Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday sat with schoolchildren in the Jewish community of Susiya in south Mt. Hebron, next door to which a squatter Arab community has emerged recently, in an obvious attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over Area C of Judea and Samaria. Liberman told the children the encroachment by the residents of Yata Village to the lands near Susiya was not an accident, but a planned effort to physically separate the new community of Susiya and the historic synagogue on the nearby archeological site.
Susiya is a legitimate archaeological site in the southern Judean Mountains that bears the archaeological remains of a 5th century CE enormous synagogue, one of the largest and most magnificent ever discovered, which was turned into a mosque by the Arab invaders in the 8th century.
“Are you familiar with the archeological site of Susiya?” Liberman asked, and continued, “One day all kinds of illegal buildings started popping there, supported by foreign countries. And why did they pop there? On purpose, to divide between the community of Susiya and the historic Susiya.”
Liberman revealed that he had been under “pressure from all over the world” not to apply the demolition order handed out more than once by the Supreme Court. “The European Union, the US — they all discovered Susiya. Suddenly the United Nations Security Council is also interested in Susiya.” He promised the children he would obey the law and carry out the demolitions. “The free world is preaching especially for this to be a country of laws, and we must honor our judiciary system,” he said, with a hint of sarcasm.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that the demolitions of illegal Arab construction in Area C, which is under full Israeli control, violate the recommendations of the so-called Middle East Quartet, comprising the US, Russia, the EU and the UN, on the way forward in the peace process.
Liberman attacked the Europeans and the Americans who demand that Israel ignore the Supreme Court ruling to demolish Susiya, but to enforce the same court’s ruling on demolishing the Jewish Amona community in northern Samaria. “We are a country of laws,” he said, and we will honor ourselves and our laws, regarding Amona, E1 (the area connecting Jerusalema nd Ma’ale Adumim), and Susiya,” he clarified.
Liberman called on the residents of Amona to embrace the compromise being offered by the government, and moved to the promised homes to be built near their community. “I say to the residents of Amona, there’s a ruling of the high court and we will obey it. If anyone is delusing themselves that we won’t, it’s not going to happen. Whatever the court permits we will do. That’s why we offered many alternatives, and I hope we’ll find one the Amona residents will also accept.”
An American defense contractor has objected to a deal reached by Israel to lease the Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Germany for approximately 650 million euros.
As a result, the contract for the drone was put on hold after US defense contractor General Atomics began legal proceedings against the German Defense Ministry, claiming the deal was reached without opening the tender for bidding by other companies.
General Atomics (GA), which also manufactures drones, also pressured Germany to accept U.S. products over others, due to the membership of both nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO.) The company is a major force in the U.S. defense industry.
It’s a known fact that GA’s drone — called the “Predator B” — is smaller than the Israeli Heron TP (referred to by the Israeli Air Force as the “Eitan”) and has the ability to stay aerial for only 14 hours, as opposed to the Eitan’s 70 hours’ aerial staying power.
The Germany Ministry of Defense shared a letter with Reuters explaining that the case by General Atomic has already been dismissed once by a lower German court, and it is assumed the appeal will uphold that ruling. Nevertheless, the issue has forced the ministry to postpone its deal with Israel for the next three to nine months.
Israel Air Force pilots last week trained for the first time with pilots from the Pakistani and United Arab Emirates air forces, as part of the “Red Flag” exercises in Nevada, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Thursday. The teams from the two countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel nevertheless trained and cooperated with the Israeli team during the exercises. The Red Flag exercises also included pilots from the US and Spain and featured dozens of attack sorties, dogfights, bombings, and long-range flight midair refueling.
The report noted that the fact that the Pakistani and UAE teams did not object to flying alongside their Israeli counterparts suggests that they were more interested in studying and exercising than in politics. The lists of participating teams is composed solely by the Pentagon, and participating countries cannot modify it — but they can refuse to participate.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III addresses Airmen at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. / US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman
A senior IAF official told Chanel 2 News that “the Americans are excellent pilots, it’s clear they know how to fly and fight.” He said the Americans downed Israeli planes in dogfights, “but we downed them, too.” Each sortie involved many dozens of fighter planes, as well as refueling and intelligence support aircraft, and took place in day and night-time conditions, testing the teams’ ability to work together.
But the official noted that “this is not just about flying together, but about preparing for the mission ahead of time. You see right away who’s good and who’s not. There’s no place to hide. Everything stands out. We got better all the time, and the real deal was to learn from our mistakes.”
The exercise included IAF F-16I “Sufa” (Heb: Storm) aircraft, and for the first time Boeing 707 refueling aircraft. “It’s the nearest exercise to real warfare you can have,” the official said, “dealing with enemy planes, anti-aircraft missile threats—including the S300 systems Iran has—and cyber attacks on our aircraft. We still need to explore our performance, but the pilots are saying it was good.”
Next year, Israel will host the “Blue Flag” exercises, with the air forces of the US, France and Poland.
Turkish rage at the US has been mounting since the failed July 15 coup, which President Erdogan blamed on his former ally Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania. It has gotten so bad, President Obama sent his VP to smooth things over, and the Turks were not making the task easy for Joe Biden. The Turks began by sending Ankara’s deputy mayor to greet Biden—the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Turkey since the coup—at the airport. And while the VP was still visiting, the pro-Erdogan Daily Sabah stated: “Biden wasted a trip, Turkey wasted time.”
But Joe Biden, no stranger to hardball politics, took all of that in stride and stayed on message. For one thing, as Anadolu reported Wednesday, Biden hinted that Obama may be prepared to throw Gulen under the bus. “I can understand Mr. President how some of your countrymen would feel that the world didn’t respond rapidly enough to the existential crisis your country is facing,” the VP said at a joint press conference in Ankara Wednesday. “That’s why I want to personally be here. And I was asked by the president to personally be here to represent him, to tell you and all of your colleagues and your countryman how very, very sorry I am, the president and the American people are for the suffering and loss you have endured.”
Biden then said the US is “committed to doing everything we can to help bring justice for all those responsible for this coup attempt. Even as [we] speak, our American experts are on the ground here in Ankara, meeting with your people, closely coordinating with our Turkish counterparts to evaluate and gather material with regard to Turkish requests to extradite Gulen in accordance our bilateral extradition treaty.”
“We have more lawyers working on this case than any other extradition in recent history,” Biden reassured his host. According to Anadolu, during his earlier meeting with Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman, Biden said he and Obama “wish Gulen were in another country, not in the US.”
Erdogan lectured Biden on how Gulen is operating a global terrorist network from his little home in Pennsylvania, and repeated his demand thata the US immediately detain Gulen, so he won’t give media interviews. Biden reportedly put his face in his hands at this point, and tried to explain the US Constitution to his Turkish host.
“The Constitution and our laws require for someone to be extradited that a court of the United States has to conclude there’s probable cause to extradite,” Biden said. “How long it will take will depend on what evidence is presented. Thus far, until yesterday, there has been no evidence presented about the coup.”
“God willing, there will be enough data and evidence to meet the criteria that you all believe exists,” Biden added later.
A senior official at the Palestinian Authority told Israel Radio Sunday that Israel has refused an offer for a preparatory meeting with the PA side ahead of a possible summit meeting in Cairo between Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
According to the official, the Cairo meeting is intended to prepare for the international peace conference which is being planned in Paris by the end of the year, possibly with representatives from both France and the US. Apparently, various sources have advised Netanyahu to send an envoy to meet with a PA representative to prepare the Cairo meeting, but Netanyahu refused.
“Netanyahu does not want negotiations for a permanent settlement, and as long as he is at the helm there will not be a Palestinian State,” the PA senior said.
The same official also told Israel Radio that the PA does not demand that Israel freeze settlement construction as a prerequisite to the Paris conference, but rather the freeze should coincide with the start of negotiations. He threatened that “should Netanyahu not arrive at the Paris conference, we expect France and the other participating states to recognize the Palestinian State, open Palestinian embassies in their own capitals and boycott the settlements.”
Regarding Defense Minister Liberman’s plan to bypass Abbas in developing communication channels with key people in the PA society, the senior official said Liberman has yet to learn the lesson of the Village Associations that were set up by the late Ariel Sharon as a bulwark against the PLO in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which eventually became the Hamas movement.
“[Liberman] is treating the Palestinians as if they were animals: if they follow the rules they’ll get food, if not — a kick in the behind. The Village Associations failed then and will fail today. No one will work with Liberman, people here are not traitors,” the official said, adding, “Israel can’t run the same experiment, change nothing and expect different results.”
The State of Israel has the right to demolish 30 illegal structures built in the new and illegal Arab “village” of Susiya, according to a draft document to be submitted Wednesday to the High Court of Justice.
Although usually the Defense Ministry Civil Administration decides these issues, this time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would make the call on whether or not to demolish the structures, rather than Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the document stated.
The prime minister’s review would take until the end of October, after the completion of the Jewish high holy days, after which time the state would inform the Court whether the shacks would be legalized, or demolished.
The state warned the Court, however, that legal remedies would remain in place against any new construction that appears in the area after 2014, and that laws against illegal construction would be enforced.
The Regavim nongovernmental organization (NGO) has consistently researched and litigated the case against any new building by Arabs from the Palestinian Authority in the area, which is completely under the control of Israel.
Regavim is calling on Israel to demolish all illegal structures post-2014, regardless of international pressure.
The modern Jewish community, established in 1983 under the Mount Hebron Regional Council, is located next to the ancient city of Susiya, now an archaeological site featuring a 5th-8th CE synagogue with a magnificent mosaic floor, and the mosque that replaced it.
The site was formally declared an archaeological site in 1986 by the Israel Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration; the Arab population chose to locate its “village” precisely on the same spot.
The IDF expelled the squatters, who began with 25 families in 1986, despite opposition from the United Nations which claimed they were living in “houses” at the time. The Arab villagers were moved instead to a site few hundred meters southeast of the original ancient city.
Just 13 families comprised Arab Susiya in 2008. But as it became more fashionable in the international community to target Israel’s right to govern Area C of the Oslo Accords, Mount Hebron and the area around it rose to prominence as a key battleground. Arab Susiya did too, and by 2015 the “village” rose to its current population of 50 families, comprising several hundred people.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday gave a foreign policy speech in Youngstown, Ohio, outlining his plan to fight terrorism. Addressing the large crowd (as usual), Trump opened, “Today we begin a conversation about how to Make America Safe Again. In the 20th Century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Now, a different threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
The candidate cited a very long list of terrorist attacks against individual Western targets (Paris, Brussels, Orlando), as well as a more generalized but no less forceful depiction of attacks on Muslims: “Overseas, ISIS has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another. … We cannot let this evil continue.”
Trump promised, “We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” He then threw a jab at both president Obama and Democratic presidential Candidate Clinton, saying, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.”
This led to a Trump analysis of how President Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton are to blame for the current alarming state of events. He blamed them for policies that led to the creation of ISIS, saying, “It all began in 2009 with what has become known as President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour.’”
Remarkably, Trump omitted eight whole years in which the US was attacked by a different group of Islamic radicals, and the fact that then President GW Bush retaliated by invading a country that had nothing to do with that attack, inflicting chaos on Iraq and taking out the one fierce regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein. According to Trump, none of those eight bloody years of a Bush war had anything to do with the creation of ISIS (which took place in 2004) — it all began with “a series of speeches,” in which “President Obama described America as ‘arrogant,’ ‘dismissive,’ ‘derisive,’ and a ‘colonial power.'”
“Perhaps no speech was more misguided than President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009,” Trump said Monday night. Of course, the Obama Al Azhar University speech did launch a bizarre foreign policy that punished America’s friends and rewarded its enemies. Even if one were not pro-Israel, one would have to wonder what drove that disastrous foreign policy. But the Obama speech did not instigate the catastrophic failure of US policy in the Middle East, it only picked up Obama’s predecessor’s very bad situation and made it worse.
Trump believes that “the failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.” But in eight miserable years, having spent trillions of borrowed dollars our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them will continue to pay for, there were no US gains in Iraq — which is why when Obama honored the Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and withdrew some of the US forces, the whole thing came tumbling down.
Trump blames Hillary Clinton for destabilizing Libya, a claim supported by many, including President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He also added a jab at the Clintons, saying, “Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.” It’s factually true, but the implied moral outrage is hard to accept with a straight face, seeing as it came from a man who prided himself on turning homeowners’ misery into a hefty profit for himself during the housing crisis of 2008.
After much more of the candidate’s unique view on US foreign policy and the causes for rise of terrorism, Trump finally cut to the chase.
“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” he said. “Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam. … As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President [Al] Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.”
Trump added to the list of his envisioned coalition partners the NATO countries, explaining that although he “had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
He also wants Russia to participate, clearly despite its dubious new alliance with both Iran and Turkey that threatens the very presence of US troops in that part of the region.
On this point, the Trump vision looks an awful lot like the current Administration’s policy on fighting ISIS: “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the Internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”
So far so good, but then Trump suggested “we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Trump then depicted his opponent as contributing to the repression of Muslim gays and women, promising his “Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.”
At which point one must ask if the candidate is relying on expert advise on the Middle East. Because while he is absolutely right in condemning the cruelty and repression that have been the reality in Muslim countries from Pakistan to Morocco, his idea of promoting an American foreign policy of “speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings” and against the myriad other acts of unimaginable violence against women, his ideas that to defeat Islamic terrorism, the US must “speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism to grow” is shockingly sophomoric. Surely Trump knows that these attempts are a recipe for a far worse disaster than the one brought on by the Obama Al Azhar speech.
At this point, Trump turned to an area with which he is more familiar, the need for a new immigration policy. “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” the candidate declared, adding that “the time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.”
“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” Trump said, explaining that “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.”
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s naturally difficult to discern what lurks inside the mind of any person, immigrants included. Trump’s solution is, to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
“As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” It should be interesting to gauge the response of, say, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to the news that no more cash-laden Arab oil sheiks would be allowed to visit Vegas under a Trump Administration.
“Finally, we will need to restore common sense to our security procedures,” Trump declared, listing several notorious murders committed by Muslims on US soil, noting that in each case there had been warning signs that were overlooked by the authorities.
“These warning signs were ignored because political correctness has replaced common sense in our society,” Trump stated flatly, adding, “That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam. … The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
“This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners,” Trump said, essentially suggesting legitimizing the police profiling that has been so vilified in the media and by many politicians. He also promised to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open (although Obama has just released fifteen of its inmates). He wants additional staff to Intelligence agencies and will keep drone strikes against terrorist leaders as part of his options. He also wants military trials for foreign enemy combatants.
In conclusion, there was absolutely no new policy idea in the Trump speech on foreign policy Monday night, but there was an implied, if mostly unspoken promise, to encourage all levels of law enforcement to be less restrained in pursuing their targets. In fact, across the board, what Trump was offering Monday night were not so much new ideas as the promise of taking existing ideas to a new level of dedication in their execution. It could mean a wider loss of individual civil rights, and serious economic hardship for US industries that cater to any aspect of immigration, and it could also end up with the alienation of both European and Mid-Eastern countries who would not take kindly to Trump’s promised level of fierceness, and would retaliate.
It should be noted in that context, that after having spoken bluntly about extreme security measures that could harm specific ethnic and religious groups, Trump attempted to soften his own tone with a final paragraph that promised: “As your President … I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. — Only this way, will we make America Great Again and Safe Again – For Everyone.”
Like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the champion of cognitive dissonance.