Might it lead to war?

U.S. voices at the United Nations (UN) and in the U.S. Congress are warning of the dangers of relying on Russia to curb Iran’s incursion deep into Syria, and warning of the treat this poses to U.S. allies, Israel and Jordan.  Yet, the Trump administration seems to consider the status-quo in Syria, (minus ISIS), acceptable, essentially conceding the field to Russia when considering the future of Syria.  In the meantime, verbal combat is occurring between Iran and Israel that might lead to a real war.

Earlier this month, the State Department announced a deal with Russia to expand “deconfliction zones” in southwestern Syria.  It is allegedly designed to keep Iranian, Hezbollah, and Iranian recruited Shiite militias from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen, away from Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.  But, if the Trump Administration is sincere about stopping Iran’s advance toward the Mediterranean Sea, or preventing a major conflict in the Middle East, it certainly falls short on this score.  Moreover, Russia is using its air power to protect Iranian backed ground forces.  The U.S., on its part, plans to end its involvement in Syria and Iraq once the Islamic State is defeated and ejected from the region. Regrettably, unlike the Russians, who have protected their Middle East allies, the U.S. appears to be abandoning their hitherto allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are predominantly Kurds.  This would allow the dictator, Bashar Assad, whose army slaughtered most of the 500,000 fellow Syrians using outlawed chemical weapons, to stay in power under Russian and Iranian protection.

At the UN last week, Russia vetoed the extension of a UN panel set to investigate Assad’s regimes use of chemical weapons, called the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).  Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, twitted that “By using the veto to kill the mechanism in Syria that holds users of chemical weapons accountable, Russia proves they cannot be trusted or credible as we work toward a political solution in Syria.”

At a counterterrorism conference hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) (leading member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees) had this to say about the Iranian threat to Israel. “Iran’s aggression against Israel has become much more widespread.  It’s a very dangerous advance that Iran is making through northern Iraq and southern Syria.  Iran is now providing not just rockets, it’s helping build precision-guided munitions factories in Syria, on the border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah can manufacture its own precision-guided munitions to use against Israel.” Cotton added, “We can’t allow the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to have unmolested, resupply lines going from Iran to the Levant.  It is not in the interest of the U.S. to have a revolutionary cause backed with the powers of a nation state expanding its influence throughout the region.”

The Iranian regime may be a threat to U.S. vital interests in the Middle East, as stated by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, but it is a definitive existential threat to Israel.  Tehran’s threats to Israel are not confined to rhetorical remarks by its leaders. It has now developed capabilities that will enable it to carry out its intentions to “destroy Israel.”  The 2015 Nuclear Deal, which Iran is clearly subverting in various ways, includes developing long-range ballistic missiles and the accompanying delivery system.

Earlier this year, Mojtaba Zonour, a senior member of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Revolutionary Guards official, commented that, “Only 7 minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”  He also warned that his country (Iran) “would immediately strike Israel if the U.S. makes a mistake.”

Reuters reported (11/18/2017) that Iranian military chief-of-staff General Mohammad Baqeri said that the Islamic Republic would not accept Israeli violations of Syria, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).  Baqeri stated during a visit to Damascus that, “It is not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate Syria anytime it wants.”

Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on a visit to Israel’s northern border last week stated that, “Israel is prepared and ready for all eventualities.”  He added that Israel will reserve its absolute freedom of action.  He said that Israel won’t allow Iranian bases in Syria, and will not permit southwestern Syria to become a forward outpost against Israel.

Lieberman was accompanied on his visit with Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eizenkot, and senior IDF generals.  It reflects Israel’s concerns over the recent Iranian moves that includes efforts to erect a permanent base on Syrian soil.  Iran, it appears, is seeking to upgrade its threats against Israel, should her nuclear facilities be attacked, hence, an Iranian presence in Syria is extremely dangerous for Israel.  In addition, Israel fears that in the near future, Iran might transfer to Syria advanced anti-aircraft and land-to-sea missiles that will directly threaten Israel’s freedom of navigation and its aircraft.

Behind the warlike declaration delivered over microphones, Israel is investing heavily in worldwide briefings, and in particular, appealing to Washington.  Israeli representatives are explaining to officials the dangers of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria.  Hitherto, the U.S. administration has shown little interest in acting on it.

When the dust of war clears over Syria, Bashar Assad, the butcher of Damascus, will be the winner in the civil war.  The true rulers of Syria will be however, the Russians.  Putin’s diplomats tell every side what they want to hear, including Israel.  It is clear nonetheless that the Russians see their interests coincide with that of Iran.  Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign Minister, confirmed that last week when he suggested that the Iranian presence in Syria is “legitimate.”  On October 16, 2017, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, visited Israel after Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes conducting a photography mission over Lebanon, were fired upon by an anti-aircraft SA-5 battery of the Syrian army. A quartet of Israeli jets took off from an IAF base, and with four precise bombs, made direct hits and destroyed the radar unit launcher and the firing battery.  In meetings with PM Netanyahu and DM Lieberman, Shoigu offered little practical solutions in dealing with Iranian expansionism.

According to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, Russia has rejected Israel’s request for a 40 kilometer buffer zone from the Israeli Golan Heights border, but was willing to expand a 10-15 kilometer zone, which will be off-limits to Iranian forces.

The escalating war of words between Jerusalem and Tehran can easily turn from verbal volleys to missiles flying on all sides.  Although none of the parties want to be dragged into a war, the escalating threats and counter threats have their own dynamic force, and wars break out as a result of misunderstandings between enemies.  This is an explosive situation that the Trump administration must not ignore.  It is time for the U.S. to flex some muscle in Syria.

Oringally Published in FrontpageMag.

Is Trump Forcing Bibi to Build?

After it was announced today that Israel approved 2,500 homes in Judea and Samaria, Bibi Netanyahu released the following tweet:

“Agreed with Defense Minister on construction of 2,500 housing units in Judea and Samaria. We build and continue to build.”

There is no way to know the actual substance of the call between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump, but one thing is for sure there is an apparent Trump effect.

With the approval announcement already making waves around the world, it is noteworthy that no criticism or even a peep was heard from the United States. Trump’s election is more than an earthquake in the USA, it has changed how Israel relates to itself. Donald Trump is not a man who backs away from statements.  It is not his brand.

Of all the rightwing bonafides of PM Netanyahu, he has never governed Israel with a President that will essentially let Israel be truly independent. Those who know the Prime Minister remark on the extra careful manner Bibi Netanyahu approaches everything.  This approach worked during the Obama years, but Trump is different, very different. It is obvious the Prime Minister and even the Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have yet to truly appreciate that for the first time we may be just left alone to really develop our own future.

The one thing we know is that President Donald Trump likes winners.  He likes those that succeed.  In his mind the more you build the more you are a success. Trump never stayed still and it is why he has defied all odds to become President.  Bibi Netanyahu has been a brilliant tactitician, but there is no reason to play by the old rules anymore, the Donald is here and he wants us to build.

Without Amona the Government Will Fall

“It’s unthinkable to simply evacuate entire towns for judicial reasons,” Infrastructure Minster Yuval Steinitz was quoted as saying on Monday in relation to Amona and its impending destruction.

Amona has become a red line for many in the government and a litmus test for both Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu. The issue is far more beuroctratic than ideological. Most of the country still remembers what occurred there when the former Prime Minister Olmert essentially used what amounted to an incredible use of force to ensure the destruction of several houses there. What transpired there even disgusted those on the left.

The country has little interest going back to those times and move wants to move forward. It is clear Steinitz is floating this idea in order to pave way for a government decision to legalize Amona.  He knows as well as the Prime Minister that without Amona the government will fall.

Uprooting Amona will confirm a disconenct between the leadership of Likud and the party’s rank and file, possibly splitting the party.  It will also destroy Lieberman’s persona as a populist leader of the rightwing, damaging his ability to rebuild his brand.

Admidst the growing storm that threatens to tear apart the government, Yuval Steinitz has taken th lead in finding a logical solution. “My proposal says something simple – logic must prevail. There’s a difference between one of two houses and a whole neighborhood, and there’s a difference between temporary living on the land and a community that has been built up over many years when someone suddenly challenges the ownership.”

Steinitz has a point.  Amona, isn’t growing simply to make a statement, but it is a thriving community.  In most civil societies, absentee land claims are settled through monetary comensation, but because Amona is over the green line, the Supreme Court views the community through the lense of politics rather than ruling on legitimate government policy.  Then again, Israel’s supreme court has always had a habit of ruling against communities in Judea and Samaria.

In a government that has at least one minister accused of building without approval, the hypocrisy of that same government being forced to destroy a whole comunity defies logic. Then again, rightwing governments in Israel have consistantly found themselves hamstrung by a leftist court system, a hold out from the Mapai era that imposes its will on everything and anything in Israel.

What About the Absentee Land Law of 1950?

For days now rumors have been floating that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was going to use an already established law enacted in 1950 connected to absentee land ownership.  As of today, that proposal has been taken off the table for fear that the supreme court would not only strike it down, but use it against the right in the future. Attorney General Mandebilt has insisted the only solution is to move the community by rebuilding it.

If Amona goes, the government goes, and yet the entrenched left is forcing Bibi’s hand and pushing him to destroy his own government.  Yet, somehow Bibi seems capable of finaly turning the tables on an overinvolved and activist court.  If he truly wats to do so, Amona is the right place to start.

Will Avigdor Lieberman Save Amona?

The Amona community, long viewed as a red line for activists from Yehuda and Shomron is slated to be destroyed do to Arab claims that they in fact own the land. The key with Amona is to ignore the noise coming from the Knesset and the two bills in committee there. At the end of the day they will be removed by the Prime Minister. The real solution rests in the 1950 Absentees’ Property Law. This law allows the government to buy the land of those who fled their property to enemy countries.

Newly appointed Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman has the power to implement this. Sources say he is looking into the very possibility of doing so in Amona’s case.

Most observers believe that if Amona would fall, the coalition would be imperiled and the country would move to new elections. In 2006 Amona was the site of intense police brutality against protesters seeking to block house demolitions there.

If Lieberman is successful in using the 1950 law to solve this issue, the precedent will be replayed across the Judea and Samaria.

So the question this summer, what kind of Amona will we have?  Will it be a 2006 redux or will Amona will serve as a catalyst to move the country forward and finally find a solution to conflicts on property ownership in Judea and Samaria?

Is Lieberman a Closet Dove?

With the ascendancy of Avigdor Lieberman to the post of Defense Minister, politicians from across the spectrum were ready for the Russian right wing populist to start assassinating Hamas leaders as soon as he could.  Nearly every political pundit was convinced Lieberman as Defense Minister would ensure the state’s transition into some sort of neo-fascism.

All of these premonitions amounted to nothing.  “When there is a dispute between the integrity of the nation and the integrity of the land, then integrity of the nation is more important,” Lieberman said upon his swearing in as Defense Minister.  This line is not inconsequential and reaffirms his acceptance of the two-state solution.

So why is the right gleeful about Lieberman’s appointment and Ya’alon’s resignation?

Despite Lieberman’s expression of support for the two-state solution, there are some big differences between Ya’alon and Lieberman.

  1. Style
  2. Support for soldiers no matter what
  3. Ending the warping of the IDF’s crippling purity of arms
  4. The Civil Administration will now be run by Eli ben Dahan in following with the coalition agreement


This last point is highly consequential.  It is ultimately the Civil Administration that decides on building, zoning, and a host of other important matters in Judea and Samaria. Rabbi Eli ben Dahan, member of the Jewish Home party, will now be able to provide favorable zoning to communities long held back in Judea and Samaria, while helping to create structures that allow for increased building through the area.


“We are very happy with the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman,” says Meir Deutch of the Regavim organization. Regavim battles illegal Arab building throughout Israel.  In Judea and Samaria where the laws are antique and administered by the Defense Ministry, Lieberman’s appointment means the Arab flaunting of Israeli law can finally be addressed.

No Second Sharon

It is clear that members of the right are wary of a second coming of Sharon.  Lieberman may often times speak with bombastic rhetoric when it comes to Arabs, but is little trusted by those on the right in the reigns of power.  Land of Israel activists are cognizant that a Lieberman unchecked could flip and help push through a final status accord.  

Of course the new defense minister is not about to march to the beat of the Left, but in a world where international forces are gearing up to foist a “peace plan” on Israel, pressure on Israel’s less ideological right can turn someone like Lieberman into a perfect delivery man for the west’s neo-colonial aspirations in the Middle East.

The right has much to be thankful for in Lieberman’s appointment and yet remaining cautious and ready to check the newest member of the security cabinet is a strategy that remains necessary.

Mark Toner: “The most right-wing coalition…”

Lat week, the USA State Department weighed in on the shake up in Israel’s cabinet.

“We have also seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history,” Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said. “This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in.”

The State Department was referring to Bibi Netanyahu’s inclusion of right wing nationalist party Israel Our Home into the government coalition.  The move saw the Prime Minister replace Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon with Russian Firebrand Avigdor Lieberman as Defense Minister.

The real question though, is given the massive shift in the last elections to the right in Israel, the American government should take a step back before meddling in Israeli internal politics as they often do.

During the last Israeli elections the left wing saw a massive influx of cash through backdoor avenues from the State Department.  In most countries that would be a crime. As Israel and America increasingly find themselves moving farther apart, Israel has staked out new partners in the emerging economies of Asia and Africa.  With antagonism from Foggy Bottom only increasing, one should expect this trend to continue.


Headlines: 60K Grenade Springs Found On Way to Gaza, Anti-BDS, Lieberman As Defense Minister

Israel has successfully tested a maritime missile interception system dubbed the Iron Dome of the Sea.
[Arutz Sheva]


Avigdor Lieberman expected to become Israel’s new defense minister as Benjamin Netanyahu reforms his government.
[The Telegraph]


Israeli Police captured a shipment of 60,000 hand-grenade springs on their way to the Gaza Strip.
[Times of Israel]


The United Methodist Church (UMC) voted down four resolutions that called on the Church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
[The Algemeiner]


Egypt: Missing EgyptAir Flight Crashed With 66 Passengers, Crew on Board