There is so much that is positive going on here. Today I start with an interesting piece about Israeli technology.
The Israeli firm DeepOptics is developing a revolutionary liquid crystal alternative to the multi-focal lens. It will utilize a pixelated dynamic focal lens that “constantly changes its optical power to adjust viewing distance based on data processed right in the frame from two hidden sensors tracking the wearer’s line of sight.”
And this light-hearted item:
A rare songbird – the blue-cheeked bee-eater – that had not been seen in the Negev for 50 years, has been spotted, amidst much excitement. In October a flock of 30 – 40 of them suddenly showed up. As you can see, they nest in the sand. Neat. Israelis are nature lovers.
Credit: Nehama Baruch
I count this as “semi” good news:
According to US officials, Obama has made a “realistic assessment” that a peace agreement between Israel and the PA will not be possible before he leaves office.
The fact that it wasn’t realistic never stopped him before, but this time – in the face of the current violence – he has apparently come to terms with the fact that he’d look even more inept than usual if he tried to push “peace” now.
So there will be a bit less pressure on Netanyahu for the time being.
But only “a bit less,” because:
“White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told Israeli reporters that the president would want to hear from Netanyahu…ways in which the prime minister will seek to keep a two-state solution viable even in the absence of direct negotiations. Rhodes said Obama regards a two-state solution as urgent, and reiterated the US stance that settlement building undermines faith in the diplomatic process and delays such a solution.”
That again? Settlements are not the stumbling block to peace. Deep-seated Muslim Arab animosity towards Israel is. An animosity that incorporates a total unwillingness to accept the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East, and is expressed today not just in acts of violence but in attempts to delegitimize Israel internationally. Oh, and a total unwillingness to compromise on demands.
We must ask (rhetorically) whether Obama will be discussing with the officials of the PA the multiple ways in which their behavior undermines “faith in the diplomatic process”? It’s all very one-sided.
This entire issue is particularly pertinent now, as Netanyahu is on his way to Washington for a Monday meeting with the president, for the first time in over a year.
Aside from discussing the issue of keeping “peace” with the Palestinian Arabs viable, a main topic on the table will be Iran. Now that the non-existent nuclear deal with Iran has been completed – something Obama urgently seeks to represent as a major diplomatic success – he is looking to ensure that Netanyahu does not undercut it. The two will be discussing Israel’s security needs in light of the current situation, and Obama might just be receptive to an increase in US military aid to Israel.
Please understand the irony here. When Obama was promoting the Iran deal, he insisted that it was a good deal for Israel too. Now he faces the reality (hardly a secret) that lifting of sanctions will enable Iran to assist its proxies – Assad in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon – with greatly increased levels of funding. He may at one and the same time be eager to show a “concern” for Israel’s security, and attempt to buy Netanyahu’s acquiescence with regard to the deal.
There had been a “sort of” understanding that there would be compensation for the Iran deal. On August 19th, Obama wrote a letter to Congressman Gerald Nadler (D-NY) that said(emphasis added):
“My administration is prepared to enhance the already intensive joint efforts underway to identify and counter the range of shared threats we face in the region, as well as increase missile defense funding…”
“[While Israel has] unparalleled access to some of the most advanced military equipment in the world, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (pictured), which will be delivered in 2016, all of the options available to the United States – including the military option – will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond.” (Not sure what this means, especially as the US will not sell Israel the 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator bunker buster.)
Credit: US Air Force
While the contents of this letter were more than a bit non-specific, it seemed to imply intent. Seemed. This was two days before Nadler announced in support of the deal and was clearly aimed at bringing him on-board, not at providing assurances to Israel. None-the-less, the impression that there would be compensation was sustained.
I could hardly be accused of being overly cynical if I were to suggest that there just might be a connection in Obama’s mind now between Netanyahu’s willingness to keep the “peace plan” viable and his willingness to assist Israel.
What I would hope is that Bibi might secure the maximum possible from Obama – because our security needs truly are increasing – without surrendering our latitude in speaking out or acting as it is our right or in our interest. A tall order – a balancing act – in the hands of the prime minister and his advisors.
Actually, I am picking up contradictory reports on what might be expected from that Obama-Netanyahu meeting:
On Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the US and Israel, as well as the unprecedented security cooperation, including our close consultations to further enhance Israel’s security.
But, also on Friday, the NYTimes cites “White House sources” as saying that Netanyahu would not be getting what he wants out of his trip: Israel would not get an increased “compensation” package from the US.
Leaked reports from inside of Israel indicated that Netanyahu was seeking a ten year package at $5 billion per year.
On the topic of Iran, I provide an update, following my last posting:
There has been a surge in cyberattacks on US officials, journalists and activists working on Iran. It is believed that these attacks – some of which were successful – were launched using the computer of American citizen Siamak Namazi, who was arrested in Iran last month. Namazi’s laptop had been confiscated by the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Apparently some Obama administration personnel have had their computers hacked.
Anti-American vitriol was elevated this past week because of the anniversary of the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran, with the taking of hostages, 36 years ago. This is an event that is “celebrated” annually, and is marked with cries of “Death to America” and burning of American flags.
This next item would be quite funny, if it weren’t so grim. Black humor?
“President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have voiced hopes that the Iran nuclear agreement reached in July could spur greater cooperation between Washington and Tehran on regional issues…”
Obama personally intervened with the Saudis to allow Iran to take part in international talks on Syria.
Comments Omri Ceren of TIP: “The Iranian cyber-offensive – plus the arrest of Namazi, plus Iran’s arrest last month of U.S. resident Nizar Zakka, plus the new joint Iranian-Russian military offensive in Syria, plus Iran’s recent launch of a ballistic missile in violation of UNSC resolution 1929, plus this week’s widespread Death to America celebrations throughout Iran risks making the administration look naive.”
“Naïve”? Ceren’s understatement. How about demented? Or purposefully self-destructive?
Please see an informative analysis of a new and exceedingly complex situation, written by Australian-Israeli columnist Isi Leibler (pictured below) – “Israel and Putin’s Russia: A tenuous relationship” (emphasis added):
“For over 30 years, my principle public occupation in the global Jewish arena was to promote the struggle for liberation of Soviet Jewry.
”This brought me into direct contact with Soviet ministers, officials and apparatchiks, enabling me to appreciate firsthand the obsessive anti-Semitism underlying the Kremlin’s policy toward Israel and the Jews.
”This contrasts starkly with current Russian President Vladimir Putin’s positive attitude to Jews in general, despite the fact that he was a former officer of the Soviet secret police agency, the KGB, a body notorious for its anti-Semitism.
“It is also astonishing that, despite his strategic involvement and alliance with the Syrians and Iranians, Putin has determinedly kept the channels to Israel open, making a point to personally visit Israel. In fact, in June 2012, Israel was the first country he visited after his election. He frequently speaks warmly about the Jewish state, expressing pride that it contains the largest diaspora of former Russian citizens. At the Western Wall, accompanied by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, he donned a kippa, which undoubtedly made his Bolshevik predecessors turn in their graves. He also seemed quite indifferent to the rage this created among his Arab allies.
”Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has deftly steered a delicate diplomatic course, seeking to retain a good relationship with the Russians without antagonizing the Americans in relation to both Ukraine and Georgia….
”…due to US President Barack Obama’s incredible mismanagement, Putin’s major geopolitical breakthrough has transformed Russia overnight into a dominant power in the Middle East with greater influence in the region than even at its peak during the Cold War…
”In contrast to a bumbling Obama, he emerged as a shrewd and tough strategist who can be relied upon to stand by his allies and confront his enemies.
”As a consequence, the situation has become immensely more complicated for Israel and there are logical grounds for concern that Russia’s ongoing confrontation with the US will override Putin’s emotional philo-Semitism. His recent meeting in which he expressed solidarity with Assad in Moscow was hardly reassuring.
”But the situation remains far from black and white. Immediately after announcing Russia’s intervention, Putin agreed to a three-hour summit meeting with Netanyahu, who flew to Moscow where parameters were drawn up in order to minimize any possible military overlap and try to protect some of Israel’s security concerns.
”Coordination has been maintained at the very highest military levels between both countries, with Russia operating a direct hotline with Yossi Cohen, Israel’s national security adviser, informing him in advance of Russia bombing targets in Syria.
”Furthermore, according to Ehud Ya’ari of Channel 2, the Russians have allocated a future role for Israel in their area of influence by offering to buy a substantial chunk of Israel’s newly discovered gas fields and provide military guarantees against Hezbollah attacks on the offshore locations. It is also proposing to export this gas to Europe…
“Profoundly conscious of the Iranian regime’s messianic aspirations to wipe Israel off the face of the planet, optimists consider the possibility that the Russians will inhibit the Iranians from directly attacking Israel. They argue that Shi’ite fundamentalists like the Iranians also pose long-term threats to the Kremlin…
”The Netanyahu government is to be commended for its efforts to isolate itself from the conflict. But the situation is volatile and could unravel in the course of intensified superpower confrontations in this region. Israel is also cognizant of potential confrontations with the Russians should they continue to intervene when Iranians seek to transfer advanced missiles to Hezbollah.
”However, it is a consolation that all things being even, Putin would prefer not to confront Israel and does not aspire to bring about its destruction, as did the Bolsheviks….”
After Netanyahu met with Putin in September, he indicated that an agreement had been reached with the Russians whereby they will not stop Israel from entering Syrian air space for purposes of stopping transfer of weapons to Hezbollah. My best understanding is that this is indeed likely the case.
Just a little over a week ago, there were reports in international media (Israel never reports directly on this) that Israel had entered Syrian airspace, hitting near the Lebanese border, presumably to intercept a weapons convoy.
Last week, Defense Minister Ya’alon indicated that Israel will respond with zero tolerance to…weapons trafficking to terrorists, and the distribution of chemical weapons to terrorists.
My friends, the terror has not stopped:
On Friday a man received serious stabbing wounds outside of a Rami Levy store in Sha’ar Binyamin, north of Jerusalem.
Friday night, two teenagers on their way to prayers at the Machpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron were shot, apparently by a sniper from a Muslim neighborhood overlooking the site. It was a special Shabbat in Hevron, as the Torah portion, Chayei Sara, speaks of the death of Sara, for whom Avraham bought the cave in order to bury her.
Thousands of Jews come to Hevron every year on this Shabbat. All Arab presence was banned from the area of the Machpela, and security was huge. But that did not stop the sniper.
Some two hours later, an Israeli was shot and seriously wounded at Beit Einun junction north of Hebron.
Another attack in Gush Etzion was averted, as a Palestinian Arab woman of 72 who was attempting to run over a soldier was shot dead by security. There were Arab claims that she was was “executed” without reason, but they ring hollow. A commando knife was found in the car, her husband had been a terrorist, and Friday night Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh paid a call to her daughter.
Jerusalem born Yitzhak Navon, who served as Israel’s fifth president, has passed away at 94.
Credit: Times of Israel
In a statement released last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:
”As David Ben-Gurion’s secretary, Minister of Education and President, Navon was a full partner in shaping the State of Israel as a free, Jewish and democratic state. I was always impressed by the depth of his education, his openness to everyone and his deep love for the people of Israel and its heritage.”
“Kol ha’olam kulo, gesher tsar me’od,” goes the song. All the world is a very narrow bridge…And the important thing (ha-ikar”) is to never be afraid.
A lesson for all of us now. This version was done for the IDF, and it’s beautiful. It speaks to each of us.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.