IDF Uncovers 4th Hezbollah Tunnel Under Israel-‎Lebanon Border

By: Lilach Shoval, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff – israelhayom.com

IDF says it has lined the tunnel with explosives • Tunnel, in an undisclosed location, exposed as part of Operation Northern Shield, launched Dec. 4 • Israel urges international community to impose sanctions on Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, over the tunnels.


An IDF bulldozer digs near the Israel-Lebanon border |
 Photo: Reuters

A fourth Hezbollah terror tunnel breaching Israeli ‎territory from Lebanon has been exposed, the IDF said Sunday.‎

The tunnel was discovered as part of Operation ‎Northern Shield, launched by the IDF on Dec. 4 to ‎expose and neutralize Hezbollah tunnels ‎snaking across the border into Israel under the security fence.

“Imagine terrorists digging an attack tunnel like ‎‎this toward your home, hacking away, inch by inch, ‎‎underground, in order to kill you and your family. ‎‎Israelis don’t need to imagine. It’s our job to ‎‎protect them,” the IDF posted on its English-language ‎Twitter page.‎

The IDF did not disclose the tunnel’s location, ‎saying only that it has lined it with explosives.

The IDF said any Lebanese soldiers or ‎Hezbollah operatives approaching the tunnel on the ‎Lebanese side of the border would do so at their own peril. ‎

Israel has called on the international community to ‎impose new sanctions on Hezbollah, Iran’s regional ‎proxy, in the wake of the tunnels’ discovery.‎

The IDF said Operation Northern Shield would continue until all Hezbollah tunnels ‎‎are exposed and neutralized. ‎

The Shiite terrorist group has yet to issue any ‎‎‎comment on the operation, but Lebanese President ‎‎Michel Aoun said that as long as the Israeli ‎‎operation does not infringe on his country’s ‎‎sovereignty, it is unlikely to threaten the calm on ‎the border. ‎

‎”We take this issue – the presence of tunnels at the ‎border – seriously and Israel informed us ‎via the ‎United States that its intentions are not aggressive,” said Aoun, a Hezbollah ally. He added that Israel has pledged to “continue to work” on ‎its ‎‎territory.

Australia Recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

By: Henry Benjamin – Jewish Telegraphic Agency; jta.org


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces that his government will recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during a speech at the Sydney Institute on Dec. 15, 2018. (Mick Tsikas-Pool/Getty Images)

SYDNEY (JTA) — Australia said it recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is now starting a search for a suitable site for a trade office within the city.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government’s decision while speaking at the Sydney Institute current affairs forum on Saturday.

“We look forward to moving our Embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after the final status determination,” he said.

He reiterated Australia’s support for a two-state solution and added that the Australian government also recognizes “the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

In the same announcement, Morrison said he plans to open a Trade and Defense office in West Jerusalem. Australia-Israel trade is over $1.3 billion a year.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry offered a lukewarm response to the announcement, focusing on the trade office and calling it “a step in the right direction.” Israel views the entire city of Jerusalem — both the Western section, which is predominantly Jewish, and the Eastern section, which is predominantly Arab — as its capital.

Saeb Erekat, a top advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the announcement irresponsible and noted in a statement that “all of Jerusalem remains a final status issue for negotiations.”

Meanwwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on the Australian government “to correct its position and recognize the State of Palestine and its capital as East Jerusalem without delay. Thus, we will consider its position balanced.”

Under Morrison’s leadership, Australia last month opposed six resolutions that attacked Israel in the United Nations General Assembly.

Australia’s opposition leader Bill Shorten accused Morrison of putting his political interest ahead of the national interest. The opposition has charged that Morrison took up the issue of Jerusalem in order to pick up a seat in a parliamentary by-election in Sydney’s Wentworth region, home to a large proportion of the city’s 60,000 Jews, in order to shore up his razor-thin majority.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry in a statement praised the announcement as “a simple acknowledgement of a reality that has existed since 1950.”

Jewish Prayer on the Temple Mount: Third World War or Civil Rights Movement?

By: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz; breakingisraelnews.com


Religious Jews on the Temple Mount. (Courtesy)

conference on Wednesday brought together religious Jews and Christians to discuss a topic that had never before been addressed in a multi-faith forum: the past and the future of the Temple Mount as it related to their respective religions.

As participants entered the conference, they were greeted by the sight of a 20-foot model of the Second Temple and much of the discussion focused on the subject of the Third Temple. Though the conference was a religious forum, avoiding politics, the political implications of any discussion about the future of the Temple Mount, a location frequently described in mainstream media as a “flashpoint,” bears dire political consequences.

Doron Keidar, one of the conference organizers and founder of Cry for Zion, an NGO advocating for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, was aware that he would likely be accused of incitement when he set out. This point was driven home during the press conference when Keidar was confronted by reporters who asked him several times if speaking about a Third Temple implied an agenda to destroy the Muslim sites on the Temple Mount.

Keidar rejected that claim, telling reporters that Cry for Zion’s main goal was to bring Jewish sovereignty to the Temple Mount.

“Our main goal is not to build the Temple and we are not a Temple organization,” he said. “We are advocating for Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount, petitioning the government to express stewardship of the site.”

This raised concerns among journalists who asked if sovereignty meant oppressing the Muslims or restricting them religiously.

“Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount would benefit everyone,” Keidar replied. “At the Western Wall, there is total freedom of worship for all religions. Muslims are free to pray at the Kotel (Western Wall) as are Christians. Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount would bring equality of religion to the site.”

Keidar pointed out that the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel ensured freedom of religion for all faiths at the holy sites.

“Freedom of worship is also established in international law as described by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” Keidar said. “The right for all faiths to pray on the Temple Mount was upheld by the Israeli Magistrate’s court. Right now there is illegal discrimination taking place where only Muslims can pray.”

John Enarson, the organization’s Christian Relations and Creative Director, echoed this assertion.

“Allowing the Jewish flag on the Temple Mount would guarantee that this freedom of religion will exist, just as it does at every other holy site that is under Israeli sovereignty,” Enarson said. “Many Christians believe that there will be a Third Temple but that is not relevant to what our organization or this conference do. We want equality of religion on the Temple Mount, plain and simple. How the Third Temple comes about and what form it takes is in God’s hand.”

“I would prefer that the Muslims would welcome other religions and encourage this, but in any case, it should not be tolerated by the international community or by the Israeli government,’ Enarson declared.

Keidar compared their initiative to the civil rights movement in America, petitioning for equality for blacks.

“Christians can’t take their Bibles with them or pray or wear crosses on the Temple Mount,” Keidar pointed out. “Anywhere else in the world, that would be religious oppression and not tolerated.”

“We are trying to educate the Christian world about the Jewish perspective on their holiest site,” Enarson said. “There has been a lot of mistrust between the Jews and the Christians. This will increase peace, not lead to war.”

The main focus of the conference was on theories that the Jewish Temples stood in an area identified as the City of David.

“There is a mistaken belief that this would enable a peaceable solution in which the Jews could build a Temple in another location, a small distance from the Temple Mount,” Keidar said. Keidar, who works in security in the Old City, rejected that perception. “That area, referred to in the Bible as Shiloah, is known as Silwan. It is a hotbed of hatred and some of the most hotly contested territory in Jerusalem.”

Israeli NGO Sends Aid to California in Wake of Unprecedented Wildfires

IsraAID’s emergency response team provides help building resilience and recovery in communities hard hit by the deadly blazes.

By: Nicky Blackburn; israel21c.org


Smoke billows from the Woolsey fire in California. Photo by Shutterstock

Israeli NGO, IsraAID, is sending an emergency response team to California to help communities affected by the unprecedented fires that have killed 80 and destroyed over 13,000 homes and buildings. More than 1,300 people are still listed as missing.

The two blazes broke out 10 days ago in both north and south California and quickly spiraled out of control. The Camp Fire wildfire, which wiped out the town of Paradise in Butte county (population 27,000), is already the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, torching an area the size of Chicago.

The Woolsey fire has burned over 98,362 acres in southern California near the border of Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

After a request from local communities, IsraAID is to conduct a needs assessment of the population in affected areas, promote community resilience and recovery, and distribute relief items to families currently staying in temporary accommodation after losing their homes in the fires.


An IsraAID worker helps sort donations in California, in the wake of the deadly fires. Photo courtesy of IsraAID

Yotam Polizer, the co-CEO of IsraAID, told ISRAEL21c that a team of four Israelis have already flown out to California, and plan to set up operations in Chico, where many evacuees are now living in tent cities, shelters and even sleeping in their cars.

“We’ve seen a lot of disaster zones over the years, but this is a whole different level of devastation. Everything has been burned to the ground, and there are so many people still missing,” said Polizer, who has just returned from California.

“The search and rescue teams aren’t looking for survivors, they are looking for remains. From a psychological perspective it’s on a whole different scale.

“When we talk to local people we see they are getting support, but there’s very little psycho-social support there. That’s where we are planning to focus our efforts.”

IsraAID’s team will include Israeli and US-based mental health specialists, who will work with partner organizations on-the-ground to support affected communities as they recover and promote community resilience.

“We were devastated by the tragedy of these fires in California,” said Polizer. “It’s a place very close to our hearts. We have an office there, lots of staff members and volunteers. A lot of local people asked that we come and help. We are planning to be there to support the people as long as we are needed.”

This is not the first time that IsraAID has sent aid in the wake of deadly fires in California. In October last year, a team of seven aid workers – including Polizer – helped out in evacuation centers in Napa Valley, after a series of wildfires swept the state killing 44, causing $14.5 billion in damages, and forcing 90,000 people to evacuate.

The Israeli team were stationed in Santa Rosa, California, and helped coordinate and provide relief supplies and stress management to the affected community.

Even today, IsraAID continues to work with the community there to help them build resilience.


Helping out at an evacuation center in Santa Rosa, California in 2017. Photo courtesy of IsraAID

IsraAID has extensive experience responding to disasters in the US and all over the world. This year alone, the organization provided aid to victims in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Michael, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence, to the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Kenya, and to Guatemala after the volcano.

Haley promotes UN resolution against Hamas

By: Itamar Eichner & Reuters; ynetnews.com

After the US opposed the annual draft resolution at the UN calling on Israel to rescind its authority in the Golan Heights, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is expected to submit a draft resolution at the General Assembly, harshly condemning the terror organization.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is expected to submit a draft resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, harshly condemning the Hamas terror organization.

Haley, who will be leaving her position by the end of the year, is promoting a resolution condemning Hamas’s rocket fire at Israel and incitement against it, as well as demanding to halt any violent activity, including the launching of incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (L), and Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (L), and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon

An additional provision in the draft obtained by Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth, focuses on Hamas terror tunnels and calls on the UN to condemn the terror organization’s use of civilian resources for military purposes.

Haley is cooperating with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, and has met over the past two days with world envoys in order to raise support for the American draft.

Danon thanked Haley for her support of the Jewish State. “The efforts and diplomatic activity to promote the draft resolution condemning Hamas stresses Haley’s steadfast support of Israel.

“Through joint efforts we have managed to change the hostile approach against Israel at the UN. Now the time has come to recruit the world to join us in our fight against terror,” the Israeli envoy to the UN added.

“Hamas is a deadly terror organization, which must be dealt with on all fronts, and especially in the diplomatic arena,” he concluded.

On Friday, the US opposed for the first time an annual draft resolution at the UN calling on Israel to rescind its authority in the Golan Heights, drawing praise from Israeli officials.

The US has abstained in previous years on “Occupied Syrian Golan” resolution, which declares Israel’s jurisdiction in the area “null and void”, but Haley said on Thursday that Washington would vote against the resolution.

“The United States will no longer abstain when the United Nations engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights,” she said in a statement.

“The resolution is plainly biased against Israel. Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone,” she added.

Despite the US opposition, a UN General Assembly committee approved the draft resolution with 151 votes in favor and 14 abstentions. Only Israel joined the United States in voting no. The General Assembly is due to formally adopt the resolution next month.

Actor Gerard Butler Taunted for IDF Support After Sharing Photo of Burnt California Home

By: Shiryn Ghermezian


Gerard Butler showing the remnants of his Malibu home that was destroyed by a wildfire. Photo: Instagram.

Actor Gerard Butler faced a wave of criticism and taunting from pro-Palestinian activists on social media for supporting Israeli soldiers after he shared a photo of his California home that was destroyed by one of the wildfires currently ravaging the state.

Earlier this month, the “300” star attended the annual Friends of the IDF (FIDF) Western Region Gala in Los Angeles, where a record $60 million was raised for programs assisting Israeli soldiers. The event was hosted by Israeli-American philanthropist Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl.

On Sunday, the Scottish actor posted on Twitter and Instagram a photo of him standing in front of the smoldering remnants of his Malibu home. He said he was “inspired as ever by the courage, spirit and sacrifice of firefighters,” and asked his fans to support the Los Angeles Fire Department.

In response, Israel haters commenting on his Instagram photo called Butler a “******* Zionist,” a “criminal and a piece of human trash for supporting the IDF,” and claimed that his house burned down “because you support murderers.” One Instagram user wrote, “that [is] what you deserve when you support the Zionists” and another asked Butler, “You ever thought it was Gods karma for raising $60 million dollars for IDF soldiers to kill Palestinians? Just a thought.” Another user wrote, “Israhell occupied palestinian land but very soon they will be defeated.”

Twitter users were just as cruel. One commented on Butler’s photo, saying, “That $60 million you helped raise for the scumbag IDF soldiers in Beverly Hills to further oppress the Palestinian people would really come in handy right now wouldn’t it????!!! Your a scumbag Zionist mouthpiece. I don’t feel a bit sorry for you!!!” Butler was also accused of backing “the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” One user claimed Palestinians were “constantly losing their homes” to the IDF, “the same terrorists you support and help raise funds for. You should be ashamed.”

Butler has not responded to the criticism, but many pro-Israel social media users came to his defense. One Instagram user wrote, “He has been in ISRAEL and saw the truth. Your lies won’t do. Reality is reality. IDF don’t kill ‘palestinian’ children. We fight against HAMAS terrorists!!! God will always be with us and our beloved ones. God bless Israel and IDF.”

Michigan Professor Faces Disciplinary Action for Denying Student Letter

By: Jewish News Syndicate – jns.org

The development comes amid two anti-Israel controversies at the university, including another professor denying a letter of recommendation to study in Israel and a photo used during a lecture comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.

John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the American Culture department at the University of Michigan, cited the BDS movement in his decision to withhold a letter recommendation for a Jewish student seeking to study abroad in Israel. Credit: Screenshot.

John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the American Culture department at the University of Michigan, cited the BDS movement in his decision to withhold a letter recommendation for a Jewish student seeking to study abroad in Israel. Credit: Screenshot.

A University of Michigan professor, citing his support for the BDS movement in denying a student’s request in August for a letter of recommendation for a semester-long study-abroad program at Tel Aviv University, was sanctioned on Tuesday by the university.

“As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the American Culture department, wrote to University of Michigan student Abigail Ingber in an email in August. “This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there. … For reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.”

The punishments against Cheney-Lippold include a stern warning, ineligibility for a merit increase for the 2018-19 academic year, in addition to being ineligible to take an accredited sabbatical until the fall 2020 semester.

Ingber’s family found out about the course of action through a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained by JNS.

Cheney-Lippold met with Elizabeth Cole, interim dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, on Sept. 20, where he acknowledged he was wrong regarding university policies on the BDS movement and instead inserted “a personal stance,” according to a letter from Cole to the professor, which is part of the FOIA file.

The professor acknowledged that he previously wrote a few letters for students wanting to study in Israel because he “did not have tenure.”

“Supporting the academic aspirations of your students is fundamental to your responsibilities as a faculty member. You have an obligation to support your students’ academic growth,” said Cole. “Rather than fulfill this obligation, you used the student’s request as a platform to express your own personal views.”

“Nothing in this letter is intended to discourage you from speaking on or advocating for matters that are of concern to you, which you are free to do,” added Cole. “But interfering with a student’s academic aspirations, as you have done here, is not acceptable.”

Despite a BDS resolution passed last year by the university’s student government, the school itself prohibits its departments or any part of the university to boycott or divest from Israel.

This development comes amid two anti-Israel controversies at the university late last week: a guest lecture comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler and a graduate instructor denying a similar request from a student, citing the same reason as Cheney-Lippold.

Foiled Paris bomb plot raises fears that Iran is planning attacks in Europe

By: Shane Harris, Souad Mekhennet and Joby Warrick; washingtonpost.com


Activists in Berlin from the National Council of Resistance of Iran hold placards reading “Deliver the Iranian diplomat-terrorist to Belgium” at a protest in July. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

On the evening of July 1, police in Germany surrounded the rented van of an Iranian diplomat after he pulled over at a gas station on the autobahn. Fearing he might be transporting explosives, the authorities summoned the bomb squad.

The diplomat, based at Iran’s embassy in Vienna, had been under surveillance for some time and was suspected of involvement in a plot to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris. Despite his diplomatic status, he was arrested and extradited to Belgium, where two others, suspected of planning to carry out the attack in France, were detained.

The foiled plot has sparked growing anxiety in France, Germany and several other countries, including the United States and Israel, that Iran is planning audacious terrorist attacks and has stepped up its intelligence operations around the world.

Iranian leaders — under pressure from domestic protesters, Israeli intelligence operatives and the Trump administration, which is reimposing economic sanctions lifted under President Barack Obama — are making contingency plans to strike at the country’s adversaries in the event of open conflict, according to American, European, Middle Eastern and Israeli officials and analysts who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

Iran has assigned different units and organizations to conduct surveillance of opposition figures, as well as Jewish and Israeli organizations, in the United States and Europe, the officials said. The Iranians are preparing what one Israeli official called“target files” of specific people or groups that Iran could attack.

One Middle Eastern intelligence official, speaking on the condition that his name and nationality be withheld, cited a “definite uptick” in the level of activity by Iranian operatives in recent months, adding that the Iranians are “preparing themselves for the possibility of conflict.”

Iran’s reach extends to the United States. In August, the Justice Department arrested two Iranian men, one a dual national with U.S. and Iranian citizenship and the other an Iranian who is a legal U.S. resident, on suspicion of spying on behalf of Iran. The pair are accused of conducting surveillance on a Jewish organization in Chicago and rallies in New York and Washington that were organized by the Mujahideen-e Khalq, or MEK, a dissident group that seeks regime change in Iran.

But the case of the Iranian diplomat is the most alarming, officials and analysts said, and has strained Iran’s diplomatic relations with Germany and France. Both countries are trying to hold together a landmark 2015 agreement meant to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which the Trump administration has abandoned.

The diplomat, Assadollah ­Assadi, has been a high-ranking official in Iran’s embassy in Vienna since 2014 but is also suspected of being the station chief of the Ministry of Intelligence, or MOIS, according to officials from the United States and ­Europe.

In late June, European intelligence services tracked Assadi as he met with a married couple of Iranian descent living in Belgium and — according to the couple, who spoke to police after their arrest — gave them about a pound of explosive material and a detonator, the officials said.

French, German and Belgian officials say the couple, Nasimeh Naami and Amir Saadouni, who were both born in Iran, planned to bomb a huge MEK rally in Paris, attended by thousands of people, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer and a vocal defender of the group.

European officials said the couple, who are cooperating with authorities, identified Assadi as their longtime handler. Assadi professes not to know them, according to German officials, who said Iranian authorities have claimed he was set up. The Iranian government has said publicly that the plot was fabricated to falsely implicate the regime in terrorism.

A spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations denied that Iran had planned to attack the rally in Paris, calling the allegations “categorically false.” And he accused the MEK and Israel of staging the plot “to sabotage Iran-E.U. relations.”

“The MEK had long been listed as a terrorist group by the E.U. and the U.S.; it also has a long history of propaganda and false-flag operations,” said the spokesman, Alireza Miryousefi.

The U.S. State Department removed the MEK from a list of designated terrorist organizations in 2012. The group has publicly denied any involvement in the attempted attack in Paris.

Authorities said that Belgium would take the lead in the case for now, since the couple were arrested and have citizenship there.

French officials have publicly accused Iran’s Intelligence Ministry of planning the attack and have frozen the assets of two suspected intelligence operatives. “This extremely serious act envisaged on our territory could not go without a response,” France’s interior, foreign and economy ministers said in a joint statement. “In taking this decision, France underlines its determination to fight against terrorism in all its forms, particularly on its own territory.” 

French police also raided the headquarters of one of the largest Shiite Muslim centers in France, which has links to Iran, according to European officials, and arrested three people. 

Belgian officials contend that Assadi, who was surrounded at the gas station while traveling with his wife and two sons, is not protected by diplomatic immunity from prosecution because he was arrested outside Austria.

The case has been closely watched by the Trump administration. Assadi’s arrest “tells you, I think, everything you need to know about how the government of Iran views its responsibilities in connection with diplomatic relations,” White House national security adviser John Bolton told reporters this month. Bolton, a prominent Iran hawk, has been leading Trump administration efforts to place new sanctions on Iran, which he called “the central banker of international terrorism.”

The MOIS has a long history of conducting surveillance operations in Europe, but an attack at a major public gathering in Paris, attended by Trump’s lawyer, would invite massive retaliation from the French and the Americans, prompting some experts to wonder why Iran would take such a risk.

Iran has in the past targeted Iranian dissidents abroad, and Tehran has previously been linked to numerous plots involving Israeli, Jewish and Arab interests in the West. The level of Iranian activity ebbs and flows, sometimes without a discernible reason, according to former U.S. officials and Iran experts.

In the first 15 years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power as supreme ruler in 1979, Iranian agents assassinated at least 60 people in four European countries. The most notorious single attack was the 1992 assassination of a Kurdish Iranian dissident leader and three of his colleagues, all shot inside a Berlin restaurant.

Some experts now fear a return to those kinds of bloody operations.

In Germany last year, a Pakistani man was sentenced to four years in prison for scouting out potential targets with links to Israel and Jewish organizations on behalf of the Quds Force, the external operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to court documents, he had been in touch with his Iranian handlers since at least 2011. But the “contact intensified” in the middle of 2015, around the same time that authorities believe the couple planning to attack the MEK rally were first contacted by Assadi.

Officials said that Iran has recruited people from Pakistan, as well as from Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, North Africa and Afghanistan, in order to obscure the country’s role in overseas spying.

A high-level German official said Iran’s aggression inside Europe calls for a tougher response.

“There are clear indications for calling this a case of state terrorism,” the official said of the thwarted Paris attack. But leaders in Germany and France, the official said, “would rather play the danger and level of interference down,” in order to hold together the nuclear deal.

Norman Roule, who served 34 years in the CIA and retired last year as the national intelligence manager for Iran, said the lack of a tougher European response, especially in the wake of Iran’s support of terrorism on the continent, has likely sent a message to Tehran: “You can get away with pretty much anything.”

Roule said that Iran has been testing the limits of European and American resolve for decades. The regime has launched cyberattacks, supported terrorist groups, and, in 2013, plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a fashionable restaurant in Washington — an attack Roule said would probably have inflicted civilian casualties. All those events saw little tangible response, he said.

“My fear is that Iran may well believe they have yet to reach our red line, and this is a recipe for further attacks,” Roule said.

While U.S. officials have accused Iran’s top leaders of being behind the biggest plots, Iranian intelligence factions have sometimes acted in competition with one another, with little apparent coordination with the country’s ruling clerics, former U.S. officials said. Some think that pattern may be repeating now.

“It is not always the case that a senior [Iranian] official says, ‘Go and do this,’ ” said Matthew Levitt, a former counterterrorism official with the Treasury Department and the FBI. “Sometimes initiative — even stupid initiative, even initiative that fails — is smiled upon within this system.”

In light of the operations in Europe and the United States, it’s not clear that the Iranian leadership is in control of its own operatives, said intelligence officials in multiple countries.

One German official said that based on his government’s discussions with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s leaders understand that an attack in the heart of Europe could do irreparable damage to their country’s relationship with the remaining signatories to the nuclear deal.

But there is also a parallel power structure in Iran, and as domestic unrest grows and more Iranians die fighting in Iraq and Syria, Iranian hard-liners elsewhere in the government could push for a show of force against the West, the German official said.

The regime has also been humiliated by recent Israeli spying operations that laid bare huge troves of documents about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly crowed about his spies’ prowess and has pressed for a tougher international response to Iran.

In a speech last month at the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu cited the arrest of the two operatives in the U.S. and the foiled Paris attack as evidence of Iran’s continued support of terrorism in the West, despite the election of more moderate leaders and the nuclear deal.

“If you think that Iran’s aggression has been confined to the Middle East, think again,” Netanyahu said.

An Israeli official said that there is a directive from the top levels of the Iranian government to develop targets quickly, and that the Intelligence Ministry has pushed its operatives to work too fast, leading to mistakes and arrests.

The two Iranian men arrested on suspicion of spying inside the United States were under surveillance by the FBI for an extended period of time, with their travel inside and outside the country tracked, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

The two men also appeared to be pressed for time. The alleged agent with dual Iranian and American citizenship urged his associate, who lived in California, to hand over photographs and other material he’d been gathering for target packages. But the California man “expressed some frustration,” according to the complaint, because he wanted more time to get the materials in order.

“I don’t like to do it this way . . . I like to have a complete package, meaning that there is no gap in information,” he said.

Will Israel Attack Iranian-Backed Forces in Iraq?

By: Sean Savage; Jewish News Syndicate-jns.org

Israel has signaled that it would not tolerate this new Iranian front in Iraq, as it has done with hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian military assets in Syria during its seven-year civil war.

File photo: Two Israeli F-35 “Adir” jets fly in formation. Credit: U.S. Air Force/1st Lt. Erik D. Anthony.

File photo:  Two F-35 jets. The Israel Defense Forces fly them as F-35 “Adir” jets.

Situated in the cradle of human civilization, modern-day Iraq has been no stranger to gruesome bloodshed and violence in recent years. With the scourge of the Islamic State largely defeated, many hope that Iraq can now turn a page on its bloody recent past and start building for a new future. However, Iraq’s Persian neighbor, Iran, has different plans. As one of the region’s major powers, Iran has been focused on taking advantage of the chaos to its west to fulfill one of the core tenants of theocratic regime: Shi’ite Muslim expansionism and revolution.

While modern Iran’s involvement in Iraq goes back decades—from the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the bloody Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s to support insurgent groups in the years following the U.S. invasion—more recently, Iran has sought to leverage Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Muslim population as the final piece in its corridor of control, dubbed the “Shi’ite Crescent” from Tehran to Beirut in Lebanon.

“Currently, Iran has control over numerous Iraqi [mostly Shia] political and militia organizations,” Phillip Smyth, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told JNS.

“These groups generally follow the same organizational and ideological model as Lebanese Hezbollah,” he explained. “Their creation and growth are part of a longer-term Iranian strategy that follows the successes they’ve built when it comes to influencing Lebanon. They wish to construct groups that push their ideologies, policies, and whose armed groups can be utilized.”

Indeed, Iraq’s diversity has been its downfall in recent decades. Stitched together by former colonial powers the British and French following World War I, Iraq is torn between three dominant groups—the Kurds, Sunni Arab Muslims and Shi’ite Muslims, who make up about 65 percent of the population. Iran, which is also Shi’ite Muslim, has had long and complicated ties with its neighboring Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims, but has grown to fill the political vacuum left behind by recent wars to extend its domination over the community.

“Iran is deeply insinuated into Iraq’s political and security apparatuses. It used the Islamic State invasion of Iraq as a pretext to establish an IRGC [Iran Revolutionary Guards Corp] military presence in the country and expand its funding, training and equipping of Iraq’s major Shi’ite militias, which have since been incorporated into the Iraqi government as a direct conduit for Iranian influence over Iraq’s security policy,” Jonathan Ruhe, associate director of JINSA’s Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy, told JNS.


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with Revolutionary Guard Corps. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

As such, domination over Iraq is seen as one of the last pieces extend its “land bridge” of Shi’ite Muslim communities from Iran to Lebanon in order to directly threaten Israel.

“Control of this land bridge would expand Tehran’s ability to proliferate advanced weapons to Hezbollah, establish a second front against Israel in the Golan, and threaten U.S. and Israeli partner Jordan,” said Ruhe.

“More geostrategically, it would also bolster Iranian hegemony in the heart of the Middle East, which is critical to its objective of replacing the United States as the preeminent power in the region.”

Iranian build-up in Iraq

Earlier this month, it was reported that Iran had transferred ballistic missile to its Shi’ite proxies in Iraq.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own,” Reuters reported.

Among the missiles transferred include the Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar, which have ranges of about 200 kilometers (125 miles) to 700 kilometers (435 miles), putting both regional foes of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel within striking distance.

“If these reports are indeed true, it represents the next logical step in Iran’s efforts to replicate and expand the threat posed to Israel from Hezbollah’s Iranian-made missile arsenal in Lebanon,” said Ruhe. “Iran is pursuing a similar project in Syria, which has prompted Israeli airstrikes to prevent Syria becoming a second front for threatening Israel with precision missiles.”

“In putting new missiles in Iraq capable of reaching Israel, Iran would be presenting Israel with a dilemma: escalate its preventive campaign against Iranian proliferation of strategic weaponry by forcing Israel to expand its strikes to another country, or allow Tehran to establish yet another way to threaten Israel?” he asked.

Will Israel attack Iraq?

Already, Israel has signaled that it would not tolerate this new Iranian front in Iraq, as it has done with hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian military assets in Syria during its seven-year civil war.

“We are certainly monitoring everything that is happening in Syria, and regarding Iranian threats, we are not limiting ourselves just to Syrian territory. This also needs to be clear,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in reference to Iran’s buildup in Iraq earlier this month.

“I am saying that we will contend with any Iranian threat, and it doesn’t matter from where it comes … Israel’s freedom is total. We retain this freedom of action,” he added.

Israel, of course, is no stranger to carrying out an attack on Iraqi soil. In 1981 Israel’s air force destroyed the Osirak Iraqi nuclear reaction near Baghdad.

However, the United States, which has about 5,200 troops in Iraq as part of its mission to stabilize the country and defeat the Islamic State, reportedly warned Israel not to carry out any airstrikes in Iraq.

American officials were reported to have told Israeli defense officials to “please leave Iraq to us,” Israel public broadcaster KAN reported.

Yet Ruhe remains unconvinced that America would target Iran or Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

“To date, the United States has demonstrated a desire to coexist, however uneasily, alongside Iranian-backed forces in Iraq as part of the overarching goal of restoring a semblance of political and military stability to Iraq, and minimizing risks and burdens to U.S. forces operating there,” he said.

For Smyth, an attack by Israel in Iraq would be a “major escalation” from how the Jewish state has targeted these groups in the past.

“The farthest strike [likely launched by the Israelis] was near the Syrian-Iraq border some weeks ago. Of course, this may have been a signal by Israel to the militias that as soon as they enter Syria, they will be subject to Israeli attacks.

“However, going directly into Iraq would be a move in the direction of saying that all of these targets on the table, and it could have much harsher repercussions for U.S. forces.”

As such, Ruhe sees any Israel attack on Iranian proxies in Iraq as part of a broader campaign.

“It seems more realistic to envisions Israeli forces attacking Iranian proxies in Iraq—either as an expanded part of its counter-missile campaign against Iran in Syria, or as part of a major conflict between Israel on the one hand and Iran and it proxies [including Hezbollah] on the other,” Ruhe said.

“Indeed, Israel has made clear at least since Netanyahu’s Munich speech in February that if attacked, it would address the Iranian threat in its totality—regionwide, and not just from Syria.”

Column One: Ending the Palestinian Exception

BY: Caroline B. Glick; Jerusalem Post – jpost.com

The Palestinian exception involves giving the Palestinians and their supporters a pass for actions that would otherwise be illegal, simply because they are Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists.

 US President Donald Trump is reflected in glass at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, on November

US President Donald Trump is reflected in glass at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, on November 11, 2017. (photo credit: JORGE SILVA / REUTERS)

When Rosh Hashanah ended on Tuesday evening, Jews discovered that over the holiday, the Trump administration had enacted two policies – one foreign and one domestic – that on their face, don’t appear to be connected. But actually, they stem from the same rationale. And both together and separately, these two policies give Jews much to be thankful for.

First, the administration announced it is closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, DC.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton explained Monday that the administration decided to close the PLO office due to the PLO’s refusal to carry out substantive negotiations towards the achievement of a peace agreement with Israel. Then too, by working to prosecute Israeli nationals at the International Criminal Court, the PLO is violating the conditions Congress set as law for the continued operation of its Washington office.

Second, Kenneth Marcus, Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights determined that from now on, the US Department of Education will use the State Department’s definition of antisemitism in adjudicating all complaints regarding alleged acts of antisemitism in US educational institutions.

The State Department’s definition of antisemitism is based on the definition drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism explicitly states that anti-Israel activities which among other things reject Israel’s right to exist and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination; compare contemporary policies of the State of Israel to policies of Nazi Germany; and apply a standard for judging Israel’s policies and actions that is not applied to other nations and states, are all acts of antisemitism. As such, they are prohibited under the civil rights statutes that protect Americans against discrimination based on their group identity.

The common phenomenon both policies address can be referred to as “the Palestinian exception.”

The Palestinian exception was born with the Oslo process, whose 25th anniversary was marked on September 13. Ironically, the more the process failed, the more entrenched the Palestinian exception became.

The Palestinian exception involves giving the Palestinians and their supporters a pass for actions that would otherwise be illegal, simply because they are Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists.

For instance, the Palestinian exception has afforded the PLO and its Palestinian Authority the right to enjoy US political and financial support even as they undercut the US interest of achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israel. The Palestinians have been given a pass for rejecting Israeli peace proposals. They have been given a pass for waging an unrelenting war against Israel by cultivating, encouraging and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel; prosecuting a political war against Israel whose goal is to delegitimize its right to exist; and disseminating and cultivating hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.

Since the dawn of the peace process, every secretary of state has at one point or another said that the PLO and PA must stop abetting terrorism and supporting terrorism.

Likewise, every secretary of state has at some point paid lip service to the notion that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority must cease indoctrinating Palestinians to hate Jews and seek Israel’s destruction.

But until President Donald Trump took office, no administration took substantive action against the PA or the PLO for their destructive, racist behavior. On the contrary, until Trump’s inauguration, three successive administrations responded to aggressive behavior by the Palestinians by expanding US financial and political support for the PLO, the PA and UNRWA. The Obama administration upgraded the diplomatic status of the PLO’s office in Washington.

As for the Palestinians’ supporters in the US, successive administrations have failed to call them to task for their ever-escalating efforts to discriminate against Israel’s supporters on campuses. This repeated failure has empowered hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Students Association, Jewish Voice for Peace and hundreds of aligned groups on college campuses to escalate their anti-Jewish activities.

Trump explained the basic rationale of his decision to defund UNRWA and slash funding to the PA and other Palestinian institutions in a conference call with Jewish leaders last week ahead of Rosh Hashanah. This rationale also holds for Trump’s decision to close the PLO’s Washington office, which Bolton announced four days after the call.

Trump explained: “I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the Palestinian leaders… I’d say, ‘You’ll get the money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying.”

Trump said that he discussed conditioning US aid to the Palestinians on Palestinian actions on behalf of peace in conversations with former US peace negotiators.

“I said to some of the past negotiators, ‘Did you ever do that before? Did you ever use the money angle?’
“They said, ‘No, sir. We thought it would be disrespectful.’

“I said, ‘I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all. I think it’s disrespectful when people don’t come to the table.’”
In other words, Trump’s policy is not to extend exceptional treatment to the Palestinians. Just as he expects allied states that the US supports to support the US, so he expects the Palestinians to act in conformance with the US interest of forging peace between them and Israel.

In this vein, it is important to note that US financial support for the Palestinians, like the US decision to allow the PLO to operate a representative office in Washington, were both initiated in 1994 on the basis of the PLO’s formal commitment to work toward peace with Israel. Over the years, as Palestinian bad faith toward Israel became inarguable, Congress passed laws conditioning continued US assistance of the Palestinians on their behavior.

Yet the three previous administrations opted to ignore the law and operate instead in conformance with the Palestinian exception that gives the PA and the PLO a pass for everything – including breaking American laws.

As for the Palestinians’ supporters on US campuses, the Palestinian exception enabled them to wage a war against American Jews on campuses the likes of which the US has arguably never seen.

Over the years, as antisemitic assaults on Jewish students expanded under the headline of pro-Palestinian activism, Jewish students and groups repeatedly sought redress and corrective action from university authorities. In the many cases where those authorities refused to intervene to protect Jewish students, the students and Jewish advocacy groups turned to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for protection, but to little or no avail.

In one notable instance, in 2011 the Zionist Organization of America filed a complaint against Rutgers University for failing to protect the civil rights of Jewish students, and the Department of Education rejected their complaint by arguing that it couldn’t prove the assault in question was antisemitic.

That year, a student group named BAKA, (Belief Awareness Kindness Action) organized a campus event that was to be “free and open to the public.” It was titled, “Never Again for Anyone.”

The title of the event made clear that its intent was to compare Israel to Nazi Germany. That is, it was on its face designed to be an antisemitic event.

As the ZOA noted in a statement this week, “When the event organizers saw how many ‘Zionists’ (aka Jews) showed up at the event, they… selectively enforced an admission fee against students who were, or were perceived to be Jewish. Jewish students reported this outrageous and painful and hurtful antisemitic discrimination to the University, which failed to address it.”

Despite the strong evidence that BAKA held an antisemitic event and then deliberately targeted Jewish students for discriminatory treatment, the OCR closed the case claiming that it lacked evidence of discrimination. The ZOA’s appeal languished unaddressed for nearly four years.

The Obama administration’s decision to turn a blind eye to anti-Jewish discrimination undertaken in the name of the Palestinians was part of a general policy of applying the Palestinian exception to pro-Palestinian activists.

This policy was made official in 2013. As Politico reported on Tuesday, in response to pressure from Kenneth Marcus, who then served as head of the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights and other civil rights groups, the Obama Education Department’s OCR outlined what it believed constituted actionable discrimination against Jewish students.

The OCR drew a distinction between antisemitism and political views about Israel. It released a statement stipulating that distinction.
“OCR is careful to differentiate between harassment based on an individual’s real or perceived national origin, which is prohibited… as compared to offensive conduct based on an individual’s support for or opposition to the policies of a particular nation, which is not,” the OCR explained.

In other words, in the Obama administration’s view, while it is illegal to say that Jews are murderers and carrying out genocide, it is permissible to hold an event accusing Israel of carrying out genocide against the Palestinians and then discriminating against Jewish students who try to defend Israel from slander.

Needless to say, this position enabled antisemitic assaults against Jewish students to massively expand in recent years. “Israeli Apartheid Weeks” and BDS drives spread throughout the country – even though the basic conflation of Israel with apartheid South Africa and attempts to boycott Israel are both defined as forms of antisemitism under the IHRA definition adopted by the State Department.

Now serving as head of OCR as the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, Marcus is ending the Palestinian exception in the US education system. Marcus announced that the OCR will use the State Department’s definition of antisemitism when considering allegations of antisemitic acts on campuses in a letter to the ZOA.

The actual purpose of Marcus’s letter was to inform the organization that the OCR is considering the ZOA’s four-year-old appeal of the OCR’s decision not to take action against Rutgers for its refusal to protect Jewish students from discrimination.
Trump’s opponents insist that ending the Palestinian exception in relation to the PLO diminishes the already miniscule hope of reaching an accord between Israel and the PLO. Former peace negotiator Aaron David Miller excoriated the Trump administration’s policy in a column in USA Today on Wednesday.

Anti-Israel and far left groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and the American Civil Liberties Union argue that Marcus’s policy harms the free speech rights of pro-Palestinian groups.

These criticisms are disingenuous.

The only way that peace will ever be achieved is if the Palestinians stop their efforts to destroy Israel and embrace the cause of peace – either with the PLO or without it.

Discrimination and bigotry are not free speech issues. Allowing pro-Palestinian groups to intimidate Jewish students into silence is not about guaranteeing free speech, it is about blocking free speech and trampling the civil rights of Jews.

The Palestinian exception has made peace less likely and it has made antisemitism the only form of bigotry permitted – indeed supported – by US universities today.

The Trump administration should be thanked, not attacked, for finally discarding it.