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WEEK OF JANUARY 22 THROUGH JANUARY 28
Trump-Putin Deal on Syria Bears on Israel Security
The British Prime Minister Theresa May picked up fast on the new power equation. After standing before the media with the US President Friday, Jan. 27, and declaring hopefully, “Britain and the US can once again lead the world together,” she decided to fly straight from Washington to Ankara Saturday, before returning home. The outcome of her first meeting with President Erdogan was one of the fastest defense collaboration pacts ever negotiated for trade and the war on terror. The British leader lost no time in getting down to brass tacks on how British military and intelligence can be integrated in the joint US-Russian-Turkish military steps for Syria. Erdogan did not exactly receive her with open arms. He did not afford his visitor the courtesy of placing a British flag in the reception room in his palace.
Israel is in much the same position. Israel stayed out of military involvement in the Syrian civil war, according to a policy led by Netanyahu, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and OC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Avivi Kochavi (then Direct of Military Intelligence). This policy has left Israel out of today’s decision-making loop on Syria’s future. Towards the end of 2015, shortly after Russia embarked on its massive military intervention in the Syrian conflict, Netanyahu took steps for safeguarding Israel’s security interests by setting up a direct line with the Russian president. It was translated into a military coordination mechanism between the Russian air force command in Syria and the Israeli air force, with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of General Staff, and Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, Israel’s Deputy Chief of Staff, in charge of this direct military link. Any problems that could not be solved at the military level were promptly turned over to be addressed at meetings or in phone calls between Netanyahu and Putin.
In one example, the prime minister obtained an undertaking from the Russian president to keep Iranian forces and Iran’s Shiite surrogates, including the Lebanese Hizballah, away from the Syrian-Israeli border, or allow them to use borderlands to send terrorists into Israel.
Shortly after Trump’s election victory (Nov. 8, 2016), the spadework on his collaboration with Putin was quietly begun by their national security advisers, Michael Flynn, in New York and Nikiolai Platonovich Patrushev in Moscow.
Jerusalem knew what was going on, but was taken aback by the speed at which those close understandings ripened into US-Russian deals on the ground. Before Trump had finished his first week in the White House, US warplanes had escorted a Russian air strike against ISIS in Syria. This rush of events injects further urgency into Netanyahu forthcoming talks with the US president. Whereas in the second term of the Obama presidency, the Israeli leader was wont to travel to Moscow or Sochi to sort out security problems relating to Syria, henceforth he must directly engage Donald Trump as the lead player. So when the Israeli premier travels to the White House next month, he will have to address four pressing concerns, all relating to the fast-moving Syrian scene:
1. Will Washington and Moscow go through with the expulsion from Syria of Iranian forces and their proxies, including Hizballah, and take it all the way until it is accomplished?
2. After they are gone, who will take over the areas they evacuate?
3. Will Bashar Assad stay on as president, or has his successor been nominated?
4. The most burning question of all is the level of Hizballah’s armament. Not only must Hizballah forces be pushed out of Syria, but it is essential to strip them of their sophisticated new weaponry, including missiles. Israel’s military and security chiefs assess Hizballah’s arsenal as having been upgraded in recent weeks to a level that directly impinges on Israel’s security.
WEEK OF JANUARY 15 THROUGH JANUARY 21
Abbas Meets Pope, Warns Against US Embassy Move to Jerusalem
(Pope says Trump's promise to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would upend decades of US policy)
Jan. 16….(Jerusalem Post) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Saturday that if incoming US president Donald Trump follows through on his plans to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it would “certainly not be a help” to the stalled peace process. Abbas made the remark during a brief address to reporters in Rome, following a 23-minute audience with Pope Francis, the third meeting between the two men.
Abbas also officially opened the small PA embassy to the Vatican just outside its walls, a year and a half after the Vatican recognized the Palestinian state. The embassy is housed in a building owned by the Vatican, which began renting it to the PA last year.
In a statement, the Vatican said their conversation “turned to the peace process in the Middle East, and hope was expressed that direct negotiations between the parties will be resumed to bring an end to the violence that causes unacceptable suffering to civilian populations, and to find a just and lasting solution.”
The Vatican statement concluded: “It is hoped that, with the support of the international community, measures can be taken that favor mutual trust and contribute to creating a climate that permits courageous decisions to be made in favor of peace.” In his own statement, Abbas said the conversation also addressed the situation of Jerusalem, which Abbas referred to as “the capital of the State of Palestine.” He said he and Francis “reaffirmed the importance of the city for the three monotheistic religions, and our support for Jerusalem being an open city.” Abbas criticized Israel for what he called “policies aimed at turning Jerusalem into an exclusive Jewish-Israeli city, demolishing Palestinian homes, expanding illegal settlements, building an illegal ‘Annexation Wall,’ dividing families and isolating our occupied capital from the rest of Palestine.”
The prospect of the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem was not mentioned in official statements about the meeting, but in remarks to reporters, Abbas said: “We are waiting to see what will happen. If this decision to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem is followed through, it will certainly not help the peace process. We hope it does not happen.” In an interview published by the French newspaper Le Figaro on Saturday, Abbas said: “Not only would this move deprive the US of all legitimacy in playing a role in conflict resolution, it would also destroy hopes for a two-state solution.” Abbas also told Le Figaro that the PA might consider “un-recognizing” Israel if the move takes place.
The Vatican is among the countries backing a two-state solution. Issa Kassissieh, the PA’s first ambassador to the Vatican, said the PA is thankful for the support of Francis and the Vatican. “We will work together for the implementation of a bilateral agreement,” Kassissieh said in a statement. “Our relations with the Holy See are a priority in our foreign policy, and just as we raised our flags together in the United Nations, we hope that we will be able to take other steps that bring us closer to a just and lasting peace in Jerusalem and the rest of the State of Palestine.” Ties between the Vatican and the PA have strengthened in recent years. In 2012, a year before Francis’s election as pontiff, the Vatican went on record as a backer of the United Nations’ decision to grant the Palestinian Authority the status of “non-member observer state” over objections from Israel. In 2014, Francis’s itinerary for his visit to the Holy Land used the phrase “State of Palestine,” and during the trip the pope said the Palestinians had the right to a “sovereign and independent” homeland. A year later, the Vatican began referring to the PA as a sovereign state in its communications, formally opening up diplomatic ties with its government.
CAIR Demands Trump Drop Franklin Graham From Inauguration
Jan. 16….(WND) The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim-rights group designated by the Justice Department as a terrorist co-conspirator, is calling on Donald Trump to drop Rev. Franklin Graham as one of six clergy who will offer prayers at the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony. In a press release issued this week, CAIR referred to the son of evangelist Billy Graham as a “notorious Islamophobe.” If President-elect Trump truly seeks to unite our nation as he promised in his acceptance speech, he will limit the list of those offering prayers at the inauguration to religious leaders who work to bring us together, not to create divisions between faiths,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Rev. Graham’s ill-informed and extremist views are incompatible with the Constitution and with American values of religious liberty and inclusion.”
This is not the first time CAIR has attempted to have Graham banned from official Washington functions. In 2010 the group celebrated its success at having Graham dropped from The National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon. CAIR’s Awad said his organization hailed the decision “as a victory for common sense and good judgment.” “Promoting one’s own religious beliefs is something to be defended and encouraged, but other faiths should not be attacked or misrepresented in the process,” Awad said.
Graham has been outspoken in his criticism of Islam, saying Muslims are “enslaved by Islam” and characterizing it as a “very evil and wicked religion.” Following the attack by two Muslims that left more than a 14 dead and 22 seriously injured in San Bernardino, Graham warned, “Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized, and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad.”
WEEK OF JANUARY 1 THROUGH JANUARY 7
John Kerry’s Intentions for Jerusalem
Jan. 4….(Jerusalem Post) Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent speech on Israel contained a potentially dangerous element that has eluded the attention of many, including the speech’s detractors.
Kerry’s vision of peace seems fairly straightforward. Jerusalem will be “the internationally recognized capital of the two states,” and “freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo” will be assured.
Kerry said that this phrasing repeated previous declarations about the city’s future. But by adding the words “internationally recognized,” Kerry has tried to seriously damage Israel.
The US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" began in December 1988, when Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat met American conditions and "accepted United American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen was right when he said that Security Council Resolution 2334 “systematically removes Israel’s sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which contains both Judaism’s and Christianity’s holy sites”.
But Kerry was intimating something else, and it is in this section: Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides, and the solution will have to meet the needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths…the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible and the established status quo maintained.
By saying that the solution for Jerusalem “needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths,” Kerry set the stage for the resurrection of the infamous “Special International Regime.” This idea was first outlined in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, Part 1; it would place Jerusalem “under a special international regime that shall be administered by the United Nations.” So what would happen if Kerry’s vision came to pass?
First, control of Jerusalem would be stripped away from Israel. Second, the city would become a shared capital for two states (one Palestinian, one Jewish). Finally, access to the religious sites in this area would be contingent on the agreement of all three religions, and, of course, a new “Quartet” supervisory body would be created to oversee the agreement
We should recall that back on September 24, 2010, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert published an article that promoted this idea. One of his aides said that the proposal “would represent a maintenance of the status quo, but under international trusteeship.”
The problem is that Israel is the underdog on the issue of religious sites, and has always been forced to surrender its rights. For example, here is what Secretary Kerry said in Jordan on October 24, 2015: “Netanyahu has reaffirmed Israel’s commitment…that it is Muslims who pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and non-Muslims who visit.”
Kerry wants to not only wrench all of Jerusalem from Israel’s control, but to submit Judaism’s religiously historical sites to a non-Israeli body.