A Yom Kippur Meditation

September 23, 2015

by Avi Davis

Yom Kipur, Jerusalem. The entire country enveloped in preparations for the day. The pilot and the stewards on the El Al flight, all secular, wish us ‘ chatimah tova’ (the Hebrew short hand for the blessing to be inscribed in the Book of Life) as we descend the gangway; same for the customs officials, the airport security officials and the taxi driver. Jerusalem is already awash in a sea of white – white shirts, white dresses, white shrouds – hours before the onset of the Festival. Zion Square, the throbbing heart of the city, looks like one of those mid-western towns in the U.S. through which a tumbleweed might occasionally blow. Except for the sporadic police car, it is eerily silent.

When the public siren sounds at 6:00 pm, signaling the onset of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the entire country seems to clank to a halt. And as I contemplate the awe that Yom Kipur inspires in the people of Israel – religious and secular alike, my mind is drawn back 42 years ago to the same day when all the young men were forced to leave their families, homes and synagogues and join their battalions in the Sinai Desert and Golan Heights to confront a surprise attack by the country’s enemies. Many would not return. Today, among those soldiers, would be four of my Israeli nephews.

In this part of the world there is a thin line between life and death, peace and war. The prayers on Yom Kipur itself make this clear – who will live and who will die, who will succeed and who will fail? – none of which is known and without exception we all walk the same tightrope. But here, in this country and in this city, that balance seems particularly poignant and relevant. To contemplate our good fortune, to think about our near misses, to give thanks for our fruitful year of life and to dare to hope and pray for another, makes fasting for 25 hours an utterly minor inconvenience – and almost a privilege. May we all merit, through repentance and forgiveness, the gift of life; may we all continue to long for peace, even as we know we must prepare for war; and may we all learn, as one of the central prayers on Yom Kipur implores us, the love of kindness, the elevation of righteousness, the kindling of compassion and the true blessings of life bestowed upon us by G’d.

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone

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Good News Among the Bad

September 17, 2015

As the Jewish New Year of 5776 entered, news arrived that offered cause for the gravest concern. In England the British Labor Party had just elected Jeremy Corbyn, a viciously anti- Zionist agitator who has lent moral support to Hamas and Hezbollah, has maintained close associations through the years with antisemites and Holocaust deniers and is unapologetic in his embrace of the local Muslim Imams who call for the destruction and conquest of the West. This is, of course, coupled with the likely admission, in the near future, of hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees into European cities, which will only exacerbate the tensions in those societies between secular society and its unassimable Muslim minorities, thereafter, inevitably, spurring further attacks on Jews; And of course the Obama Administration has just secured Congressional support for the most catastrophic diplomatic agreement since the 1938 Munich agreement – directly endangering the national security of the State of Israel.

All of us who live in the West must see the tragic trajectory that our foolish leaders have now committed us to – enabling, rather than crippling our enemies; providing them with the means of facilitating our destruction instead of stanching their supply of weaponry and providing diplomatic cover and access to funds which will be used to finance future attacks against us.

How to respond to all this bad news?

With the recognition that at no other time in history have the Jewish people been fortunate enough to possess a State of their own which is equal in military prowess and intelligence gathering to any other such force in the world; that the Israeli economy is booming, despite the country’s continuing diplomatic isolation – and this is because the world wants and needs what it has to offer – technological creativity and know how on a scale that it can find almost nowhere else in the world; that the State of Israel will, within the next few years, become a net exporter of natural gas, controlling, as it does , one of the world’s richest deposits of the energy resource beneath its Mediterranean sands – making the State an extremely vital supplier whose link with the West will be guaranteed and enhanced – particularly in the event that Russia veers further and further into autocracy, territorial expansionism and isolation from Europe. And that the Jews of Europe, understanding that the contagion of antisemitism that doomed them 70 years ago, has not died but instead resurfaced in a new and more virulent strain – will increasingly bring their resources – financial and physical to the State of Israel, adding wealth and sophistication to an already fascinating, polyglot society.

I thought about all this recently after a recent encounter on a trip to Europe.

On a flight to Amsterdam, I sat next to a fellow whose accent I immediately recognized as Australian. We struck up a very friendly conversation that continued for hours, comparing our interests in Australian sports and talking about favorite haunts in Melbourne. I discovered that he was Jewish and was moving to Berlin with his German wife, who was pregnant with his first child. Near the end of the flight he asked me about my final destination and when I told him it was Israel, his expression soured:

” Aw, mate,I could never go to that place. Can’t stand the thought that Jews are practicing apartheid just like the South Africans. ”

When I asked him if he had ever visited Israel to discover if this accusation was true for himself, he said he hadn’t and that he wouldn’t and that his mind is made up and that I would be wasting my breath to try to convince him otherwise.

I was quiet for a while and then I said;

“Mark, you know 75 years ago, Jews who had babies in Berlin – and chose to stay there, were almost certainly signing their childrens’ death warrant. It wouldn’t have mattered to the authorities that you were an anti- Zionist, a non-practicing Jew or that your wife was non-Jewish. The Nazis didn’t care about any of that. They took you if you had the least ounce of Jewish blood in your veins. The Nazis may well be gone but don’t think that you or your children or grandchildren will always be guaranteed to have it as good as you have had it in Australia and America all this time. Thirty years years from now, you, your child and your grandchildren may thank G’d,- even if none of you believe in Him – that there is a state in the world willing to accept you and your descendants because every other country in the world has shut its doors to the plight of the new German Jewish refugees.”

He turned away and we didn’t speak for the rest of the flight. But I realized that I had just confronted the same blinkered, festering self-hatred that I have seen in the writings of Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein – intellectuals and activists who have joined with and given succor to the Jewish peoples’ enemies.

On this Rosh Hashana, let us then remember the miracle of the post-Holocaust, Jewish renaissance around the world; the extraordinary success of the people of Israel in building a flourishing democracy in a sea of hatred and contempt and the assurance that because that state exists, the Jewish people will live on and thrive and that the welfare and security of our grandchildren and great grand children is guaranteed because of it.

Shana Tova – Happy New Year -and may we all be blessed with health, peace, security and prosperity in the coming year.

With the elevation of Mr. Corbyn, the Labour Party is in the hands of the hard left for the first time in decades.
nytimes.com|By STEPHEN CASTLE

Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide by Michael B. Oren: A Review

September 1, 2015

 

by Avi Davis

It is interesting to conjecture what the history of America-Israel relations, written 100 years from now, will read like.  Will it paint the eight years of the Obama Administration as the very nadir in relations between the two nations, yet only a hiccup in a long and flourishing relationship that endured despite the pitfalls which almost upended it?   Or will it instead be seen as the commencement of a long and rapid decline to the point where successive U.S. administrations began  lining up against the Jewish state?

Whatever the judgement, it is inevitable that future historians will pay close attention to the words of Michael B. Oren, and his book Ally, a memoir documenting his four long years as Israel’s ambassador to the United States during the first years of the Obama Administration.

Oren, a renowned historian and author of two authoritative works on the Middle East ( Six Days of  War and Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East) possessed excellent credentials to assume his ambassadorial post in 2009.  A New Jersey born Jew, who had lived in Israel for 30 years, he had already acted as a kind of  ambassador-in-waiting, with numerous book tours and a role as a highly respected television commentator and editorialist for distinguished American newspapers and magazines.  A fervent Zionist, whose ideological commitment to the state had not wavered an inch from his teenage years, he also possessed  the added strengths of being affable, politically limber and remarkably self effacing, to the point where his superiors recommended him as a man without an ego.

Of course Oren does have an ego, and he is as susceptible to flattery and praise – honors he received in copious amounts, as any man.  Yet his book, which caused  a firestorm upon its publication in June this year, is a modest and careful appraisal of not only his own journey along the America – Israel divide in the first years of the Obama Administration, but of the rocky relations which characterized the relations between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, two men as different as chalk and water.

As a careful monitor of  the temperature of Washington political  life, Oren from the beginning projected that Obama would be a very different kind of American leader – expressing no particular love nor admiration for the Jewish state and instead determined to impose ‘daylight’ between the two long term allies in order to conciliate Muslim opinion.  He notes how Obama’s  Cairo speech in June 2009, in which he defended Israel’s right to exist on the basis of  the Jewish people’s persecution during the Holocaust and not on its 3,000 historical ties to its ancient homeland, gave an insight into  the President’s thinking.  The speech of course played directly into the prevailing Arab narrative which contends that the Jews are only recent interlopers with no historical ties to the land.

It was a statement that Obama was later forced to walk back;  yet, in a series of crises in Oren’s first year as ambassador, the new appointee quickly realized that the president’s attitude to Israel was, as he first suspected, far more born of ideology than of practical statecraft.

This became first evident in early 2010 when Obama sought to reignite the moribund peace process by insisting that Netanyahu order a 10 month long moratorium on all construction in the West Bank.  Such a decision would be politically risky for the right wing prime minister for whom the political support of West Bank residents and leaders was crucial.  Nevertheless, members of the Obama Administration convinced the Israelis that a good will measure such as this would jump start peace talks, build trust between Netanyahu and Obama and bring the Palestinian leadership back to the table.

But quite the opposite happened.  Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas weaved and dodged for the entire length of those ten months, refusing to meet Netanyahu unless conditions, which would be clearly unacceptable to the Israeli leader ( such as pre-commitments over borders and the status of Jerusalem as well as the right of return 0f Palestinian refugees) were met. When the ten month moratorium expired, Abbas turned his back on the prospect of talks altogether and would not consider returning to the table without for a renewal of the moratorium.

And so developed a consistent pattern: Obama would demand Israeli concessions and when given, Abbas would merely pocket them and walk away, with no consequences whatsoever for his recalcitrance.  Abbas would go much further over the course of those four years, applying for member status at the United Nations as well as applying for status as a member of the International Criminal Court, giving the Palestinians standing to sue Israel for war crimes, none of which he coordinated with the White House.  And even more egregiously, the Palestinians made a gambit, in September, 2013  to have a State of Palestine  recognized by the Security Council of the United Nations – a direct repudiation of the Palestinians’ commitments under the 1993 Oslo Accords.

None of this seemed to faze Obama nor his advisers who ordered a pro forma veto of the measures at the United Nations, but elicited no significant public reprimand or  rebuke of the Palestinian leader. Which naturally caused Oren to ask himself how the President could allow himself to be consistently kicked in the teeth by Abbas and yet remain so publicly oblivious and forgiving of the Palestinian leader’s transparent contempt.

There was no greater evidence of the tectonic shift in the relations between Israel and the United States  than in  the intense private and public battle over the ongoing Iranian  negotiations. Although  Ally was published a month before the final agreement signed between the P5+1 ( the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany)  and the Iranian Republic in Vienna, Oren nevertheless details the painful confrontations between Obama and Netanyahu over Israel’s national security issues  and makes clear that Obama deliberately interfered in Israel plans to launch a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities and consistently argued that negotiations were the surest path to Iranian nuclear deterrence.  In the end, he concludes, Obama seemed  far more concerned with the consequences of an Israeli strike than he was with the likelihood of Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and that this has been the guiding spirit of his Iran strategy.

All of which begs the question regarding these confusing years – how did Obama’s statecraft, which placed such inordinate pressure upon its ally, the only democracy and stable polity in the Middle East,while more or less ignoring Palestinian malfeasance, advance America’s national interests? As the Arab Spring imploded and regimes increasingly hostile to the United States replaced long term allies in Egypt, Yemen and Iraq, Obama  and his Secretary of State John Kerry, seemed to become monomaniacal in their quest for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict   which proved only a mere side show to the real drama playing out in those countries.  The stark reality that the entire Middle East was fast falling prey to a barbaric brand of  Islamic fundamentalism seemed beyond them.

The tensions in the relationship should not, however, overshadow the more uplifting moments over the past seven years, such as when Obama reacted with immediate aid and concern after Israel suffered a catastrophic forest fire in 2011 and  when visiting  the Jewish state in 2013, delivered speeches which could have been lifted directly from the writings of  the fervent right wing Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

And this is not to mention the unparalleled cooperation which continues between Israeli and U.S. military and intelligence services –  reportedly more firmly set than at any time in recent history.

But the roller coaster ride which the author presents provides an alarming view of a White House which had arrogated to itself the right to assess its ally’s best interests, regardless of any input from the ally itself.  It represented a very dangerous, some might say catastrophic, descent into bickering, distrust and suspicion when one would have expected that the rise of  ISIS, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and the prospect of a nuclear Iran, necessitated  the forging of even closer bonds.

Oren’s final chapter is titled ” Goodbye Ally” which  foreshadows a suggestion that a gulf between the two nations  has become so unbridgeable that further cooperation- at least on a diplomatic level -has become increasing problematic. However this is hardly his conclusion. The “goodbye” in the chapter heading refers to his own departure from his post rather than a permanent rupture between the two allies and the author goes to considerable lengths to point out the across-the-board support for Israel demonstrated in Congress as well as the generally favorable attitude towards the state among American citizens.

Yet for all this bubbly optimism, the reader is left with the discomfiting notion that the once impregnable alliance has suffered severe, although not fatal damage during the Obama years, with an administration which was given over to  the idee fixee ( not the first administration to believe it) of the Israel-Palestinian conflict as incontestably the root cause of instability in the Middle East. It paints the portrait  of a president whose confidence in his own intellect and powers of analysis  successfully rebuffed not only the opinion and advice of America’s friends and allies but the very facts on the ground.

Whatever the final judgement on Obama, the book provides a cautious warning to all statesmen – American, Israeli or other –  that they should deal with the world as they find it and not as they wish it to be. As Congress begins the debate on the Iran  deal in the second week of September that warning may carry a heady resonance.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of  The Intermediate Zone.


Netanyahu Flies into a Storm of Obama’s Making

March 2, 2015

By Avi Davis

As the time for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress rapidly approaches, the skies around him are beginning to darken in an ominous way.

Yesterday a report from a Kuwaiti paper alleged that some time in 2014 Netanyahu, in consultation with his general staff, had authorized a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities for fear that the United States and Iran had concluded a secret agreement which would have compromised Israeli national security.  Yet when informed of the prospective assault, Barack Obama warned that the U.S. military would shoot the Israeli planes out of the sky if they so much as dared to cross into Jordanian airspace.

While the story is almost certainly false (the U.S. army or navy has had a very limited capacity to interdict any squadron over Jordanian airspace – or even more likely Saudi Arabian airspace  – since the complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011) , the fact that so many people registered their alarm that U.S. and Israeli pilots might be involved in a real military engagement against one another, only illustrates its believability.  Relations have apparently sunk so low that the United States government now appears to view the State of Israel itself as the most significant obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Such a view of course makes a convenient detour around both Islamic State and al Qaeda, both of whom possess a far more serious claim to that title.  Netanyahu might then be forgiven for a little exasperation with the U.S. President and his administration  – who do not seem to be responding to Israeli intelligence nor its analysis of the situation on the ground.

But the Israeli prime minister knows that he is dealing with an amateur in foreign relations, a leader who has demonstrated time and again a failed grasp of statecraft and whose stubbornness, even in the face of the most exigent facts, blinds him to the consequences of his actions and the catastrophic impact that they might have on the region.

Throwing caution to the wind is not a luxury afforded a tiny state like Israel, surrounded by hostile forces seeking its destruction.  But Netanyahu is not coming to Washington to represent just his own nation.   When he stands before the two house of Congress on Tuesday, he will, sotto voce, also be representing the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia , Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom have witnessed the United States’ abandonment of leadership in the region and its apparent willingness to appease a determined Iran, glowing with the satisfaction of having gulled and outsmarted the Americans.

For Netanyahu the gambit to address Congress, at the risk of raising the ire of the Obama administration, is a supremely dangerous one; Obama still has now a little less than two years left in office and during that time there are many measures he can take to either punish Israel or else continue to endanger Israeli security – a perilous position in which to be in, considering that Iran’s military advisers now sit virtually on Israel’s very doorstep on the slopes of the Golan Heights.

Democratic supporters of Israel in Congress, alarmed by the widening rift, have urged the Israeli prime minister to cancel the appearance.   After all, does he not know that Obama has repeatedly stated over the years that he would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons ( recycling those very words at a press conference with David Cameron not three weeks ago)? And hasn’t Obama just as often stated the United States’ commitment to the defense of Israel  – implying that it would back that commitment with military assistance – if not force – if necessary?

Why is he doing it then?

The first reason is that the negotiations, conducted in camera in Geneva, have not involved the Israelis at all.   The country most threatened by Iranian aggression – in fact the one singled out repeatedly by the theocratic regime for annihilation, has also been the one not even consulted about the outcome of the talks.  The Israelis are well aware that this is no oversight.  And it must surely invoke the memory of the Czechs who were not invited to join the British, French and Italian leaders at their negotiations with Hitler at his Berchtesgarden retreat in September, 1938.  The Czechs were handed a fait accompli and thereafter completely abandoned by the Allies – forced to surrender a sizeable chunk of their territory while dismantling their formidable defenses.

And while drifting down memory lane, the Israeli leaders are no doubt recalling the events of November, 1956 and May, 1967.

On November 5, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower, enraged by the surprise joint, coordinated attack by British, French and Israeli troops on the Suez Canal – just recently nationalized by the Egyptian dictator Gamal Nasser, issued an ultimatum to the victorious armies – immediate withdrawal or face a Security Council denunciation at the United Nations.  The swift and sweeping conquest of the vast Sinai peninsula by the Israel Defense Forces relieved the country of a direct threat in the south from cross border fedayeen raids and Egyptian military insurgents and the Israelis were not about to give it up without something in return.  Eisenhower decided to give them a guarantee – that in the event of a future attack by Egypt in the south, an international  force would be stationed from now on in to help defend  the southern border.

Fast forward eleven years and Nasser was seen again threatening Israeli national security, this time mobilizing troops in the Sinai Peninsula and sabre rattling, in blood curdling national speeches, for the annihilation of the Jewish state.  Israel, pressed on three borders by hostile armies made urgent entreaties to President Lyndon Johnson, pointing to the guarantees offered by the Eisenhower administration.  Johnson hesitated, claiming his staff could not find the document but promising to organize an international flotilla to break the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba imposed by Nasser’s navy.  Weeks went by and no such flotilla appeared. Frustrated and alarmed, the government of Levi Eshkol realized it was truly alone – the U.S. guarantees were not worth the paper they were written on.  With nothing else to lose he authorized a pre-emptive strike on the Egyptian air force, a mission which was ultimately so staggeringly successful that it essentially determined the outcome of the war –  concluded in Israel’s favor within six days.

This history lesson can surely not be lost on the current Israeli leadership.  They see the writing on the wall – a President who takes their security concerns with a passive non-chalance; who believes that Iran, for all its 30 years of fostering terrorism and instability in the Middle East, can be transformed overnight into a partner for peace; a leader who cannot grasp that the ideological engine which fuels the nuclear ambitions of the Mullahs in Tehran is the same motor spinning in the minds of al Qaeda and ISIS.

Benjamin Netanyahu, a far more savvy and focused strategist than the American president, knows all of this and knows the limited time the Israelis now have to make to make their arguments- if not to the U.S. president who has ceased to listen, then at least to the American people through their representatives in Congress.

In doing so, Netanyahu will be making the case that the quashing of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is not just an Israeli interest, nor just an American interest – but an interest of the world community which must combine to recognize the most significant threat to world peace since the end of the Cold War and deal with in an unequivocal and final manner.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles and the editor of The Intermediate Zone.


A Child Born in Israel

February 18, 2015

By Avi Davis

In July, 1923, a 20-year-old Polish Jew named David Czmielewski and his older brother Yitzhak stepped ashore at the Port of Jaffa determined to help build the Land of Israel. Economic opportunities however were sparse and he found it hard to make a living. Despondent, he was forced to leave five years later. Yet he never gave up the hope of one day returning.

David Czmielewski thereafter traveled to Australia and became David Davis. He was my grandfather.

His dream, never quite realized in his own lifetime, nevertheless transferred through the generations to his son and several of his grandchildren who all established homes in the State of Israel. Today he has twelve great-grandchildren living in the land. Three great-grandsons have served or are serving in the IDF. One is about to enter training in the Golani Brigade and a fifth has been selected as a candidate for a pilot training course in the Israeli Air Force.

Last week, his first great-great grandchild, Shira Perlmuter, was born in Petach Tikva to my niece Avital Perlmuter(nee Davis) and her husband Sagi. She represents the fifth generation of the Davis/ Czmielewski family in the land of Israel.

She is a beautiful, living testament to Jewish determination and commitment. May she live a long, happy, prosperous life and may she be joyously blessed with many children of her own.

 


The Happy Relationship Between Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Congress

January 22, 2015

By Avi Davis

As love affairs go, there could not be one more honeyed than that between the State of Israel and the United States Congress.

For decades, through one Administration after another, Israel has been able to count on Congressional backing no matter what its alleged sins. Thus, when Israel hit Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981, and severe condemnation followed from the Reagan White House, there was not even a squeak of denunciation from Congress.  When the the George H.W. Bush Administration in 1990 refused to follow through with promised loan guarantees in protest of continued Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, outrage in Congress forced the White House to back down;  When George W. Bush’s Secretary  of State Condeeleza Rice began pressuring Israeli leaders to return to negotiations, Congressional counter pressure ensured that her efforts were weakened.

 

Netanyahu, who has served in office for almost exactly the same length of time as Obama himself, has endured the testiest relationship of any Israeli prime minister with a sitting U.S. President.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly displayed its disdain for the Israeli leader, citing his intransigence on peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and picking fights over trivial matters such as housing developments in Jerusalem proper.   Relations hit a low most notably in 2010 when, during a visit to the White House, the Israeli prime minister was deliberately snubbed as he sat alone with his advisers in the West Wing while Obama abruptly departed their meeting to eat dinner with his family.  As recently as this summer, when Israel was engaged in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza to silence the rocket attacks pouring down on its population, Obama and Netanyahu exchanged harsh words with one another and the Administration delayed an Israeli request for replacement of spare parts for its weaponry while also almost certainly instructing the FAA to ban, for a short while, commercial flights to Tel Aviv.

It is little wonder then that at this nadir of relations between the State of Israel and the U.S. Administration, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner,  has invited Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of both houses of Congress?

In response to the Boehner invitation, the Obama Administration stated that there would be no scheduled meeting between the two leaders during the prime minister’s Washington trip, having previously indicated that protocol had been breached since planning for such visits is traditionally conducted through the White House alone and not through other branches of government.

So with a deep freeze crystallizing on the already frosty relationship, the two questions which might be asked are: why did Boehner invite Netanyahu now to speak to Congress?; And what does Netanyahu hope to achieve by his appearance?

The answer to the first question probably has as much to to do with the exercise of political muscle for Boehner as it does with the realities of Israel’s geopolitical challenges.   The sweeping victory of the GOP in November’s Congressional elections, gave notice to the White House that Republican control of both houses of Congress would signal a shift in power that the GOP would not hesitate to exercise when it felt the time appropriate.    That time might be now as negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program become continuously extended.  The recent joint press conference of the President with British prime minister David Cameron in which the two leaders insisted that Congress not impose new sanctions during on-going talks has been greeted in Congress with frustration and a degree of contempt. In fact  Robert Menendez, the Democratic co-sponsor of a bill to impose those additional sanctions on Iran  has labeled the President’s as “sounding like talking points that come straight of Tehran. ”

The lack of seriousness with which the Obama Administration views the Iranian nuclear threat was on full display when the President stated in the same press conference that the talks had less than a 50% chance of succeeding.  This was of course another way of stating his belief that negotiations are actually bound to fail.  If so, what contingency plans is the President offering should  negotiations come to nothing?   He refuses to say or even address the issue.

Congressional leaders have taken this  as evidence of an emerging policy of appeasement which they  justifiably view with alarm.  Many, even in his own party, see a President out  of touch and out to lunch (or out to dinner in the case of Netanyahu) on foreign policy, living, as Daniel Henniger  has commented in the Wall Street Journal, on his own private fantasy island, marooned from the pressing realities of a dangerous world.   Although the President has stated that he is resolved that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon, what he is really saying  is that it will not obtain such a weapon on his watch – a very different thing.

In the meantime, Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted Boehner’s invitation and will speak before a joint session of Congress on March 3rd.

With an approaching national election in Israel on March 17,, many have speculated that Netanyahu engineered the invitation himself in the hope of boosting his political fortunes in his own country.  However that does not entirely square with Israel’s pressing existential concerns about the Iranian menace – which are reflected across Israel’s political spectrum.  For years Netanyahu has issued public warnings – before joint sessions of Congress and at the United Nations – about Iran’s nuclear arms program, emphasizing not only how it threatens Israel’s security, but how it challenges world peace.  The Israelis have been insistent on a tough sanctions regime but have equally insisted that the West must be united in confronting the Iranian regime, (by force,if necessary)  since that regime has been, for decades, a sponsor of international terrorism and whose leaders have repeatedly threatened not just Israel but neighboring states.

It is obvious that Netanyahu has abandoned any hope that Obama will come to view the threat of a nuclear Iran as seriously as either he or as Israelis in general do.  He recognizes, as many Israeli prime ministers have before him, that Presidents come and go but Congressmen can retain their seats for multiple terms.  He also understands the shift in power in Washington DC as the GOP gears up for a full frontal assault on the Obama agenda and seeks to expose the President’s weak grasp of foreign policy.  The Israeli prime minister’s transparent attempt to conduct an end run around the presidency and speak directly to those whom he regards as true friends of the State about an issue central to its physical survival, should not be seen as a cynical electoral calculation but as a responsible act of statecraft, that is extremely time sensitive.

In this way he will be speaking not just to the representatives of the American people but just as surely to the next American president – a man or woman whom he hopes will have a much broader  and more incisive understanding of the geopolitical threats facing both the United States and Israel – and with a greater political will to act than the current resident in the White House.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone 

 

 


Ominous Rumblings in Israel’s North

January 21, 2015

by Avi Davis

When Iranian Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi  was killed on the Syrian -Israeli border on Sunday, along with six Hezbollah operatives, the news faded quickly.  Military deaths in the Middle East are, after all, a dime a dozen in these times, so why would Allahdadi’s make any difference?

The answer might be that Allahdadi was no ordinary Iranian general. He was one of the highest ranking and longest serving military men in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
But it was the identity of one of the six Hezbollah operatives that may have had an even deeper impact.
The attack also killed 20-year-old Jihad Mughniyeh, a low-ranking Hezbollah fighter whose father, Imad Mughniyeh ( aka The Engineer) had been responsible for multiple bombings and suicide attacks in Israel for over 20 years before his assassination in a Damascus car bombing in 2008.
Imad Mughniyah.jpg
The elder Mughniyeh is venerated as one of the legendary fighters in Palestinian and Hezbollah hagiography.  Posters of his image can be found everywhere in the West Bank, Gaza and Southern Lebanon.
It perhaps explains why the junior Mughniyeh was buried with such fanfare when his funeral procession passed through Hezbollah-controlled territory south of Beirut on Monday.
Hezbollah and Iran have both vowed a quick and painful response to the Israeli attack with representatives quoted as declaring the attack a deliberate provocation.

Since hostilities ended between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006  Israel’s  northern border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet. But that belies the devastating fire power buried by Israel’s most implacable enemy beneath the soils of the Litani watershed.

For in Lebanon, the Israeli army is faced with the prospect of 100,000 long-range rockets   – far more accurate and effective than the missiles used by Hamas in its confrontation with Israel over the summer and far more likely to cause damage to life and property than the former offensive.

Hezbollah is therefore the Hamas threat multiplied tenfold.

The 2006 conflict is believed to have killed at least 1,191–1,300 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis. It severely damaged Lebanese civil infrastructure, and temporarily displaced approximately one million Lebanese and 300,000–500,000 Israelis.

During that war, Hezbollah fired close to 4,200 rockets at a rate of more than 100 per day, unprecedented in any military confrontation since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

Iran Guard vows to punish Israel for general killed in Syria

About 95% of these were 122 mm (4.8 in)  Katyusha artillery rockets which carried warheads up to 30 kg (66 Ib) and had a range of up to 19 miles. A minor percentage (22%) of these rockets hit cities and built-up areas across northern Israel, while the remainder hit open areas. The attacks in that conflict included the Fajr-3 and Ra’ad 1 rockets both liquid-fuel missiles developed by Iran. It is now known that Hezbollah possesses the far more advanced  Fajr-3 and Fajr-5, with ranges of 27 and 45 miles; and a huge quantity of simpler 107mm and 122mm rockets with ranges up to 12 miles. These rockets are capable of striking many cities in northern Israel, such as Haifa, Tiberias, Afula, Nahariya, and Safed. In addition, Hezbollah has a cache of sophisticated antiaircraft and antiship cruise missiles which can significantly impede reconnaissance and deter attack.

This is not to mention the labyrinthine network of tunnels and deep underground bunkers Hezbollah has been constructing in the eight years since its last encounter with the IDF.  The IDF believes it likely that tunnels, extending for several kilometers, have been burrowed deep into Israeli territory allowing a rapid strike force to mimic the planned Hamas Jewish New Year attack on Israeli settlements in the south. The rolling topography of the north is of course of no benefit to a potential large-scale attack, but the capture of even a handful of IDF soldiers or civilians will become a great boon to the Hezbollah war effort.

To state that the recent military confrontations between Israel and the terrorist groups who occupy territory adjacent to it are mere proxy wars between Iran and the Jewish State is to underline the obvious but still bears repeating. Iran’s geopolitical interests lie in establishing a military hegemony of the region, intimidating much lesser military powers — Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan — into effective neutrality, so as to free itself to deal with its only serious challenger to its regional supremacy. The ongoing development of Iran’s nuclear arsenal  — essentially unimpeded by negotiations with the West — acts as a clever strategic wedge for the theocratic regime which allows it to build its deterrent capabilities while intimidating its neighbors into quiescence. Seen in this light, Hamas’ recent confrontation with Israel may have been guided by Iran as a means of deflecting attention from its drive for status as a nuclear power and avoiding an eventual showdown with Israel. After all, Israel will be in no mood for another military confrontation so soon after its recent engagement with Gaza.

But if Hezbollah, the far greater asset, remains so useful to the Iranians, why wasn’t it then unleashed to wreak havoc on Israel’s northern border while hostilities ensued with Hamas in the south?

The answer may lie in the prospect of an imminent direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran. While Israel’s plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities are cloaked in ambiguity, most Israeli leaders are resigned to the fact that they will have to act unilaterally and decisively to severely retard, if not eliminate, Iran’s emerging nuclear clout. In the event of a strike against Iran, and threat to their own power, the mullahs may come to rely on Hezbollah’s arsenal’s retaliatory capabilities and perhaps even believe it acts as a significant deterrent against such an eventual attack.

Yet the Iranian strategy is now deeply complicated by the destabilization of both Syria and Iraq. The growing strength of ISIS in Iraq and its threat to the Baathist regime in Syria has presented a new challenge to a key Iranian ally in Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who has proved himself indispensable to the fulfillment of Iranian objectives regarding Israel. If Assad in Syria falls, then the Iranian hold on Southern Lebanon and its ability to resupply its proxy Hezbollah is compromised. Alarmingly for the Iranians, the Lebanese Republic itself may now have come into play with ISIS’ taking of the Syrian/ Lebanon border town of Arsal on August 4th. Hezbollah may well have its hands full in the coming months not only attempting to reinforce Assad in Syria, but keeping ISIS from control of Northern Lebanon.

Signs of a strange realignment of interests and forces in the Middle East are therefore evident. It should surprise no one that the Israelis have been engaged in secret negotiations with the Saudis for years over use of Saudi airspace in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran; Additionally, the failure of any of the moderate Arab states to rise in support of Hamas’s recent actions (in fact there were outright condemnations in both the Egyptian and Saudi press) is another signal of a growing rapprochement between Israel and some of its former enemies.

Predicting future conflicts in the foggy and endlessly complicated Middle East is a risky business, to be sure, but a clearer picture may now be emerging with Israeli interests aligning with those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt — and perhaps even Lebanon itself — in some kind of awkward but coordinated confrontation with Iran.  In this confrontation, Israel may well need to prepare itself for a neutralizing, preemptive strike on Hezbollah’s military installations in Southern Lebanon — just as the IAF is winging its way over Riyadh and into Iranian airspace.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the Editor of  The Intermediate Zone

 


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