United States diplomatic missions in Israel reopened Monday after a day-long closure due to what was deemed a credible Al-Qaeda threat, but the State Department extended the closure of 19 other diplomatic missions in the Middle East through Aug. 10 “out of an abundance of caution.”
“This is not an indication of a new threat stream, merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees including local employees and visitors to our facilities,” said the statement issued by State Dept. spokesman Jen Psaki.
Diplomatic posts in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Manama, Muscat, Sanaa, Tripoli, Antananarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kigali, and Port Louis will remain closed this week.
The U.S. State Department on Aug. 3 issued a global travel alert for American citizens. The alert warned of possible terror attacks by al Qaeda operatives and affiliated terror groups from Sunday through the end of August.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said the electronic chatter among terror suspects about a possible attack was “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry followed up on the Israeli Cabinet approval in principle to free 104 terrorists, and announced that Palestinian Authority and Israeli negotiators have been invited to resume direct talks in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.
No RSVP was attached to the invitation, and PA negotiator Saeb Erekat will come without any gifts.
Israel already has sent its present, the Cabinet approval to release terrorists who were sentenced to jail instead of being executed for brutal and cruel murders of soldiers and citizens, including children, mothers and the elderly.
Media all over the world reported the Cabinet decision to free “prisoners” while avoiding the “T” word, lest the character of the murderers be tarnished.
“Today, Kerry spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and personally extended an invitation to send senior negotiating teams to Washington to formally resume direct final status negotiations,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“Initial meetings are planned for the evening of Monday July 29 and Tuesday July 30,” she said.
This is great news for travel agents, airlines and luxury hotels, all of which will be busy taking care of the VIPs.
Livni and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy Yitzchak Molcho are to fly out of Ben Gurion Airport Sunday night or early Monday morning and meet with their Palestinian Authority counterparts, Mohammad Shtayyeh and Saeb Erekat the same day.
He refrained from praising Israel for freeing the terrorists, and for good reason. The Cabinet in fact approved that a smaller Inner Cabinet will review the list of terrorists and decide who will be released.
Erekat and other officials have insisted that all must be freed of the talks are to continue. “We will continue working for the release of all our political prisoners,” he said, upgrading the terrorists to some kind of workers for humanitarian rights who were summarily court-martialed for being Arabs.
The whole scheme cooked up by Abbas and Kerry could come apart because the list of 104 terrorists includes 15 who are Israeli citizens. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud had swallowed hard to vote to approve Netanyahu’s request to free them, but he put his foot down when it comes to the Israeli Arabs. Time will tell if he caves in again.
No one in the government has yet explained – and in fact no one else has asked – why it is the Palestinian Authority’s business to worry about Israeli Arabs. Maybe , just maybe, the PA had some kind of connection with the terrorists. Just maybe.
In the meantime, Livni will have the time of her life, getting all of the attention she craves and competing with Kerry to see who can pour more honey on the poisoned peace process.
Kerry will repeat twice a day and three times a night how brave and courageous Israel is, State Dept Doublespeak for weakness and cowardice.
Livni will say how Israel is willing to make “painful concessions,” and Erekat will continue to say that negotiations mean, “Continue to make painful concessions until we get everything we want because after that you won’t be around to feel any pain.”
The 24 Americans living in Israel who had sued the State Department over U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority have filed their opposition brief to the government’s motion to dismiss,” Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) said Wednesday
The plaintiffs allege that aid money to the PA is not being carefully scrutinized nor administered and funds terrorism. The lawsuit was originally filed last November, and attorneys for the American government filed a motion to dismiss their claims.
The plaintiffs contend that the State Department has recklessly ignored congressional safeguards and transparency requirements which govern U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. The Americans, some of whom are victims of terror themselves, allege that as a result of White House non-compliance with federal regulations, funds have been flowing to terror groups like Hamas despite federal prohibitions against support for terrorism.
The government claims that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring this civil action and that the case raises “political questions” best left to the other branches of government. The plaintiffs in turn argue that enforcing limitations on federal foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority against State Department abuses is the judiciary’s job and that suit is far from being an “abuse of discretion,” as the defendants contend.
Shurat HaDin stated, “The government also contends that it is pure speculation that Americans can be injured by terrorism in Israel….”
It is estimated that since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the United States State Department, via USAID has given more than $4 billion to the Palestinian Authority. Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the State Department is required to certify that the Palestinian government is committed to a peaceful co-existence with Israel before distributing funds, and ensure that no part of funding is used for terrorism.
Palestinian Authority organizers in Ramallah and Gaza published on Monday plans for massive protests at the Temporary Armistice borders that existed from 1948 until the Six-Day War in 1967, on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has declared a deadline for an agreement by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israel to resume direct talks.
The protests and the deadline are on Friday, June 7, which also is the anniversary of the return of the Temple Mount to Jewish hands after 2,000 years.
It might have been a brainstorm by someone in the State Dept. to choose the date as being symbolic for enemies to make up and live in peace with each other forever.
If so, it illustrates to the Nth degree how little American policymakers understand the Israeli-Arab struggle, let alone the entire Middle East.
If the timing was a coincidence, it shows how totally inept they are.
Organizers of the protests plan simultaneous demonstrations in Jordan and other Arab countries.
In Israel, Arabs have been told to arrive in large numbers towards the old borders of Israel that existed as the Temporary Armistice Lines until the Six-Day War in 1967.
Protests are planned at the Kalandia checkpoint at northern Jerusalem, at the Damascus Gate in the Old City, Rachel’s Tomb, which is several hundred yards from the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jerusalem and which borders Bethlehem, in northern Gaza near the security fence, and at the Jordanian border.
Previous mass marches have been a total failure, but this time the stakes are high. If Abbas actually does back down and agree to speak with Israel without pre-conditions, his life literally could be in danger. If he does not, he risks the total wrath of the United States, but at this point, he might not care.
“Despite his good intentions, Kerry so far looks like a naive and ham-handed diplomat who has been acting like a bull in the china shop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” wrote Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz.
“It is a Lone-Ranger type of effort so far,” said Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, quoted by Reuters correspondent Arshad Mohamed, who covers the State Dept.
“The perception in the region is this is a process of buying time … that the White House is not serious about committing to what it takes to get this issue resolved,” Muasher added. “I don’t think people are questioning the motives of Kerry, everyone thinks he is serious about this – and he is serious about this – but he is just acting alone.”
That is the truth. Kerry is alone in the Middle East, a fish out of water.
When Kerry talks to Abbas, he is talking to a wall, a man who for eight years has carefully and cleverly carried out a single-minded strategy of ”all or nothing” while assuming that the world really loves the Arabs and does not simply support its agenda because it cannot stomach dealing with a Jewish state that is not downtrodden.
When Kerry talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he is speaking with a man who knows that the State Dept. cannot see past its nose. Israel has dangerously played the “peace process” game with the assumption, proven correct for 65 years, that the Arabs will shoot themselves in the foot in the end.
On Friday, the best that Kerry can hope for is extending his June 7 deadline.
Maybe he will schedule the next one for November 29, the day that the United Nations recognized the re-establishment of Israel.
Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials have immediately rejected a brainstorm announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Turkey act to reach for the forever elusive end of the rainbow and reincarnate the peace process.
Two weeks after President Barack Obama said in Israel that there is no sense in trying to bring Ramallah and Jerusalem together if both sides don’t show they want to do so, Kerry is playing the willing robot to put everything in place for instant peace.
All Israel has to day is pay off the families of Turkish terrorists as a reward for trying to kill Israeli commandos who stopped their Mavi Mamara ship from sailing to Hamas-controlled Gaza to break the maritime embargo against terrorists and arms.
One other thing, said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu: Israel must remove all “embargoes,” meaning that Hamas should be allowed to bring in whatever it wants, such as medicine, which flows by the ton every day through land crossings; and everything that can be found in any store or mall, which flows by the ton every day through land crossings; and anti-aircraft guns and explosives for suicide bombers, which do not enter through land crossings. Maybe they come though tunnels. Just maybe.
Kerry is faithfully carrying out his duties as Secretary of State, where talking is the key to the world’s woes and can fix all problems, such as the Iranian nuclear threat, a corrupt Muslim fundamentalist regime in Egypt and war crimes in Syria.
Israel and Ramallah are not biting the bait and won’t take it unless Kerry comes up with a hefty bribe, and anything is possible.
The immediate reactions before Kerry’s plane to Israel was even in the air were something like, “Are you real?”
With Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan falling over him self for winning an apology from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for Israeli commandos defending their lives, Kerry played up on his ego that makes him think everyone in the world wants to be his friend.
Someone in the State Dept. forgot one little detail: Mahmoud Abbas heads the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and is not interested in the rival Hamas terrorist organization getting support from “friends of the West,” such as Erdogan who two weeks ago announced for the ninth or tenth time he will visit Gaza.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said Turkey would be “ineffective” and that it cannot be a fair negotiator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority because it still is at odds with Israel, making it susceptible to buckle under American pressure to be nice to Prime Minister Netanyahu.
There are two other reasons he did not state: One, Erdogan is pro-Hamas. Two, if the United States support the idea, it is suspicious.
Al-Malki told Palestinian Authority radio that it prefers that any diplomatic maneuvering come from the Quartet, where the United States is only one of four players. The others are the European Union, which wants to keep its welfare payments to the PA from going up in smoke; Russia, which wants to protects its investments in Iran and Syria; and the United Nations General Assembly, which last November accepted lock, stock and barrel Abbas’ demand to recognize all of his political and territorial demands from Israel.
As for Israel, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz told Voice of Israel public radio that he didn’t even believe that Kerry would suggest Turkey as a peacemaker.
“I think it is a baseless report. I personally am not familiar with any such decision,” said Steinitz after the State Dept, on Friday boasted that Turkey “has the ability to encourage Palestinians of all stripes to accept Quartet principles and move forward.”
“With the Palestinian Authority, we can negotiate directly, so there is no need for mediation. If anybody does mediate it will be the International Quartet,” said Steinitz, who noted Erdogan’s fondness for Hamas.
Kerry landed in Israel Sunday evening. No one considers his visit as any more than another stage show, but no one should write him off. He has Obama’s back and Obama has money that the Palestinian Authority, and Israel, want.
The State Dept. Deputy Secretary William J. Burns and Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides on Thursday testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on the events in Benghazi, Libya, September 11, 2012 that ended with four Americans killed at the U.S. mission, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Secretary Clinton regretted not being able to participate. She probably figured she didn’t need this on her record when she runs for the top job in 2016.
Her absence was felt at the meeting, since her two representatives were making sure to attribute to her every single bold move State will be taking in the aftermath of the Accountability Review Board’s report.
Some impolite talk radio hosts suggested Hillary’s fainting spell and consequent injury could be related to her reluctance to speak in person about the Benghazi mess. Who knows.
According to Deputy Secretary Burns, the State Dept. intensified a diplomatic campaign aimed at combating the threat of terrorism across North Africa. “We continue to work to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi, and we are working with our partners to close safe havens, cut off terrorist finances, counter extremist ideology, and slow the flow of new recruits.”
That’s really nice. Still, there’s the report issued by the Accountability Review Board (PDF), with names like Ambassador Tom Pickering (chairman) and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen at the helm, which reportedly rebuked the Administration for its utter failure in Benghazi.
“The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix,” Burns said what he had to, regarding the report.
But the report itself, or, rather, those two respected men who issued it, appeared at a press briefing last Wednesday, December 19, they offered different accounts of just what happened in Benghazi.
Ambassador Thomas Pickering said the terrorist attacks occurred over almost eight hours. “What happened on September 11th and 12th in Benghazi was a series of attacks in multiple locations by unknown assailants that ebbed and flowed over a period of almost eight hours,” Pickering told the press.
Except that, less than half an hour later, responding to a reporter’s question as to why the U.S. military never became involved in Benghazi, retired Admiral Michael Mullen said: “We looked at the force posture very specifically, and while we had a lot of forces in Europe both at sea and on land, it is not reasonable that they could have responded … in any kind of timely way. This was over in a matter of about 20 or 30 minutes with respect to the Special Mission specifically. And we had no forces ready or tethered, if you will, focused on that mission so that they could respond, nor would I expect we would have.”
Right-leaning CNS News pointed out that Mullen not only timed the terror attack at 20 to 30 minutes, but also defined it as only those events at the “Special Mission” compound, the State Department’s facility in Benghazi.
This conflicts with a CIA timeline of the Sept. 11, 2012 events, which shows that one hour and fifty minutes, give or take a couple minutes, elapsed between the time the “Special Mission” compound first came under attack and when a CIA rescue team was able to extract the surviving U.S. personnel from there.
As to the Accountability Review Board’s view on the fatal failure at Benghazi, CNS News notes that Ambassador Stevens and DOS officer Sean Smith died of smoke inhalation inside the “Special Mission,” in the first wave of attacks, and then, at least seven and a half hours later, former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by terrorist mortars fired on the Annex.
In other words, the event lasted seven and a half hours, and only the opening episode took “20 or 30 minutes.”
During that time, it appears that President Obama was not ordering the U.S. military to Benghazi. In fact, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, according to the report, was soliciting help from the Libyan military and from the Libyan militia that had been hired to protect the Benghazi mission.
Yes, you read it right: security at the Benghazi U.S. mission was shared with a local, Libyan militia.
The good terrorists.
Burns told the Senate committee: “As Secretary Clinton has said, our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. When America is absent, there are consequences: Our interests suffer and our security at home is threatened. Chris Stevens understood that as well as anyone. Chris also knew that every chief of mission has the responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our people.
“It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day, for years on end, in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.”
Yes, it’s the old “Look how many cars don’t get into fatal accidents,” and “Look how many banks didn’t get robbed today.”
“But we learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi,” Burns told the Senate committee, adding: “We are already acting on them. We have to do better.”
Burns concluded: “As Secretary Clinton has said, the United States will keep leading and keep engaging around the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.”
Absolutely, but come September 11, get some well armed American soldiers into our missions in those hard places, just in case.
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides spoke next, on the steps being taken at Secretary Clinton’s direction, to prevent the next Benghazi.
The review board made 29 recommendations in its report, and Nides told the committee: “We accept every one of them – all 29 recommendations. Secretary Clinton has charged my office with leading a task force that will ensure that all 29 are implemented quickly and completely, and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report.”
He then offered “some very clear specifics.” They are worth noting, although we would have expected these changes to have been implemented immediately after 9/11 2001, not 11 years later.
“For more than 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide security for embassies and consulates. But in today’s evolving threat environment, we have to take a new and harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts. We have to re-examine how we operate in places facing emerging threats, where national security forces are fragmented or may be weak.
“So at Secretary Clinton’s direction, we have moved quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security posture, with particular scrutiny on a number of high-threat posts. With the Department of Defense, we’ve deployed five interagency security assessment teams, made up of diplomatic and military security experts, to 19 posts in 13 countries – an unprecedented cooperation between our Departments at a critical time. These teams have provided us a roadmap for addressing emergency – emerging security challenges.
“We’re also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35 additional Marine detachments – that’s about 225 Marines – to medium and high-threat posts where they’ll serve visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top of the approximate 150 detachments we have already deployed. We are aligning our resources to our 2013 budget requests to address physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever needed and to reduce risk from fire.
“And let me add, we may need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to streamline the usual processes that produce faster results. We’re seeking to hire more than 150 additional Diplomatic Security personnel, an increase of about 5 percent, and to provide them with the equipment and training they need. As the ARB recommended, we will target them squarely at security at our high-threat posts.”
Because, let’s be honest here, the Republican House did cut a chunk out of the budget for embassy security just the year prior the Benghazi attack. They’ll have to put it back in, and then some (watch Ron Paul voting Nay on this one).
“Obviously, part of this is about resources,” Nides spelled it out. “We must equip our people with what they need to deliver results safely, and will work with you as needs arise. But Congress has a bigger role than that. You have visited our posts. You know our diplomats on the ground and the challenges they face. You know our vital national security interests are at stake, and that we are all in this together. We look forward to working with you.”
In conclusion, we still don’t really know what happened in Benghazi; the national media blocked successfully the Romney attempt to expose President Obama’s failure to understand, much less help the situation on the ground during the very long, seven and a half hour attack (the duration of a full day at the office minus the lunch break); Obama is president again, with Sen. John Kerry the likely Secretary of State; and we know for sure that everything is being done to prevent another Benghazi.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, DOS Spokesperson Victoria Nuland unexpectedly declared—not in response to a reporter’s question, and in the middle of an only loosely-related topic, that the U.S. is not seeking diplomatic contact with the Hamas government in Gaza.
Nuland told the room, seemingly out of the blue: “… Let me just say one other thing which has to do with Hamas.
“There have been some bizarre claims out there that Hamas has a back channel to the U.S. Government or that the U.S. Government is dealing with ex-officials to have some kind of a back channel to Hamas. I want to say here that these assertions are completely untrue. There is no such back channel. And our position on Hamas has not changed. And recent remarks by Hamas leaders during Khaled Meshaal’s visit to Gaza reinforce the fact that Hamas is not a partner for peace. And unless Hamas unambiguously accepts the Quartet principles for peace, it cannot be a partner in any negotiations.” As you may recall, the U.S. Congress last month froze $200 million in development aid to the Palestinian Authority, in response to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s successful move to upgrade his organization’s status at the UN.
At the daily press briefing on Wednesday, a reporter asked Spokesperson Nuland: “Victoria, what about the money that is being withheld? The Palestinian sources … say that they are on the verge of collapse and total bankruptcy. Have you done anything to … persuade Congress to release the money?”
NULAND: Well, we’re continuing to work with Congress, we’re continuing to make our views known about this, that we think this money is important. We think it supports important work by the Palestinian Authority and to support the needs of the Palestinian people and it should move.
QUESTION: Are you also urging Israel not to hold up their tax revenue?
Israel’s finance minister, who declared the suspension of tax payment transfers, explained at the time that this was done because the PA hadn’t been paying its electric bill, and owes $800 to the Israeli electric company.
According to Wednesday’s Jordan Times, at the recent Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Doha, Qatar, Arab states agreed to come to the rescue of the Palestinian Authority by pledging a $100 million monthly payment.
That should cover the electric bill…
NULAND: We are making clear to the Government of Israel that we think funding of the Palestinian Authority is necessary, and that it should work with the PA to address the issues that they have, and that all sides need to take steps to reduce tensions, to build trust, to produce the kind of climate that’s going to get us back to direct talks.