Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a face to face meeting in Moscow on Thursday that Israel would not relinquish the Golan Heights. The meeting marked 25 years of Israeli-Russian relations.
“Israel has clear red lines for self-defense,” Netanyahu told Putin according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office. “We act to the best of our ability to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” he said.
Russian troops and airpower are fighting alongside the Syrian army, Iranian forces, and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah against a host of rebel militias in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Netanyahu recently acknowledged that Israel conducts military airstrikes in Syria as well.
“I came here with one central goal: to strengthen the security coordination between us in order to prevent accidents, misunderstandings, and unnecessary conflict,” Netanyahu told Putin.
“As for the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu continued, “we will not return to the days when they fired on our communities and children from the heights of the Golan. Therefore, with or without a deal, the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
The firm declaration comes amid reports that some in the international community intend to demand that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal in the Syrian civil war. Israel captured the northern territory from Syria in the 1967 war and formally annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognized by the international community.
To counter such an initiative, Netanyahu held a rare cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights on Sunday, vowing never to withdraw from the territory. Following the unusual public display, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby announced that “those territories are not part of Israel and the status of those territories should be determined through negotiations.”
Netanyahu and Putin also reached an agreement about pensions paid by Russia to citizens that have emigrated to Israel—a deal Netanyahu described as “a nice Passover present.”
After Putin offered a blessing for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins on Friday night, Netanyahu replied that “during the holiday, the people of Israel will sit at the Seder table, including over a million Russian-speaking Israelis, who form the living bond between our peoples.”
State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby’s daily press briefing on Thursday touched on the ominous possibility that the Obama Administration will wait until after the November election, so as not to steer Jewish votes away from the Democratic candidate, and then, in a final splash of power, just before going down from the world’s stage, blow up a landmine in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s face and support or fail to veto a UN Security Council resolution creating a Palestinian State and ordering the hasty removal of all Jewish presence on the “wrong” side of the 1967 border.
We redacted and edited the exchange to make it a tad more entertaining. But one can smell the danger hidden in the spokesman’s evasions. Barring divine intervention, the Obama gang is planning to install a Palestinian State and create facts on the ground so that the next Democrat in the White House will have to start from that point, rather than with today’s murky uncertainty.
We join the conversation that’s already in progress…
Reporter: On Security Council resolutions – will you consider either supporting or failing to veto a resolution on settlement activity in the West Bank?
Kirby: …We are very concerned about trends on the ground and we do have a sense of urgency about the two-state solution. We will consider all of our options for advancing our shared objective of lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but I’m not going to comment on a draft Security Council resolution. Okay?
Reporter: What does that mean, we do have a sense of urgency for a two-state solution?
Kirby: It means exactly what it says and what I’ve been saying from the podium here for months and months and months.
Reporter: So you see a sense of urgency to get to a two-state solution?
Kirby: Sure we do. We very much would like to see a two-state solution realized, yes.
Reporter: I don’t understand.
Kirby: I don’t know what’s not to understand about “we have a sense of urgency.”
Reporter: Well, because there’s only, like, eight months left of the Administration. … You had a sense of urgency back in 2009; you had a sense of urgency when Secretary Kerry took over in 2012.
Kirby: So as time gets shorter, we shouldn’t have a sense of urgency?
Reporter: But if you had a real sense of urgency, you would’ve done something already, right?
Kirby: We have consistently had a sense of urgency.
Reporter: Does that mean, when you say you have a sense or urgency about this, that you’re going to try to cram something in that results in a two-state solution by the end of this Administration?
Kirby: I’m not going to hypothesize on future actions, whatever we continue to do or continue to consider, I don’t know that I would say it’s about cramming. It is about trying to move forward in a productive way towards a two-state solution. And as I’ve said before, we also look to the sides to enact the right kind of leadership to get us there, because ultimately it has to be done by them.
Reporter: But you’re not automatically opposed to a UN Security Council resolution that would call for a two-state solution?
Kirby: We’re not going to comment on this informal draft resolution.
Reporter: I’m not asking you to comment on this informal one. I’m saying that if a resolution presented itself that was evenhanded, in your view – not one-sided or biased against Israel – that called for an end of settlements, called for an end of incitement, and also called for the creation of two states, would you automatically oppose?
Kirby: Well, without getting into those provisions that you listed out there and making a judgment about that, I’d go back to what I said before, and that’s we will consider all of our options for advancing a shared objective, a two-state solution.
Reporter: And that would include a resolution?
Kirby: We’ll consider all options to advance a two-state solution.
Reporter: When you spoke of urgency, did you mean that the urgency comes from the possibility that the two states [solution will go] beyond reach?
Kirby: A sense of urgency about the importance of getting to a two-state solution, which has been a consistent point that we’ve made.
Reporter: But there’s a difference between consistency and urgency.
Kirby: What’s the difference?
Reporter: Well, if it’s always urgent, then it’s never more urgent than before.
Kirby: Well, I don’t know that I’d agree with that. Sometimes something can be always urgent and consistently urgent —
Reporter: You sound like a Foreigner song. (Laughter.) … There’s a song called Urgent. Maybe you’re too young to remember —
Kirby: No, I remember that. (Laughter). I know – I remember the song. I didn’t like it.
For the record, here’s the refrain from Foreigner’s memorable ending to Urgent:
“It gets so urgent / So urgent / You know it’s urgent / I wanna tell you it’s the same for me / So oh oh urgent / Just you wait and see / How urgent our love can be / It’s urgent.
“You say it’s urgent / Make it fast, make it urgent / Do it quick, do it urgent / Gotta rush, make it urgent / Want it quick / Urgent, urgent, emergency / Urgent, urgent, emergency / Urgent, urgent, emergency / Urgent, urgent, emergency / So urgent, emergency / Emer… emer… emer… / It’s urgent.”
Reporter: There are those within the President’s party, certainly the former Secretary of State, that say that simply the venue itself is not the place to impose a solution from without. I just want to be clear that you think that, because you’re considering all of your options, you may consider the UN Security Council to be the venue to impose —
Kirby: I don’t – I’m not going to elaborate on my answer to you. I think I’d point you back to what I said before.
Reporter: Let me just follow up on this just for a second, okay? I mean, seeing how time after time you call on the Israelis to refrain from settlement activities, to cease settlement activities, you call them illegal and so on, but in fact they don’t really listen much to what you have to say. So in that case, in that situation, why not have a forum in the United Nations where the world can collectively come up with some sort of a resolution that they all agree on, which is the cessation of settlement activities? Why would you be opposed to that? Why can’t you say that you would support this at the United Nations?
Kirby: Again, I’m going to point you back to my original answer, which made it clear we’re not going to comment on a draft resolution that’s only been informally presented in New York, and that, as I said, we’ll consider all of our options to try to get to a two-state solution. So I think I’m just not going to go any further than that, Said. I know that’s not satisfying for you, but that’s really where we are right now.
(The conversation we refer to starts around min. 43:50)
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Istanbul, Turkey. Two American citizens were among those killed in this heinous attack,” National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those killed, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured.”
A third Israeli and an Iranian citizen were both killed in the attack, along with the suicide bomber, Savaz Yildiz, 33, a resident of the Turkish city of Adana who was reportedly known to the authorities.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the explosion occurred outside a local government office on Istiklal Street, where numerous foreign consulates are located. The area is also dotted with many cafes and restaurants.
The U.S. State Department also condemned the attack in a statement released by spokesperson John Kirby.
“The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack today on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and our hopes for a quick recovery for those wounded,” the statement read.
“We will remain in close touch with Turkish authorities during the investigation. The United States stands in solidarity with our NATO Ally Turkey in combating the common threat of terrorism. This vicious attack is the latest in a series of indefensible violence targeting innocent people throughout Turkey – Turkish citizens and international visitors alike. These acts of terrorism only reinforce our determination to support all those across the region working to promote peace and reconciliation,” the statement said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the attack in a written statement saying there can be no justification for terrorism. He said, “NATO allies stand united with Turkey, determined to fight against terrorism.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also condemned the attack. “I strongly condemn this despicable and cowardly act that has caused the death of several people,” Ayrault said in a statement, adding Paris stands in solidarity with Turkey.
This past Wednesday Germany had closed its consulate and school in Istanbul due to credible security threats.
At the United Nations Security Council “consultations” held Monday, March 14, at the urging of the U.S., the Russians did something that seemed to surprise – and annoy – the U.S. The Russians argued that the language inserted by the U.S. into the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 means what it says.
In a tag team effort that pro-Israel folks have been hankering for of late, both Israel and the U.S. called on the United Nations to take action against Iran for having launched several missiles last week.
But, as already reported by the JewishPress.com, the concessions made by the U.S. to Iran in the wild and wooly days at the end of the Nuclear Iran Deal negotiations, the U.S. and its partners substituted unambiguous and prohibitory language from a 2010 UNSC resolution “Iran shall not” to the flaccid phrase “Iran is called upon not to” engage in activity involving ballistic missiles.
So when Iran launched those missiles from within its own boundaries, it took the position that it had not violated any of its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the Nuclear Iran Deal.
And so did Russia. Russia’s Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin said on Monday that Iran should not face new sanctions over its recent ballistic missile launches because doing so did not violate any U.N. resolution.
Russian holds veto power in the Security Council.
Despite the clear-sounding meaning of the new language in the latest UNSCR, the U.S. is still clinging to its position that what Iran did is wrong.
A painful exchange between State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby and Matt Lee of the Associated Press during Monday’s State Dept. press briefing is a public display of the exchanges that likely took place on Monday behind the closed doors of the U.N. meeting regarding the missile launches.
The exchange is long, and you may feel as though you are lost either in Wonderland or Who’s on First, but at least take a glance at what the U.S. and its partners are having to do to try and make the claim (with or without a straight face), that the language they permitted as a concession to Iran in order to get the Nuclear Iran Deal approved has had dire consequences. All bolds are for ease of reading, and decided upon by the JewishPress.com.
MR.LEE: Can we move to Iran?
MR KIRBY: Iran.
MR. LEE: Yeah. So today the – or the Security Council began discussions about what to do about the Iranian ballistic missile tests, and it looks like you guys are not going to be able to get to anything, not even a council statement saying that Iran is in violation, much less a resolution that might impose more sanctions on them, at least international sanctions – the reason being, at least as explained by opponents, is that Iran didn’t actually violate 2231 because 2231 calls on Iran not to do this instead of says that they can’t or says “shall not.”
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
MR. LEE: What’s your take on that?
MR KIRBY: So it’s a good question, and I think you might be referring to comments I think the —
MR. LEE: Ambassador Churkin.
MR KIRBY: — Russians said, yeah. So look, I’m – I don’t know that it’s fruitful to get into a back-and-forth over the technical meaning of “violation,” but as you might have noticed, Ambassador Power addressed this very issue this morning, and we are very much associating ourselves with what she had to say, that – one, that we’re in the process of preparing a report on these missile test launches to the Security Council, and we’re going to raise the matter directly at the council on Monday. We believe the council is the right forum to have this discussion and we still remain deeply concerned about their recent ballistic missile test launches, which we continue to believe are provocative and destabilizing.
They are also, at the very least, inconsistent with but more practically in defiance of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which of course codified the Iran deal. So we could have an interesting discussion about the degree to which it’s technically a violation. It doesn’t mean, though, that it’s okay, and it doesn’t mean that the council should look the other way, and it doesn’t mean that it isn’t – that their actions are still not inconsistent with the obligations in that resolution, which calls on them to refrain from that activity. So we’re still going to bring it up with the council and we still believe we have a strong case on that.
MR. LEE: Well, that – I mean, really?
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
MR. LEE: Because, I mean, look – I went back and I looked. 1929, which is what replaced – sorry, which was – 2231 replaced, at least in terms of the missile technology – UNSCR 1929, number nine, and it says “decides” – this is quote – “decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” 2231, which replaced it and enshrined the Iran deal, says, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” How is it that you’re – that you can have any kind of a logical disagreement with what Ambassador Churkin said? You have “shall not” and then “is called upon.” And as Ambassador Churkin said, you can’t violate a call. You can ignore it, but it’s not a violation.
MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to get into a rhetorical debate about “violate” or “not violate.”
MR. LEE: Well, you’re going to have to, because if you’re going to push this at the Security Council, you’re going to have to convince people – like the Russians and the Chinese ––
Finally, after months of calmly responding to the incessant badgering by Palestinian Arab journalist Said Arikat to manipulate the State Dept. spokespeople into making statements that were then promoted as positions attacking Israel, State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby had enough.
Kirby, a pleasant looking former Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, is generally unflappable, with a calm demeanor and a quick smile lost his cool – as much as he was capable – at the Wednesday, Feb. 3 daily press briefing.
Kirby had just responded to Matt Lee, the Associated Press reporter, who asked whether the State Dept. was going to condemn the terrorist attack by Palestinian Arab terrorists on two border patrol policewomen at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, which took place earlier in the day.
Lee was asking because he wanted to know what was happening with the much heralded at the time – but now apparently forgotten – decision to place video cameras at the Temple Mount in an effort to find out who is behind the incitement.
Lee’s point is a valid one. At the time the announcement was made Secretary of State Kerry hailed the agreement between Jordan, which has ultimate authority over the Temple Mount, and Israel.
But the Palestinian Authority quickly opposed the cameras idea and the effort has been stalled ever since. [note: the cameras would not have captured this attack as the idea was for them to be placed on the Temple Mount and this attack took place just inside the Damascus Gate, in the Old City, but not on the Temple Mount.]
STATE DEPT CONDEMNED THE TERRORIST ATTACK ON ISRAELI BORDER POLICE
Kirby said on behalf of the State Dept. “we do strongly condemn the attack in Jerusalem today in which two border police officers were attacked with automatic weapons.
“As before, sadly, once again, we have to extend our deepest condolences to a mourning family and to friends and the community of the victim, and we wish the injured officer a full and complete recovery. As we’ve said before, there’s no justification for these attacks,” the spokesperson said.
What Kirby didn’t mention, but surely knew, was that the police officer who was murdered, Hadar Cohen, was a 19-year-old girl, and her fellow officer who was severely wounded was only 20 years old.
But Arikat could not allow to pass a single statement of compassion made by the U.S. towards Israel. Instead of simply moving on to another topic, Arikat, so conditioned to getting in the last word and twisting any comments into ones that can be construed as anti-Israel, had to take a stab.
ARIKAT:” But you’re not,” he started, “These border police units, they are part of an occupying force. Correct? You agree with that?
KIRBY: “the-they-this was border police officers that were on duty doing their job.”
ARIKAT: “No, I mean, I understand you want to condemn this and that’s your prerogative, but, I mean, the flip side of that – I mean,” Arikat stumbled about a bit, and then got to his point:”But how should the Palestinians respond to an overwhelming military presence that basically suffocates their lives? How – what they should do, in your opinion?“ (Emphasis added.)
And this is when Kirby, finally, lit into Arikat. He didn’t raise his voice and he didn’t use vulgar terms. But finally, after so many months, Kirby gave back to Arikat what Arikat should have been getting all along. Instead of allowing a reporter in the room to use the daily press briefing as an opportunity to aggressively lobby for his people’s political positions, Kirby shut down Arikat with a hard dose of truth.
Apparently attacking two defenseless women, one the mother of six, the other a pregnant woman, was too much for even Secretary of State John Kerry’s State Dept. to ignore.
About midday D.C. time on Monday, Jan. 18, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the barbaric attacks on two Israeli women in less than 48 hours. One of the women was murdered at the door of her own home as several of her children watched or heard in horror. The other victim, a woman five months pregnant, was stabbed in a clothing store in her home community, who remains in Shaare Tzedek Meical Center’s Trauma Unit.
The U.S. acknowledged the horrific attacks on the two Israelis, mentioning each by name.
This is the full, six sentence, one paragraph condemnation issued by Kerry’s State Department’s spokesperson John Kirby:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attacks over the past two days against Israeli civilians. We were appalled and deeply saddened by the death of Dafna Meir, a mother of six, who was attacked on Sunday in her own home. We extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and community. Today, a pregnant Israeli woman, Michal Froman, was stabbed in the West Bank. We wish her a full and complete recovery. These horrific incidents underscore the importance of affirmative steps to restore calm, reduce tensions and bring an immediate end to the violence.
It is appropriate for the State Dept. to condemn these brutal attacks, as they do others even when far less brutal, when they occur in the region.
The title of the statement uses the term “West Bank” to note where the attacks took place, rather than simply stating Israel. On the other hand, at least neither the title nor the statement itself describes the places where the women were attacked as “settlements,” as did, for example, the BBC and even the JTA, in their reports.
At least as significant is that while the U.S. condemned the savage attacks, no responsibility was placed on any actors. The “terrorist attacks” happened, but nothing was said about who committed the acts, or who directed the attacks. In both instances it is already known that Palestinian Authority Arabs were the terrorists who knifed the women, one to death. One of the terrorists was an Arab who had been welcomed in to work in the community where he stabbed to death the mother of six. The other terrorist was an Arab teenager from nearby Bethlehem who entered the yishuv through a hole in the fence surrounding the community.
Not assigning blame when Palestinian or Israeli Arabs stab, slash, shoot or ram innocent Israelis is part of the modus operandi of John Kerry’s State Department, as it also was when State was run by now presidential-candidate Hillary Clinton.
This time, at least, the victims were particularized, but the people and entity responsible were not. That’s a problem that allows the responsible parties to remain anonymous and blameless on the world stage, where Israel, Israelis and, in particular, the Israeli government is always named and blamed.
Just wait to see what is the response to the new dictate by the chief security officer for Gush Etzion, the area south of Jerusalem in which the pregnant woman was stabbed. Arabs will now be barred from entering any of the Jewish towns in the area. Collective punishment? Apartheid? It’s coming. Four…three….two….one.
Three Americans, widely believed but not confirmed to be contractors, were abducted from war-torn Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, Jan. 14.
The missing Americans were taken from the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad. That area has become an increasingly Sunni Muslim neighborhood in recent years.
The spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Scott Bolz, confirmed on Sunday that several Americans had “gone missing.” Bolz said “We are working in full cooperation with Iraqi authorities to locate the missing Americans.”
U.S. State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby also acknowledged to an Arab media outlet on Sunday, Jan. 16, that the U.S. government is aware of reports that three American citizens are missing in Iraq.
“The safety and security of American citizens overseas is our highest priority. We are working with the full cooperation of the Iraqi authorities to locate and recover the individuals,” Kirby said.
An Iraqi security official told CNN that two of the three missing are dual Iraqi-American citizens, and that the third is an American. The same official also said that the men “were grabbed by a group of gunmen from an apartment” in Dora late Friday afternoon.
The abducted men were reportedly taken away in a several-vehicle convoy.
“A company filed a report Sunday about three of its staff going missing two days ago. They are American contractors. We are looking into this report,” the Iraqi security official said.
An Iraqi police official told AFP that he was informed that the kidnappers were “militiamen wearing military uniforms.”
Over the course of the past several months, dozens of foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq. ISIS as well as Shia and Sunni groups have carried out the kidnappings. In addition to the abduction of foreign nationals, Iraqi citizens have also been kidnapped recently, although most of those incidents appeared to have criminal rather than terroristic motivations.