Posts Tagged ‘Netanyahu’

Israel advances plans for 1,292 West Bank settler homes in new push

October 17, 2017


JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli authorities advanced plans Tuesday for 1,292 settler homes in a new push by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, an NGO said.

 © Hazem Bader, AFP | A picture shows on October 17,2017 the area of an Israeli army base in the centre of the divided city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank where 31 settlers house are going to be built.

The approvals came after government officials pledged a major boost in settlement home approvals this year, with US President Donald Trump so far much less critical of such plans than his predecessor Barack Obama.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now reported the approvals by a committee overseeing settlement construction in the West Bank.

A list provided by the NGO showed homes to be offered in a number of locations across the territory, including 146 in Nokdim, a southern West Bank settlement near Bethlehem where Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives.

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said further approvals were likely on Wednesday, with more than 2,000 units expected to be on the agenda over the course of the two-day meeting.

Separately on Monday, an Israeli committee approved permits for 31 settler homes in Hebron, the first such green light for the flashpoint West Bank city since 2002.

Several hundred Israeli settlers live in the heart of Hebron under heavy military guard among some 200,000 Palestinians.

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, formerly an important market road leading to a holy site where the biblical Abraham is believed to have been buried.

The street is now largely closed off to Palestinians.

Settlement building in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem is considered illegal under international law.

It is also seen as a major obstacle to peace as the settlements are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

– Two-state solution threatened –

Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government leans heavily on settlers and their supporters to maintain its thin parliamentary majority.

Israel took heavy criticism on settlement construction from Obama’s administration, but that has not been the case with Trump.

Israeli officials say a total of around 12,000 housing units will be given various stages of approval this year, four times the amount in 2016.

Last month, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, himself a supporter of settlements, enraged Palestinians when he told an Israeli TV interviewer that Israel is “only occupying two percent of the West Bank”.

The Yesha Council, which represents settlers across the West Bank, welcomed the ambassador’s comments.

More than 60 percent of the West Bank is under near complete Israeli control, the UN says, while a further portion of the territory is under Israeli security control.

The portion of the West Bank that is in theory under both Palestinian civilian and security control still sees raids by Israeli soldiers.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Trump is seeking to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians frozen since a US-led initiative collapsed in 2014.

The Palestinians have grown increasingly concerned by Trump and his team — including Friedman — who have yet to publicly commit to the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called “two-state solution.”

Prominent members of Netanyahu’s coalition openly oppose the idea of a Palestinian state and advocate annexing most of the West Bank.

Netanyahu recently said he plans no uprooting of settlements, blaming Palestinian “incitement” and attacks against Israelis, among other issues, for the lack of progress in peace efforts.

by Stephen Weizman

Israel Will Not Negotiate With a Hamas-Based Palestinian Government

October 17, 2017
 OCTOBER 17, 2017 18:02

Israel’s security cabinet stated on Tuesday evening that it would not negotiate with a Hamas-based Palestinian government, as Hamas is a terrorist organization set on destroying Israel.

A statement issued following the security cabinet meeting said Israel’s position would stand until Hamas agrees to disarm and end all its terrorist activities, recognize Israel, return the bodies of Israeli soldiers and living Israeli citizens being held in Gaza and sever all ties with Iran.

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In addition, the Israeli government demanded that any financial and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza be distributed by the Palestinian Authority and the existing networks set up for such actions. Israel also demanded that Gaza security be placed under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, including border-crossing points to Egypt and Israel as well as the responsibility of preventing the tunnels dug by Hamas to be used for smuggling.


Netanyahu presses Russian defence minister on Iran

October 17, 2017


© AFP | Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (2nd R), his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu (C) and Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot (R), listen to their national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the defence ministry on October 16, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday, saying his country will not allow Iran to “establish itself militarily in Syria”.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands in Sochi, Russia. Photo credit AP

Both Russia and Iran, Israel’s main enemy, are backing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

“The meeting mostly dealt with Iran’s attempt to establish itself militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement of the talks in Jerusalem.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu told Russian Defence Minister Shoigu, ‘Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow this.'”

The statement said Netanyahu also told Shoigu that “Iran will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons within 8-10 years” if the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers including Russia is not changed.

Their talks came after Israel’s military carried out an air strike on an anti-aircraft battery in Syria on Monday after it fired at its planes.

Israel has sought to avoid becoming more directly involved in the six-year civil war in Syria, though it acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes to stop what it calls advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

The Lebanese Shiite group, against which Israel fought a devastating 2006 war, is also militarily backing Assad’s regime in the conflict.

Russia and Israel have established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria. Israel’s military says Russia was informed “in real time” of Monday’s strike.

Shoigu met Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday evening.

Lieberman said in a statement “we are not always in agreement, but we are communicating in a sincere and open manner”.


How Qatar crisis played a role in Azoulay’s election as UNESCO chief

October 16, 2017


© Thomas Samson, AFP | French former culture minister and new UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay arrives on October 13, 2017 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Text by Anna SANSOM

Latest update : 2017-10-16

The election of France’s former culture minister Audrey Azoulay as UNESCO’s new director-general is partly due to the crisis between Qatar and Saudi-led Gulf countries.

On October 13, Azoulay was elected to become UNESCO’s director-general for the next four years, beating the Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari by 30 votes to 28. Her victory is emblematic of how the collapse of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar hampered a candidate from the Arab region’s chances to lead the Paris-headquartered international organisation.

Despite intense campaigning using Qatar’s financial might, Al-Kawari lost out due to his country’s diplomatic isolation among Arab countries. After two rounds of voting by the 58 members of UNESCO’s executive board, Al-Kawari led by 22 votes, but was deprived of a clear majority by Egypt’s candidate, Moushira Khattab, and Azoulay.

Egypt belongs to the Saudi-led coalition that has cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Coincidentally, out of the nine candidates vying for the UNESCO post, four – also including Lebanon and Iraq – came from Arab countries.

Azoulay, whose father was an adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and who served as culture minister during François Hollande’s presidency, would have had more trouble winning if the Arab countries had managed to present a united front.

“The appointment of Audrey Azoulay is highly unusual as she comes from the country that hosts UNESCO but it is a sign of the times,” Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, associate fellow at London-based thinktank Chatham House, told FRANCE 24.

“Internal divisions in the Arab world, especially between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the failure of the Arab world to form a consensus around a single candidate are emblematic of divisions in the region,” said Vinjamuri.

“France‘s rise, and in this case the appointment of Azoulay, should help to mitigate some of the politics that have divided UNESCO in recent years.”

Indeed, just one day before Azoulay’s win, the US announced its intention to withdraw from UNESCO by the end of 2018. “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” the US State Department said in a statement. It added that the US hoped to remain engaged as a non-member observer state.

The US withdrawal was largely due to the country’s view that UNESCO has an anti-Israel bias. In July, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, called UNESCO’s listing of the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian Chatham Houseworld heritage site an “affront to history”.

Israel followed suit and is also preparing to withdraw from UNESCO, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has derided as a “theatre of the absurd”, saying in a statement that: “Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”

The US’s anti-UNESCO stance predates the Donald Trump administration. In 1984, the US quit UNESCO but re-entered in 2003 under President Barack Obama. In 2011, the Obama administration cut annual funding of around $80 million after Palestine became a full member. The US’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO a second time is dramatic, Vinjamuri believes, and expresses a lack of interest in “soft power” politics, such as science and culture.

“The US decision is clearly meant to be a dramatic, sharp departure which goes in line with much of President Trump has been doing, which is taking the US out of things,” Vinjamuri said. “It’s making a big, bold, brash statement about the US not staying in international organisations or meeting its international agreements and is part of Trump’s house-clearing exercise to reduce costs. Leaving UNESCO accelerates and exacerbates the game of America under the current administration, of not co-operating with Europe, and is inflammatory and damaging to America.”

Asked about how Israel’s departure could affect the status of the old city of Hebron as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Vinjamuri replied: “Israel’s departure is not going to change UNESCO’s decision on that, or on any material designation of somewhere as a cultural heritages site.”

“UNESCO isn’t going to be begging for Israel to come back,” Vinjamuri asserted. “UNESCO will move forward and Israel will be left behind, while the US will try to influence from the outside. It’s possible that the US may return again in the future but that’s a long way off at this point.”

Azoulay is expected to take office on November 15, 2017.


Israel Says Europeans Putting Their Heads in The Sand, Like Before World war II

October 16, 2017
 OCTOBER 15, 2017 06:27

“The Europeans continue to put their heads in the sand, exactly like they did before World War II.”

Def. minister: 'Europeans putting heads in the sand' on Iran deal

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a party event, September 13, 2017. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed Great Britain, France and Germany Saturday night for their opposition to the steps US President Donald Trump announced against the Iranian nuclear deal.

The leaders of the three European countries, whose companies have made massive business deals with Iran, issued a joint statement saying they “stand committed” to the deal and are concerned about the implications of Trump’s refusal to back it.

“The Europeans continue to put their heads in the sand, exactly like they did before World War II,” Liberman told Channel 2. “The leaders of Europe prefer to run away from reality.” Liberman praised Trump for sending the Iran deal back to Congress for reevaluation, calling it a “courageous and correct decision.” The defense minister added that “Israel must be ready to handle Iran by itself without the US.”

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said at a cultural event in Kiryat Ono on Saturday that Trump had made a mistake.

“The Iran deal is clearly bad because it enables the Islamic Republic to achieve a military nuclear capability,” he said. “But instead of arguing with the partners to the agreement, who oppose reopening it, it would have been better for the US to focus its efforts on pressuring the Iranian regime with sanctions due to its violations of UN Security Council decisions on terrorism, undermining regimes in the area, human rights violations and distributing weapons and missiles.”

Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “waking up the world to the dangers of the Iranian threat,” and ridiculed the opposition for saying that Netanyahu’s party, Likud, was fear-mongering and using the issue for political gain.

Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page crediting himself for Trump’s move and mocking criticism of his efforts against the Iran deal by opposition heads Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid, as well as by Channel 2 commentator Amnon Abramovich.

Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay said Netanyahu’s behavior on the Iranian issue had harmed Israel diplomatically.

“Those who burn bridges in the diplomatic game stop having influence,” Gabbay said in a speech at a cultural event in Beersheba on Saturday. “This is what happened to Netanyahu with the Iran deal. He is good at speeches but has failed at negotiating and, therefore, we had no impact on the agreement. I hope that this time Netanyahu will behave differently.”

Gabbay welcomed Trump’s decision to harm the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ terrorist operation financially and said the next step must be amending the agreement and lengthening it so Iran will not be able to return to enriching uranium.

Zionist Union MK Omer Bar-Lev said he was glad Trump had not decided to cancel the agreement, because that could have enabled Iran to race forward to nuclear capability.

He said it was right of Trump to push for new sanctions against Iran due to its development of missiles and continued support of terrorism.

“Sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard could be a beneficial step to restraining Iranian support for terrorism, including Hezbollah and Hamas,” Bar-Lev said.


Saudi View of Donald Trump’s New Policy on Iran “Identical To That of Israel”

October 15, 2017
 OCTOBER 15, 2017 16:34

King Salman praised Trump in a phone call for his “firm strategy” against Iran.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi Emba

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi Embassy in London, Britain. (photo credit:REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY)

Saudi Arabia’s reaction to US President Donald Trump’s more confrontational posture toward Tehran was strikingly similar to Israel’s, highlighting the two countries’ common desire for a more determined American effort to counter Iranian influence in the region.

On Saturday, King Salman praised Trump in a phone call for his “firm strategy” against “Iranian aggression and its support for terrorism in the region,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The king praised the Trump administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats and the need for concerted efforts on terrorism and extremism and its primary sponsor, Iran,” the Agency added.

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The report followed an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Friday, also praising Trump for the same reasons, saying the US president “has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.”

Since Trump’s election, the Saudis had been hoping for a tougher American stand on Tehran, which they view as a great and growing threat to their interests.

In May, the Saudis gathered Islamic leaders for a summit with Trump in Riyadh that highlighted Iran as the epicenter of subversion and terrorism in the region. Trump’s decertification of the nuclear deal, his sanctioning of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and his vow to stand against Iran’s fueling of “conflict, terror and turmoil” are seen by the Saudis as initial crystallization of the more assertive — some would say, aggressive, approach they had hoped for.

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The Trump speech was music to the ears of Abdul-Rahman Rashed, former editor-in-chief of the London-based, Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He echoed Netanyahu’s choice of the word “courageous” to describe Trump’s approach.

“It’s a correct beginning for regional corrections or at least stopping the creeping of Iran,” he wrote of the speech in Asharq al-Awsat Saturday.

“The project of Iran is expansive and it wants to have hegemony over the region. It is not only building its nuclear capability for defensive purposes,” Rashed wrote.

“Iran is waging destructive military wars every day in the region. All of them are expansionist activities,” he added.

In the view of Gabriel Ben-Dor, a Middle East specialist at Haifa University, “what the Saudis want from the US is what we Israelis want: to lean hard on Iran, to make sure they don’t cheat and find ways to bypass the nuclear agreement to develop nuclear weapons — to not allow them to develop long range ballistic missiles unhindered and to confront them on their support of terror and subversion.”

“The Saudis feel that Trump’s assertive speech is a signal that the US is prepared to do something on these three things critical to the Saudi perception of national security. Their view is quite identical to what we Israelis feel about things on the agenda,” Ben-Dor said.

The Saudis are worried about Iranian subversion across the region: in Yemen, where Riyadh has gotten bogged down in its war with Iranian-backed Houthi forces; in Syria, where growing Iranian influence threatens Saudi allies; and in Bahrain, where there are outbreaks of unrest among the Shiite majority.

“These are immediate threats. The nuclear project and long range missiles are not immediate but they are very paramount in the Saudis’ thinking about their future,” Ben-Dor said.

In Ben-Dor’s view, the Saudis do not want to see the US pull out of the nuclear deal entirely. “They don’t see an alternative. If the agreement collapses now without an alternative agreement and without an international coalition subscribing to an agreed upon policy than Iran gets a free hand to continue and develop its own nuclear ambitions more forcefully and without international inspection.”

Rather than it collapsing, the Saudis want the agreement “to have more teeth, a tougher inspection regime and to expand it to include Iran’s missile program.”


Israel PM blasts police chief over investigation leaks

October 15, 2017

POOL/AFP/File | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and accused members of the media of seeking to force him from office

The Associated Press

OCTOBER 15, 2017 5:00 AM

Israeli opposition leaders call for Iran sanctions but no pullout from nuke deal

October 14, 2017

Avi Gabbay says Israel needs to be involved in diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions

Illustrative: Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak. (CC-BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia/Nanking2012)

Illustrative: Iran’s heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak. (CC-BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia/Nanking2012)

Israeli opposition leaders on Saturday called for further sanctions on Iran to punish Tehran for its support of terror, but said the US should not pull out of the nuclear deal.

The calls come a day after US President Donald Trump announced that he would not recertify the Iranian nuclear deal, while not withdrawing from the pact, and outlined a new, tougher approach toward Tehran.

Trump said he was launching a tougher strategy to check Iran’s “fanatical regime” and warned that 2015’s landmark international nuclear deal could be terminated at any time.

Speaking at an event in the southern city of Beersheba, Labor party leader Avi Gabbay praised Trump’s speech and said he hoped that Trump would follow through on his vow to crack down on Iran.

Avi Gabbay at a press conference on July 11, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We have to continue to press for greater sanctions, specifically relating to (Iran’s support for) terror,” Gabbay said. “I hope that Trump will also carry out the second stage and not just be satisfied with speeches.”

Gabbay, who said Iran was a threat to Israel, but not “an existential threat,” also criticized the Israeli government for not being involved in the formulation of the Iran deal, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bitterly opposed. Gabbay said Israel needed to be involved in the “diplomacy and closed-door discussions.”

“Last time we fled from that. We made all the speeches but we were not in the room so we did not influence the deal,” he said.

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon speaks at a cultural event in Ra’anana on July 15, 2017. (Flash90)

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon also called for the deal with Iran to be upheld.

“It would be a big mistake to cancel the nuclear deal with Iran,” Ya’alon said, calling instead for Trump to impose heavy sanctions on Tehran for its continued support of terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Ya’alon was a hawkish defense chief from the Likud party until he was ousted by Netanyahu over a series of disagreements. He has vowed to challenge Netanayhu in the next elections.

Netanyahu on Friday welcomed Trump’s announcement that he would not recertify the nuclear accord with Iran, saying Trump had “boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime.”

In a video posted to YouTube, the Israeli leader said: “If the Iran deal is left unchanged, one thing is absolutely certain — in a few year’s time, the world’s foremost terrorist regime will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons.”

In a much-anticipated White House speech, Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the accord, but “decertified” his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of Congress.

“We cannot and will not make this certification,” he said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

And, outlining the results of a review of efforts to counter Tehran’s “aggression” in a series of Middle East conflicts, Trump ordered tougher sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and on its ballistic missile program.

Trump said the agreement, which defenders say was only ever meant to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, had failed to address Iranian subversion in its region and its illegal missile program.

President Donald Trump speaks on Iran policy from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The US president said he supports efforts in Congress to work on new measures to address these threats without immediately torpedoing the broader deal.

“However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said, in a televised address from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time,” he warned.

Trump announced targeted sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards, a key instrument of Tehran’s military and foreign policy that the president described as “the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia.”

He said he is authorizing the US Treasury Department to “further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates.”

But the US leader backed away from designating the Guards Corps as a terror group, a move that would have triggered a slew of sanctions and almost certain Iranian retribution.

Simultaneously, the US Treasury said it had taken action against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards under a 2001 executive order to hit sources of terror funding and added four companies that allegedly support the group to its sanctions list.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps are seen at an annual military parade in front of the mausoleum of the late Ayatollah Khomeini just outside Tehran on September 22, 2014. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi/File)

Trump said he planned to ensure “Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon.”

He accused the Obama administration of lifting sanctions on Iran as part of the 2015 nuclear accord “just before” they could cripple the regime and bring it to collapse.

“The Iran deal is one of the worst and one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” he said. “In just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards nuclear weapons breakout… What is the purpose of a deal that, at best, only delays” Iranian nuclear ambitions, he asked.

Furthermore, Trump said Tehran had failed to live up to certain parts of the agreement and was “not living up to the spirit of the deal.”

The president said Iran was “under the control of a fanatical regime” that has “spread death, destruction and chaos all around the globe.” He warned that “history has shown that the longer we ignore a threat the more dangerous that threat becomes.”

“The regime’s two favorite chants are ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’” he noted.

He described Tehran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” saying it backs Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and “other terrorist networks,” and warning of “the increasing menace posed by Iran.”

Trump accused Iran of “multiple violations of the agreement,” but was light on specific examples.

The president said Iran had on two occasions exceeded the 130-metric-ton limit on heavy water, and that Tehran had “repeatedly” said it would not allow inspectors onto military sites suspected of having been “part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.”


Israel opposed the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. But how happy will Israel be if Trump really scraps it?

October 9, 2017

By Noga Tarnopolsky
The Los Angeles Times

October 9, 2017

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the Iranian nuclear deal President Trump now threatens to undo. (Sebastian Scheiner – Associated Press)

Israel had opposed the nuclear deal brokered between the United States and Iran, but if President Trump follows through on threats to scrap the pact, the move will present Israel with a volatile predicament.

Though Israel long called the terms of the deal flawed, some Israelis fear its demise would spur Iran to further its nuclear ambitions. Under the deal, Iran agreed to destroy or disable most of its nuclear infrastructure in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.

In the words of Yoaz Hendel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former director of communications, “we’re in the same dilemma … the U.S. administration is in.”

“On the one hand,” he said, “it’s a bad deal. Israel and the United States must say that all the time. It’s a bad deal.”

On the other hand, “canceling the deal will mean that Iran will harden its position. It wants to be the regional hegemon, and it will want to prove itself. And I mean that in the Middle Eastern sense — militarily — not using the graces of European diplomacy.”

The Israeli government declined to comment on Trump’s possible actions. The president must notify Congress by Sunday whether Iran is complying with the pact. Over the objections of several of his top national security advisors, Trump is leaning toward announcing that Iran is not in compliance.

Netanyahu fought hard against the deal, and the disagreement with the Obama administration shook Israel’s historic ties to the United States.

“This deal caused us very significant damage,” Hendel said in an interview, “but it’s spilled milk. If Trump certifies the deal, we have a borderline nuclear nation at our border and major consequences in terms of Iran’s subsidy of terror organizations, especially Hezbollah. But if he decertifies, we’re back where we were in the old days, where the only way to change the regional situation is a military strike.”

Candidate Trump made canceling the Iran deal, the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy achievement, a central campaign promise. In talking of withdrawing from a deal ratified by Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, Trump appears to be trying to change the pact’s framework. Until now, the agreement focused on Iran’s nuclear development.

In a recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States could change what constitutes “compliance” with the agreement, as Netanyahu has been pushing it to do. Perhaps, for example, a revised pact would address Iran’s development of missiles.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has been complying with the deal, but critics say the U.N. agency has been too lenient in its reviews of Iran’s actions.

If Trump declares Iran out of compliance with the 2015 deal, it would fall to Congress to decide whether U.S. sanctions related to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program should be put back in place. Under law, Congress would have 60 days in which to act.

“[Trump] wants the headlines of deconstructing various aspects of Obama’s legacy — Cuba, Obamacare, the Iran deal — without the actual real-world impact of those decisions or coming up with alternatives,” said Dan Shapiro, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017.

“Even some prominent opponents of the deal are trying to spin the fact that Trump will decertify but Congress will decide not to renew the sanctions that were suspended. They seem to want their cake and to eat it too,” Shapiro said.

For Israel, said Eldad Pardo, an expert on Iran who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “the best case would be to leave the deal and then improve it to include missile development.”

“Trump’s advantage is that Iran perceives him as unpredictable,” he said. “They are not irrational actors. They will have to submit to him out of fear that the regime could collapse if Trump prepares for war. Iran is in a position of great weakness in relation to the United States, and rattling the deal will remind them of this.”

Pardo’s prediction may have been borne out late Friday when an Iranian source confirmed to Reuters that, hoping to reduce tensions, Tehran had indicated to the six Western signatories of the Obama-era deal that it is open to talks about its ballistic missile arsenal.

The assessment of Israel’s military intelligence professionals has consistently been that the deal has offered Israel tangible benefits — that even though inspections in Iran by monitors are not as rigorous as some would like, they are better than no inspections.

“The prevailing view of current and retired Israeli military officers is that while it is flawed, the deal is serving Israel’s interests,” Shapiro said. “Canceling it now will bring the moment of truth of Iran getting nukes much closer, and that is not to Israel’s advantage.”

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.