Israel: Russia Putting Down Roots in Middle East (Jerusalem Post)
Russia is planning to stay in Israel's neighborhood for the long term, Israel Navy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Dror Friedman told Army Radio on Wednesday.
"You see their activities in the field and you see them putting down roots. You see their activities in the Port of Tartus [in Syria] and you understand that this isn't the activity of someone who is planning to pack their bags and leave tomorrow morning."
"You can see this through the amount of weaponry, the equipment they are bringing, the bases they are building."
Friedman said that the Russian military presence in Syria changes the way that the Navy operates in the area. "There have been instances in which we assessed the situation and changed or chose not to carry out operations," he said.
Thousands of Guns Bound for Terrorist Groups Seized in Spain - Alexander Smith and Laura Saravia (NBC News)
Spanish police announced Tuesday they had recovered 10,000 assault rifles, pistols, machine guns, and revolvers, as well as 400 shells and grenades, in raids in the north of the country, where they arrested five suspects.
The raids targeted a gang trafficking firearms on the black market that were destined to be sold to terror groups and gangs in Spain, France and Belgium.
Kuwait Airways Faces Further Legal Action Over Refusing to Fly Israeli Passengers - Barney Breen-Portnoy (Algemeiner)
The U.S.-based Lawfare Project has filed a complaint with a German court in a bid to shut down Kuwait Airways' layover flights that link Europe with non-Arab League countries such as India and Thailand, due to its discriminatory policy of refusing to fly Israeli passengers.
Past Lawfare Project efforts have already led to Kuwait Airways halting service on U.S.-Europe and inter-European routes.
The plaintiff in the latest case booked a ticket on Kuwait Airways to fly from Frankfurt to Bangkok, with a layover in Kuwait. The airline cancelled the ticket after learning the plaintiff held Israeli citizenship.
"This plaintiff is asking for a ruling by the court that will allow every German traveler to fly on every airline operating in German airports, regardless of his/her national origin, religion, or ethnicity," said the Lawfare Project's German counsel Nathan Gelbart.
Does Iran Really Respect Jews? - Michael Rubin (Commentary)
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, took to Twitter this week to castigate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his statements relating the story of Purim to present-day Iran, "a nation which has saved Jews three times."
Yet, under the regime that Zarif represents, Iran has lost at least 80% of its Jewish population.
It is true that, at times, Iran was a relative haven for the Jews. The irony here is that it was the regime that Zarif represents that overthrew an Iranian state that allowed its Jewish minority to thrive.
The writer, a former Pentagon official who dealt with Middle East issues, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
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- U.S. Demands UN Withdraw Report Branding Israel "Apartheid" State - Adam Shaw
A UN report co-authored by anti-Israel professor Richard Falk on Wednesday accused Israel of being "guilty of the crime of apartheid" - triggering a furious response from American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who blasted the report as "anti-Israel propaganda" and demanded the UN "withdraw" the study.
"The United States stands with our ally Israel and will continue to oppose biased and anti-Israel actions across the UN system and around the world," Haley said.
Falk, a former UN special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, is known for harsh and often outlandish criticisms of both America and Israel. A spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report does not reflect his views.
- Is Russia Abandoning Iran in Syria? - Yigal Carmon, A. Savyon and Anna Mahjar-Barducci
On March 11, 2017, the Iran Diplomacy website, which is close to Iranian Foreign Ministry circles, wrote that Iran is in a state of shock.
Despite Iranian-Russian cooperation in recent years, Iran currently feels that Russia is abandoning it in favor of other vital interests, such as reaching understandings with the U.S. to promote the lifting of sanctions, and with Turkey as its senior regional partner.
High-ranking American-Russian coordination (ostensibly for the purpose of defeating ISIS) is taking place at a time when the Trump administration, which is known for its anti-Iranian regime stance, is organizing the Gulf states and other Arab countries into what the Arab media refers to as an "Arab NATO" against Iran.
These developments create a feeling of siege and existential threat in Tehran in light of the formulation of a wide American-Russian-Arab (and Israeli) front against Iran's revolutionary regime.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Video: Palestinian Car-Ramming Attack at West Bank Bus Stop - Judah Ari Gross
A Palestinian, Fatemah Taqatqa, rammed her car into a bus stop at the Etzion Junction in the West Bank on Wednesday.
Surveillance footage showed the car veer across multiple lanes of traffic and crash into the metal posts that now protect many bus stops. According to the IDF, the driver targeted soldiers and civilians standing at the bus stop. The junction has been the scene of a number of terror attacks including car-rammings. (Times of Israel)
- Israel Uncovers Two Palestinian Terror Cells - Anna Ahronheim
Four members of two Palestinian terrorist cells were arrested in January, the Israel Security Agency said Wednesday. One cell involved members of Fatah's al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade from a-Ram near Jerusalem who threw a pipe bomb at security forces on October 16, 2016, wounding two, and are also suspected of being involved in numerous other terrorist attacks.
The other two were Hamas operatives from al-Aroub who were planning to carry out shooting attacks.
- Former Defense Minister Ya'alon Sees No Final Settlement with Palestinians in Near Future - Jeremy Sharon
Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon declared on Wednesday that there would not be a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future. "We are not going to reach a final settlement [with the Palestinians] in the coming future, but on the other hand, I don't want to rule them, and I can live with two Palestinian political entities, [including] Hamastan [in Gaza]." He added, "I cannot accept this idea that there are certain territories in the Land of Israel that are forbidden for Jews."
Ya'alon also discussed the three radical Islamist movements that are dominating the region: the Iranian-Shi'a hegemony, the radical Sunni jihadists and the advancement of the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the "neo-Ottoman" designs of Turkey under President Erdogan. With the disengagement of the U.S. from the Middle East, "the vacuum has been filled by these three elements struggling for hegemony in the region, and will dominate the political struggle and military, economic struggles in the region for the years to come." (Jerusalem Post)
- U.S. Should Warn Russia to Keep Iran and Hizbullah Away from Israel's Syrian Border - Dennis Ross
Part of being Israel's strategic partner means backing it when it is countering new threats. In this case, the U.S. administration should bluntly warn the Russians against Iran and Hizbullah seeking to establish a position in southern Syrian adjacent to Israel and Jordan.
It should be clear that we will support Israeli actions to prevent any such movement southward - and if there is an escalation, the U.S. will materially back Israel and be ready to offer any assistance that Israel might require. The Iranians should know they are playing with fire, and that message should be conveyed by the U.S., not just Israel.
The writer is counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and served in senior positions in the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.
(New York Daily News)
- A New Strategy Against ISIS and Al-Qaeda - Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan
The near-exclusive focus on Islamic State at the expense of serious efforts against al-Qaeda is an error. Destroying ISIS is necessary but not sufficient. Al-Qaeda is embedding itself within Sunni communities in Syria, Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere as the false message that it is more moderate than ISIS resonates around the world.
The Institute for the Study of War joined with the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute for an intensive planning exercise to test courses of action that offer the best chance of changing the momentum in Syria. The key is finding new Sunni partners. The aim after evicting ISIS must be to raise a Sunni Arab army that can ultimately defeat al-Qaeda.
Mr. Kagan directs the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. Ms. Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War. Their report is available here.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Why the U.S. Should Withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council - Michael Oren
Would the U.S. remain a member of an organization that condemned it for human rights abuses more frequently than it did Syria, North Korea, and Iran?
Yet, the U.S. is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council that does precisely that to Israel, America's foremost democratic Middle Eastern ally.
Over the past nine years, the UNHRC has condemned Israel 61 times, as opposed to its 16 resolutions on Syria and five on Iran. Denunciations of Israel outnumber those of all other countries combined.
Repelled by this bigotry, the Bush Administration refrained from appointing an ambassador to the council. That decision was reversed by President Obama, however, who believed that a U.S. presence on the body could redress some of its injustices, including that toward Israel. Yet, throughout the Obama years, UNHRC denouncements of Israel only multiplied. A return to America's previous boycott of the council would be warmly welcomed by Israel.
The fact that the U.S. not only helps fund this racist body but is formally represented on it, should be reprehensible to all Americans. Withdrawal from the council would reaffirm America's determination to stand up to hatred against Jews and any ethnic, racial, or religious groups. Quitting the UNHRC would send a moral message to the world. The writer, deputy minister for diplomacy in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, served as Israel's ambassador to the U.S. from 2009 to 2013.
See also Secretary of State Tillerson to UN Rights Council: Reform or We're Leaving - Colum Lynch and John Hudson (Foreign Policy)
Trump's Peacemaking - David Horovitz (Times of Israel)
- Allow me to offer some insights from the perspective of an Israeli who has unhappily watched well-intentioned efforts at peacemaking fail time and again over the years.
- Why did Israel so frustrate Trump's predecessors in the Obama Administration, spurning their entreaties to take territorial risks for peace, deriding their talk of multilayered security fences and other arrangements that would ostensibly keep us safe after a withdrawal to a slightly amended version of the pre-1967 borders?
- Because we don't trust the Palestinians. We think we would be vulnerable to aggression they might initiate. And even if we were to put aside our doubts about the current regime of Mahmoud Abbas, we know he could be easily swept aside by Hamas or other extremists were the Israel Defense Forces no longer deployed in the West Bank. Were Hamas or other extremists to take over there, everywhere in Israel is within short rocket range of everywhere in the West Bank. We would not be able to function for a single day with Hamas in control of the West Bank.
- We have also watched Abbas preside over a hierarchy that relentlessly demonized Israel, that incited his Palestinian people against us, and that did encourage terrorism. We saw him personally escalate the tensions surrounding the Temple Mount by hailing the "pure blood of Palestinian martyrs" spilled in defense of Al-Aqsa - directly contributing to the hysteria and thus to the car-rammings and stabbings and shootings.
- There is grassroots Israeli support in principle for an agreement, but there is no parallel on the Palestinian side. There is woefully inadequate grassroots Palestinian support for an accord because the widespread Palestinian conviction remains that the Jews have no right to be here.
- Change what Palestinians are taught and told about Israel in their schools and mosques, by their political leaders and via social media, and you begin to create a climate in which, one day, genuine progress toward an accommodation becomes possible.
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