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WEEK OF APRIL 24 THROUGH APRIL 30
Israel Will Never Leave Golan, Netanyahu Tells Putin
(In Moscow meeting, PM also tells Russian president that the Jewish state will do ‘everything’ to ensure Hezbollah does not get advanced weaponry)
April 25….(Times of Israel) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of his “red lines” regarding the security of Israel’s northern borders, and stressed that the Jewish state was determined to maintain its control of the Golan Heights. “I have come to Russia to step up coordination on security matters, to prevent mistakes, misunderstandings,” Netanyahu said during the two leaders’ meeting in Moscow. “We are not going back to the days when rockets were fired at our communities and our children from the top of the Golan… and so, with an agreement or without, the Golan Heights will remain part of Israel’s sovereign territory.”
The prime minister also stressed that Israel would do “everything” in its power to block Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons, and was working to assure that no new “terror front” appeared on the Golan Heights.
The issues of the Syrian civil war and the ownership of the Golan had been expected to top the agenda at the meeting. Russia has been carrying out air raids in Syria in support of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad since September. And although Moscow recently announced it would withdraw many of its troops from the war-torn country, Russian planes still regularly fly sorties there.
Israeli airstrikes in Syria have also been the topic of previous high-level meetings between Moscow and Jerusalem. A number of airstrikes in Syria have been attributed to Israeli efforts to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah. Netanyahu was also expected to address Russian-backed peace efforts in Syria, which have reportedly become entangled with the status of the Golan Heights, an area effectively annexed by Israel in 1981 in a move not recognized by the rest of the world. The prime minister has previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks needed to take Israel’s position into account.
According to Israel’s Channel 2, the first clause of a draft agreement aimed at settling the brutal civil war in Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, specifies that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and must be returned to Syria.
The prime minister has drawn fire internationally in the past few days, after holding a cabinet meeting on the Golan, in which he declared the plateau would remain in Israel’s hands forever. Netanyahu has also previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks, brokered between Moscow and Washington, needed to take Israel’s position into account.
During the meeting, Netanyahu was also likely to lobby for Russia to cancel the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran, which has already begun to be implemented. Netanyahu has asked Putin to nix the sale on several previous occasions, to no avail. On Tuesday the head of Russia’s state-owned defense conglomerate said Moscow would complete its delivery of the S-300 system to Iran by the end of the year, after months of speculation over whether it would be transferred to Tehran at all. The Russian-made missile defense system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both airplanes and missiles. Netanyahu asked Putin to help reestablish the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) presence on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. Israel is interested in making sure that Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed terror groups are not able to use a power vacuum on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights to set up a base near the border for attacks against Israel.
Islamic Nations call Emergency Meeting on Golan Heights
April 25….(Times of Israel) The world’s largest body of Islamic nations has called for an emergency meeting over statements made last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel would never relinquish control over the Golan Heights. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation will meet Tuesday at its headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss “Israeli escalation against the occupied Syrian Golan,” joining others in the region to express alarm over Netanyahu’s declaration
During a cabinet visit to the area last Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel does not oppose current efforts to reach a political agreement to end the Syrian civil war, but that Israel’s boundary line with the country will not change, referring to Jerusalem’s hold on the plateau. “I convened this celebratory meeting in the Golan Heights to send a clear message: The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights,” he declared.
In a statement released Sunday, the 57-member OIC called the comments “provoking acts” and said they considered them “a serious escalation and flagrant violation of the Resolutions of international legitimacy and International Law.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War from Syria and effectively annexed it in 1981. The international community never accepted Israel’s annexation, and Israeli leaders see in the turmoil in Syria a chance to convince the world to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.
The OIC announcement follows a similar meeting of the Arab League on the issue last Thursday during which Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called for a special criminal court to be set up for Israel. The US, Germany, Syria and others all either condemned or said they opposed Netanyahu’s stance. The OIC held its annual summit earlier this month, focusing on the Palestinian cause, conflicts in member states and combating terrorism. During the summit the OIC passed a resolution on the Palestinian issue and support for international efforts to relaunch a “collective political peace process.
WEEK OF APRIL 17 THROUGH APRIL 23
US and Russia Team Up to Force Israel Out of Golan Mts.
April 18....(DEBKA) The Israeli cabinet holds its weekly session Sunday April 17, on the Golan. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu will visit Moscow on Thursday, April 21 to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and to launch the most important battle of his political career, and one of Israel’s most decisive contests of the last 10 years: the battle over the future of the Golan Heights.
Debkafile’s intelligence sources and its sources in Moscow report exclusively that Israel’s top political leaders and military commanders were stunned and shocked last weekend when they found out that US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to support the return of the Golan to Syria. The two presidents gave their top diplomats, Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the green light to include such a clause in a proposal being drafted at the Geneva conference on ending the Syrian civil war.
Israel captured the Golan from the Syrian army 49 years ago, during the Six-Day War in 1967 after the Syrian army invaded Israel. In 1981, during the tenure of then Prime MinisterMenachem Begin, Israel passed a law defining the Golan as a territory under Israeli sovereignty. However, it did not state that the area belongs to Israel.
While Israel was preparing for a diplomatic battle over the future of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Obama and Putin decided to deal a diplomatic blow to Israel and Netanyahu’s government on an unexpected issue, the Golan. It is part of an endeavor by the two powers to use their diplomatic and military cooperation regarding Syria to impose agreements on neighboring countries, such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. For example, Washington and Moscow are trying to impose an agreement regarding the granting of independence to Syrian Kurds, despite Ankara’s adamant opposition. The two presidents are also pressuring Riyadh and Amman to accept the continuation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule, at least for the immediate future.
Debkafile’s sources report that just like the other diplomatic or military steps initiated by Obama and Putin in Syria, such as those for Assad’s eventual removal from power, the two powers see a resolution of the Golan issue as a gradual process that may take a long time, perhaps even years. But as far as they are concerned, Israel will have to withdraw from the Golan at the end of that process. It should be noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not traveling to Washington to discuss the Golan issue with Obama. The frequent trips by the prime minister, senior officials and top IDF brass to Moscow in recent months show where the winds are blowing in the Middle East.
However, Moscow is not Washington, and Israel has no lobby in the Russian capital defending its interests. It should be made very clear that the frequent trips by senior Israeli officials to Moscow have not created an Israeli policy that can influence Putin or other senior members of the Russian leadership. Putin has made occasional concessions to Israel on matters of minimal strategic importance, but on diplomatic and military steps regarding Syria and Iran he has shown little consideration of Jerusalem’s stance.
It should also be noted that there has been no basis for the enthusiasm over the Russian intervention in Syria shown by Netanyahu, Israeli ministers and senior IDF officers. All of the calls by a number of Russia experts, mainly those of debkafile, for extreme caution in ties with Putin have fallen on deaf ears among the political leadership in Jerusalem and the IDF command in Tel Aviv. Amid these developments, three regional actors are very pleased by Washington and Moscow’s agreement to demand Israeli withdrawal from the Golan: Syrian President Assad, the Iranian leadership in Tehran and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Now, they do not need to risk a military confrontation with Israel over the Golan because Obama and Putin have essentially agreed to do the dirty work for them.
WEEK OF APRIL 10 THROUGH APRIL 16
Iran to US: Missile Program ‘Not Open to Negotiation’
April 12….(Fox News) Iran’s foreign minister said Sunday the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program is “not open to negotiation” with the United States, seemingly spurning an overture from Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry said Thursday during a visit to Bahrain that the US and its regional allies were “prepared to work on a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution” to the dispute over recent Iranian ballistic missile tests. The missile tests are not covered by the US-Iranian nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, agreed to this summer; however, the US and its allies contend the launches go against a UN Security Council Resolution.
Some Western experts fear the missiles could one day be used to deliver nuclear payloads. But Foreign Minister Javad Zarif rejected Tehran making any concessions to the international community on the missile topic. “Secretary Kerry and the US State Department know well that Iran’s missile and defense capabilities are not open to negotiation,” Zarif said. The Tehran Timesreported the remarks which were first made public by the country’s ISNA news agency. Framing the launches as an issue of self-defense, Zarif said “There would be no JCPOA for defense issues,” The Guardian reported. Instead, Zarif countered that the U.S. should halt “the selling of weaponry which are used to slaughter the defenseless Yemeni people or employed by the Zionist regime in Israel.”
Zarif also suggested the US should be concerned that some of its allies were arming ISIS. “The US needs to view regional issues more seriously than raise baseless and threadbare allegations against Iran,” Zarif said, The Guardian reported. “Mr. Kerry should ask US allies where the Islamic State’s arms come from.”
Iran has tested ballistic missiles in October and March. The US has responded with some sanctions on individuals and businesses, but not broad-based national sanctions, which some administration critics have called for.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon said last week during congressional testimony that one of Iran’s primary purposes for continuing the ballistic launches was to assuage hard-liners in the country who were upset by the terms of the nuclear deal. He also said missile tests would likely to continue. “Iran is intent on pursuing a ballistic missile program,” Shannon said. “It sees it not only as part of its larger strategic weapons program, but it also plays a larger political role in Iran, especially in the aftermath of the JCPOA.”
* Iran-Hezbollah’s Growing Threat Against US National Security Interests in the Middle East
April 12….(Foundation for the Defense of Democracies) The Syrian uprising constitutes one of the greatest challenges that Iran and Hezbollah have faced in decades. The collapse of the Assad regime would have, in the words of then-Commander of US Central Command General James Mattis, dealt Iran “the biggest strategic setback in 25 years.” It would have cut Iran’s only land bridge to Lebanon, and deprived Hezbollah of its strategic depth. Unfortunately, the situation in Syria has resulted in the opposite effect. While many, perhaps most, observers have tended to view Syria as a bloody quagmire that will erode Iranian ambitions, Tehran has deftly exploited the conflict, turning the strategic challenge it faces into an opportunity to expand its influence throughout the region. In doing so, Iran has followed a well-developed template. It is building up Shiite militias, which it recruits from around the Greater Middle East, on the model of Hezbollah. This means it places the militias under the operational command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and demands from them full allegiance to the Iranian regional project. The template goes back to the earliest days of the Islamic Revolution, but in recent years Iran has expanded its use to an extent never-before seen, with the biggest growth being in Iraq. Hezbollah, however, is the crown jewel of this region-wide network, with nodes in Syria, the Arab Gulf states, and, of course, Yemen. This is arguably the most significant and most under-appreciated development in the region over the past five years. Iran’s expansionist drive, through its legion of Shiite militias based on the model of Hezbollah and often trained by the group, has not been opposed by the US. If anything, Washington has effectively acquiesced to it, viewing it as a means to affect a new regional “equilibrium.
This has forced traditional US regional allies, from Israel to Saudi Arabia, to look for measures to try and stop this emerging shift in the regional balance of power, which directly impacts their national security interests. Although the effects are region-wide, this Iranian strategy has played out most consequentially in Syria. Five years into the uprising against the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah have secured their core interests in Syria. Hezbollah has taken significant losses at the tactical level but those have been offset by significant gains: Hezbollah is now better equipped and more operationally experienced than ever before. The first-order priority for Hezbollah and Iran was to secure Assad’s rule in Damascus and Western Syria. Maintaining control over key real estate in order to ensure territorial contiguity with Lebanon was essential. In fact, the Iran-Assad-Hezbollah axis showed a willingness to forgo ancillary territory relatively early in the conflict in order to secure the corridor between what might be called Assadistan and Hezbollahstan. Specifically, Hezbollah and Iran were determined to hold the areas adjacent to Lebanon’s eastern border and secure the routes to Damascus. This is essential for safeguarding arms transfers from Iran to Lebanon, as well as for protecting weapons storage depots on Syrian soil. Hezbollah is now reportedly also working to ethnically cleanse these areas. The campaign to create the security corridor has ensured that Hezbollah’s supply lines have remained open and uninterrupted. In fact, shipments into Lebanon from Syria may have even accelerated, and they may have included the transfer of certain strategic weapons systems that were kept on Syrian soil, as evident from the list of reported Israeli airstrikes over the last three years.
As part of its effort to secure the border, Hezbollah deepened its partnership with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), whose cooperation has been vital, and not only on the Syrian front. As Hezbollah began to face backlash in the form of car bombs in Beirut over its involvement in Syria in 2013, it looked to the LAF for support in protecting its domestic flank. The partnership between the LAF and Hezbollah has grown to such an extent that it is now meaningful to speak of the LAF as an auxiliary force in Hezbollah’s war effort. Indeed, in explaining the recent decision by Saudi Arabia to pull its $3 billion grant to the LAF, Saudi columnist Abdul Rahman al-Rashed wrote, “Hezbollah has started to use the army as its auxiliary in the war against the Syrians, which protects its lines and borders.” In certain instances, LAF troops and Hezbollah forces have deployed troops jointly, such as during street battles with the followers of a minor Sunni cleric in Sidon in 2013. The LAF routinely raids Syrian refugee camps and Sunni cities in Lebanon, rounding up Sunni men and often detaining them without charges. In a number of cases, it has arrested defected Syrian officers in the Free Syrian Army, either handing them back to the Assad regime, or, in some cases, delivering them to Hezbollah, which then uses them in prisoner swaps with the Syrian rebels. The LAF-Hezbollah synergy is broadly recognized in the region, with strategic implications that have been only dimly perceived in the United States. The Saudis, as I noted above, have reacted by withdrawing their aid to the LAF, and they are by no means alone. The Israelis have no choice to but expect that if war should break out between them and Hezbollah, the LAF will come to the direct aid of the latter. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have therefore warned that in the next war, they will certainly target the LAF. In contrast to the policies of Israel and Saudi Arabia, the US is not making its aid to the LAF contingent on it severing its operational ties with Hezbollah, a policy which many in the Middle East see as facilitating the partnership between the two.
Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon is by no means limited to its partnership with the LAF. Hezbollah exploits the weak and dysfunctional Lebanese state in order to advance its interests. It exerts direct influence over, for example, the Lebanese customs authority and the financial auditor’s office in order to protect its criminal enterprises, and uses Lebanese territory for the training of Shiite militias in the Iranian network. As Lebanon’s Interior Minister observed earlier this month, Lebanon is now the IRGC’s “external operations room for training and sending fighters all over the world.” Through Hezbollah, Iran has made the Lebanese state complicit in its activities.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly last October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that despite Israel’s interdiction efforts, and in violation of UNSCR 1701, Iran had managed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon, specifically the Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles, SA-22 (Pantsyr-S1) air defense system, and precision-guided surface-to-surface missiles, which presumably includes the upgraded Iranian Fateh-110 missiles with integrated GPS navigation. The Yakhont and the precision-guided missiles pose serious threats to Israel because they are capable of hitting strategic installations and targets deep inside the country as well as offshore. These advanced systems are, of course, in addition to the estimated 100,000 rockets and missiles that Hezbollah has already stored in Lebanon, mainly in civilian areas. When one considers that Hezbollah has the capability to rain down 1,500 rockets a day on Israel, it becomes clear that civilian casualties in the next war will be much higher on both sides than in any of the previous wars.
Iran and Hezbollah clearly intend to leverage their success in Syria to change the balance of power with Israel. Specifically, they have set their sights on expanding into the Golan Heights, and on linking it to the south Lebanon front. They signaled the importance they attached to this effort by sending a group of high-ranking Iranian and Hezbollah officers on a mission to Quneitra in January 2015. The Israelis destroyed that particular group, but we can be certain that they will resume their push there at a later date. Iran and Hezbollah have invested in local Syrian communities to create a Syrian franchise of Hezbollah. Besides developing Alawite militias, they have also invested in Syria’s Shiite and Druze communities. The Druze, by virtue of their concentration in southern Syria, are particularly attractive as potential partners. Hezbollah has cultivated recruits from the Druze of Quneitra and has used them in a number of attacks in the Golan over the past couple of years. In addition to recruitment to Syrian Hezbollah or other Shiite militias in Quneitra, there have also been some efforts with the Druze of Suwayda province near the Jordanian border.
As a result, the IDF is preparing for offensive incursions by Hezbollah into northern Israel in the next conflict. For Israel, Hezbollah’s use of Lebanon as an Iranian forward missile base, its expansion into Syria with an aim to link the Golan to Lebanon, and the prospect of this reality soon getting an Iranian nuclear umbrella, creates an unacceptable situation which, under the right circumstances, could easily trigger a major conflict. It is hardly surprising, then, that Israeli officials have been loudly voicing the position that any settlement in Syria cannot leave Iran and Hezbollah in a position of dominance, and certainly not anywhere near the Golan. Unfortunately, this position is directly at odds with current US policy. President Obama has stated that any solution in Syria must respect and protect so-called Iranian “equities” in Syria. When one actually spells out what these “equities” are, namely preserving the Syrian bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon, it becomes clear that US policy in Syria inadvertently complicates Israel’s security challenge. It also complicates the challenges of other critical US allies, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
WEEK OF APRIL 3 THROUGH APRIL 9
What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?
April 4….(Lynne Copeland) God speaks very clearly in the Bible on the value of unborn children. God’s Word says that He personally made each one of us, and has a plan for each life: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5
Even before I was born, God had chosen me to be His. Galatians 1:15
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13, 16
Your hands shaped me and made me. Did You not clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life. Job 10:8-12
This is what the Lord says, He who made you, who formed you in the womb Isaiah 44:2
Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One form us both within our mothers? Job 31:15
Because man is made in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27), each life is of great value to God: Children are a gift from God. Psalm 127:3 He even calls our children His own: You took your sons and daughters whom you bore to Me and sacrificed them. You slaughtered My children.Ezekiel 16:20,21
The Bible says of our Creator,
In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being. Job 12:10 God, the giver of life, commands us not to take the life of an innocent person: Do not shed innocent blood. Jeremiah 7:6
Cursed is the man who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person. Deuteronomy 27:25
You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13
Taking the life of the unborn is clearly murder! He didn’t kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave. Jeremiah 20:17 and God vowed to punish those who ripped open the women with child. Amos 1:13
The unborn child was granted equal protection in the law; if he lost his life, the one who caused his death must lose his own life: If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman, and she gives birth prematurely, but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined, if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life. Exodus 21:22,23
Life is a gift created by God, and is not to be taken away by abortion. God is “pro-choice,” but He tells us clearly the only acceptable choice to make: I have set before you life and death,blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deuteronomy 30:19