earlier, and had they pushed and cleared the way for investments, et cetera, to come into Iran, perhaps the deal would have been a little bit better insulated right now than it currently is from the type of attacks that the Trump administration is presenting.

SHARMINI PERIES: In your article in Foreign Policy you take up the issue how North Korea would react to the canceling of the agreement. Give us a better sense of why North Korea would even care, since they’re not party to this agreement.

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think the general view in Washington is that it would be foolish for Trump to kill the Iran deal before he goes to North Korea because why would the North Koreans trust Trump if they’ve seen him actually renege on an existing deal. And I think that’s very logical and makes sense. I just don’t believe that Trump is particularly keen on following that type of logic. I think the logic he sees is that if he actually kills the Iran deal before he goes and talks to the North Koreans he will have signal to them in his mind that he is so tough that he’s actually willing to uproot an existing deal if he doesn’t get what he wants.

The North Koreans should have no illusions that Trump will walk away from the negotiations if they don’t give him what he wants. It’s a much more of a bullying type of logic that I think he follows.So I find it not unlikely that he actually would try to kill the deal not just because he hates the deal, but also because he actually believes that it would strengthen his position within North Koreas.

I think that’s the wrong analysis. I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s perhaps the way that you would deal with subcontractors in a real estate development project in Manhattan, which is the world that Trump perhaps knows a little bit better. But it’s not the way that you can deal with sovereign states, because sovereign states are not subcontractors of the United States.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. Now, Trump seems to be a person who, say, who thinks of himself as the best deal maker there is, and therefore he wants to renegotiate anything that’s in place, including NAFTA, various trade agreements, and so forth. If Trump got his way and he was able to renegotiate the Iran deal on his terms , what would he be asking for, in your assessment?

TRITA PARSI: There is no renegotiation of the Iran deal. He’s never going to be able to get to that point, and I frankly don’t think that that’s actually what he’s looking for. Saying that he wants to renegotiate is just a way of trying to pretend that he’s not killing the deal when in reality he is killing the deal. There is no reason why anyone else would engage in any such negotiations, particularly when the way Trump is approaching this is saying that I want so much more from the Iranians, but I’m not willing to give them anything in return.

The Iranians are not idiots. They’re actually pretty good negotiators. And they’re not going to strike a deal with someone as unreliable as Trump who is offering them less than what Obama offered and demanding more. There’s absolutely no incentives for them to do so. This is just a smokescreen for people to think that he’s actually trying to fix something that isn’t broken, whereas in reality he is actually moving towards a situation in which he’s just looking to find an excuse to kill the deal.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, known as MBS, was recently in the United States. And while he was here he made some very derogatory comments about Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, comparing him to Adolf Hitler. And there seems to be this growing opposition to, to Iran, which is very concerning, particularly given that there’s this alliance forming between Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States. This triangle is a very dangerous one when it comes to the security and peace in the region. Give us a sense of why the United States is forging this alliance and what it means in the region.

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think the reason why you’re seeing this rather unlikely, at least if you look at the region from an ideological prism, it would be very difficult to envision an openly Zionist state striking a deal with an openly Wahhabi state such as Saudi Arabia. But that’s because at the end of the day ideology and religion is not what is driving what is happening in the region. It’s for geopolitics, and from a geopolitical perspective the Saudis and the Israelis see common interest in the sense that they did not want to see a nuclear deal with Iran, not because of the details of the nuclear deal but because a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran and the other states would put an end to three decades of isolating and containing Iran. It would mean that the United States has accepted that Iran is a major power in the region and it has to be included in the regional decision making political and economic processes.

And that’s the nightmare scenario from them, because they prefer to see their rival contained and isolated and weakened, not by their own power but by the power of the United States. And that’s part of the reason, the main reason I would say, that they’ve been so adamantly opposed to the nuclear deal. And with Trump they’re seeing this opportunity to be able to reverse which Obama did and bring back a geopolitical balance in the region that existed not just before the nuclear deal but before the 2003 war, in which the U.S. was in a hegemonic position, strong hegemony.

Israel and Saudi Arabia enjoyed maximum maneuverability because their regional rivals were all checked and isolated and contained by the United States.Now, you can see why that perhaps would be attractive from a Saudi perspective. Why wouldn’t you want to have the superpower essentially check your regional enemy, which you don’t have the power to do yourself? But from an American perspective no one has been able to actually address how does this make sense from a U.S. national interest perspective? Is the United States just supposed to be essentially a proxy army that is used at the will of the House of Saud or others in the region, or does the U.S. actually have its own interests that should be the primary factor dictating its policies?

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you for joining us, and thank you for watching the Real News Network.

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=21510

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(From: Foreign Policy)

Why did the Saudi prince recognize Israel?

April 4, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has declared that Israel has a right to exist. What are the reasons behind this statement? Does it signify closer ties between the countries?

Mohamad bin Salman visiting Moscow, Russia (picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/Pool/P. Golovkin)

In an interview published on Monday with the US magazine The Atlantic, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Israel had a right to exist.

The crown prince told the magazine that Saudi Arabia has no problems with Jewish people. He pointed that Islam’s Prophet Muhammad “married a Jewish woman.”

The crown prince’s statement could signify closer ties between the countries. “Israel is a big economy compared to their size, and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel, and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan,” he said. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel wish to contain Iran, for example. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia sees Shiite Iran as its main rival vying for influence in the region, with Iran playing a role in the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and other nations.

Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told DW that “Iran is the main motivator” behind the changing stance toward Israel. “Saudi Arabia considers its competition with Iran one about leading the Islamic world, with fears that it could be dominated by the Shiites under Iran,” he said. Also, both countries fear that Iran could get nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia would even likely welcome Israel’s striking facilities in Iran that could be developing nuclear material, Nafaa said.

Atomic energy plant in Bushehr, Iran (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Taherkenareh)This is an atomic energy plant in Bushehr, Iran. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia fear Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

‘Pure nonsense’

Yossi Mekelberg,a professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, told DW that Saudi recognition would be very important for Israel in a part of the world that is hostile toward its very existence. “We can see that Israel is a part of the region and that there need to be fair and just negotiations with the Palestinians, but all the old language that says that Israel should be completely eliminated should stop,” he said. Mekelberg said Israelis would welcome the statement, while Palestinians “would not be as pleased because they feel that the Israelis are getting recognition from the Arab world without paying the Palestinians necessary concessions in the peace process.”

Indeed, Israeli and Arab voices had varied reactions on social media. Elad Ratson, an Israeli diplomat in London, suggested that the crown prince’s statement shows that Saudi Arabia backs his country’s policies within the region.

View image on Twitter

Elad Ratson 🇮🇱

@EladRatson

, & Sunni groups (eg. ) are the root cause of violence! 🇮🇱 been saying it for years… maybe now, when ‘s🇸🇦 Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) say it, you’d care to listen?
🔗https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/04/mohammed-bin-salman-iran-israel/557036/ 

Yasser al-Zaatreh, a Palestinian writer based in Gaza, reacted to the crown prince’s statement with disdain. “The Zionists have no ‘right’ to any part of Palestine,” he wrote. “They are invaders who came from the corners of the earth to occupy a country and push out their people. This talk of a ‘right’ is pure nonsense.”

ياسر الزعاترة

@YZaatreh

ليس للصهاينة أي “حق” في أي شبر من فلسطين. هم غزاة جاؤوا من أصقاع الأرض، ليحتلوا بلدا، ويشرّدوا أهله. حديث “الحق” هذا هو محض هراء وسقوط.

Under the Obama administration, US Secretary of State John Kerry made many trips to Israel and Palestine to facilitate negotiations. During the Trump administration, the US has played a less balanced role, declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel — a statement rejected by most of the international community. Now perhaps Saudi Arabia as a regional power has decided to position itself as a major broker for peace. “We have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” the crown prince said in the interview.

Mekelberg said Saudi Arabia was undergoing “major changes” as it revisits policies such as not allowing women to drive and its official stance on Israel. These changes are pushing the country into the 21st century, Mekelberg said. “Instead of sticking to old policies that don’t necessarily work, Mohammed bin Salman is re-evaluating them and saying that. at this point in time, Saudi and Israeli interests correlate — and why not recognize it?” he added. “It will put Saudi Arabia in a very good position to be a regional force of advancing peace and to  be an honest broker in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.”

http://www.dw.com/en/what-is-the-saudi-princes-strategy-in-recognizing-israel/a-43240118

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Words heard from Ahmadinejad in Iran:

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Europe Will Now Decide if the Iran Deal Survives

April 2, 2018

France, the U.K. and Germany can accept Trump’s conditions or kill the agreement.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2017.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2017. PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS
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If you heard a series of loud booms on March 22, they probably came from the exploding heads of many in the American and European political elite, following the appointment of John Bolton as White House national security adviser. With the ascension of this “hawk,” President Obama’s nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic of Iran appears to be on life support. Whether the deal survives is effectively Europe’s choice, but Mr. Trump must be prepared to accept a real fix if it’s offered.

On Jan. 12, Mr. Trump laid out three conditions for the Europeans to meet for the U.S. to remain in the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. First, eliminate the provisions under which key nuclear restrictions expire over time. Second, constrain Tehran’s nuclear-capable long-range missile program. Finally, allow for the inspection of military sites where the regime conducted clandestine nuclear activities in the past and may be doing so now. If the Europeans do not agree to these demands by May 12, Mr. Trump will impose powerful economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The U.S., France, the U.K. and Germany negotiated the 2015 deal, along with Iran, China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow aren’t likely to agree to a fix. But the Europeans are another story: They are massively invested in the U.S. and remain critical business partners for the Iranians. Europe is exposed to American secondary sanctions against Iran, and it has economic leverage over Tehran. Europeans also fear U.S. or Israeli military action against the Islamic Republic.

The recent trans-Atlantic talks have included how and when economic sanctions would be reimposed if Iran violates key red lines. The two sides also have been defining illegitimate commerce with the Islamic Republic. These discussions have focused on companies with ties to parties that control Iran’s economy, including the supreme leader, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the clerical establishment, as well as state and military companies.

European and American negotiators are also studying sanctions specifically targeted against the Revolutionary Guards, the praetorians of the Iranian regime. Sanctions on Hezbollah, the first and favorite foreign-born child of the Islamic revolution and Iran’s most effective Shiite militia in the Syrian civil war, are also being discussed. Trans-Atlantic measures against Iranian cyberwarfare and interference with maritime shipping remain on the table.

Until Mr. Bolton’s announcement, European negotiators were digging in on key aspects of these talks. While showing some flexibility on Iran’s long-range missiles and military-site inspections, they refused to budge in any meaningful way on sunset provisions. Germany has been particularly intransigent on this issue, as well as on Washington’s call for Europe to designate Hezbollah’s military and political wings as a terrorist organization—a longstanding and bipartisan American request. This resistance is even stranger given that Hezbollah has engaged in terrorism on European soil.

France, the U.K. and Germany also have refused to join the U.S. in designating the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, which the Trump administration did in October. And they have resisted deploying the most powerful sanctions proposed to target Iran’s missile program. Tehran’s short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles threaten U.S. forces in the Middle East and America’s closest regional allies.

There is a lot riding on these talks, as Tehran is moving toward regional dominance. It has shown its willingness to deploy its deadly forces and foreign Shiite militias abroad. The Islamic Republic continues to develop easy-to-hide advanced centrifuges and long-range ballistic missiles. Its economy will be increasingly immunized against American sanctions. This should be as unacceptable to the Europeans as it is to the U.S.

France, the U.K. and Germany are now in a bind. They are terrified that concessions to Washington could prompt Iran to walk away, leading to a full-blown nuclear crisis. They watched President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry cave to Iranian nuclear blackmail, which was Tehran’s negotiation strategy in 2015. But now they face an equally daunting challenge from Mr. Trump and his soon-to-be national security adviser, who seem prepared to walk away from the nuclear deal without even trying to fix it.

For the Europeans the least awful option should be to fix the nuclear deal. At least in private, they found it to be far short of the brilliant diplomatic achievement that Mr. Kerry touts. They will have to swallow some pride, as their dislike for Mr. Trump is profound. But if they don’t act, Mr. Bolton will ensure that the president walks away in May.

Do the Europeans really want to have a nasty trans-Atlantic row over the clerical regime? They ought to want to make this too good a deal for Messrs. Trump and Bolton to turn down.

If the president rejects such an agreement, the Europeans will have negotiated in good faith. But, if they won’t go far enough to strike an accord with Washington, then they will in part own the consequences that follow.

Mr. Dubowitz is chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Assad and his allies’ endless atrocities — Part of an “axis of evil”?

April 1, 2018

New York Post
Editorial
April 1, 2018

Inside the shady private equity firm run by John Kerry and Joe Biden’s kids

March 15, 2018
 New York Post

The Left’s Shoddy Attack on Feinstein — Dianne Feinstein is just not loopy enough…

February 27, 2018

Bloomberg

By Albert R. Hunt

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Activists would present Republicans with a November gift by undermining Democratic pragmatists.
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Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats in California are showing how the party could undermine its own cause in midterm elections in November.

By rebuffing the re-election bid of the state’s four-term senator, Dianne Feinstein, over the weekend, the Democratic left wing is exposing its preference for ideological purity over the pragmatism the party would need to turn widespread distaste for President Donald Trump into a historic political victory.

Fewer than 40 percent of delegates to the Democrats’ state convention in San Diego voted to endorse Feinstein, while more than half supported her more liberal opponent, state Senate leader Kevin de Leon. That meant that neither candidate received the 60 percent needed for an official endorsement. The two will square off in a June 5 primary, with Feinstein well ahead in opinion polls and fundraising.

The anti-Feinstein activists could have made a strong case for opposing the 84-year-old incumbent to promote generational change. The Democratic Party in Congress has an unusually elderly leadership.

Instead, they framed their opposition as ideological: Feinstein, they said, is too accommodating to her Republican colleagues, unwilling to confront Trump, opposed to a government health-care system and 15 years ago voted for the Iraq War.

The left-wing bill of particulars ignored a lot of other things in Feinstein’s record. For example, she led a six-year effort to force disclosure of the details of the interrogation techniques and torture used in the battle against al-Qaeda, taking on bitter battles against Senate Republicans, the Central Intelligence Agency and the White House under President Barack Obama. She didn’t achieve full disclosure but Americans learned a lot about this unsavory period because of her determination and courage.

Some of the left’s criticism is reasonable. For example, Feinstein spent a lot of time seeking common ground with Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, who seems more intent on protecting Trump than on practical compromise. She did vote for the Iraq War in 2002, but so did a majority of Senate Democrats, including their last three leaders, Tom Daschle, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, and two of the last three Democratic presidential nominees, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton (Obama wasn’t in the Senate yet).

This was a mistaken vote for what turned out to be a disastrous policy. But to paint Feinstein as a puppet of the national security establishment, as the left wing does, is to ignore what she achieved in exposing the torture abuses. One of the few Republicans to support her was Senator John McCain, who knows a bit about torture, and their battles with CIA Director John Brennan, Republican colleagues and the Obama administration were intense. Because she persevered, it’s much clearer how ineffective these methods were and how much money and good will was wasted.

Feinstein for years has been the Senate leader in the fight for gun control, especially for banning the use of most assault weapons. This is a personal issue for her; she became mayor of San Francisco in 1978 when Mayor George Moscone was shot and killed by a political opponent.

And her opposition to single-payer health insurance is consistent with the views of many leading Democrats of good standing in liberal circles, including Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Yet most of her policy positions are consistent with the liberal Democratic mainstream’s.

If similar litmus tests spread to other Democratic primary contests and the left dampens enthusiasm in November for proven winners like Feinstein, that would be a gift to Republicans. The most enthusiastic reception at the California convention went to Representative Maxine Waters, a divisive figure who has become a favorite right-wing symbol of Democratic extremism for her policy positions and cries to impeach Trump.

Image result for Maxine Waters, photos

Maxine Waters

That’s different from understandable questions about re-electing another elderly candidate in a party that needs compelling fresh faces. But the same left-wing crowd would have cheered for a 76-year-old if his name were Bernie Sanders.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net

Netanyahu says Israel could act against Iran’s ’empire’

February 18, 2018

Reuters

MUNICH (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would act against Iran, not just its allies in the Middle East, if needed, reiterating his country’s position that Tehran was the world’s greatest threat.

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivers a speech during the International Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. (Sven Hoppe-dpa via AP)

As tensions increase in the Middle East over Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen and as U.S. President Donald Trump presses for a tougher approach on Tehran, Israel is seeking wider support to contain its regional nemesis.

Holding a piece of what he said was an Iranian drone after its incursion into Israeli airspace earlier this month, Netanyahu told the Munich Security Conference: ”Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.

“We will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself,” he said.

In his first address to the annual Munich event, which draws security and defense officials and diplomats from across Europe and the United States, Netanyahu urged his audience to counter Iran immediately, displaying a map showing what he said was Iran’s growing presence in the Middle East.

For its part, Iran pushed back. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who also addressed the conference, called Netanyahu’s presentation “a cartoonish circus, which does not even deserve a response”.

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Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Munich, meeting with UK Labour MP Catherine Ashton

Zarif accused the United States of using the conference to “revive hysteria” against Iran, and denied that Tehran was seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East.

But Netanyahu said Iran was increasing its power as a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was regaining territory from militants.

“The unfortunate thing is that as ISIS compresses and Iran moves in, it is trying to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza,” Netanyahu said.

“This is a very dangerous development for our region.”

Among Israel’s main concerns is Lebanon, where the heavily armed Iran-backed Shi‘ite militia Hezbollah is part of a coalition government. Israel last fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006. Tension between Israel and Lebanon has increased, including over a maritime border dispute.

Lebanon’s Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Sarraf, who spoke after Netanyahu, said: “Watch out, we will defend ourselves … we also have friends.”

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Lebanon’s Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Sarraf

Tensions in the region surged on Feb. 10 when anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria.

“PUT OUT THE FIRE”

Netanyahu also reiterated his view, shared by Trump, that world powers needed to scrap or rewrite the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran that curbs Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in return for economic sanctions’ relief.

“It’s time to stop them now,” Netanyahu said, without specifying any military action. “They’re aggressive, they are developing ballistic missiles, they’re not inspecting, they have a free highway to massive (uranium) enrichment,” he said of the fuel needed for nuclear weapons.

France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, which signed the nuclear deal along with Iran and the United States, say the accord cannot be reopened, that it is working and that Iran is allowing inspections.

Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov said that scrapping the agreement was akin to choosing between war and peace, while John Kerry, the former U.S. secretary of state who helped clinch the agreement, said it was wrong to assume that Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon as soon as the 15-year scope of the deal ends.

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John Kerry, former U.S. secretary of state

“If your house is on fire, are you going to refuse to put it out because you are concerned it will light on fire again in 15 years? Or are you going to put it out and use the intervening time to prevent to ever catching fire again?” Kerry said.

Are Democrats abandoning Israel for Palestinians? Depends who you ask

January 28, 2018

Analysts split on new Pew poll, with some saying it’s an expression of US partisan tensions, and others criticizing wording of the question

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Demonstrators walking beneath Israeli and American flags at a pro-Israel rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City, April 7, 2002. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Demonstrators walking beneath Israeli and American flags at a pro-Israel rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City, April 7, 2002. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — The share of Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians is falling fast, while Republican sympathy for Israel over the Palestinians is spiking.

So says a new poll by the Pew Research Center. But experts are divided on what it means, and whether pro-Israel activists — and Democrats — should be worried. Do the results indicate that Democrats are abandoning Israel en masse? Is it another sign of political polarization, which makes it harder for one party to support an issue associated with the other?

Or, as some analysts suggest, was it a badly worded question?

The Pew poll, released Tuesday, shows that partisan polarization around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is starker than ever in the United States. While 79 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, that number is only 27% for Democrats. 25% of Democrats sympathized more with the Palestinians, while only 9% of Republicans did. Overall, 46% of Americans sympathize more with Israel, and 19% with the Palestinians.

Since 2001, the share of Republicans who sympathize with Israel has increased 29 percentage points, from 50% to 79%, says Pew. Over the same period, the share of Democrats sympathizing more with Israel has declined 11 points, from 38% to 27%.

As recently as two years ago, 43% of Democrats sympathized more with Israel. And the drop for Israel this year is especially steep among liberal Democrats: 35% said they sympathized more with the Palestinians — nearly double the 19% who sympathize more with Israel.

The worriers see this as another crack in the bipartisan support that Israel has long enjoyed in the United States.

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk away after a news conference at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The numbers are worrying for anyone like me that cares about the US-Israel relationship,” Dennis Ross, a former American peace negotiator for presidents of both parties, wrote in an email to JTA. “Israel has been and must remain not a Democratic or Republican issue but an American issue. That is a challenge now, especially with the attitudes of the progressive side of the Democratic Party, the alienation of the majority of the Jewish community from the Trump administration, and the administration’s strong symbolic support for Israel.”

The trend, according to one theory, was exacerbated by eight years of feuding between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which, according to whom you ask, showed either that Democrats couldn’t be trusted on Israel or that Netanyahu stumbled in associating Israel so closely with the Republican side.

It continues with the current love fest between Netanyahu and President Donald Trump, who had a typically warm meeting Thursday in Davos, Switzerland. A solidly right-wing government in Jerusalem, another theory goes, makes it harder for liberal Democrats to warm up to a country they once solidly supported.

With an increasingly diverse coalition underpinning the Democrats’ base, Israel needs to make its case as a liberal and open society, said Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s associate executive director for policy. That has become harder, he said, as the peace process has frozen and the government in Israel has shifted further to the right.

“It’s a reminder that it’s essential for Israel and friends of Israel to make the case for Israel’s openness and liberalism and devotion to justice and yearning for peace,” Isaacson said. “I recognize that the messages of a government [in Israel] can have an effect on how that message takes hold on particular constituencies in the United States.”

Republican Jewish activists, meanwhile, are saying the poll proves what they’ve long asserted: that Republicans are the only party that’s truly pro-Israel. Republicans have celebrated Trump’s opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement — brokered by Obama and reviled by Netanyahu — as well as his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both enjoyed the warmest of welcomes on their trips to Israel.

In this Tuesday, May 23, 2017 file photo, US President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

“Support for Israel is strong and growing in the Republican Party, while it is declining among Democrats,” Republican Jewish Coalition President Matt Brooks said in a statement. “We saw the Democrats’ views on Israel implemented by the Obama administration, which put ‘daylight’ between the US and our chief ally, Israel, while pursuing a disastrous Middle East policy.”

Previous administrations also sought to be “honest brokers” in the Middle East, and Democrats like to argue that under Obama the level of US funding and cooperation provided to Israel was unprecedented. But Republicans assert that the Iran deal was a disaster for Israel and that Obama’s pressure on Netanyahu was relentless, culminating in his decision, in the last days of his presidency, to allow the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction.

But other experts say shifting sympathies in the conflict are a symptom of political polarization, not of Democratic opposition to Israel. Democrats “are increasingly conflating their feelings about Israel with their feelings about Trump, associating Israel with the American president,” wrote Michael Kaplow, the policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, in the Forward.

Trump has cast himself as vociferously pro-Israel, so for some Democrats, coldness toward Israel is one more way to protest a president whose policies they abhor, says Rabbi Jack Moline, former president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Pew’s polling has shown increasing polarization overall between Americans of the two parties. A December poll found 86% of Americans feel there is strong or very strong conflict between Republicans and Democrats, and the share of Democrats and Republicans who have very unfavorable opinions of the other party has doubled since the 1990s.

“I think this is not a sudden surge of sympathy for Palestinians,” Moline said. “I think that’s always been there. I don’t think it’s an abandonment of Israel by anybody. I think that what this is is one of the pieces of fallout from the very ugly divisiveness on all matters in this country.”

Recent polls show that a vast majority of Americans do support Israel. According to a February 2017 Gallup poll, 71% of Americans view Israel favorably, a number that has stayed relatively constant for the past 15 years. The differences in the Gallup poll among Republicans (81%), Independents (70%) and Democrats (61%) aren’t as dramatic as the Pew poll.

Resolutions and legislation favoring Israel routinely pass Congress and the Senate with little to no opposition. A vote recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital passed the Senate 90-0, months before Trump issued his own recognition. Among the 18 states that have passed laws against the boycott Israel movement, half are blue states, half are red.

“There remains broad, bipartisan support in Congress for the US-Israel relationship, because strengthening that relationship serves American interests,” Marshall Wittman, the spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, wrote JTA in an email. “That support is demonstrated regularly in consistent, bipartisan votes on pro-Israel initiatives.”

Children waving Israeli and American flags at the Celebrate Israel parade in New York City, June 4, 2017. (Perry Bindelglass)

Wittman’s predecessor, Josh Block, told JTA that support for Israel remains robust among Democrats, and that anti-Israel feeling represents a group that is still on the party’s extreme. He noted numbers from the same Pew poll showing that support for Israel is still high across ethnic groups and religious denominations.

“There’s been a legitimate effort of people on the far fringe of the Democratic party … to poison and undermine the legitimacy of Jewish pride and support for Israel,” Block, now the CEO of The Israel Project, told JTA. “The reality is the vast majority of Americans and the vast majority of Democrats identify Israel as one of our closest allies in the world. They see Israel as a free, open, democratic society.”

Polls showing broad support for Israel led some observers to criticize the way Pew framed the question. Most Americans, said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, don’t take a side in the conflict, and that option wasn’t given in the Pew poll. A poll conducted by the University of Maryland found that 59% of Americans don’t want the government to favor either Israelis or Palestinians. Broken down by party, 77% of Democrats said Trump should lean toward neither side in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared to 38%t of Republicans. Only 9% of Democrats wanted Trump to lean toward the Palestinians.

Pew’s question “pushes the answers to be more polarized than they may in fact be,” Wittes said of the Pew survey. “I don’t think this poll tells you anything useful about American support for Israel. One should not take away from this public opinion data the conclusion that there are whole segments of Americans that are getting more hostile to Israel, and I should write them off.”

Still, there are unmistakable signs that there are more Democrats willing to criticize Israel, especially its current government, than Republicans. In both 2012 and 2016, Democrats faced pressure from pro-Palestinian delegates to alter their party platform’s planks on Israel. In 2012, boilerplate references to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital were dropped from the platform but later restored. And in 2016, the party altered its platform to reflect Palestinian aspirations but rejected language calling for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and settlement activity.

James Zogby, who was the chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Resolutions Committee, was among those who wanted to add language about Israel’s occupation to the 2016 party platform.

Zogby, the founder of the Arab American Institute, told JTA that the Pew results show that Democrats are growing tired of Israeli actions in the West Bank and resent the mutual admiration between Trump and Netanyahu. Zogby also says Democrats are upset about Netanyahu’s past efforts to undermine Obama’s Iran nuclear deal — including a 2015 speech to Congress he delivered at the invitation of its Republican opponents.

James Zogby speaking at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., October 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“This is largely the result of really bad Israeli policy, and an embrace by a president who also has a really negative agenda,” he said.

Wittes and others also noted that this poll isn’t good news for Republican supporters of Israel, either. Pro-Israel activists have long emphasized that defending Israel is a bipartisan priority. If that support does erode among Democrats, it could hurt Israel even if Republicans continue to support the Jewish state.

“Every member of Congress who supports Israel is a good thing,” said Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for the Washington Post who self-identifies as center-right and has been very critical of Trump. “My conclusion is that [support for Israel] has become way too imbalanced. The challenge is to remove this from the partisan dynamic that is so fierce right now.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/are-democrats-abandoning-israel-for-palestinians-depends-who-you-ask/

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US ex-envoy warns Israeli leaders not to ‘burn bridges’ with Democrats

Former ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro says Jewish state should take concerns of progressives in America seriously rather than throw in lot with Republican party alone

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Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro attends at a fare-well session at the Knesset ahead of his departure from the role on January 17, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro attends at a fare-well session at the Knesset ahead of his departure from the role on January 17, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro cautioned Israeli leaders to be wary of “burning bridges” with the Democratic Party and aligning themselves solely with the Republicans, amid a sharp uptick in partisan divides over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as reflected in the findings of a new Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday.

“Israeli leaders may find it difficult to resist the temptation to ride this wave, embracing one side in partisan US political battles — as when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arranged his speech in Congress against the Iran deal solely with the Republican congressional leadership,” Shapiro said in a new op-ed co-written with Tamara Cofman Wittes and published by the Atlantic. “But that approach comes at the cost of alienating even longtime allies across the aisle, and when the next crisis inevitably hits, Israel’s leaders may regret having burned those bridges.”

Israel’s leaders, he cautioned, should not allow “the perception to take hold that they are writing off whole chunks of the Democratic camp.”

According to the poll, Democrats are almost as likely to sympathize with the Palestinians as they are with Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian peace conflict, while support for the Jewish state among Republicans is nearly three times higher than Democrats.

Twenty-seven percent of Democrats told the Pew Research Center they sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians, compared to 25% who said their sympathies lie with the Palestinians.

In this Tuesday, May 23, 2017 file photo, US President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

Among Republicans, those numbers were 79% and 6%, respectively.

“Based on the findings, some Israeli pundits and politicians, and many on the American right, have been arguing that Israel and its supporters should give up on the Democratic Party and its elected representatives as supporters of Israel,” Shapiro wrote, pointing to a tweet by the Republican Jewish Coalition, which boasted that the “GOP is the pro-Israel Party.” Shapiro, however, warned that the poll was “a terrible foundation for such claims,” adding that the results did not necessarily imply that Democrats were anti-Israel.

“The poll question is faulty because sympathy for Palestinians should not imply hostility to Israel, nor should sympathy for Israel require disregard for the fate of Palestinians,” the ex-envoy wrote. “A solution to their conflict enshrining two states for two peoples is the outcome most preferred by Americans regardless of party, and administrations of both parties have sought to help both Israel and the Palestinians achieve their goals in a two-state solution.”

Shapiro acknowledged that “support for Israel is, in fact, becoming a politicized issue in the United States, and partisan divides on policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are indeed getting wider.” It would be a grave mistake, he warned, for Israeli leaders to throw in their lot with the Republican party alone.

“Looking at the underlying data from the survey responses, we see that 34 percent of this year’s sample identify as independents — more than identify as Republicans (26 percent) or Democrats (33 percent),” he continued. “The gap between independents and Republicans remains large and trending larger, but the independents’ trend tracks the Democratic trend — both moving toward less sympathy with Israel relative to the Palestinians in the conflict between them. That’s the pattern that should worry Israelis, because independents and Democrats together represent more than two-thirds of Americans.”

“Americans are far more divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than they are on Israel or the US-Israel relationship and so when Israel advocates and Israelis themselves use this poll question as a proxy for American support for Israel, they are not doing themselves any favors.”

Although the percentage gap in support for Israel remained fairly steady between the parties in the two decades after 1978, the parties’ views on Israel began to diverge in 2001, with support among Democrats having fallen from 38% to 27% today, while among Republicans it has risen from 50% to 79%.

“In recent years, some Americans have come to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of human rights — and this is especially true for younger Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans,” Shapiro wrote. “This makes them sensitive to the hardships faced by Palestinian civilians, and to certain Israeli practices, like housing demolitions. These groups form a larger proportion of the voting public than they have in the past, and a growing proportion of the Democratic Party’s core constituency. And yes, there is some anti-Israel sentiment on the left end of the progressive political spectrum, just as there is some on the right end of the conservative camp.”

According to Shapiro, “the survey results point to how specific aspects of Israeli policy, such as the expansion of West Bank settlements that make a two-state solution more difficult, [and] affect the way Israel is viewed in the United States.”

In light of these trends, and due to the changing demography in America, Shapiro advised Israelis to consider what policies can contribute to the US-Israeli relationship, and which might erode its foundations.

“Israelis don’t have to take all the blame for the diplomatic stalemate. Palestinians bear plenty of their share, from failing to respond to negotiating proposals, to inciting and glorifying violence, to denying the historical Jewish connection to the land of Israel,” the former ambassador wrote. “But an Israeli government that does not seem committed at least to keeping the two-state solution alive and viable for the future will likely find there are some American supporters whose sympathy they will struggle to retain.”

“Israeli leaders would be wise not to allow the perception to take hold that they are writing off whole chunks of the Democratic camp, or disrespecting elected officials from the Democratic Party,” Shapiro continued. “And without weakening their own relationship with President Trump, Israeli leaders should find ways to demonstrate sensitivity to progressives’ concerns, especially when those concerns touch on issues core to the values Israel and the United States share.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-ex-envoy-warns-israeli-leaders-not-to-burn-bridges-with-democrats/

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John Kerry To Abbas Confidante: “Stay strong and Dona’t give in to Donald Trump” — Treasonous? — Kerry considering running for president in 2020

January 24, 2018
BY BEN CASPIT/MAARIV
The Jerusalem Post
JANUARY 24, 2018 08:08

The former US Secretary of State also surprised his interlocutor by saying he was seriously considering running for president in 2020.

Kerry to Abbas confidante: 'Stay strong and do not give in to Trump'

Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a bilateral meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan on September 19, 2016. . (photo credit: REUTERS/DARREN ORNITZ)

While the White House confirms that since the “Jerusalem Declaration” there has been a complete disconnect between the Palestinian Authority and the Trump administration, it turns out that the previous administration actually maintains contact with PA officials. Ma’ariv reported that former US Secretary of State John Kerry met in London with a close associate of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hussein Agha, for a long and open conversation about a variety of topics. Agha apparently reported details of the conversation to senior PA officials in Ramallah. A senior PA official confirmed to Ma’ariv that the meeting took place.

Agha is one of Abbas’s closest associates and one of the veteran peacemakers with Israel. He conducted the “London Track,” secret negotiations held from 2010 to 2013 between the emissaries of Netanyahu, attorney Yitzhak Molcho and Brigadier General Mike Herzog, under the supervision and presence of Dennis Ross. Agha also authored with Yossi Beilin the Beilin-Abbas agreement in the 1990s. He is considered a staunch supporter of the peace process, very close to Abbas, and maintains an extensive network of contacts with many elements, including Israelis.

During the conversation, according to the report, Kerry asked Agha to convey a message to Abbas and ask him to “hold on and be strong.” Tell him, he told Agha, “that he should stay strong in his spirit and play for time, that he will not break and will not yield to President Trump’s demands.” According to Kerry, Trump will not remain in office for a long time. It was reported that within a year there was a good chance that Trump would not be in the White House.

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Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif while the two worked on the Iran Nuclear Deal (AKA JCPOA)

Kerry offered his help to the Palestinians in an effort to advance the peace process and recommended that Abbas present his own peace plan. “Maybe it is time for the Palestinians to define their peace principles and present a positive plan,” Kerry suggested. He promised to use all his contacts and all his abilities to get support for such a plan. He asked Abbas, through Agha, not to attack the US or the Trump administration, but to concentrate on personal attacks on Trump himself, whom Kerry says is solely and directly responsible for the situation.

According to the report, referring to the president, Kerry used derogatory terms and even worse. Kerry offered to help create an alternative peace initiative and promised to help garner international support, among others, of Europeans, Arab states and the international community. Kerry hinted that many in the American establishment, as well as in American intelligence, are dissatisfied with Trump’s performance and the way he leads America. He surprised his interlocutor by saying he was seriously considering running for president in 2020. When asked about his advanced age, he said he was not much older than Trump and would not have an age problem.

In a report on the conversation, Agha said that Kerry appears to be “crazy about things,” very energetic, and someone who is yearning to help realize the dream of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Kerry explained, according to the report, that even in the Republican Party they do not know what to do with Trump and are very dissatisfied with him and that patience and breathing time are needed to get through this difficult period.

It is reasonable to assume that the Netanyahu government will use the details of this conversation to prove the ancient theory that John Kerry is “obsessed and messianic” and pro-Palestinian. It is not certain that this thesis stands the test of reality. It should be remembered that Kerry is an old friend of Netanyahu and a consistent supporter of Israel for decades. He believes that a genuine peace process is essential for both sides, and for the survival of the State of Israel, and that the two-state solution is the only realistic option that will enable Israel to continue to maintain its character as a Jewish democratic state. It is indeed obsessive on Kerry’s part, this ‘obsession’ was once permitted, but has recently become almost illegitimate and post-Zionist.

Agha preferred not to respond. Kerry’s response could not be obtained.

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 MK Oren: John Kerry has ‘acrid & obsessive’ place in his heart for Israel

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Iran has boasted about its ballistic missiles, many of which are on mobile launchers

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