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Shimon Peres Witnessed Israel’s History, and Shaped it

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

By Josef Federman; AP Big Story – bigstory.ap.org

JERUSALEM (AP) — At every corner of Israel’s tumultu

FILE - In this Sunday, April 30, 1995, file photo, President Bill Clinton, left, listens to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, at the Paramount Theater in New York's Madison Square Garden. Peres, a former Israeli president and prime minister, whose life story mirrored that of the Jewish state and who was celebrated around the world as a Nobel prize-winning visionary who pushed his country toward peace, has died, the Israeli news website YNet reported early Wednesday, September 28, 2016. He was 93. (AP Photo/Joe Tabacca, File)

FILE – In this Sunday, April 30, 1995, file photo, President Bill Clinton, left, listens to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, at the Paramount Theater in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Peres, a former Israeli president and prime minister, whose life story mirrored that of the Jewish state and who was celebrated around the world as a Nobel prize-winning visionary who pushed his country toward peace, has died, the Israeli news website YNet reported early Wednesday, September 28, 2016. He was 93. (AP Photo/Joe Tabacca, File)

ous history, Shimon Peres was there.

He was a young aide to the nation’s founding fathers when the country declared independence in 1948, and he played a key role in turning Israel into a military power. He was part of the negotiations that sealed the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, garnering a Nobel Peace Prize. He was welcomed like royalty in world capitals.

But only at the end of a political career stretching more than 60 years did Peres, who died Wednesday at the age of 93, finally win the widespread admiration of his own people that had eluded him for so long.

Peres began a new chapter at age 83, assuming the nation’s presidency following a scandal that forced his predecessor to step down. The job cemented Peres’ transformation from down-and-dirty political operator or naive peace proponent to elder statesman and a wise, grandfatherly sage who transcended political divisions.

“After such a long career, let me just say something: My appetite to manage is over. My inclination to dream and to envisage is greater,” Peres told The Associated Press in an interview on July 15, 2007, moments before he was sworn in as president.

He said he would not allow his age, or the constraints of a largely ceremonial office, to slow him down. “I’m not in a hurry to pass away,” Peres said. “The day will come that I shall not forget to pass away. But until then, I’m not going to waste my life.

The White House said Wednesday night that President Barack Obama will lead a U.S. delegation to Jerusalem to attend Peres’ funeral on Friday.

Obama is among a high-powered group of global leaders and dignitaries expected to attend the ceremony, a fitting tribute for a politician who reveled in the political limelight and loved to hobnob with celebrities, artists and the world’s rich and famous.

As president, Peres tirelessly jetted around the world to represent his country at conferences, ceremonies and international gatherings. He was a fixture at the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where he was treated like a rock star as the world’s wealthy and powerful listened to his every word, on topics ranging from Mideast peace to nanotechnology to the wonders of the human brain.

He also became Israel’s moderate face at a time when the nation was led by hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres sought to reassure the international community that Israel seeks peace, despite concerns over continued settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and the paralysis of negotiations under Netanyahu. While Peres never tired of speaking of peace, he tended to avoid strident criticism of Netanyahu.

It was his 1994 Nobel Prize that established Peres’ man-of-peace image. He proudly displayed the prize — which he shared with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat — on the desk of his presidential office.

As foreign minister, Peres secretly brokered the historic Oslo interim peace accords with the Palestinians, signed at the White House on Sept. 13, 1993.

Accepting the award, he told assembled dignitaries that “war, as a method of conducting human affairs, is in its death throes, and the time has come to bury it.”

Despite the assassination of Rabin, the breakdown of peace talks, a second Palestinian uprising in 2000, wars in Lebanon and Gaza, and Netanyahu’s continued re-elections, Peres maintained his insistence that peace was right around the corner.

“I’m sure I shall see peace in my lifetime. Even if I should have to extend my life for a year or two, I won’t hesitate,” he said in a 2013 interview marking his 90th birthday.

Peres was born Shimon Perski on Aug. 2, 1923 in Vishniev, then part of Poland and now in Belarus. He moved to pre-state Palestine in 1934 with his family, where he changed his surname to Peres, or songbird, in Hebrew. Relatives who remained in Poland, including his grandfather, a prominent rabbi, were killed when Nazis set a synagogue on fire during the Holocaust. Peres often spoke lovingly of his grandfather in speeches. The actress Lauren Bacall was a cousin.

Still in his 20s, Peres rose quickly through the ranks of Israel’s pre-state leadership, and served as a top aide to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, after independence in 1948. Peres once called Ben-Gurion “the greatest Jew of our time.”

At 29, he served as director of Israel’s Defense Ministry, and is credited with arming Israel’s military almost from scratch. He later worked with the French to develop Israel’s nuclear program, which today is widely believed to include a large arsenal of bombs.

Still, he suffered throughout his political career from the fact that he never wore an army uniform or fought in a war.

In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, serving in nearly all major Cabinet posts over his long career. As finance minister, he imposed an emergency plan to halt triple-digit inflation in the 1980s. He also was an early supporter of the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank, a position he would later abandon.

But he had trouble breaking into the prime minister’s post, the top job in Israeli politics. He was hampered by a reputation among the public and fellow politicians as both a utopian dreamer and a political schemer.

He ran for prime minister in five general elections, losing four and tying one, in 1984, when he shared the job in a rotation with his rival Yitzhak Shamir.

His well-tailored, neck-tied appearance, swept-back gray hair and penchant for artists and intellectuals seemed to separate him from his more informal countrymen. He never lost his Polish accent, making him a target for mimicry.

One of the lowest points of his political career came in 1990, when he led his Labor Party out of a unity government with Shamir’s hard-line Likud on the strength of promises from small factions to support his bid to replace Shamir.

At the last minute, several members of parliament changed their minds, approving a Shamir government without Peres and Labor. The incident became known in Israeli political lore as Peres’ “stinking maneuver.” Rabin scorned him as a “relentless meddler” and in 1992 replaced him as party leader.

The two eventually repaired their relationship and worked together on pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

After Rabin’s assassination by a Jewish ultranationalist opposed to Israel’s peace moves in 1995, Peres became acting prime minister. But he failed to capitalize on the widespread sympathy for the fallen leader and lost a razor-thin election the following year to Netanyahu.

In one famous incident, an angry Peres rhetorically asked a gathering of his Labor Party whether he was a “loser.” Resounding calls of “yes” rained down on him.

Peres would later blame a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings for his defeat. He described his visit to the scene of a deadly bus explosion in Jerusalem, where people started screaming “killer” and “murderer” at him. “I knew that I lost the election,” he said.

He suffered another humiliation in 2000 when he ran for the presidency, a largely ceremonial position elected by the parliament. Peres believed he had wrapped up the election, but the religious Shas Party broke a promise to him and switched its support to Likud candidate Moshe Katsav.

Even so, he refused to quit. In 2001, he took the post of foreign minister in a unity government led by his rival Ariel Sharon, serving for 20 months before Labor withdrew from the coalition. In Peres’ final political defeat, Labor overthrew him as party leader in 2005, choosing instead the little-known Amir Peretz.

Peres subsequently followed Sharon into a new party, Kadima, serving as vice-premier and maintaining that post under Sharon’s successor, Ehud Olmert.

He was able to attain the presidency when Katsav was forced to step down weeks before his term ended to face rape charges. Katsav was later convicted and sent to prison.

Seeking to stabilize the cherished institution, parliament turned to Peres and elected him president.

Peres cultivated an image as a grandfatherly figure, frequently inviting groups of children and teens to the presidential residence. He embraced social media and promoted Israel’s high-tech industry in meetings with top officials at Google, Facebook and other major companies.

Peres also launched his “President’s Conference,” which became an annual high-powered gathering in Jerusalem of artists, thinkers and business leaders from around the world.

Derided by critics as extravagant and unnecessary, the gathering drew some of the world’s most powerful personalities. The 2013 conference also became a 90th birthday party, with figures such as Bill Clinton, Barbra Streisand and Robert DeNiro in attendance.

He also exhibited a humorous side. When he left the presidency in 2014, he appeared in a video his granddaughter produced where he jokingly tried out new jobs, including as supermarket cashier, gas station attendant and standup comedian — peppering his comments with puns and visionary slogans. Just hours before his stroke, Peres had posted a video to Facebook encouraging the public to buy locally-made products.

Peres was a controversial figure among the Palestinians, who appreciated his peaceful rhetoric but also blamed him for a deadly Israeli artillery strike that killed dozens of civilians in Lebanon in 1996 and for allowing continued settlement construction on occupied lands.

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a negotiating partner of Peres in the 1990s, said Abbas sent a condolence letter to Peres’ family and praised the Israeli statesman’s “persistent efforts to reach a just peace.”

Asked about his secret to longevity, Peres said he never dwelled on the past.

“What happened until now is over, unchangeable. I’m not going to spend time on it. So I am really living in the future,” he said. “I really think that one should devote his energies to make the world better and not to make the past remembered better.”

Peres’ wife Sonya died in 2011. He leaves a daughter, Tsvia Valden, a university professor, and two sons, Nehemia, a leading Israeli venture capitalist, and Yonatan, a veterinarian.

Peres represented “the essence of Israel itself,” President Barack Obama said.

“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people,” he said. “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever.”

 

Is the Islamic State’s Plan to Conquer Rome So Far Fetched?

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

By: William Reed; The Clarion Project – clarionproject.org

Historically, violent and civilizational jihad has changed the demographic character and culture of entire nations in much of the world.

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) made a call to its cells in Europe through an encrypted text message in English, French, and Arabic on the social media over the weekend (Sept. 3-4).

The Turkish news outlet NTV reported that via the ISIS-affiliated “Nasir Foundation,” the terror group sent a message to its members and sympathizers in Europe who are preparing for attacks, telling them to “either act immediately or annihilate all organizational information they possess.”

“Our brothers and sisters in Europe and especially in France, hurry up to carry out your acts. Also, be careful and cautious,” ordered the terror group.

“We hear that a lot of our brothers get arrested before carrying out their acts. We suggest you to delete all of the information and messages in your devices relating the Islamic State including photos, videos and applications. We also suggest you to carry out your acts before it is too late.”

ISIS allegedly made the warning after Syrian-born Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the official spokesperson and a senior leader of the Islamic State, was killed in Aleppo. The U.S. and Russia both announced in separate statements that they killed al-Adnani in their airstrikes.

Since al-Adnani’s death, there have been calls for revenge attacks to be carried out by jihadist operatives, the Daily Mail reported.

“According to the respected Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity, the threats were made on a pro-ISIS account on the encrypted Telegram messaging service, with one warning: ‘We will exterminate you.’”

In 2014, al-Adnani declared that supporters of the Islamic State from all over the world should attack citizens of Western states, including the US, France and UK.

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be,” he said.

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

IS declares it will conquer Istanbul, Rome

In its recently-released new English magazine Rumiyah (Rome), ISIS declared it will conquer Istanbul and Rome.

The magazine, which is the terror group’s second international publication after Dabiq, is published in several languages including English, Turkish, Russian and French.

As to why they chose the name Rumiyah, ISIS explained: “Rasulallah [prophet of Allah – Muhammed, the founder of Islam] heralded the Islamic conquest of Rome in end times. We ask our God to enable us to conquer this district and Konstantiniyye [Istanbul] which will be conquered before Rome.”

The Islamic State made Abu Muhammad al-Adnani the cover boy of the first edition of their new magazine, with calls for revenge of his death. The terror group called on their supporters to “sacrifice themselves,” a statement interpreted as a call to carry out terror attacks against European countries and other members of the anti-ISIS collation forces.

The Islamic State and Rome

“The conquest of Rome has been a primary goal since the beginning of the Islamic State,” writes journalist Dale Hurd of CBN News. “Muslim scholars say Muhammed prophesied that the two great Roman cities would be conquered: Constantinople and Rome.

“The Islamic State reveals part of its plan in its publication ‘Black Flags From Rome’,” added Hurd. “It will use sleeper cells and expects to get help from Muslims serving in European armies and from non-Muslim sympathizers. It also wants to fire missiles into Italy.”

Islamic Expansionist Campaigns in History

Muslim jihadist armies have targeted European territories since the inception of the religion in the 8th century.

The Islamic invasion of Hispania, for example, was the initial expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate over Hispania from 711 to 788. The invasion resulted in the establishment of the Emirate of Cordoba under the Muslim ruler Abd ar-Rahman I, who completed the unification of Muslim-ruled Iberia, or al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), between 756 and 788.

Europe was also a popular target of Ottoman jihadist armies.  Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453 in a bloody military campaign, which marked the end of the Byzantine Empire.

Throughout centuries, Ottomans also occupied many other European nations such as Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary and Cyprus. They targeted and attacked other European lands, including Austria, Venice, and Poland.

Much of the present-day “Muslim world” was invaded and captured by Muslim imperial armies. Anatolia – today’s Turkey – was mostly Christian before the Turkish conquests of the 11th century. It also had sizable Jewish and Yazidi communities.  Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity were the major religions in Afghanistan during pre-Islamic era.

Today’s Iraq and Islamic Republic of Iran were a majority-Zoroastrian empire. In the Arabian Peninsula, there were Pagans, Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians before Islam took over.

Similarly, before the advent of Islam, the region which is today termed Pakistan was quite a diverse region with several religions — mainly Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism as well as local shamanistic and animist religions.

In Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population today, the primary religions were Hinduism and Buddhism, as were Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Violent or civilizational jihadi efforts have tremendously changed the demographic character and culture of entire nations in much of the world. The once-majority non-Muslim communities in those lands are either extinct or dwindling minorities today.

This is not to say that Christian armies have never used force to spread their religious beliefs. The conquest of Eastern Europe by the Teutonic Knights or the conquest of South and Central America by the conquistadors saw Christianity carried forward at the point of a sword.

The important factor is that while contemporary Christian movements look back on those periods of history as squarely in the past, Islamist movements see this history as inspiration for their dreams of the future.

The Islamic military conquest of Europe might sound unrealistic now, but the Islamic State and many other Islamist groups openly declare that they are still dedicated to their goal of world domination.

They are trying to actualize their goals not only through violent jihad, but also through population jihad (influx of Muslims) and by demanding Islamist privileges, such as parallel sharia courts.

Despite its centuries-long resistance to jihad-waging armies, much of Europe appears blind to history today. With its politically correct governments and misguided, “multi-cultural” ideologies, the European Union seems alarmingly clueless and desperate in the face of once-again rising Islamist threat.

Candidly Speaking: Exposing the criminal society and the culture of death

Sunday, September 11th, 2016
A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally in Ramallah, earlier this year. (photo credit:REUTERS)

A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally in Ramallah, earlier this year. (photo credit: REUTERS)

By Isi Leibler – The Jerusalem Post, jpost.com

Pressure must be exerted to encourage rank-and-file Palestinians that their best interests will be served when they appoint leaders who genuinely support the peace process.

We are losing the battle in the war of ideas for the simple reason that we are continuously on the defensive while those seeking our destruction actively and relentlessly demonize us.

Ever since the Oslo Accords, successive Israeli governments have felt obliged to understate and even dismiss Palestinian terrorism and hatred in order to maintain domestic public support for policies that, with the benefit of hindsight, were doomed to fail.

In the very early stages, Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat told his people that the ultimate goal was the end of Jewish sovereignty – and we dismissed such outbursts as empty words designed merely to placate his radical domestic opponents.

But as the government falsely praised our peace partner, many Israelis deluded themselves into believing that the terrorism we faced was an extremist aberration and that the Palestinians were committed to ending the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution. Likewise, most of the world accepted at face value our repeated praise of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, as moderates and genuine peace partners.

This suited the long-term Palestinian policy of destroying us in stages. They readily accepted concessions and withdrawals but without compromising one iota, and they continue to demonize us and challenge our legitimacy.

But the worst aspect was our failure to highlight the poisonous brainwashing the PA had inflicted on its population. While Arab hostility to Jews prevailed even during the British Mandate period, it was not comparable to the culture of death and evil that today saturates every aspect of Palestinian life.

The Palestinians have stated explicitly that their state would be Judenrein and that Jews would never be permitted to live in their ancestral home even if they were willing to accept Palestinian jurisdiction.

Indeed, Palestinians were brutally executed when they were deemed to have sold land to a Jew.

The PA has become a criminal society and can be compared to prewar Germany, when the Nazis transformed their population into genocidal barbarians by depicting Jews as subhuman. The Palestinians depict Jews as “the offspring of apes and pigs” and call for their extermination. This is not even done subtly but with blatant statements to this effect emanating daily from religious and political leaders and accessible from vast documentary sources compiled by Palestinian Media Watch, MEMRI and others.

A society in which children from kindergarten are brainwashed into believing that the highest goal in Islam is to achieve martyrdom in the course of killing Jews can only be described as criminal.

The demonization of Israel and manifestations of the culture of death are promoted without inhibition by the leadership, the mullahs in the mosques and the state-controlled media. They amount to direct incitement for individuals to strike out and kill Jews in concert or randomly. The “heroic” scenes of youngsters stabbing Jews, the praise by Abbas himself of martyrs “with holy blood” and the totally contrived religious frenzy over accusations of Israelis planning to destroy al-Aksa mosque, coalesce into a witch’s brew of primeval rage and hatred.

The PA provides generous state salaries to terrorists apprehended by Israelis, and if they are killed, their families are remunerated – from funds provided by Western countries. Religious and political leadership at all levels sanctifies terrorists as heroes and national martyrs. City squares, schools and even football clubs are named in their honor.

The barbarism imbibed by the Palestinians is reflected in the street celebrations that erupt spontaneously with every murder of an Israeli. Even more nauseating are the repeated displays on TV of mothers expressing pride at their children becoming martyrs, and expressing hope that their other children will follow the example.

Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that Palestinian opinion polls reflect public support for terrorist attacks against Israel and opposition to a two-state solution. The Arafat/Abbas indoctrination process has radicalized successive generations into believing that the only solution to the conflict is the permanent termination of Jewish sovereignty in the area.

There is irrefutable evidence of the barbaric and genocidal nature of Palestinian society. Indeed, the reality is that, despite maintaining a “moderate” stance to the outside world, internally the Palestinians and ISIS are birds of a feather – although the Palestinians are probably more corrupt.

Alongside the turbulence in the region and the threat from Iran and ISIS, could one envisage any country agreeing to accept statehood for what will inevitably be a neighboring criminal state pledged to its destruction or a candidate for an ISIS or Iranian takeover? This would be utterly inconceivable.

Yet most of the international community, including the United States, regards this as an issue of two nations arguing over real estate. Were that the case, the Palestinians would not have dismissed the offers by prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, who were willing to concede up to 97 percent of the territories formerly controlled by the Jordanians.

Israel has been the target of repeated defamation and delegitimization yet has basically only been on the defensive, seeking to refute the lies being disseminated against it. But as Joseph Goebbels said, if one repeats a lie continuously, people begin believing it. This dictum has now been realized; many in the Western world have absorbed the distorted Palestinian narrative of Israel being an apartheid state, an occupier and a nation born in sin.

Ironically, the weakness of our position lies in the fact that, until recently, in order to appease our allies and “protect” Israelis from being confronted with the stark reality, we deliberately held back from telling the truth and failed to highlight the barbaric and criminal nature of our purported peace partner.

Had we mounted campaigns at the outset, exposing the horrors perpetrated by our neighbors, it may not have influenced anti-Semites and the delusional Left but it would have made a significant impact on the open-minded.

But even now, belatedly exposing the barbarity of our neighbors should be made the top priority in our foreign relations efforts rather than the endless disputes over whether the minuscule 2% of territory comprising settlements (which are not being expanded) is justified.

The recent initiative by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to establish relations with independent Palestinians, aside from not having cabinet approval, is bound to fail because any Palestinian engaged in such negotiations will immediately be assassinated.

Pressure must be exerted to encourage rank-and-file Palestinians that their best interests will be served when they appoint leaders who genuinely support the peace process. Alas, for the time being, that is not even on the horizon.

Today, we must move forward and promote a focused effort to document and expose the evil nature of Palestinian society, which will make it far more difficult and embarrassing for the Americans and Europeans to continue pressuring Israel to accept the creation of what will invariably be a criminal state – particularly in the context of the mayhem prevailing in the region and the terrorist threats now impacting the heartland of Europe.

Avigdor Lieberman — Bibi’s enigmatic pick for defense minister

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016
Avigdor Lieberman, then foreign minister, speaking during a Knesset meeting about the 2014 Gaza war, Aug. 4, 2014 .

Avigdor Lieberman, then foreign minister, speaking during a Knesset meeting about the 2014 Gaza war, Aug. 4, 2014 .

By Ron Kampeas / TimesOfIsrael.com

Yes, there’s the Avigdor Lieberman who wants to behead bad guys, mandate loyalty oaths and pay Arabs to leave the country — the one who makes fun of the disabled and who dodged a fraud charge.

But Israel’s onetime foreign minister and next defense minister is not quite the cartoon he’s made out to be – OK, the cartoon he at times seems determined to make himself out to be.

As defense minister, Lieberman would double to two the cabinet ministers who have seriously considered a two-state outcome: himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is more deferential to the United States-Israel relationship than Netanyahu. And his posture toward Israel’s Arab neighbors is not all threat.

It’s time to review three areas where the once and possibly future member of the security cabinet has served as a voice for moderation – but also to keep in mind how his rhetoric undercuts his apparent restraint.

As defense minister, Lieberman would double to two the cabinet ministers who have seriously considered a two-state outcome: himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is more deferential to the United States-Israel relationship than Netanyahu. And his posture toward Israel’s Arab neighbors is not all threat.

It’s time to review three areas where the once and future member of the security cabinet has served as a voice for moderation – but also to keep in mind how his rhetoric undercuts his apparent restraint.

Lieberman has spoken seriously and extensively about peace, and has in fact embraced two states, even though he rankled disability advocates a year ago when he called two-state advocates “autistic.”

One of his most radical ideas would crack the sequencing that famously helped scuttle the 2000 Camp David peace talks: Yasser Arafat, then the Palestinian leader, was considering embracing then-prime prime minister Ehud Barak’s proposals, but balked when he toured the Arab and Muslim worlds and was told he would be seen as a quisling if he agreed to Barak’s terms, particularly on Jerusalem.

Lieberman’s solution: negotiate holistically. Make peace with the Arabs and the Palestinians simultaneously. It’s a plan that would allow the Palestinians greater leverage, should they coordinate with other Arab nations to extract concessions. That’s one reason why Netanyahu insists on direct talks, where Israel holds more cards. But, the thinking goes, it also could lead to a more stable and permanent peace in the region. Lieberman, looking toward activating this plan, could keep Netanyahu focused on working with moderate Arabs in the region.

“The security advantage means cooperation with moderate nations, exchanging intelligence, joint efforts,” Lieberman told Al-Monitor in 2014. “With regard to this facet, our partners could gain very nice inputs. And there’s also the economic sphere. I am convinced that one day, we’ll have embassies in Riyadh, in Kuwait, in the Gulf States, and other places. The combination of our initiative, technology, and knowledge with their tremendous financial reserves can together change the world.”

His proposal to swap heavily populated areas – Arab-heavy regions of Israel bordering the West Bank with Jewish-heavy portions beyond the Green Line – is what has stirred controversy. Lieberman tries to make it sound like common sense: Jews want to live chez-eux [in their own home], why wouldn’t Palestinians?

For one thing, not every Israeli Arab wants to live in a Palestinian state – subtle but deep-seated differences have emerged between the populations since 1948. Israeli Arabs have said they resent being considered as pawns.

For another, Lieberman proposes paying Israeli Arabs to leave – a transfer policy that would undercut his hopes that Israel would no longer be an international “punching bag,” as he told Al-Monitor

Yuli Tamir, a former education minister, wrote in Haaretz in 2015 that Lieberman’s plan sets dangerous precedents, by positing that minorities cannot exist with majorities, and by suggesting that majority Arab areas of Israel should seek sovereignty.

“If Israel consents to discuss a redrawing of its borders based on demographic criteria, it probably won’t be long before the Arabs of the Galilee (where they are currently a majority) and of the Negev (where in certain areas there is an Arab majority) may also question their belonging to Israel,” she said.

Martin Indyk, who led the U.S. team that tried to broker Israeli Palestinian peace in 2013-2014, said recently on Twitter that Lieberman was easier to work with than Moshe Ya’alon, the man he will replace and who has been lionized by his supporters in the current political crisis as a defender of democracy.

“Lieberman says reprehensible things but I remember that he supported” U.S. Secretary of State John “Kerry’s peace efforts when Ya’alon was insulting him,” Indyk said.

In 2013, attending the Saban Forum, organized by the Brookings Institution, he said it was best not to air differences publicly, advising the sides to “cool down the atmosphere.”

Lieberman is known to be critical of Netanyahu’s at-times-confrontational posture vis-à-vis the U.S., believing the Israeli leader often seems too eager to get into it with Israel’s most powerful and important ally.

But that might also be a function of a natural bully deferring to the big kid on the playground. Lieberman and his lieutenants have shown no compunction about insulting leaders of less imposing countries like Turkey,Sweden, Spain, and France.

Lieberman, known by his Russian nickname Yvet, offered humanitarian assistance to Syria in 2012, as its civil war descended into chaos.

So he cares, right? Cares enough that in 2001, when Egypt was considering reintroducing forces in the Sinai, he said Israel should threaten to bomb the Aswan Dam – effectively, commit a major war crime.

London’s new Muslim mayor

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

By Shawn Pogatchnik / AP

London's new mayor, Sadiq Khan

London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan

DUBLIN (AP) — Sadiq Khan has a simple, striking message for Londoners: He won’t be merely a Muslim mayor, but a leader for all.

Khan celebrated his landslide election victory Saturday in a multi-denominational ceremony at an Anglican cathedral accompanied by London’s police chief, Christian and Jewish leaders, and stars of stage and screen.

They gave Khan a standing ovation as he pledged to be an approachable Everyman for his city of 8.2 million — including more than a million residents who, like him, happen to be Muslim.

“I’m determined to lead the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen, and to represent every single community and every single part of our city as a mayor for Londoners,” said Khan, the son of Pakistani-born immigrants who became a civil rights lawyer and, in 2005, London’s first Muslim member of Parliament.

“So I wanted to do the signing-in ceremony here, in the very heart of our city, surrounded by Londoners of all backgrounds,” he said in Southwark Cathedral, a few miles (kilometers) north of the state housing project where he grew up in the London district of Tooting.

Khan’s Labour Party candidacy to lead London triumphed in the face of a Conservative campaign seeking to tar him as sympathetic to Islamic extremists. Supporters said Khan’s own message — that a victory for him would show the world how tolerant and open Britain was — carried far more power.

“To have a Muslim mayor seems preferable to me to any alternative regardless of the politics,” said actor Sir Ian McKellen, who greeted Khan at the cathedral gates. “I hope it’s an image that will go round the world as representing a new sort of England that’s at peace with itself regardless of race and so on. That’s the beauty of it.”

Leading Muslim activists in the Conservative Party expressed shame and anger over their own candidate Zac Goldsmith’s attacks on Khan, saying they had recklessly stoked racism and intolerance. The final round of ballot confirming confirmed early Saturday that Khan received 57 percent of votes, Goldsmith 43 percent.

Many criticized Goldsmith’s final published appeal in a right-wing Sunday newspaper warning that London stood “on the brink of a catastrophe” if it elected Khan. The article claimed that Khan and Labour considered terrorists their friends and would handicap police efforts to prevent another attack on London, 11 years after 52 Londoners died in suicide blasts on three subway trains and a bus committed by British-born Muslims. Goldsmith’s appeal was accompanied by a picture of the bomb-ravaged bus.

Mohammed Amin, chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said he had been disgusted by the Goldsmith campaign tactics.

“We were meant to understand that Khan kept bad company with extremist Muslims and could not be trusted with the safety of London. On top of that, leaflets were targeted specifically at London Hindus and Sikhs … seeking to divide Londoners along religious and ethnic lines,” Amin wrote on a Conservative blog. He said the Conservative campaign sought to frighten non-Muslim voters “about Khan, the alleged Muslim extremist.”

Amin said he voted for Goldsmith because he opposes Labour policies, but could not stomach campaigning actively for him — and instead took pride in seeing Londoners vote so strongly for a fellow Muslim of Pakistani background.

Leading Conservatives defended their campaign tactics, even as they expressed surprise at losing a post locked down for the past eight years by the eccentrically popular Conservative, Boris Johnson.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, who previously accused Khan of sharing a platform with a London imam sympathetic to the Islamic State extremist group, repeated those since-discredited claims Saturday and insisted such charges represented “the rough and tumble of politics.”

He also declined, when pressed several times on the matter, to withdraw his campaign claim that London’s security would be jeopardized by Khan.

“Stuff gets said during elections,” Fallon said.

Israel to close Philadelphia consulate

Friday, January 29th, 2016

By Herb Keinon / JPost.com

Philadelphia skyline (photo credit: REUTERS)

Philadelphia skyline (photo credit: REUTERS)

After a two-year reprieve, Israel’s consulate in Philadelphia is once again on the chopping block, with the Foreign Ministry announcing earlier this month its intention to close five of its 106 representations abroad as a cost-saving measure.

In addition to Philadelphia, the embassies in Belarus and El Salvador, as well as the consulate in Marseilles, are to close their doors. Israel’s roving ambassador to the Caribbean, who is stationed in New York, will also be cut out.

A statement put out by the ministry said that the closings followed a government decision on the matter last year.

As a result, the ministry said, it will allocate the freed-up funds to strengthen existing representations.

The statement said that the ministry will act to prevent the harming of the rights of Israelis and locals employed in the offices marked for closure.

A decision to close the consulate in Philadelphia was canceled two years ago thanks in large part to pressure put on the ministry by the Jewish community there and by local politicians.

The Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the local Jewish community started a campaign to save the consulate, saying that closing it would be a blow to the region and an even greater loss to Israel.

In addition to the embassy in Washington, Israel has consulates in nine US cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

At the time, closing the consulate in Philadelphia was explained as necessary in order to open up Israel’s fourth consulate in China, in Chengdu.

That consulate has since opened, and a former diplomat said that it would send a bad message if a consulate in the US is closed in order to fund a new one in China.

Considering the importance of Israeli-US ties, the source said, Israel should not be reducing its presence in the US.

The official also came out against doing away with the roving ambassador to the Caribbean, saying there are some 20 states in that region, which, although they may not have much economic or military significance, do vote in the UN, and are worth cultivating.

The cost of the ambassador is not that much, he said, saying Israel was shooting itself in the foot by doing away with this position at a time when it is trying to improve voting patterns in the UN.

The source said that if representations needed to be closed, it did make sense to close the embassy in Minsk, since Belarus is not a politically significant state, and it does pretty much what Russian President Vladimir Putin tells it to do. Further, the former diplomat said, economic relations there could be overseen through businessmen traveling there from time to time.

The ex-official also said that there was logic in closing the consulate in Marseilles, since France is a centralized country run out of Paris, and that if the staff in Paris would be augmented, it could effectively deal with other parts of the country. There has been talk of closing the consulate in Marseilles since 2002, but it, too, has always been saved at the last minute, often thanks to figures in the local Jewish community.

“My concern is that the representations will be closed, but the existing ones will not be strengthened,” he said.

Over the last 15 years, Israel has closed offices in various parts of the world while opening others elsewhere. For instance, in 2002 it closed its consulates in Rio de Janeiro and Sydney, while opening a one in 2013 in Bangalore.

Israel closed its embassy in Minsk in 2002, but reopened it two years later, only to now announce its closure again.

Israel’s embassy in New Zealand and Paraguay were also closed in 2002, with the New Zealand embassy opening again in 2010, and Paraguay in 2015.

Jonathan Pollard released from U.S. prison after 30 years

Friday, November 20th, 2015
Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., in 1998.  (Karl DeBlaker / Associated Press)

Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., in 1998. (Karl DeBlaker / Associated Press)

By Timothy M. Phelps / LATimes.com

Jonathan Pollard, the American citizen whose spying for Israel led to a serious rift between the Israeli and U.S. governments and between U.S. and Israeli Jews, was released from prison Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 after serving 30 years of a life sentence.

But even freedom for the former civilian naval intelligence analyst did not put the continuing controversy over Pollard to rest, as his Israeli wife criticized the U.S. government for refusing to allow him to move to Israel — where Pollard is seen as a hero — for at least five years during his parole.

A Justice Department official said parolees require special permission for foreign travel and must demonstrate “a substantial need for such travel.”

According to Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Eliot L. Engel, Pollard is willing to renounce his U.S. citizenship to facilitate his being sent to Israel. The two New York Democrats wrote a letter to Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch asking her to grant permission.

The White House has previously said President Obama has no plans to alter the terms of Pollard’s parole.

Pollard, 61, was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C. His lawyers have said that they have arranged unspecified work for him in the New York area.

Pollard’s release was not opposed by the Justice Department last summer, much to the disappointment of a bipartisan coalition of the country’s national security elite, who have long argued that he had severely damaged U.S. interests.

Pollard’s dramatic arrest by FBI agents in 1985 — after his plea for asylum was rebuffed at the gates of the Israeli Embassy in Washington — triggered a crisis between the two allies. Initially, Israel denied any official connection to Pollard, but it was quickly revealed that the operatives for whom he was working reported to an intelligence advisor to then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

The arrest also revealed an uncomfortable divide in the American and Israeli Jewish communities, which are usually closely bound by religion and shared history. American Jews complained bitterly that the Pollard operation had exposed them to questions about their loyalty to the U.S., while some Israelis responded that their nervousness was proof that life in the Diaspora was untenable.

Pollard said that he acted out of love for Israel, and that the U.S. was not sharing crucial intelligence about Arab countries with its ally.

But prosecutors and U.S. intelligence analysts said that he did it for cash, and that spies for the U.S. in the Soviet Union were discovered and probably killed because of Pollard’s actions.

“It is my belief, and the intelligence community was of the nearly certain belief, that assets [agents working for the U.S. overseas] were compromised,” said Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted Pollard.

DiGenova said Pollard passed the Israelis thousands of documents that had nothing to do with Israel’s enemies, including technical information about U.S. information systems and satellites, photographs, maps, and classified manuals.

“It was a gigantic amount of information and stuff of the highest top-secret code word classification,” DiGenova said. He said that Israel bartered the information to the Soviet Union in return for the release of Soviet Jews to Israel, compromising agents who quickly disappeared.

Pollard got $10,000 and an expensive diamond ring for his girlfriend from his Israeli handler when he started passing on documents, and was given a stipend of $2,500 a month. After his arrest, Pollard said he had intended to return the money to Israel. He allegedly also passed or offered documents to other countries, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Australia.

Israel did not officially acknowledge that Pollard was its spy until 1998, by which time the country’s failure to support him and fight for his release had became a political issue.

Pollard first wife, Anne, was convicted of helping him try to cover up his crime, and spent three years in prison. He divorced her after she was released from prison and, in a secret prison ceremony in 1996, married his second wife, Esther, who moved to Israel and helped orchestrate the campaign for her husband’s release.

Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to make Pollard’s release a condition of agreeing to a peace deal with Palestinians. But President Clinton said his security advisors were hard against such an arrangement.

By then, many leaders of the American Jewish community were also arguing that Pollard had been incarcerated too long. But successive presidents, including Obama, refused to grant him clemency.

When Pollard came up for parole this summer, the Justice Department did not oppose his release, saying he was automatically eligible for “mandatory parole” after serving three decades.

But his former prosecutor argued that Pollard should have remained behind bars. “The Department of Justice decided not to oppose his release,” DiGenova said. “They own it. President Obama owns his release.”

Jonathan Pollard in his first photograph following his release from prison Friday, with wife Esther | Photo credit: Courtesy, Justice for Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard in his first photograph following his release from prison Friday, with wife Esther | Photo credit: Courtesy, Justice for Jonathan Pollard

Israel to Fire on Stone-throwers

Friday, September 25th, 2015

By Daniel Estrin / Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Thursday (9-24-15) approved harsher measures to combat the practice of stone-throwing amid a recent surge in Palestinian violence, widening the rules of engagement for police and vowing to raise minimum penalties for offenders to four years’ imprisonment.

The measures, approved by the Security Cabinet, allow police officers to fire live ammunition when there is an “immediate and concrete danger to police or civilians,” according to a government statement.

The development came as a Palestinian man died on Thursday from his wounds after being shot by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] last week.

According to the measures, officers will also be permitted to fire from .22-caliber Ruger rifles, an American-made firearm that police said uses a smaller bullet and would offer a quicker response against those throwing stones or firebombs or lighting fireworks. The rifle was not allowed previously, the police said.

“We intend to change the norm that has become established here, that the state of Israel allows these deadly and murderous objects to be thrown without response and without being thwarted,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a statement from his office.

In recent months, stone-throwing has become a near daily occurrence in some neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as their capital. But after an Israeli motorist was killed last week when his car crashed after being pelted with stones on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the Israeli government pledged to crack down on the practice.

The Cabinet also decided to advance legislation to impose a minimum penalty of four years’ imprisonment for those throwing rocks, according to the statement.

It said steps would be taken to jail and fine stone-throwing minors aged 14-18 and even their parents, who could also face various fines.

Netanyahu’s government has been pushing for tougher rules of engagement for police and tougher minimum sentences for offenders, though Israel’s attorney general said this week he opposed such changes and insisted the existing regulations were sufficient.

Tensions have been rising in Jerusalem following last week’s deadly rock-throwing incident, along with days of clashes at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site. Since the beginning of last week, Israeli police said that 137 suspects, including 61 minors, were arrested over “public disturbances.”

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the newly approved regulations meant that “police officers have further tools that can be used in life-threatening situations only.”

The main source of tension is the situation at the hilltop compound in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, which is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Calls by a group of religious Jews to visit the site on the eve of the Jewish New Year sparked rumors among Palestinians that Israel was planning to disrupt the delicate status quo governing the site and take it over.

Muslim demonstrators armed with rocks and firecrackers holed up in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and clashed with police for three consecutive days.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the clashes in particularly harsh language, and insisted that none of Jerusalem’s holy sites belonged to Israel. “They are all ours and we will not let them desecrate it with their filthy feet,” he said.

Netanyahu has repeated his insistence that Israel would uphold the status quo and called on Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to “stop the wild incitement.”

“All remarks regarding the intention to harm the Islamic holy places are utter nonsense. It is not we who are changing the status quo,” he said. “It is those who bring firebombs and explosives into the mosques who are changing the status quo.”

Israeli police barred all non-Muslims from entering the holy site Thursday during a major Muslim holiday.

On Thursday, a Palestinian man died from his wounds after being shot by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank last week, the man’s brother said. He said his brother was deaf and unable to speak. Israeli army said it shot at a group of Palestinians hurling a firebomb at a passing car on a road between Jewish settlements, hitting one.

Pastor Saeed Abedini ‘Viciously Beaten’ in Iranian Prison, Told His Only Way Out Is to Deny Jesus Christ

Friday, June 26th, 2015

BY STOYAN ZAIMOV / CHRISTIANPOST.com

U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini in this undated photo.

U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini in this undated photo.

American pastor Saeed Abedini has reportedly been “viciously beaten” by fellow prisoners in an unprovoked attack in the Iranian prison where he’s being held. The pastor was punched in the face, leaving his eyes beaten black and blue, but prison guards intervened and prevented further injury.

The American Center for Law and Justice, the law group which represents his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, and the couple’s two children in the U.S., said that the prisoners also demolished a small table that the pastor had used to study and read during the beating that he endured the first week of June.

Abedini was allowed to see a prison doctor, who determined that he does not have any broken bones. The following week, he was able to see a family member who came to visit him and see his injuries firsthand.

“It is heartbreaking to me and my family that Saeed was again beaten in prison. Saeed’s life is continuously threatened not only because he is an American, but also because he is a convert from Islam to Christianity. It’s time to get Saeed home before it is too late,” Naghmeh Abedini said in response to the news.

Back in May, Abedini marked his 35th birthday in prison, where he has spent over two and a half years for his Christian faith. He was arrested in Iran in 2012 while working on an orphanage for children, and later sentenced to eight years in prison.

The pastor has faced a number of beatings while in prison, both from other inmates and guards. The ACLJ and Naghmeh Abedini have expressed concerns that his condition worsens after each beating.

After the beating, Abedini spoke before Congress, pleading for further actions to be taken to help free her husband.

“Over the last three years, I have had to watch my two children, Rebekka (who is 8 years old) and Jacob (who is 7 years old), suffer daily as they have grown up without a father,” Abedini said.

“I am here today as a single mother who is trying to be strong for her children, and as a wife who humbly admits, I need your help. I cannot bear to look at my children’s longing eyes one more time and explain to them why their daddy is still not home.”

She later told The Christian Post that Abedini has been told his prison sentence will be increased unless he denies his Christian faith — something she insists her husband will not do.

“The times they have moved him in and out of solitary [confinement] and the times they have threatened him, they said ‘You will stay here longer than the eight years and your only key to freedom is if you deny your Christian faith and you return to Islam.’ The guards have said that, officials have said that continuously,” Abedini said.

Spontaneous Pro-Israel Rally Erupts in Response to Protesters–video

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

posted by Danielle Avel


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