\President Obama today signed a bipartisan bill to extend extra support to Israel as a major strategic partner — accompanied by a statement that he reserved the right to interpret the legislation as he sees fit.
The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 was introduced in the House by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
First and foremost, the legislation expresses the sense of Congress that Israel is “a major strategic partner.”
It allows the Defense Department to transfer surplus equipment to Israel, beefs up U.S. defense stockpiles in the country by $200 million, and expands U.S.-Israel cooperation in the fields of energy, water, agriculture, and alternative fuel technologies.
It authorizes the president to share more research and intelligence with Israel and authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to launch pilot programs in coordination with Israel to increase their border, maritime and aviation security. It directs the president to report to Congress on potentials for expansion of cyber-security cooperation.
It includes Israel in the visa waiver program and requires that military sales to other countries in the Middle East won’t harm Israel’s military edge, and the administration has to regularly report to Congress on Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors. It also says the administration must move toward granting top-tier status to Israel for certain license-free exports.
“At a time when Israel is facing many external threats, the U.S. Congress today sends to the president’s desk the U.S. – Israel Strategic Partnership Act seeking to bolster closer ties with our ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the beginning of the month. “At a time when the Iranian regime continues to advance its nuclear ambitions, Hamas unrelentlessly terrorizes Israeli citizens and the Palestinian Authority continues to incite violence and undermine the peace process at every turn, it is important for Congress to stand with Israel in a bipartisan effort.”
“That is why in passing this bill, we will afford Israel the unique status as our major strategic partner and we reaffirm our support to enhance Israel’s qualitative military edge so that it can continue to defend itself and its citizens from all threats.”
Today, in a flood of year-end legislation that passed Obama’s desk, the president signed the bill into law.
He issued a separate statement on it, though.
“This bipartisan piece of legislation reflects the importance placed by my administration on strengthening and deepening U.S.-Israel bilateral cooperation and ties,” Obama said. “It reinforces critical defense and security programs, which have reached an unprecedented level under my administration. It also lays the groundwork for increased trade and cooperation across a range of cutting-edge fields, including energy, water, agriculture, and technology.”
“Sections 11(b) and 12(c)(2) of this bill purport to require me to provide to the Congress certain diplomatic communications and direct the Secretary of State to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives,” he added. “Consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my administration will interpret and implement these sections in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy and to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic communications.”
The legislation comes as the administration is eager to push Israel to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. “It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians,” Secretary of State John Kerry said this week in London. “We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment.”
Boxer said in a statement that she applauded Obama for signing the bill “to strengthen our historic relationship with Israel.”
“This law will enhance cooperation between Israel and the United States on a wide range of issues – from defense to energy to cyber security – so we can work together to address the many challenges facing both countries,” she said.
Secretary of State John Kerry received a bipartisan request to stand with Israel and veto any United Nations Security Council resolution that imposes a “solution” on the Jewish state.
The Palestinians have drafted a resolution declaring a state and giving Israel two years to pull out of territory that the Palestinian Authority considers its own. On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki left the door open to a U.S. vote in favor of such a resolution, telling reporters today “we have to see what the details are.”
“There is a perception …that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true,” Psaki said. “We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”
The draft was submitted to the Security Council on Wednesday by Jordan.
“We write to express concern about ongoing efforts to impose the terms of a peace agreement on our friend and ally Israel outside of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote to Kerry. “We urge you to make clear that the United States will veto any United Nations resolution and would oppose any efforts to bypass direct negotiations and impose peace terms on Israel through the United Nations Security Council and other international bodies.”
“For decades, the United States has consistently opposed efforts to bypass direct negotiations and impose terms on Israel through the United Nations Security Council,” the letter continues. “As President Obama said to the United Nations General Assembly in 2011, ‘I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades… Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations… Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them; on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.’”
“We strongly agree with this sentiment. Yet there are multiple efforts in the United Nations Security Council to set parameters for final status negotiations, effectively imposing terms on our ally Israel in matters that are vital to its security and national interests.”
Graham and Schumer “strongly” urged Kerry “to make clear to all parties that the United States strongly opposes, and if need be will veto, any effort to bypass direct negotiations and impose peace terms on Israel through the United Nations.”
“A failure to decisively announce that we will veto any resolution from the United Nations that dictates the peace process runs counter to decades of American foreign policy and only gives momentum to these counterproductive proposals,” the senators added. “We thank you for your continued dedication to this issue and we look forward to supporting our government’s efforts to bring both parties back to the negotiating table without preconditions.”
The leader of Hamas in exile says the European Union General Court decision to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations should pave the way for countries to follow suit.
In a statement to Middle East Monitor, Khaled Mashal said the EU’s “past position was not based on objective facts.”
“In addition to this, it was in violation of and contradictory to international law as well as legal and humanitarian norms that guarantee the right of nations to resist occupation. It would be in the European Union’s best interest to align itself with international law and with legal and humanitarian norms and to refrain from violating these laws under the misguided pressure of Israel and its exploitation of the international community,” Mashal said.
The Hamas leader urged leaders of EU countries “to accept and cooperate with the decision of the Court and to take measures to make a brave political decision to remove Hamas from the European Union’s terrorist list in coordination with the Court’s decision and with the values of justice and law, as well as out of respect of the people’s will and their rights.”
“I also urge the leaders and governments in EU states to avoid stalling or wasting time by taking measures or making appeals attempting to circumvent international law and objective facts,” Mashal added. “I also hope that all international forces, including the United States, take the initiative and right the wrong that has been made in the past, which, as everyone knows, is a result of Israeli pressure and not a result of the facts on the ground.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today that the U.S. is reviewing the court’s findings.
“According to a statement by the European Union, this decision was based on procedural grounds. We understand that the E.U. sanctions Hamas remain in effect pending the E.U.’s decision on whether to appeal,” Psaki said. “The U.S. position on has not changed; Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization.”
“Hamas continues to engage in terrorist activity and has demonstrated its intentions during this summer’s conflicts with Israel. It fired thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas and attempted to infiltrate Israel through tunnels that extended into Israel,” Psaki continued.
“We will continue to work closely with the European Union on Hamas-related issues. We believe that the E.U. should maintain its terrorism sanctions on Hamas.”
Mashal said Hamas “continues to confine its legitimate resistance and struggle to Palestine and exercises this against the Israeli occupation.”
“This is a natural right for the movement and for all nations under foreign occupation and it is in accordance with our religious and international laws, just as the other nations in the East and the West resisted their occupying forces,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “not satisfied with the European Union’s explanation that the removal of Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations is a ‘technical matter.’”
“The burden of proof is on the European Union and we expect it to put Hamas back on the list forthwith given that it is understood by all that Hamas – a murderous terrorist organization, the covenant of which specifies the destruction of Israel as its goal – is an inseparable part of this list,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to fight Hamas with strength and determination so that it never achieves this goal.”
The White House will be officially celebrating the Festival of Lights with late afternoon and evening receptions tomorrow, but President Obama kicked off the holiday with his Hanukkah message today:
Over the eight nights of Hanukkah, Jews across America, Israel, and the world will remember an ancient triumph of freedom over oppression, and renew their faith in the possibility of miracles large and small.
Even in the darkest, shortest days of winter, the Festival of Lights brims with possibility and hope. The courage of the Maccabees reminds us that we too can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. The candles of the Menorah remind us that even the smallest light has the power to shine through the darkness. And the miracle at the heart of Hanukkah – the oil that lasted for eight nights instead of only one – reminds us that even when the future is uncertain, our best days are yet to come.
May this Hanukkah embolden us to do what is right, shine a light on the miracles we enjoy, and kindle in all of us the desire to share those miracles with others. From my family to yours, Chag Sameach.
Tomorrow the Palestinians are expected to bring a resolution before the UN Security Council declaring a state and giving Israel two years to pull out of territory that the Palestinian Authority considers its own. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki left the door open to a U.S. vote in favor of such a resolution, telling reporters today “we have to see what the details are.”
“There is a perception …that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true,” Psaki said. “We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”
The Palestinians need nine votes, or two-thirds of the council, for passage.
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London today that international alliances are needed to battle the “almost medieval vision” of Islamist terrorists that attacked in Pakistan and Sydney this week.
“As a father, I know exactly how hard it is when you send kids out of house into the world, to school or anywhere, and particularly in today’s world,” Kerry said of the attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, in which at least 131 were killed.
“The images are absolutely gut-wrenching: young children carried away in ambulances, a teacher burned alive in front of the students, a house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror,” he said. “…This act of terror angers and shakes all people of conscience, and we condemn it in the strongest terms possible. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. And we pledge our full support to the people of Pakistan in this difficult hour and we will help them in any way that we possibly can.”
Noting the cafe siege in Sydney by an Iranian cleric that left two hostages dead, Kerry noted the U.S. “has come face to face with horrific violence on our own soil, and we have seen our citizens held hostage and murdered in faraway places for the most nihilistic, devastatingly negative purposes.”
“So we know in a very personal way what our ally Australia is going through at this very moment. And we grieve with Australia and with the families of all those terrorized, injured, and killed,” he said. “The attacks in Peshawar and Sydney underscore that threats locally are also threats globally. In today’s world, next door is everywhere. And that’s why the United States is engaged in more places with more partners on more issues than ever before, and we are committed with all those allies and partners to standing up to extremism and to the extremists themselves.”
Kerry said he’d had “very candid and constructive conversations” over the past few days in Rome with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others. He sits down with Palestinian representatives in London today.
“Now obviously, a focus of these conversations has been our deep concern about the situation on the ground in Israel and in the West Bank and the mounting calls from the international community to pursue diplomatic measures to try to address it,” he said. “…All of the reasons that we engaged so intensely one year ago, a little more than that, and all the reasons that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas were willing to engage — those reasons are even more compelling today. The status quo is unsustainable for both parties and for the region.”
Kerry condemned an acid attack on an Israeli family last week and “indefensible price tag attacks, so-called price tag attacks” against Palestinians, “including the recent burning of a mosque near Ramallah.”
“The cycle of violence leads to more violence and to nowhere,” he said. “Peace is the only prospect, and people need to fight for it.”
A Palestinian resolution is coming before the UN Security Council on Wednesday to demand Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and declare the formation of a Palestinian state.
“It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians. We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment,” Kerry said. “So the key is to try to find out whether or not there are other options, other ways, other courses; could something be done that helps to respect the process that the Israelis are about to undergo, simultaneously respecting the needs of the region to de-escalate the tensions and avoid confrontation?”
“That’s what we hope to achieve, that’s what these discussions are all about, and we will continue to have these discussions this afternoon and on into the next days. But we’ve made no determinations other than that about any — about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that. We haven’t made any determinations.”
Pressed further about the fight against extremists staging attacks like those in Pakistan and Australia, Kerry replied “the threat is what the threat is.”
“If somebody decides they want to die, it’s very hard to prevent every situation from occurring,” he said.
“…I know that our friends in Pakistan and in Australia are tough and strong and prepared to stay the course. So it’s very unfortunate when this happens, but it is done precisely for the kind of effect that it gets, which is questions at a press conference and fears that are spread in various parts of the world.”
From The Daily Star in Lebanon:
BEIRUT: Syrian jihadi and rebel militias overran a sprawling government military base in Idlib province Monday, achieving the year’s biggest victory against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
The Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, along with the powerful Ahrar al-Sham militia and other allies, seized the Wadi Deif base after a fierce, two-day push that sent hundreds of regime troops fleeing the area, as regime warplanes pounded the area in a bid to secure their retreat.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime monitoring group based in Britain, said 31 government troops were killed in the assault on the base, along with a dozen fighters from the Nusra Front and its allies, although some pro-Nusra social media outlets said nearly 80 rebels had been killed.
A military commander from Ahrar al-Sham claimed in a video statement that around 200 regime troops were killed in the offensive, while several hundred were wounded.
That’s always been the tricky part of dealing with the never-ending turmoil in this part of the world-it’s often a “lesser of two evils but, wow, they’re both really evil” proposition (see: Egypt). One bad actor will just step in and take the place of another, and whatever ill the new bad guys sow will be blamed on the United States for either being too proactive or too inactive.
If there is a solution to what the West can do to “help” in Syria, it has yet to be discovered, probably because almost every foreseeable outcome with the current players is so unpalatable.
Iran tried to distance itself from the Iranian cleric who took over a cafe in Sydney, saying Man Haran Monis’ actions had nothing to do with Islam.
The 49-year-old, who called himself Sheikh Haron, was killed when police stormed the Lindt cafe after a 16-hour standoff. Australian authorities said they were forced to move in when they heard shots being fired inside the chocolate shop.
Monis was killed. Two hostages were killed, and a police officer was shot in the face yet is expected to survive.
The Iranian sought political asylum in Australia in 1996.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham expressed alarm about “unclear and imperfect news about the Iranian refugee,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, which didn’t carry the story of the shooting until the government had something to say.
IRNA said the “psychological conditions of the person, who took refuge in Australia two decades ago, had been discussed several times with the Australian officials.”
Iran’s state-owned Press TV said Afkham “emphasized on Monday that recourse to inhuman methods and terrorism has nothing to do with the divine religion of Islam.”
“She noted that the Australian police have been totally abreast of psychological conditions of the hostage taker, who had immigrated to Australia about two decades ago.”
Iran further tried to tie him to ISIS, noting that “the hostage taker had described Iran and the supporters of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists.” Monis was wearing a Shiite headband when he took over the cafe, yet reportedly asked for an ISIS flag during negotiations.
“Some blame the incident on those who support terrorism, including the United States, Israel, and certain regimes in the Middle East region that support such Takfiri groups as al-Nusra Front and ISIL,” Press TV reported.
The semi-official Fars News Agency ran with the headline: “Sydney Hostage-Taker Says He is ISIL Member.” Fars said the generic jihadi flag being waved by Monis was that of al-Nusra.
“The formerly Shiite Muslim underlines that he has converted to Sunni Islam, stressing that Shiites are blasphemous people,” read the Fars story. “He also underscores that the war in Iraq is not a sectarian strife, but a war between the Muslims (i.e. ISIL) and the hypocrites.”
After immigrating to Australia, Monis went to court over hateful letters written to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He was out on bail on charges of being accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, and subsequently faced more than 50 charges of indecent acts and sexual assault related to his “spiritual healer” practice.
On his website, Monis posted a statement dated December 2014, “I used to be a Rafidi, but not anymore. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah.”
“Islam is the religion of peace, that’s why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies including UK and Australia. If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society,” he said in a statement dated Dec. 14. “The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are. Islam wants peace on the Earth, that’s why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken one step towards peace.”
With the hostage situation resolved — hopefully with no innocent lives lost (reports just coming in – UPDATE: Reports say that one hostage as well as the gunman are dead) — and the release of the name of the hostage taker, Iranian-born Islamic cleric Man Monis aka Shiekh Haron, this seems to be yet another case of what I termed here at PJ Media several weeks ago as “Known Wolf Syndrome.”
In that article, following two separate terror attacks in Canada in which the suspects were already well-known to authorities, I noted that in the U.S., too, in many of the domestic terrorism cases the culprits had already been identified to law enforcement as problems. In the present case, not only was the suspect well-known, but he was out on bail on murder charges related to the stabbing and setting on fire of his ex-wife, with whom he was in a heated custody dispute.
Monis came to Australia in 1996 from Iran and his immigration status was that of political refugee. He has since had other well-known run-ins with law enforcement. In 2009, he sent a series of hate messages, which he deemed as “flowers of advice,” to the families of Australian military members who had been killed in action. He likened their deaths to the deaths of Hitler’s soldiers, as well as to families of Australian victims of international terrorism attacks. He was given 300 hours of community service.
In another case, Monis was charged with 50 counts of sexual assault, where it was claimed that he lured victims in and assaulted them claiming it was a “spiritual healing technique.”
We’ll undoubtedly learn more in the days to come about the intentions and motives of the suspect in the case. The evidence at hand clearly indicates that Monis was another example of the two-faced Islamic cleric. In this case, Monis claimed that he was “an Australian who wanted a safe future for our country” (HT: Stewart Bell) while simultaneously — and openly — hating the very country that gave him refuge.
Yet again, we have a case in the West in which a domestic terrorist was well-known to law enforcement authorities and yet action sufficient to prevent the tragedy at hand was never taken despite the opportunity to do so (in this instance, he was out on bail).
Nonetheless, this will be yet another case where so-called terrorism “experts” will be trotted out by the media and political officials to claim that Monis was a case of “lone wolf syndrome.” Or that his actions were entirely unpredictable, and the government will need more money for terrorism programs that won’t work, and for outreach to the very extremists who continue to murder, rape, and maim innocents. And the “voxsplaining” has begun, distancing the suspect from any known extremist group.
Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media that U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups were allying with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, in the south, while others were surrendering their weapons to the terror group in the north.
Now a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights indicates that Jabhat al-Nusra is using TOW anti-tank missiles, which had previously been supplied by the CIA to “vetted moderates” groups, in an assault on a Syrian army position in the north (HT: Zaid Benjamin):
Idlib province: No less than 15 soldiers in regime forces were killed by an attack by Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic fighters on their bastions in Wadi al-Deif and al-Hamdia camps, while no less than 8 fighters from the other side were killed during the clashes in the area, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic battalions have taken over the checkpoints of ” al-Za’lan, al-Raii, al-Rab’an ” around the camps. Jabhat al-Nusra devastated a tank for regime forces around Wadi al-Deif camp with an American Tao [sic] missile.
A report last month indicated that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and Harakat Hazm — both U.S.-backed and supplied by the CIA with TOW missiles — had surrendered or abandoned their weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra.
Today the timing of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s declassified executive summary on enhanced interrogation techniques used by the Bush Administration raises an intriguing list of political questions. One is even about movies and another has huge implications for the 2016 presidential race.
Now that Senate Committee’s torture report is bedside reading for our enemies, when is ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban going to release their torture reports so we can all compare techniques?
With Republicans taking control of the Senate on January 3, 2015, why did the Democrats insist on releasing this controversial report today?
Today was scheduled to be “Gruber Day” when controversial MIT professor and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber testified before the House Oversight Committee. As predicted, Gruber generated headlines embarrassing to President Obama and the Democrats.
There is no doubt that Gruber’s testimony would have been the lead story in the next 24-hour news cycle. But now, due to the torture report, Gruber’s apologetic, yet pathetic testimony will not get the media attention it deserves. (Gruber refused to tell the committee how much he was paid even though it was been widely reported that he pocketed over $2 million of your tax dollars.)
This leads one to ask, Was Gruber Day and the torture report release merely a news day coincidence?
Now let’s ask a Hollywood question.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report says that no useful intelligence was gained by these enhanced interrogation techniques.
Therefore, was the movie Zero Dark Thirty showing how these techniques gleaned information leading our SEALS to Osama bin Laden’s hiding place, just for the sake of Hollywood action? (Didn’t the Pentagon and CIA cooperate in the making of Zero Dark Thirty?) I am confused!
Finally, let’s think about the effect of the torture report on 2016 politics.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report has been condemned by the CIA and Republicans as PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson reported. It is also a five-year $40 million one-sided exercise in Bush-bashing, detailing how the Bush Administration’s reacted to the War on Terror covering the years 2001 – 2009.
As everyone knows, there is a potential Republican presidential candidate named Jeb Bush who just happens to be the brother of the president at the center of the report. Jeb is supposed to make his decision about whether to run for the 2016 GOP nomination early next year.
As a result of this report, will Jeb Bush decide against entering the race?
Think about it like this — in order for Jeb to run for president his family name needed to be somewhat restored. Thus today, with negative headlines around the world tied to the Bush Administration — coupled with the report’s gruesome details, the Bush family name is toxic once again.
These circumstances make Jeb’s potential candidacy highly unlikely. (His campaign trail safety too.) And that sets off an entire chain of 2016 political jockeying better left for another day.
Cell phone video shot by witness. Graphic content.
The New York Post reports:
Police shot and killed a disturbed man inside one of Brooklyn’s most prominent synagogues Tuesday morning, apparently after he asked for a Bible and then stabbed someone there, sources said.
The bloodshed happened at the world headquarters of the Lubavitch Hasidic sect at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights shortly after 1 a.m., sources said.
Calvin Peters, 50, had walked into the basement of the synagogue where people were praying, sources said.
According to police sources, Peters asked for a copy of the Bible, then briefly walked out, sources said.
He returned and stabbed a an Israeli student in the side of the head for an unknown reason.
“He’s a very serious student he’d been studying all day,” witness Levi Deutsch said about the victim. “He was stabbed in the side of the head he was conscious but he was bleeding a lot.”
Another witness flagged down cops who were passing the headquarters.
Officers then confronted the man in an encounter that was captured on a dramatic video.
The cops warned Calvin Peters, believed to be homeless, to put down his knife several times. After finally putting it down, he grabbed it once more and lunged at the police officer, causing the officer to fire the fatal shot.
“Most likely it is not a hate crime,” said Mony Ender, the deputy spokesman for Chabad Lubavitch in lsrael. “The assailant was not (running) amok. He stabbed one person, with an ordinary kitchen knife, although he could have attacked many more people who were there.”
However, according to the New York Daily News, the NYPD anti-terror unit was called out to the scene:
An Israeli student praying in a Brooklyn synagogue was stabbed in the neck early Tuesday after a knife-wielding maniac burst inside and yelled “I want to kill the Jew!”
…”I will kill the Jew! I want to kill the Jew!” a witness heard the attacker yelling as he entered the 24-hour religious center.
…A 25-year-old Israeli who was in the synagogue said he saw Peters enter and leave the building an hour before the attack.
“He was looking around, He asked for a book,” that witness said. “He looked not so much crazy, but different.”
When the man returned, he was armed with a knife in his hand and anger in his voice.
“I never thought it would happen in New York,” the witness told The News. “These things don’t need to happen.”
The stabbing victim is currently hospitalized in stable condition.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach kvells some wise advice in the Jerusalem Post:
On Wednesday night, my son Mendy held a demonstration inside an event held by the Students for Justice in Palestine at New York University. They were screening a documentary by Israeli filmmaker (or should I say anti-Israeli filmmaker) Lia Tarachansky, called On the Side of the Road.
…My son sought to show the other side of the story. While there were indeed hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, there were even more Jewish refugees driven from Arab lands and Iran beginning at the same time. The number of these refugees amounted to 850,000 Jews. My son and his fellow students held 6-foot signs displaying this number. These refugees fled their countries due to the fierce anti-Semitic atmosphere that had begun to envelop them. In the 1940s, and especially after 1948, pogroms were set against the Jews of the Middle East, with hundreds killed. In Iraq in 1941, 180 Jews were murdered, with 900 Jewish homes, schools, businesses and synagogues destroyed.
In Tripoli, 1945, 140 Jews were massacred and another 4,000 were left without homes. In 1947, 75 Jews were murdered across Syria, and another 80 were killed in the anti-Jewish Cairo bombings of 1948. That year 82 Jews were murdered in Aden, in what has come to be known as the “Yemeni Holocaust.”
These killings were not carried out by armies, but by enraged civilian populations who stormed the Jewish areas of their cities.
My son put this information onto signs and set them before SJP’s audience for all to absorb.
…There was another side to this story. The NYU students deserved to see it.
Get ready to laugh. Apparently the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) kids didn’t think Mendy’s demonstration was permitted. That’s right, professional protesters didn’t think Zionists had the right to protest. Then again, perhaps it had less to do with “right” and more to do with being shocked that college kids would dare to go against the campus trend.
When the SJP organizers saw him and the other students protesting the event, they were shocked. “Is this allowed?” asked the director.
It was, and Mendy had the papers to prove it. She was at a loss for words, and just stared at the display. In the decade that the SJP has been operating, they had never seen something like this inside the walls of their very own event.
…The fight for Israel at leading Western universities is the singles greatest PR war on campus.
It’s a war that is winnable if Jewish and pro-Israel students learn that the time has come to fight back.
For more than 30 years, the A-10 Thunderbolt II—better known as the Warthog because it’s so ugly—has performed a crucial role: attacking hostile targets that threaten troops on the ground, a task called close air support. The plane, designed for the Cold War, is old. It’s slow. And it’s about as sophisticated as a hammer. But it is heavily armored and wickedly armed, making it a ruthlessly effective weapon. And that is why, despite ongoing efforts by Defense Department brass to kill it, the Warthog is headed back into battle to help in the fight against ISIS.
An undisclosed number of Warthogs, part of the “Blacksnakes” 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron based at Fort Wayne, Indiana, have been deployed to Middle Eastern airbases to provide air cover to troops fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Last summer I wrote about the pencil-pushers’ efforts to get rid of this war machine that is enormously popular with the people who, you know, actually fight wars.
Thankfully, John McCain had another lucid moment and he, along with a few others, have kept fighting for the old bird.
Pentagon brass, including outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, would like to retire the jet by 2019. But the A-10 has key supporters in Congress, including McCain and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte (whose husband Joe flew the A-10 in Iraq). They argue there simply isn’t yet an adequate replacement. Not so, say those calling for the A-10’s retirement. The F-35 isn’t quite ready for battle, but they insist planes like the F-16 and the F-15E are up to the task.
That may be, but nothing elicits the same admiration for the Warthog, which is so ugly as to be beautiful, a machine designed to take no end of punishment even as it punishes those stand in its way. “Its ugliness makes it endearing,” Underwood says.
Unless you’re on the receiving end of that 30mm cannon.
The Pentagon acknowledged yesterday that it failed to rescue American journalist and hostage Luke Somers in Yemen because he was not present at the targeted location.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a written statement that the U.S. government acknowledged the attempted rescue. Somers is the only American of the dozen hostages held by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Kirby said he wanted to “provide accurate information given that it is being widely reported in the public domain.”
A Yemini official confirmed that an American journalist along with a Briton were moved before the U.S. raid. Other hostages were rescued during the raid.
Late Wednesday night, AQAP released a video Somers who tells the camera that he had been kidnapped over a year ago in Sanaa, Yemen. He goes on to say “I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I am certain that my life is in danger. So, as I sit here now, I ask, if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much,” Somers says in the video.
The Washington Post reports that the AQAP has threatened to kill Somers on account of the botched raid. “We warn Obama and the American government of the consequences of proceeding ahead in any other foolish action,” the al-Qaeda official said in the video.
The internet has made journalists of little use to terrorists. Previously, journalists were necessary to help convey information to the public about terrorist causes, but now it’s easy to release videos on You Tube or post manifestos on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, well-meaning journalists who travel to dangerous locations to report stories are also possible trophies for terrorists who love to capture Americans to show the world.
According to attorney Karam Ghobrial (“Gabriel”), his client, Bishoy Armia Boulous, a Muslim convert to Christianity, remains illegally incarcerated and has “vowed to starve himself to death,” reports MCN.
Bishoy, more notoriously known as Mohammed Hegazy, is the first Egyptian ever to try legally to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his official ID card, prompting much shock and outrage in Muslim-majority Egypt (see Crucified Again, p. 107).
Ghobrial further cited that Bishoy’s detention—in the execution chamber no less—is illegal, prompted solely by malicious charges against him, all of which stem from his original attempt to formally change his religious identity.
In the words of his lawyer: “Bishoy is imprisoned in the execution room in violation of the law. Trumped up charges against him have not been proven and he is being treated even worse [than before]. He has not seen the light [of day] since being released from Minya’s misdemeanor court.”
Bishoy was arrested in July 2014. Then, the judge in Minya cited “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” as the reason for sentencing the apostate, who in the weeks before was documenting political unrest in Egypt brought on by numerous Islamic attacks on Christians. He was eventually released, but then immediately scooped up again by State Security acting on behalf of Cairo, now under the charge of “insulting the Islamic faith.”
Bishoy’s lawyer further said that “the [current] judge is behaving in a prejudiced manner in this case because Bishoy had publicly announced his conversion to Christianity.” He stressed the “need for attention to this case, and escalating it, so everyone knows what this convert is being exposed to.”
Bishoy has now been imprisoned for nearly six months, without any action being done in his case. He is being held on charges of “contempt to the Islamic religion” and reportedly spreading “false news” about the existence of State Security “torture chambers” where Muslim converts to Christianity are detained and tortured. Bishoy apparently refuses to recant this claim (quite possibly because he himself is now experiencing it first hand).
As lawyer Karam Ghobrial maintains, it is clear that the real reason his client is being tortured in prison—where he is being held illegally under ever morphing charges—has to do with what made Bishoy Armia, formerly Mohammed Hegazy, notorious in Egypt in the first place: his audacity not only to convert to Christianity, but to try formally to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his ID card, prompting much enmity for him in Egypt.
In short, Bishoy is just another prisoner of conscience, just another born Muslim who wishes to be Christian—but whose actions have been deemed offensive to the state. His story occurs with great frequency all around the Islamic world. One need only recall the plight of Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian wife and mother in Sudan who, while pregnant, was sentenced to be executed on the charge of apostatizing from Islam. And in nearby Iran, for example, Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini—also seen as an apostate agitator—continues to rot in prison.
President Obama again used a national security loophole to keep the U.S. Embassy from moving to Jerusalem as required by a nearly 20-year-old law.
“I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act,” Obama wrote in a memorandum to Secretary of State John Kerry, mirroring what he’s written every six months.
Under the 1995 act, which was overwhelmingly approved in the House and Senate, the Embassy was supposed to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999.
George W. Bush suspended the requirements of the bill, too, but always included this sentence in his memos: “My Administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.”
The Obama administration considers Jerusalem on the table for potential division in a final-status agreement.
Two months ago, the White House accused Israel of “poisoning” the peace process with construction in Jerusalem.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Oct. 1 that the U.S. is “deeply concerned by reports that Israeli government has moved forward with the planning process in the sensitive area — or in a sensitive area of east Jerusalem.”
“This step is contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they were to proceed with tenders or construction in that area,” Earnest continued. “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere, not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
“It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
Since then, a U.S. citizen baby was killed in a terror attack at a Jerusalem light-rail station and three American rabbis were killed in a vicious synagogue attack.
As is usual for a prime minister under fire, Bibi Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset this week in a call for early elections slated for March 2015. Those on the right rejoiced as Livni and Lapid, Leftist and Center-Leftist respectively, were kicked out of their high-ranking positions in the now defunct coalition. But, that isn’t the Right’s only reason for rejoicing. As David Horovitz reports in Times of Israel, the ultra-Right stands to claim a solid victory in March 2015:
The first three instant polls, taken late Tuesday and early Wednesday, for Channel 2, Channel 10, and Walla, predict a very different Knesset array three-and-a-half months from now. The three polls produce findings very similar to one another, indicating that Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and the former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon’s as-yet-unnamed new party will win 49-51 seats together — a staggering surge compared to the 31 won by Likud-Yisrael Beytenu last time. Jewish Home also gains five seats, in all three polls, to 17. That means the right wing could muster a 66- to 68-seat coalition — a healthy Knesset majority — with no need of outside assistance. Certainly no reliance on the likes of Livni or Lapid. And no reliance, either, on Shas or UTJ. The ultra-Orthodox parties could be invited into the coalition, but they wouldn’t have make-or-break leverage.
Let’s hope they don’t. The Israeli Left was abuzz this past September during my own visit to Israel. “Netanyahu will call for early elections. He’ll form a new coalition with the ultra-Orthodox,” they shook their heads, and with good reason. Yair Lapid may be playing politics, but the former TV news anchor-turned-politician made good points regarding Netanyahu’s timing:
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party entered the fray late Monday, with chairman Aryeh Deri reiterating his own demands for entering a post-election Netanyahu government. These included cutting the 18% sales tax on many basic grocery goods, raising the minimum hourly wage from NIS 23.12 ($5.87) to NIS 30 ($7.62), changing the recently passed ultra-Orthodox draft law, restoring some funds cut by the current government from ultra-Orthodox religious seminaries and schools – and the cancellation of Lapid’s tax-free housing program, which would only apply for those who served in the military, leaving many ultra-Orthodox out.
For months I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media about the ongoing cooperation between US-backed “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel units and designated terrorist groups ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. This includes U.S.-backed rebel units who have defected wholesale to ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Despite multiple reports of this cooperation, in September the congressional GOP leadership jumped on board with Obama’s proposal to spend an additional $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates” just weeks before the Obama administration abandoned the Free Syrian Army that had been the primary beneficiary of U.S. support for the past three years.
Now reports this weekend indicate growing cooperation between U.S.-backed rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra operating in southern Syria.
According to the LA Times:
Opposition activists reported intensified government bombardment in and around Sheik Maskin and the arrival of battle-tested loyalist reinforcements.
Fighting along with U.S.-backed rebels were elements of Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
In a Facebook posting, Al Nusra supporters reported “vicious battles” in the Sheik Maskin area. Earlier posts also eulogized a prominent Al Nusra commander, Abu Humam Jazrawi, who was killed in the fighting.
Al Nusra’s participation illustrates how Western-supported rebel groups often cooperate with the Al Qaeda franchise, though both sides try to play down the extent of coordination. Recent clashes between Al Nusra Front and U.S.-backed rebels in northwestern Syria do not appear to have broken the de facto alliance between the Al Qaeda affiliate and West-backed fighters in the south. (emphasis added)
Meanwhile, in northern Syria as “vetted moderate” groups were forming an umbrella with hardcore jihadist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, other U.S.-backed units were surrendering to Jabhat al-Nusra (a trend I noted last month) and turning over their CIA-provided arms to Ahrar al-Sham, McClatchy reports:
On Friday, as the groups were meeting here, the Nusra Front stormed the bases of two moderate rebel groups in Syria’s north: the Ansar Brigades in Idlib and the Haqq Front in Hama. The two groups, both of which were receiving U.S. support through a covert CIA program, surrendered to Nusra, delivered their weapons to Ahrar al Sham and returned to their homes. (emphasis added)
And today Syria analyst Aron Lund noted that the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army signed an agreement last week with Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham for the Qalamoun area near the Lebanese border guaranteeing the imposition of sharia and creating a mutual defense pact.
The “vetted moderate” follies continue.
After Iran bought seven more months of nuclear negotiations, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared victory against the U.S. and Tehran’s support for terrorism.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 25, 2014
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 25, 2014
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 25, 2014
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 25, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department’s investigation into the Michael Brown shooting is still “ongoing” despite the conclusion of the St. Louis County grand jury proceeding.
“Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now,” Holder said in a statement late Monday. “Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”
Holder, who visited Ferguson in August, called Brown’s death a “tragedy.”
“This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve,” he said. “While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust.”
“The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.”
Holder said in early September that during his visit to Ferguson he heard people “consistently” express “compelling” concern about law enforcement incidents and a “lack of diversity on the police force.” He added that the review of “constitutional policing” practices would be undertaken by the Civil Rights Division.
“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence,” Holder continued in his Monday statement. “Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting.” CNN reported this morning that more than a dozen stores were burned in the aftermath of the verdict.
“In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force.”
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Vienna that, on the seven-month extension of nuclear talks, if Iran and the P5+1 haven’t reached an agreement on ”the major elements” by the four-month mark “and there is no clear path, we can revisit how we then want to choose to proceed.”
But lawmakers know exactly how they want to proceed — with sanctions legislation decried by the administration as a deal-killer.
“Now I want to underscore that even as the negotiations continue towards a comprehensive deal, the world is safer than it was just one year ago. It is safer than we were before we agreed on the Joint Plan of Action, which was the interim agreement,” Kerry said, proclaiming that Iran “is indeed living up to its JPOA commitments.”
“…A year ago, we had no idea whether or not real progress could be made through these talks. We only knew that we had a responsibility to try. Today, we are closer to a deal that would make the entire world, especially our allies and partners in Israel and in the Gulf, safer and more secure.”
Kerry claimed they are “not going to sit at the negotiating table forever, absent measurable progress.”
The next meeting will be in December, he said, “to drive this process as hard as we can.”
“A viable agreement would have to include a new level of transparency and verification beyond the expanded access that we’ve had under the JPOA. And as these conditions are met, a viable agreement would also include for Iran relief from the international nuclear-related sanctions that help to bring them to the table to negotiate in the first place,” he said.
“…We want to terminate the sanctions. Yes, we want to terminate the sanctions which were put in place to get us to these negotiations and ultimately to be able to bring about a deal. But the world – and I underscore this – not just the United States, not just the P5+1 – the world still has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Kerry also threw some words at “my friends in Congress,” who on both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly critical of the administration’s strategy and reluctance to consult lawmakers.
“I believe in the institution and the critical role that the Senate has to play, and the House. We have stayed in close consultation throughout this process, and we will continue to do so. And we look for your support for this extension and for continued talks,” he said.
“And I would say to those who are skeptical, those who wonder whether we should rush ahead down a different course, I believe the United States and our partners have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point,” Kerry continued. “Many were quick to say that the Joint Plan of Action would be violated; it wouldn’t hold up, it would be shredded. Many said that Iran would not hold up its end of the bargain. Many said that the sanctions regime would collapse. But guess what? The interim agreement wasn’t violated. Iran has held up its end of the bargain, and the sanctions regime has remained intact.”
Even though the State Department is trying to keep all details around the talks and agreement close to the vest, there’s buzz around Washington on whether Iran has violated the deal.
Around the same time IAEA revelations leaked about Iran feeding uranium gas into a centrifuge, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted about “how can Israel be eliminated” and tweeted about why he supports the nuclear talks, including “repelling the evil of the Great Satan.”
AIPAC said in a statement that, contrary to Kerry’s claims, “there is evidence that Iran has not fully complied with the Joint Plan of Action with respect both to its research and development of advanced centrifuges.”
Kerry confirmed Iran will be receiving “pro-rated” sanctions relief during the extension from an “already agreed upon fund that is dispersed, and since we’re living under it, we’ll live up to that agreement. But we’re not doing anything additional beyond that that I know of.”
He added that he hopes Congress will “come to see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium for a few months to be able to proceed without sending messages that might be misinterpreted and cause miscalculation.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who took over the committee from Kerry, called it “disappointing and worrying that after a year of serious talks with Iran that we do not have a deal, while Iran simultaneously stonewalls international weapons inspectors seeking access to suspicious sites in Iran.”
“The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded. I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough,” Menendez said. “I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state.”
The powerful lobbying group AIPAC called it “particularly troubling that this new extension will yield Tehran even more economic relief without increased pressure on the Islamic Republic.”
“Iran has now received direct sanctions relief valued at approximately ten billion dollars since the negotiations began, and there is no sign those benefits have produced favorable results,” they added in a statement.
“Congress delayed enacting additional sanctions over the past year to give negotiations a chance,” AIPAC said. “It is now essential that Congress take up new bipartisan sanctions legislation to let Tehran know that it will face much more severe pressure if it does not clearly abandon its nuclear weapons program. We urge Congress to play its traditional and critical role to ensure that a final agreement truly eliminates any path for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.”
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-author with Menendez of the sanctions legislation feared by the White House, agreed that it’s time to charge forward.
“Today’s announcement means that the Administration will continue to block sanctions and allow the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime to make $700 million a month—roughly $23 million per day—even as Iran advances its nuclear bomb-making program and sparks an arms race in the Middle East,” Kirk said. “Now more than ever, it’s critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency full and unfettered access to assure the international community’s security.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset today that crisis was averted — for now — without a bad deal coming by today’s deadline.
“It is very important that this agreement has been prevented as of now but a struggle is yet before us and we intend to continue this struggle in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state that would endanger us and others,” Netanyhau said. “Israel will always act on this matter and reserves its right to defend itself by itself.”
How about taking a look at your hosts…
QOM, Iran (AP) — Shiite and Sunni clerics from about 80 countries gathered in Iran’s holy city of Qom on Sunday to develop a strategy to combat extremists, including the Islamic State group that has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Shiite-majority Iran has been helping Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish forces battle the Sunni extremist group on the ground while the U.S.-led coalition has been bombing it from the air. The Islamic State group views Shiites as apostates deserving of death and has massacred hundreds of captured Syrian and Iraqi soldiers, as well as Sunni rivals.
Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, the chief organizer of the conference, appealed for consensus among Islam’s two main branches, urging all Muslim clerics to work to discredit groups espousing extremism.
Such as, the regime that routinely calls the United States the “Great Satan,” Israel the “Little Satan,” and calls for the latter to be wiped off the face of the earth? No?
Some of the clerics there said helpful things about taking ISIS down. Others…not so much.
Others repeated widely-circulated conspiracy theories holding that the United States and Israel created the Islamic State group to sow discord in the Muslim world.
“IS is a pawn whose job is to deepen divisions among Muslims,” said Mahdi Alizadeh Mousavi, a lower-level Iranian Shiite cleric.
Yahoo news helpfully notes that Iran isn’t really the model state for combating terrorism.
Iran is a strong backer of the Lebanese Hezbollah — viewed as a terrorist group in the West — and supports Iraqi Shiite militias that rights groups say have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians in reprisal attacks.
Iran also kept the Iraqi insurgency going for years. So there’s that.
Iranian and Western diplomats said nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers will be extended until July 1, 2015.
The diplomats spoke in Vienna on the final day of the group’s self-imposed, year-long period to agree on a comprehensive deal to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.
They said they will work toward a framework agreement by March 1, outlining progress made and identifying points still be to be resolved. A final deal would be reached by July 1.
Talks are expected to resume before the end of this year, though it was not clear when or where they would be held. This would be the second extension, after an original, six-month deadline expired in July.
Well, now we know why Chuck Hagel absolutely, positively had to conclude that his service to the country was finished this morning. The Easter Island Head in charge of State has been floundering on the diplomatic front so badly that Republicans might soon miss Hillary Clinton. Nothing says, “We want to thwart your nuclear ambitions,” like giving more time to the potentially dangerous party.
There is no real evidence that Kerry and our allies will get what we want from these negotiations, so the administration better appoint another Republican that they can fire next summer.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today released a “declaration of war against the Islamic State” with the intention of introducing when Congress comes back into session after Thanksgiving.
The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”
“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.
“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
It clarifies that it can’t be “construed as declaring war or authorizing force against any organization” except ISIS or direct affiliates.
It limit the use of ground forces except “as necessary for the protection or rescue of members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens from imminent danger posed by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); for limited operations against high value targets; or as necessary for advisory and intelligence gathering operations.”
The lame duck Senate, still under Democratic control, has at least one major national decision to make: confirming departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s successor. That is, if President Obama nominates Hagel’s successor before the session ends.
The Senate could and should take up an important national security bill before the 113th Congress’ clock runs out. That bill is S.2329, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014. The bill directs the president to designate Hezbollah,up to now viewed primarily as a terrorist group and national security threat, as a significant narcotics trafficker and a significant transnational criminal organization.
Hezbollah has American blood on its hands. The terrorist group bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983, killing 241 American personnel. The group was founded in 1982 and has been an officially designated terrorist group for nearly 20 years. But it has flourished, thanks to its Iranian patronage and to its extensive criminal activities. In addition to launching numerous attacks against Israel, Hezbollah has killed civilians in attacks all over the world.
S.2329 was introduced by Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in May 2013. There has been no Senate action on it since.
The House version passed unanimously on July 22, 2014. It has 321 co-sponsors in the House, including conservatives like Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and liberals like Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).
In the Senate, in addition to Shaheen and Rubio, the bill has 55 co-sponsors from both parties. Those co-sponsors include conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). It has support across the ideological divide, in both houses of Congress, and for good reason: It would enable the United States to bring new law enforcement firepower to bear against a major international terrorist group, in two key ways.
One, it would “prevent Hezbollah’s global logistics and financial network from operating in order to curtail funding of its domestic and international activities.” Two, it would “utilize diplomatic, legislative, and executive avenues to combat Hezbollah’s criminal activities in order to block that organization’s ability to fund its global terrorist activities.”
The bill would also go after Hezbollah’s broadcasting operations and its worldwide logistics network. By choking off its finances and its propaganda, the U.S. may eliminate Hezbollah as a threat both to our country and to our allies. Doing so would weaken Iran’s hand as the U.S. and our allies look to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
The U.S. has had some important successes in choking off Hezbollah’s criminal funding streams over the past few years, by prosecuting banks and individuals found to be assisting Hezbollah’s financial operations. But more tools are needed to fight Hezbollah.
The bill is needed, in short, because it would add Hezbollah’s criminal activities to its its ideological-terrorism activities as crimes which the U.S. government and our allies would vigorously fight worldwide. The fact is, while Hezbollah receives funding from Iran to conduct its operations primarily against Israel, it is also a major worldwide drug trafficking network and money laundering operation. Hezbollah is both an Islamic terrorist group and a violent drug cartel. Its cartel activities fund its mass murder attacks. But its criminal activities mostly take a back seat to its ideological activities, in terms of national security priorities and its overall treatment by the United States.
S.2329 would change that, and bring significant law enforcement tools to bear against Hezbollah. These tools will help close off the terrorist group’s finance streams all over the world, and put countries that host Hezbollah on notice that they are harboring a group that the United States now considers a major global criminal network as well as an ideological foe.
All the Senates needs to do is pass the bipartisan bill. Then it would go to President Obama’s desk for his signature, and the United States would significantly ramp up the fight against Hezbollah terrorism, all over the world.
Nicholas Kristof devoted precious New York Times space to the pleadings of one Christian Pakistani family to save their wife and mother from a death sentence:
Note: Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman, was sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam in 2010. The year before, while picking fruit with Muslim women, she took a sip of water from the local well. She was immediately accused of making the water impure by the other workers, who told her that they could no longer use the well. According to her husband, Ashiq Masih, and others, men and women started beating her and accusing her of making derogatory remarks against the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies. Asia is currently in prison waiting to be hanged after losing an appeal on Oct. 16. She has told her story in a memoir, Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water, written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet.
Below is an open letter by Ashiq addressed to the world community. (Madam Mayor refers to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has offered her support to Asia.)
Her husband writes, in part:
I live in hiding with my five children as near as possible to Asia. She needs us very much to help keep her alive, to bring her medicine and good food when she is sick.
After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the High Court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on the 16th of October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance. We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbors are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.
We are now trying our best to present the final case to the Supreme Court before the 4th of December. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mammon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.
Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on the surrender and defections of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel troops to Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate), most notably the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, which the DC foreign policy establishment was hailing as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” and Harkat al-Hazm, the first group to receive heavy weaponry from the U.S. earlier this year.
Now Mona Mahmood of the Guardian reports that elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are defecting to ISIS:
US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.
Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.
“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.
As the article notes, rebels perceive the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as a “war on Islam”:
[FSA fighter Murad] and his fellow fighters were awaiting the arrival of Isis militants in Homs, he added. “The moment Isis fighters touch the soil of the Homs countryside, we will be the first to fight with them at the front. This [US-led] military coalition is not against Isis, it is against entire Islam.”
This sentiment is hardly aberrant among the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels. As I reported back in September, the U.S.-backed Harakat al-Hazm issued a statement at the outset of the U.S. anti-ISIS bombing campaign saying it was ”an attack on the revolution.”
And I’ve also previously reported that many of these U.S.-backed and armed “vetted moderate” groups have shifting alliances that include fighting with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
As far back as July there were reports that large groups of FSA units were defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, surrendering their U.S.-provided weapons along the way, and that other FSA units were forging peace deals and fighting alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS in some areas.
While most of the D.C. foreign policy establishment was promoting the arming of the so-called “vetted moderate” FSA, a few of us were openly skeptical of any effort to back so-called “moderate jihadists.” Whether by Republicans or Democrats, such efforts in the past have always ended in tears for the U.S. and led to increased threats to our national security.
This policy in Syria has been so disastrous the Obama administration has been openly distancing themselves from their “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel partners.
Remarkably, as I noted earlier this month, congressional Republican leadership jumped on board with Obama’s policies at the very moment he was abandoning them, voting to spend another $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates.” Meanwhile, some GOP figures who supported Obama’s policies of supporting and arming the FSA since 2011, namely John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been unapologetic in the face of the collapse and defections of their “vetted moderate” friends.
It remains to be seen whether the new Congress that will be seated in January will follow the folly of the current Congress in providing training, money and weapons to the FSA. But expect these defections by the FSA and other U.S.-backed groups to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra to continue.
A mobile billboard will began circling the seats of power in D.C. today to urge lawmakers to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.
The StandWithUs campaign is scheduled to run on two trucks though Nov. 24, the Obama administration’s deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran.
The roving messages to lawmakers, which are also designed to raise public awareness, will begin rolling each morning and take loops around the White House and Congress.
“This campaign raises awareness of the dangers of a nuclear Iran, gives the public action to take to help prevent it, and lets Congress know that the American public supports them legislating stricter sanctions,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs. “Given the Middle East’s current instability, the rise of jihadist groups like ISIS, it is even more imperative that the American public and Congress do all they can to stop Iran from going nuclear.”
The billboards bear mushrooms clouds and phone numbers, with one saying, “Stop Iran from Going Nuclear: You can help. Call the White House, State Department, Foreign Relations Committee.” The one directed at Congress says, “Stop Iran from Going Nuclear: Impose Stronger Sanctions.”
The group said it fears the administration “may either make a weak agreement or extend the negotiations.”
“Since Iran insists that any agreement or extension include an easing or lifting of sanctions, the administration may use an executive order to accommodate its demands. Sanctions should not be eased, especially given the fact that the Iranian regime is deliberately obstructing international inspectors from learning about its installations and capabilities. If Iran secures an extension or the West negotiates a weak deal, Iran buys more time to pursue its nuclear ambitions,” the group said in a statement.
StandWithUs supports the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) kept from a vote at the insistence of the White House.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whose legislation also includes strict guidance for the compliance necessary to ease sanctions, said in a joint statement last week that “a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran’s illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state.”
“This will require stringent limits on nuclear-related research, development and procurement, coming clean on all possible military dimensions (PMD) issues and a robust inspection and verification regime for decades to prevent Iran from breaking-out or covertly sneaking-out,” Menendez and Kirk said.
“Gradual sanctions relaxation would only occur if Iran strictly complied with all parts of the agreement. If a potential deal does not achieve these goals, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to act decisively, as we have in the past.”
They have the veto-proof votes, in this Congress or the next.
Israelis and Palestinians expressed fear Wednesday that their decades-old conflict was moving beyond the traditional nationalist struggle between two peoples fighting for their homelands and spiraling into a raw and far-reaching religious confrontation between Jews and Muslims.
The threat — perhaps more accurately the dread — of an incipient but deadly “religious war” was expressed by Muslim clerics, Christian leaders and Jewish Israelis one day after a pair of Palestinian assailants, wielding meat cleavers and a gun, killed five Israelis, including a prominent American Israeli rabbi, in a Jerusalem synagogue.
The level of disconnect here is stunning. One does, however, have to give those participating in the “nationalist struggle” lie some grudging credit for the complete commitment to it.
The Palestinians don’t want Jews to move, they want them dead. Always have. The rational world knows that the origins of this conflict are religious, as is the fuel for keeping the fire going. Western terrorism enablers get some cover in Israel because they can frame it as dispute over territory, offering up the ridiculous “occupation” narratives. In the parts of the Middle East where there aren’t as many Jews, Christians are being slaughtered. As there are no easy tales of border wars to make up in those cases, the media largely ignores these atrocities.
The world is an increasingly dangerous place because clueless moral equivalence mongers in the West won’t acknowledge the lone, very obvious motivation for terrorism that plagues the 21st Century. The monumental effort involved in continually ignoring the common thread must exhaust them.
Call it woman power, call it feminism, and you’d be right. Turns out that old story about the mother who is able to lift a car to save her trapped baby has a new application. Now we can tell the story of the Dutch mother, who goes only by the name “Monique,” who blew past the authorities and went straight into the heart of hell to rescue her daughter Aicha from the grip of Islamic terror.
“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do,” the brave mother said. “This is what I think is right.”
At 18, Aicha converted to Islam and married a notorious Dutch jihadi named Omar Yilmaz, the Telegraph reports.
The young woman had fallen in love with the Islamic State militant and his lifestyle after seeing him interviewed on television. But as time passed, Aicha felt she had made a huge mistake.
“She wanted to go home, but could not leave Raqqa without help,” Monique said.
Authorities in the Netherlands urged the mom to stay home because it was too risky to try and get her back personally.
But once Aicha reached out to her mother last month for help, Monique decided to take off for Syria.
Donning a black burka to blend in, she made her way through Turkey and into the ISIS stronghold, where she met her daughter after coordinating a rendezvous through Facebook.
The pair crossed back over the Syrian border into Turkey, but since Aicha did not have a passport, she was promptly arrested along with her mother, according to the Telegraph.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Turkey is now mediating their return home and expects that the two will be back in the Netherlands within the week.
Okay Hollywood, where’s the movie deal? Better yet, let a counterculture conservative get their hands on the story and “let their right brain run free.” While Emma Watson trolls UN podiums and Beyonce flails around in front of flashy signs, Monique the Mom single-handedly changed the face of Western feminism in the way only a parent could. Not only did she dismiss every argument against motherhood with a wave of her hand, she bravely confronted what contemporary feminists seemingly cannot: The fact that radical Islam abuses women.
The House delivered a bipartisan jab at Iran on Wednesday just days away from the Nov. 24 nuclear negotiations deadline imposed by the administration.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced just last Friday a bill condemning the Islamic Republic on its human-rights record. It was fast-tracked onto the floor, where it passed by voice vote.
That means no roll call votes were recorded, but Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) spoke out against the timing of the resolution.
“The expansion of human rights for all Iranians is more likely to happen if current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are successful. Diplomacy with Iran empowers human rights leaders in Tehran because it weakens the claim that Iran is under constant threat which justifies the police state,” Ellison said. “Diplomacy empowers advocates to push for rights like freedom of speech and religion. If Congress wants to help improve human rights in Iran, we must engage and support the P5+1 nuclear talks.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said she hoped the resolution “is not used to undermine diplomatic efforts to reduce and provide for inspections of Iran’s nuclear program.”
The bill condemned myriad abuses, “in particular, the recent cruel execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman convicted of killing a man she said she stabbed in self-defense during a sexual assault.”
It “deplores the Government of Iran’s mistreatment of its religious minorities, including through the deprivation of life, liberty, and property” and notes “that the Administration has designated only one Iranian person for the commission of serious human rights abuses under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, as amended, since May 30, 2013.”
It also “condemns the undemocratic elections process that denies Iranians the ability to freely choose their own government.”
Engel said on the floor that any hopes that President Hassan Rouhani would be a moderate have evaporated. “In fact, on so many fronts, things have gotten worse.”
“The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, is the one who really makes all those decisions. So while we can hope for certain things, I think we have to deal with things, unfortunately, as they are, and not as we wish they were,” Engel said. “So for example, Iranian authorities have dramatically escalated the number of executions of Iranian citizens. This is from the so-called moderate Rouhani regime. According to the U.N., there were 852 executions between July 2013 and June 2014.”
“The United States has helped to shine a light to Iran’s human rights violations. We pushed the U.N. Human Rights Council to continue the work of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. Now, I have been one of the strongest critics of the Human Rights Council and its outrageous bias against Israel. But this Rapporteur has done important work to reveal the scale of human rights abuses in Iran.”
Even as negotiations continue, Engel stressed, “We cannot, must not turn a blind eye to the horrific abuses taking place in Iran every single day.”
“Under the reign of Cyrus the Great, the world’s first human rights document was issued with its tolerance for all cultures and religions,” Royce said.
“While Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions with relentless determination, it continues to repress millions of Iranians yearning for basic freedoms. Today’s resolution stands for the principle that U.S. foreign policy can and must pursue strategic objectives, like the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, while promoting democracy and human rights.”
Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. slammed the assertion that violence against the Israelis is somehow tied to whether or not there’s an ongoing peace process at the time.
Ron Dermer accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of “spreading this libel” that Israel is trying to invade the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Dermer then corrected the reporter who spoke on CNN before his Tuesday evening appearance.
“Is part of problem the breakdown of the peace process? … In the mid-1990s, we had buses blowing up. And people said at the time that was because the peace process was actually moving forward,” the ambassador said. “Now they’re saying that the reason why Jews are being massacred is because there is not a peace process. It has nothing to do with the peace process. It has to do with the fact that you have in Palestinian society people who want to murder Jews.”
“And they’re now in an environment where people are encouraging it. Hamas is celebrating in the streets of Gaza. Abbas is not condemning these types of acts. He is fueling the fire.”
Dermer said Abbas could start by ending his pact with Hamas. “President Abbas is sitting in the same government with the terrorists who are celebrating the savage murder of Jews in a synagogue,” he said. “The second thing that he might want to do is stop using the media that he controls, the schools that he controls, the mosques that he controls to incite against Jews, to incite to violence and terrorism, and spread a lie, as if we’re trying on destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is false. And he has to stop and the world has to hold him accountable.”
He said European governments are sending Abbas a clear message by recognizing a Palestinian state: “Do what you’re doing. Stay in bed with these terrorists. Continue to incite against Israel and we will give you everything you want. A different message has to be heard from the international community.”
Dermer confirmed that the FBI will be involved in the investigation of the synagogue attack since three American rabbis were killed. The other two casualties were a British rabbi and a Druze police officer.
“I don’t know if people know this, but Palestinian terrorists have killed more Americans over the last few months than ISIS has killed Americans,” he said.
“…The same people who are celebrating the murder of Jews in a synagogue were celebrating the murder of 3,000 Americans on 9/11. These are the same people. It’s the same type of fanaticism. And that’s why we have to stand together to fight it.”
Dermer called it a “joke” that Palestinian leaders justify the handing out of candy and celebration for the murders as a normal reaction to Israeli oppression.
“The Nazis had a lot of grievances. They were very upset about Versailles. They were very upset about World War I. They were very upset about their economy. No one cared, because people said nothing justifies Nazism. That’s the approach we have to have here as well,” the ambassador continued.
“Nothing justifies terrorism. It doesn’t really matter what their grievances are. You can’t have people go into a synagogue and kill people standing in prayer shawls, murder Jews in a savage way and have people dancing in the streets. This is a huge problem and the world has to stand together to confront it.”
Last week I had the honor of attending the FIDF (Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces) gala in San Francisco. My invite was completely unplanned yet still eye-opening. I happened to casually meet an FIDF officer’s wife who was displaying her handcrafted jewelry at a Greek festival, and after chatting with her for sometime her husband invited my spouse and I to be their guests at their $10,000 table. So we there you have it.
One word capped the evening best: Heartstrings. I was so moved by the evening that I needed a week of respite to digest the effect the powerful evening had on me. In fact, looking back the evening holds even more importance after news broke of the recent ISIS (ISIL) beheading of American Peter Kassig. Once again, proving how important our Middle East allies are and how we must treat them with the upmost respect.
Note to Obama: LIKE Israel, Respect Netanyahu
More beheadings brings home a renewed awareness of how critical our ties with Israel and Egypt are to the US. For starters, Israel is known as the “Little Satan” and of course the USA is considered the “Big Satan.” Egypt after all is the most open of the Middle East countries. It’s known for its great philosophers and for leading the pack. It was and still is the only Middle East country that signed a peace treaty with Israel. It holds an important key to the future of the Middle East. For those who don’t follow Middle East politics closely, Egypt is the game changer. Egypt must flourish with its great scholars and liberalism to lead the rest of its neighbors. And just in case it went unnoticed, ISIS is doing its best to be the game changer. The well-funded, well-organized group of 8 million strong (supported by 40 million last year) is baiting the USA to send even more boots to fight them then the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This call marks a new phase in war where our mad-masked enemy is not only unafraid of us, they taunting us into ground bloody assaults. Their call signals a type of bravado that we have yet to witness by any other terrorist group. I guess they think the head-rolling hobby they have going on is all that. Guess again.
Hearting Israel Stateside
Back to the gala. I’m one of those unique pro-Israel advocates who has never stepped foot in the Jewish nation-state let alone the Middle East. Closest I’ve come to Israel is Tunisia. Yet to my credit I’m likely one of the best layman’s experts on the Jewish nation-state you’ll ever meet. How so? Let me explain.
I not only converted to Judaism in 2008, launched a blog on Israel and world politics in 2009 on my jenniferhanin.com, co-founded Act For Israel, coauthored Becoming Jewish: the Challenges, Rewards and Paths to Conversion (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011) with then senior rabbi of Kehlliat Israel aka ‘rabbi to the stars’, Steven Carr Reuben, PhD, I also and coordinated a media fellowship to Israel with the Israeli MFA in 2012. Unfortunately, months later I had to pass on the fellowship as the second edition of my first book was due the same week.
Other ties to Israel? I communicate with my cousins via marriage on Facebook, and I can always count on their smiles to put a permagrin on my face. And I’m not talking about zealots who are complaining about incoming missiles but about incredible people living extraordinary lives.
So what thoughts did walk away with from the FIDF gala? Too many to report here yet suffice to say it was a uplifting evening that delivered warm fuzzies to anyone in attendance. Good friend Israeli Consul General of the Pacific Northwest Dr. Andy David was the keynote. Radio host, political lecturer and coauthor John F. Rothman MC’d the gala. Most touching? The FIDF dedicated the evening to lone soldiers who leave their countries with great pride to enlist in the IDF.
This tribute came to an obvious pinnacle when an attractive, young female soldier shared her testimonial and poured her heart and soul to dressed up strangers occupying a myriad of tables. She lost her soulmate in combat when she least expected it. Her American boyfriend was none other than Nissim Sean Carmeli who hailed from South Padre Island, Texas.
About twenty minutes later it was hard to find a dry eye in the soldout sea of tables as she graciously exited her tear-stained microphone. Why? Terrorists unceremoniously ambushed both Carmel and fellow lone soldier Max Steinberg who hailed from San Fernando, California while patrolling Gaza.
Surprisingly, Carmel’s Israeli funeral drew 20,000 many of which most were complete strangers. Likewise, Steinberg’s Israeli funeral drew 30,000 including US Secretary of State and failed Middle East diplomat John Kerry. Carmel (like Steinberg and other lone soldiers) didn’t receive a draft. Nor was he paid to pay the ultimate price for another country. He certainly was coerced into winning the affection of the brave Middle Easterner who shared her fleeting moments with her beloved before so many. Carmeli like Steinberg and other lone soldiers make a monumental sacrifice, and a colossal impression on locals who understand what it means to sacrifice it all.
Obama: ‘Our bond with Israel is Unshakable”
So president Obama made good on a cornerstone of his promise to Israel. He was part of funding the air defense system, the Iron Dome. I’ll give him that. It’s a godsend and a rockstar yet with all its hype its still far from boss as it boast an impressive but imperfect accuracy of about 85 percent. And despite the efforts to find and confiscate every short and long-range Iranian missile, Israelis are a lot of things but short of being psychic.
So what can we do to assure Obama stops embarrassing our ally and starts putting ‘leaders’ like Syria’s Assad, Turkey’s Erdogan, and Iran’s ayatollah on the hot seat? Plenty. Criticize Obama. Take it online. Keep the pressure on him. But don’t stop there. Go to bat for Israelis. Support the FIDF or any one of the laundry list of Jewish organizations out there. Need a list? Follow America’s most influential Jew who I’m proud to call my friend William Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) via @daroff on Twitter or Capital Hill friend Eli Gold, Vice President of the London Center for Public Policy, and you’ll soon learn the network.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told MSNBC this morning that he’s “not optimistic” that the P5+1 is near any sort of deal with Iran that he could support.
Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) take on a final nuclear agreement with Iran is critical because he and sanctions legislation co-author Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have promised to “act decisively” with a bipartisan majority in Congress should the administration forge an agreement that doesn’t kill Iran’s nuclear program.
“I don’t know that, as the negotiations sit right now, that they are anywhere near the type of deal that I certainly could support,” Menendez said.
“Iran with a nuclear — as a nuclear threshold state with the power to have nuclear energy for ultimately conversion into nuclear weapons, which the world is convinced that they were on a path to doing, is a threat to the national interest and security of the United States. It’s a threat to a whole host of our allies in the region,” he said.
The senator added that countries throughout the region have told him they’d have to beef up their nuclear programs in response to Iran’s development. “And of course, our ally, the state of Israel, I believe it would be an existential threat to them.”
“So the reality is, is that we cannot in our own national interest and security permit Iran to do this. And I am concerned that every benchmark that we originally stated in our negotiating posture has been moved closer and closer to the Iranians. So of course I’ll judge a deal when a deal is had, but I’m not optimistic that a deal will be had by the 24th.”
Secretary of State John Kerry is in London today to kick off “a very critical week, obviously, in Iran negotiations,” he told reporters.
“We hope we can get there, but we can’t make any predictions, nor will we. It’s imperative, obviously, that Iran work with us in all possible effort to prove to the world the program is peaceful, and we will reconvene in Vienna at the appropriate time later in the week,” Kerry said. “Our people are on the ground, they will begin work today, and we’ll see where we are.”
Last week, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) blocked an effort to force a vote on a bill requiring congressional approval on any nuclear deal, arguing that legislative action would send a “chilling message” to Iran and negotiators.
President Obama condemned the Palestinian terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue today that left four dead, saying in a statement that “there is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.”
Three of the victims — Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Mosheh Twersky — were U.S. citizens with dual Israeli citizenship.
“The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and families of all those who were killed and injured in this horrific attack and in other recent violence,” Obama said. “At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace.”
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he told Secretary of State John Kerry “this horrendous terror attack in a house of worship is the direct result of President Abbas’s campaign of incitement.”
The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying, ”The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.”
Kerry, meeting in London with his British counterpart, told reporters he was delayed by his call with Netanyahu.
“To have this kind of act, which is a pure result of incitement of calls for days of rage, of just an irresponsibility, is unacceptable,” Kerry said. “So the Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”
“Our hearts go out to all Israelis for the atrocity of this event and for all the reminders of history that come with it. This is — simply has no place in human behavior, and we need to hear from leaders who are going to lead their people to a different place.”
Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two terrorists armed with knives and axes attacked worshippers at a synagogue in the Har nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. Police responded to the scene and shot both.
One police officer was in critical condition from a shootout with the terrorists, though, Rosenfeld said.
He said police units were providing security for this morning’s funeral for the four rabbis murdered in the attack. “Thousands of people attending,” Rosenfeld tweeted.
Seven were injured in the attack, he said.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the recent attacks and directed that enforcement against those who incite toward terrorist attacks be significantly increased.”
In a tweet, the prime minister promised to respond “with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers.”
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told CNN that Abbas “must decide which side of the divide he’s on.”
“On one side you’ve got ISIS, Hamas, al Qaeda, people responsible for the most brutal attacks, the most heinous atrocities against innocent civilians. On the other side you’ve got Israel and Egypt and Jordan and other moderate countries,” Regev said.
“When you have an atrocity like this, you can unfortunately, give a motivation to other like-minded people. So we’ve got to make sure there are no copycat attacks,” he said of the need to beef up security in the aftermath. “We also, to be frank, want to make sure that there’s no hothead on the Israeli side who decides he wants to take the law into his own hands and conduct a vigilante counterattack.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said the ”massacre in a house of worship while innocent people prayed is absolutely horrifying and unconscionable.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed and injured,” Gillibrand said. “Those responsible for these heinous and cold-blooded murders must be held accountable.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he was “deeply saddened and alarmed” by the attacks and vowed to stand with the Jewish state.
“These men of faith were cruelly murdered as they were worshiping in their synagogue in Har Nof,” Paul said. “I vow to stand with Israel and I will continue to do all I can to protect Americans at home and abroad. This is a horrific act of violence that should be universally condemned. We must demand that Palestinian leaders stop the incitement, which they have committed in word and in deed. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel.”
“The senseless targeting of innocent civilians has to be stopped; it is unacceptable under any circumstances,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Ma.), adding Israelis have “endured far too many of these brutal assaults.”
This is the synagogue in Jerusalem, where Jewish worshippers were murdered by terrorists today during prayer. pic.twitter.com/sR10iIXoZk
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) November 18, 2014