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October 1, 2016 / 28 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘military’

American Military Aid: Bad for America; Worse for Israel

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website,  Abu Yehuda}

See, you trust in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; where on if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him. – Isaiah 36:6

Reactions to the signing of a 10-year $38 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) for American military aid to Israel are coming in, as predictable as the moon and the tides. The man Netanyahu calls Israel’s “worst Prime Minister ever”, Ehud Barak, claims that Netanyahu could have obtained another $7 billion a year if only he hadn’t opposed Obama’s Iran deal so strongly. Similar remarks have come from the parliamentary opposition, unsurprisingly. Others thank America for its commitment at a time that its own military budgets are being slashed. Still others curse it for helping Israel with its continued ‘genocide’ against the ‘Palestinians’, who have tripled in number since 1970.

The truth is that Israel does not need and should phase out military aid from the US. It is bad for Israel and bad for the US.

  • Israel doesn’t need it: The $3.8 billion per year that will come from the US is about a quarter of Israel’s 2015-16 defense budget of $15.47 billion. This is a lot of money, but consider that the government’s overall budget is about $89 billion, and Israel’s gross domestic product today is close to $300 billion, almost double what it was 10 years ago.

In addition, the new agreement phases out Israel’s ability to spend any of it outside of the US. In the past, up to about a quarter of the aid could be spent in Israel. Does anyone doubt that many items can be procured here or elsewhere, at lower cost? I don’t. The F-35 alone costs about $200 million per aircraft. Are there alternatives? We might be able to find out if we went shopping with our own money (possibly the F-15SE would become available).

Finally, increased investment in our military industries would improve our ability to sell our products to other countries, helping to offset the loss of US aid.

  • Aid gives the US administration too much leverage over Israeli policies and actions:  PM Netanyahu will be meeting with Barack Obama next week at the UN. Obama will certainly make demands about Israeli-PA relations, the blockade of Gaza, and more. Do we want to give him a club to hold over our heads?

During the Gaza War in 2014, Obama cut off the supply of Hellfire missiles and other items in response to (tendentious) complaints that Israel had deliberately shelled a UN school. The more we can reduce our dependence on aid, the more equipment like this can be manufactured at home.

Israel needs freedom of action to respond to threats. The aid comes with too many strings attached.

  • Aid distorts our military purchase decisions: If you can get your army boots – or fighter aircraft – “for free” then maybe you settle for something that doesn’t meet your needs quite as well as a product  you have to pay for.  The decisions about what we will be given are based in part on US policy objectives and, since the aid is in effect a direct subsidy to the US defense industry, domestic American considerations – not what’s best for Israel.

For example, it has been suggested that manned fighter aircraft will be much less important in future warfare than drones, but we get ‘free’ fighter planes from America and build our own drones; so we have lots and lots of manned fighter planes – maybe more than we need.

The F-35, with its cost and all its problems, stands out. As I wrote a few weeks ago, would Israel even have considered replacing its F-16 fleet with F-35s if the first batch weren’t ‘free’?

  • Aid corrupts our military decision-makers: The word ‘corrupts’ is a strong word, but may not be out of place. If you are a Chief of Staff, and a quarter of your budget comes from America, wouldn’t you take the US administration’s wishes into account when considering whether or not to take some particular action (say, bombing Iranian nuclear installations)? How could you not do so? Enough said.
  • Aid cripples the development of our own military industries: This may be the most important consideration of all. Although the new MOU represents an increase from the previous $3.1 billion a year, it phases out over five years the ability to spend up to about a quarter of it for locally-produced goods. If we don’t have the capability to produce our own weapons, our dependence on the US becomes even greater, and we lose the jobs and technical know-how that come from it. Buying our own would pump additional money into our economy, which helps offset the loss of American aid. Even the IDF’s boots, formerly made in Israel, are now ordered from the US.
  • Aid doesn’t necessarily guarantee a qualitative edge: One of the rationales for US military aid was that the US promised to maintain our “qualitative military edge” (QME) over our enemies, as a way of counteracting their numerical superiority. But the US has more and more been selling its best weapons to anyone who can pay for them. The way to maintain the QME, then, is for Israel to use her technological abilities to develop weapons and countermeasures for her own use that will not be available to her enemies.
  • Aid damages Israel’s standing as a sovereign state: A nation that is dependent on another for its defense is a satellite, not an ally. In order to maintain her national self-respect, Israel should pay for her own defense. In addition, Israel’s accepting aid provides ammunition for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda in America.
  • Phasing out aid is better for America: The US is burdened by a large and growing debt. The end of military aid to Israel can only help America meet her own civilian and military needs.

***

Naturally, there will be objections.

Israel can’t afford expensive systems like the F-35 without aid. First, it’s not true, and second, maybe we don’t need such expensive systems, or so many of them.

But the US makes the world’s best weapons. Perhaps. If so, we should buy them with our own money. I’m not suggesting we break relations with the US. And who is to say that our home-made products won’t fit our unique needs better?

But it takes time to build up our industries. True, which is why I want to phase out the aid over a period of years rather than cutting it off sharply.

But what about the close cooperation between Israeli and the US defense industries? I’m not suggesting that such cooperation couldn’t continue, but in a framework of mutually beneficial business deals when indicated, as partners rather than clients.

But AIPAC works so hard making it possible. Yes, and Israel should be grateful to AIPAC and to its friends in the US Congress that for decades have made it possible for Israel to survive in its dangerous neighborhood against great odds. But the situation has changed. What used to be a necessity became a luxury, and then changed into a dangerous overindulgence. It’s not like there aren’t other critical issues that AIPAC could focus on.

***

In recent years much has changed in the world and in the Middle East. Israel, which was a third-rate power that managed to win her wars against great odds, became a first-rate power that nevertheless seems to be stymied and incapable of decisively prevailing over much weaker opponents. Although there are several reasons for this, one of the main ones is the increasing influence and control over Israeli decision-making by the US – whose government, at the same time, has become less and less supportive.

I’m sorry to say that I believe the US is in serious economic, social, political and even security trouble today – truly a broken reed. I hope it will repair itself. But like Isaiah’s Egypt, it is not a staff to lean upon.

Vic Rosenthal

Fake Bomb Next to Har Nof Shul

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Police sappers on Monday checked what looked like an explosive device that had been planted at the entrance to the Yehave Da’at synagogue in Har Nof, where a terrorist attack took the lives of four worshipers and a policeman.

The suspicious package was a cardboard box with wires sticking out of it, which was stashed in a bag.

Police are looking for the perpetrator of this vile prank.

David Israel

Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (IV)

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Rabbi Dr. (Psychology) Simcha Goldman entered the military like many others, as a means to pay for his education. This meant that he owed the military four years of active duty to pay back the government for his graduate work. During his deployment he wore his yarmulke without controversy, but this was going to change in April, 1981 when a vindictive airman reported that Goldman was violating the Air Forces headgear regulations.

After the complaint was lodged, Colonel Joseph Gregory, the Hospital Commander where Goldman was stationed, a devout Christian who unseamlessly managed to get Christianity into every military matter – even announcements – limited Goldman to wearing his yarmulke exclusively to the hospital; everywhere else on the base it was verboten. But, law-abiding, mild-mannered, Simcha Goldman was nonetheless, unprepared to obey this command.

If you were counting, this would have been Goldman’s second, blatant mistake.

Albeit there is a Constitutional right guaranteeing the freedom of religion, that does not mean that one may violate military protocol based on this principle. The Constitution also protects the right of free speech, but if what you say is deemed unsuitable you are liable to be arrested. And yet, and yet, Goldman decided to single-handedly take on the armed forces.

The Hospital Commander had the Base’s Legal Office contact the Jewish Welfare Board’s (JWB) ecclesiastical board, which governs the policy for Jews in the military. The Air Force wanted to know whether it was truly necessary for a soldier to wear a yarmulke while in service. The man who posed the question was a Catholic chaplain, who was acquainted with Goldman and the fact that he was an ordained Rabbi.

The woman who answered the phone at the JWB, strayed a tad above her pay scale to offer her opinion. It was non-other than her own personal opinion – assuming the imprimatur of the JWB from whose office she spoke – that it was not necessary for a Jewish soldier to wear a yarmulke while in service. Well, there you had it.

Just like with the military prosecutor, likewise with this staff Chaplain, there was baggage and a score was settled. The chaplain was aware that Goldman was angry with him for diagnosing patients, although he did not possess psychological training. Although the chaplain was in the wrong, he wasn’t about to admit it. Motivated by the friction, he allowed himself the liberty of inquiring about a rabbi to a very much non-rabbi, and reported a non-informed, ignorant opinion to the base commander.

Captain Goldman was aghast at what had been perpetrated by one who knew much better. He confronted the chaplain as to how he could warrant such misinformation. The chaplain said in his own defense that when he called the JWB there were no rabbis present, so he took what there was. Goldman wondered if there existed a lamer excuse.

The world was closing in on Simcha Goldman. While nobody should be judged at his worst, how one deals with hard times says far more about a man than his waltz down Easy Street. These were crushingly hard times for Rabbi Goldman and he realized that he was on the verge of serious trouble from an adversary that never threatened innocuously. His career, his pension, legal ramifications and penal discipline were on the line. He therefore turned to a military defender as he pondered his next move.

Lawyers, characteristically, write “lawyer letters.” Goldman’s meeting with the defender resulted in such an epistle. However, when the base commander received it, a souring situation began to ferment, making Goldman about as popular in the base as bank foreclosure.

When Pharaoh was threatened he harshened his edicts, and devout Colonel Gregory took his Biblical cue. Upon receipt of the lawyer’s letter the Commander extended the order to forbid Goldman from wearing a yarmulke in uniform while in the hospital as well.

Simcha Goldman now pulled a hat trick for mistakes by refusing to comply. There must be a metaphor somewhere about not starting up against a bereaved bear and the military. Goldman’s commanding officer reacted by issuing a formal letter of reprimand, withdrew a recommendation that Goldman’s active duty service be extended, and threatened to have him court-martialed.

This was followed by Captain Goldman being commanded to sign that he was refusing to obey an order which would be placed in his file. This order was considered so vital that Goldman was ordered to drop what he was doing and appear before the Hospital Commander to sign. At the time he was conducting a therapy session for ten airmen, but he was not allowed to delay this command. So he had to stop, interrupt – indeed destroy what he had developed until then ‑ and abandon the therapy for the non-time sensitive issue of formally confirming his recalcitrance.

And this order he also refused to comply with. (This disobedience was not as blatant as it appears as he was aware that the command could be fulfilled if witnesses (of which there were no dearth) signed that he refused. He, personally, could not bring himself to sign that he was compliant in the removal of his yarmulke.)

(To be continued)

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Erdogan Formally Approves Turkey’s Normalization Deal With Israel

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally approved the country’s normalization deal with Israel on Wednesday (August 31), the state-run Anadolu Agency reports.

The agreement, signed by Turkish and Israeli negotiators on June 27, restores diplomatic ties between the two former allies after a hiatus of more than six years. Israeli charge d’affaires in Ankara, Amira Oron, said Monday (August 29) the two countries are expected to exchange ambassadors sometime within the next several weeks.

“The Law No. 6743 regarding the approval of the agreement between the Republic of Turkey and the State of Israel over compensation has been submitted to the Prime Ministry for promulgation,” a statement by the president’s office said.

Erdogan sent the agreement 12 days after it was officially approved by the Turkish parliament, and following its approval by Israeli cabinet ministers in late June.

The deal was ratified by Turkish lawmakers on August 19 after weeks of delay due to an attempted coup that failed to overthrow the Turkish government on July 15.

The agreement ends a period of rancor that followed an ugly incident in 2010 in which an illegal flotilla attempted to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza. Among the six vessels participating in the incident was a Turkish ship. Israeli commandos boarding the vessel to redirect it to Ashdod port were attacked by armed “activists” who included Turkish citizens; the resulting clash left 10 Turks dead and numerous Israelis seriously wounded.

Turkey demanded an apology, payment of $20 million in compensation to the families of the dead and lifting of the blockade on Gaza in order to restore relations. “Ankara now considers these terms satisfied,” according to a report published Wednesday in the Hurriyet Daily News. “Israel will hand Turkey a ‘lump sum’ payment within 25 working days of the agreement coming into force, with families of the victims able to access the funds in due course.

“Both sides also agreed individual Israeli citizens or those acting on behalf of the Israeli government would not be held liable — either criminally or financially — for the raid,” according to the report.

Turkey has already been allowed to ship its own humanitarian aid into Gaza, and plans have been started for Ankara to build a hospital in the region.

Hana Levi Julian

IDF Military Advocate General Issues Update on 2014 Gaza War-Related Criminal Investigations

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

IDF Military Advocate General (MAG) on Wednesday issued a press release regarding a number of alleged “exceptional incidents” that took place during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. Many of these claims originated in complaints that were transmitted to the MAG Corps on behalf of Arab residents of the Gaza Strip, as well as by several NGOs. Other allegations were made in media reports, as well as by internal IDF operational reports.

To date, the MAG Corps has received some 500 complaints about 360 incidents alleged to have occurred over the course of the Operation. Some alleged incidents received more than one complaint.

Each complaint suggesting misconduct by IDF forces, undergoes an initial examination. If the allegation is deemed credible, prima facie, and is sufficiently concrete, it is referred to the MAG for a decision as to whether an immediate criminal investigation is warranted without further examination, or whether the incident should be referred to the General Staff Mechanism for Fact-Finding Assessments (FFA Mechanism), for a prior factual examination before making a decision on whether to open a criminal investigation.

To date, in the wake of allegations that indicated prima facie grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct, the MAG has ordered the opening of criminal investigations without the need for prior factual examination with regard to 24 exceptional incidents. Of these criminal investigations, the MAG decided to issue indictments against three IDF soldiers, accused of looting and of aiding and abetting looting. The legal proceedings regarding these charges are underway at the present time.

Regarding 13 other criminal investigations, the MAG has closed the cases without undertaking any criminal or disciplinary proceedings. The remainder of the investigations are still ongoing – some are still underway, and some have been completed with their findings having been submitted to the MAG for review.

Other allegations, which did not indicate prima facie grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct, were referred to the FFA Mechanism for examination. This mechanism, which was initiated while the operation was still underway, collates information and relevant materials and undertakes inquiries, in order to assess the facts of exceptional incidents. These efforts are intended to provide the MAG with as much factual information as possible in order to reach decisions regarding whether or not to open a criminal investigation, as well as for the purpose of a “lessons-learned” process and the issuance of operational recommendations that will assist in mitigating the risk of exceptional incidents occurring in the future.

All in all, to date, around 360 complaints and reports relating to around 220 exceptional incidents alleged to have occurred over the course of the Operation have been transmitted to the FFA Mechanism for examination, after undergoing an initial examination by the MAG Corps.

To date, after reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism, the MAG has referred seven incidents for criminal investigation. One of these investigations has already been the subject of a decision by the MAG. Other investigations have been completed and are awaiting review of their findings by the MAG, or are currently ongoing.

With regard to around 80 additional incidents that were examined by the FFA Mechanism, the MAG decided to close the case without opening a criminal investigation, where the actions of the IDF forces involved did not give rise to reasonable grounds for suspicion of criminal behavior. However, in relation to some of these incidents, the MAG recommended reviewing operational methods in order to assess whether any changes should be made. In certain cases that were closed, the MAG found that no involvement of IDF forces could be identified in regard to the incident.

David Israel

Syrians Prepare for Last Stand in Aleppo

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Syrian residents in the once-beautiful commercial hub of Aleppo are gathering their strength — what little remains — to seek whatever safe spaces they can find in the next 24 hours.

The splintered fragments of opposition forces are about to launch their final stand against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

Thus far, opposition forces appear to have the upper hand in this vicious, years-long civil war that has ripped the soul from a lovely land that for decades was the Republic of Syria, but no longer. Today Syria has been torn apart and divvied up among hungry competing warlords like a bleeding carcass about to be butchered for lion cubs.

Some 250,000 residents are beginning to slowly starve in Aleppo, trapped in the eastern part of the city since early July, while the western part of the city remained under government control. The residents of the eastern party of the city are almost without food and water now, after the main artery into that section was shut down by regime forces nearly six weeks ago.

The water pumps in the city are without power. That means two million people are without running water and facing a full siege.

Syrian state media reports government and Russian warplanes are continuing to bomb opposition forces.

But those opposition forces cut off the key access route into the western part of the city Sunday to block the entry of regime soldiers.

According to media sources in Tehran quoted by A-Sharq al-Awsat, “around 2,000 fighters came from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to assist regime forces,” but the infusion of foreign aid didn’t faze the opposition.

Jaish al-Fatah, the Islamist opposition group, released a voice recording on Monday of a phone-tapped conversation by a Hezbollah guerrilla fighter describing the situation on the southern Aleppo front. The fighter said in a Lebanese accent that Hezbollah and regime fighters were collapsing and were left to fight alone. Other militias had already abandoned the front, fleeing the debacle to save their own lives.

According to a Ahrar al-Sham leader who spoke with A-Sharq al-Awsat, “The collapse in the ranks of regime forces is clear and it continues as long as Jaish al-Fatah fighters advance in the city.”

Both sides are now preparing for “the great battle of Aleppo,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The United Nations is urging both sides to cease their fire — or at least to pause it — long enough to allow repairs to the water and electricity grids.

According to UN sources, some two million people are without basic supplies — such as sugar, wheat, food cans and water — and children in the city are at “grave risk” of disease.

Opposition forces, meanwhile, say they are poised to take control of the entire city. The fragmented forces are united in this goal, at least, and it is this unity that allows the exchange of Western-supplied weapons between so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition forces and those who are dubbed “radical Islamist groups” linked to Al Qaeda and Da’esh (ISIS).

That unity when it comes to fighting the Assad regime is not well understood by the United States and other Western nations, and it is this Western lack of familiarity with the regional culture codes that has repeatedly led to disaster when trying to fight worldwide terror.

For all of these reasons, and because of the utter chaos taking place north of Israel’s border, the IDF is being especially watchful now.

Hana Levi Julian

Complying with Ottoman Law, IDF Panel Revokes Jewish Community’s Land Ownership

Monday, August 8th, 2016

The IDF Appeals Committee in Judea and Samaria has ruled recently that the 2013 declaration of an area of some 55 acres in the vicinity of Kokhav Ya’akov, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, as state land is null and void, because the process of making the acquisition was improper, Ha’aretz reported Monday. The military panel was also critical of the lack of transparency in making the declaration public — meaning that it was being kept out of PA Arabs’ earshot.

The panel’s ruling on an appeal by NGO Yesh Din on behalf of alleged Arab land owners, is more a judicial recommendation to the IDF in the area than a compelling decision, but should the declaration of state land be appealed in the Israeli Supreme court — as it surely will be — the panel’s decision would influence the justices’ ruling.

The grounds for dismissing the government acquisition of the land has to do with its failure to adequately comply with Ottoman Law — a remnant of the Turkish government’s rule over these lands before 1918, which continues to be the law of the land; and will continue to be so as long as Israel fails to impose Israeli law on Area C, where Jews live.

Ottoman law says that a man can establish claim to his land if he can show that he has been tilling it for the previous ten years. The state tried to comply with the law by providing aerial photographs of the area from 1969, showing clearly that the land was not being cultivated.

However, the dissemination of lands to local Arabs by King Hussein, who ruled the area from 1949 to 1967, took place in 1961. So the panel ruled that the aerial photos proving the land was not being cultivated had to be from before 1961, and, according to the state, such photographs could not be found.

There are photographs from 1944 showing that some of the land was being tilled then.

The judges wrote that they were not convinced the state had made the full effort to discover those 1956 aerial photographs, and that without them the panel must rule that the situation back in 1944 continued uninterrupted through 1961. Of course, the decision to require a photograph from before 1961 assumes that when King Hussein handed over lands to the heads of local Arab clans (whom he viewed as a source of potential rebellion) — he had the right to give those lands away. But Hussein was never recognized universally as the sovereign of the “West Bank,” which was considered an occupied territory, along the 1949 armistice border with Israel.

Local residents of Kokhav Ya’akov say they have also purchased the land, but regardless of the ownership papers they would present to the high court, organizations like Yesh Din will rustle up a group of Arab claimants to the land, with papers freshly minted by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah showing the land belongs to them.

According to NGO Monitor, Yesh Din operates on an annual budget of $1.58 million, provided by the EU, UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norwegian Refugee Council, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, HEKS (Switzerland), Norway, Ireland, Germany, and Oxfam-Novib (Netherlands).

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/complying-with-ottoman-law-idf-panel-revokes-jewish-communitys-land-ownership/2016/08/08/

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