Socialdemokrat säger att de som inte tror på islam ska hamna i helvetet

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The West’s shameful Iranian capitulation

Posted April 15, 2021 by davidking1530
Categories: Uncategorized

On a sweltering day in July 2018, German police pulled over a scarlet Ford S-Max hire car that was travelling at speed towards Austria. The driver, Assadollah Assadi, the third secretary to the Iranian embassy in Vienna, was arrested at gunpoint and taken into custody.

Although unusual, there was a good reason for detaining the diplomat: Assadi had used his immunity to smuggle a bomb on a commercial airliner from Tehran to Austria, intending to carry out what would have been one of Europe’s worst atrocities in recent years.

Once in Vienna, he had handed the device — codenamed the ‘Playstation’ — to two married Belgian-Iranian agents, Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, and instructed them to blow up an anti-regime event in Paris, which was to be attended by dignitaries including Rudy Giuliani and former environment secretary Theresa Villiers.

The plot was thwarted on the day of the attack after a tip-off from Mossad, saving hundreds of lives. Assadi was arrested the following day while pursuing diplomatic refuge in Austria. But as we reported in this week’s Jewish Chronicle, the treasure trove of evidence inside the vehicle should have set off alarm bells in European corridors of power — alarm bells that should be sounding especially loudly today.

The car was effectively being used as a mobile intelligence station to run agents. It contained handwritten records of trips to 289 locations in 22 cities across Europe as well as notes on bomb handling and ideas for attacks using acid and toxic pathogenic substances. Also discovered were receipts for expense reimbursements and salary payments to spies, details of computers issued to them, numerous mobile phones and GPS devices, and more than €30,000 (£26,000) in cash. In short, it revealed an Iranian espionage network in Europe that was startling in both its scale and scope.’The plot may have been a wake-up call, but the Europeans tend to wake up from time to time, then fall asleep again’

When seen in the light of the political context at the time, the arrest seemed almost ironic. Not eight weeks previously, Donald Trump had pulled America out of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reimposing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on the theocracy. The Europeans were appalled.

One of Washington’s main reasons for leaving the deal, signed by the Obama administration in 2015, was that lifting sanctions allowed Tehran to fund extensive terror networks, proxy militia and missile emplacements overseas. But even while investigators were poring over the material found inside Assadi’s scarlet Ford S-Max, policymakers in Europe’s capitals were busy designing a mechanism to allow Iran to continue to trade behind the backs of the Americans. The system, known as ‘Instex’, was launched five months later, in an attempt to neuter the deterrent from Washington.

This bizarre state of affairs cannot be overemphasised. Exhibit A: Tehran activates its extensive spy network in an attempt to blow up hundreds of civilians on the streets of Paris. Exhibit B: the Europeans try to undermine American pressure on the theocracy, shovelling more money into its maw. A cynic might call it suicide by diplomacy.

This week, history is repeating itself. Eight weeks ago, an Antwerp court sentenced Assadi and his three co-conspirators to between 15 and 20 years in prison. This was the first conviction of an Iranian official for terrorism offences since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Yet this week, the European powers pressed ahead with direct negotiations with Tehran in Vienna, aimed at expunging all trace of the Trump years and restoring the nuclear deal. By all accounts, progress was swift: a few days of discussions resulted in a ‘roadmap’ that could lead to a new agreement in as little as two months.

The Ayatollahs have never been in any doubt that the Europeans are in the palms of their hands. The only sanctions insisted on by Europe last week were symbolic restrictions on a small number of Iranian officials, a gesture of solidarity for dual nationals held hostage in Iranian prisons. Aside from this, there was simply no disguising the enthusiasm for welcoming the malignant theocracy back into the fold.

To make matters worse, in the post-Trump era, Washington is equally wide-eyed. Returning to the Obama deal has become a political pose to this new administration, which pursues it like an article of faith. It took Joe Biden just 11 weeks to go from being elected as 46th President of the United States to commencing new nuclear negotiations with Iran.

In fact, even before he entered the Oval Office, Biden had publicly telegraphed his intentions to reheat Obama’s JCPOA. In an article for CNN last September, he argued that President Trump had ‘recklessly tossed away a policy that was working to keep America safe and replaced it with one that has worsened the threat’. The Iranians, shall we say, were hardly kept guessing about America’s negotiating objectives. This was the David Cameron-Theresa May school of negotiations that produced such truly exemplary results during the Brexit era.

Unsurprisingly enough, Tehran’s foreign minister, Seyed Araghchi, opened the talks by playing hardball, insisting that all sanctions imposed since 2016 — including those unrelated to its nuclear programme — be lifted before any return to compliance. This would mean a fresh wave of dollars breaking on the shores of the Islamic Republic, allowing it to kick-start its beleaguered economy with oil exports and return to a fully functional banking system. Only then — with the influx of cash being toasted by terror cells from Sudan to Vienna — would the theocracy consider curtailing its nuclear ambitions. Or rather, consider agreeing to do so.

The United States, negotiating at arm’s length via its European allies around the table in Vienna, responded feebly by suggesting a step-by-step approach. ‘I think what essentially ruled out are the maximalist demands that the United States do everything first and only in turn would Iran then act,’ Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said. But there was never any doubt about the American endgame.

There are two Iranian spy networks in the West. The first, Department 312 of Tehran’s Ministry Of Intelligence and Security, aims at infiltrating, intimidating and assassinating Iranian dissidents who have gone into exile to campaign against the theocracy. That is the ring that was exposed in 2018 and is now being rebuilt.

The second targets Israelis, whether representatives of the state or civilians. The latter espionage group has the more difficult task. Iran knows full well that any aggressive action against Israeli citizens will meet with swift retaliation.

Israel, as the single country most threatened by Tehran (intelligence sources estimate that 80 per cent of threats against the Jewish state emanate from the theocracy) does not, shall we say, buy into the transatlantic policy of appeasement. Last week,  Benjamin Netanyahu made his position clear ahead of a visit to Jerusalem by the new US secretary of defence, General Lloyd Austin, a visit designed to calm Israeli nerves over the impending nuclear deal. ‘These type of deals with extremist regimes are worth nothing,’ he said. ‘A deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us.’

Speaking on Holocaust Remembrance Day, he added: ‘Only one thing will obligate us: to prevent those who wish to destroy us from carrying out their plans.’ On Sunday, an unexplained ‘incident’ occurred at Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz — which had just started using more advanced centrifuges — taking out its electrical distribution grid.

In sharp contrast with Israel, whatever the opposite of retaliation is, Europe is following that policy. In the somnambulant haze that hangs in the continent’s corridors of power, even a fully armed bomb, built in Tehran and on its way to delivery to a rally of thousands of people in central Paris, is not enough to raise serious hesitations abut the intentions of the Iranian regime. The planned attack in the heart of France was generally viewed, amazingly enough, as an internal Iranian issue. The security services uprooted the spy network, then returned to business as usual. As one source familiar with the matter told me: ‘The plot may have been a wake-up call, but the Europeans tend to wake up from time to time, then fall asleep again.’ And this time, Europe and America are in lockstep. One can only hope that they are not sleepwalking to their own destruction.

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McCarthy: Democrat bill to pack Supreme Court should ‘scare’ every American

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Who Are Israelis, Really? | The Israeli-Palestinian Context | Unpacked

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Episode 1: The ”accident” at the nuclear faculty: Iran, Israel and the Biden administration

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How Erdoğan uses Turkey’s courts as a weapon – Prof. Henri Barkey

Turkish courts have been weaponised by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Henri Barkey, an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Wednesday.

Writing for the Washington Post, Barkey said the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the case of jailed writer Ahmet Altan had “illuminated the utter debasement of the Turkish justice system”.

Altan was sentenced to life in prison in 2018 for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”. Prosecutors alleged the journalist and author had sent “subliminal messages” to the public ahead of the 2016 failed military coup. His sentence was later reduced to ten years and six months for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation without being a part of its hierarchical structure”.

The ECHR ruled this week that there was no evidence to support the prosecutors’ assertions and Altan’s continued detention violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Local courts have, however, repeatedly refused to comply with the ECHR.  

The case was just one of many examples of how Erdoğan “has systematically transformed the Turkish judiciary into a coercive instrument permanently on the offensive”, Barkey said. “The aim is to stifle any dissent or criticism of (Erdoğan) or his policies with the ultimate aim of eliminating all restraints on executive power.”

Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University, is also facing prosecution in relation to the 2016 coup attempt, alongside imprisoned philanthropist and human rights advocate Osman Kavala. “The accusation emanates from a spurious coincidence – that I happened to be in Istanbul on that fateful coup weekend heading a seminar on Iran and had a chance encounter with Kavala at a restaurant a few days later,” Barkey said.

Kavala remains in prison despite repeated calls by the ECHR for his release. Altan, however, was unexpectedly released on Wednesday after his conviction was overturned by Turkey’s Court of Cessation. But having been freed and rearrested before, doubts remain over his future.

“The system’s genius lies not just in its arbitrariness but also in its unpredictability,” Barkey said. “To be a critic means to live on borrowed time as one can never foresee when the state apparatus will be mobilised to persecute and harass someone or for what reason.”

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European nations warn that Iran’s increased uranium enrichment fulfills no ‘credible’ civilian purpose

By Kareem Fahim and Michael BirnbaumApril 14, 2021 at 11:31 p.m. GMT+3

ISTANBUL — A group of European nations on Wednesday called Iran’s plans to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity ”regrettable” and warned that enrichment at that level, using advanced centrifuges, had no ”credible” civilian purpose.

The joint statement — by Germany, France and Britain, which are among the signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers — also warned that Iran’s actions could complicate diplomatic efforts to revive the deal, which languished after the United States withdrew from the accord three years ago under the Trump administration.

“This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon,” the three nations said. “We call upon Iran not to further complicate the diplomatic process.”

Iran announced Tuesday that it was increasing its uranium enrichment levels, in what was widely seen as retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack on a key Iranian nuclear site days earlier. The announcement brought Iran closer to being able to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels of more than 90 percent and exceeded its current top level of 20 percent.

Iranian officials said the attack on the Natanz nuclear site damaged centrifuges and caused a fire and blackout at the facility. Israel neither confirmed nor denied that it had played a role.

The European statement reflected growing international alarm over events in the Middle East. A once-furtive conflict between Israel and Iran has burst into the open, marked by more frequent and more audacious tit-for-tat attacks, including at sea. In turn, the attack on the Natanz facility and Tehran’s reaction have cast a cloud over delicate negotiations underway in Vienna aimed at restoring the nuclear deal.

Iranian vessel was struck by explosion in the Red Sea as nuclear talks began

Iran began breaching the accord after President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, reimposed sanctions on Tehran that had been lifted under the agreement, and added more than 1,500 other measures as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.

In response, Iran increased uranium enrichment levels from the 3.67 percent purity stipulated by the deal to 20 percent — a relatively short, technical step from the 90 percent needed for the fissile material in a nuclear weapon. Iran says that it is not seeking to obtain nuclear weapons and that its atomic program is for peaceful civilian purposes.

President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran would activate advanced centrifuges at Natanz, casting the move, along with the increased enrichment levels, as “an answer to your malice,” in an apparent reference to Israel. Iran’s actions, he added in comments to the cabinet, would also win it leverage in the Vienna talks.

“We are entering the negotiations with a fuller hand,” he said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

But other participants in the Vienna negotiations characterized the talks as imperiled, either because of Iran’s actions or those of its adversaries.

“Those who undertook an act of sabotage against the nuclear facility in Natanz probably wanted to undermine the process of #JCPOA restoration. They underestimated the possibility of significant ‘side effects,’ ” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, tweeted Tuesday, referring to the nuclear deal, which is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The White House on Tuesday called Iran’s vow to increase enrichment levels “provocative” and said it “calls into question Iran’s seriousness with regard to the nuclear talks.”

A senior European diplomat familiar with the negotiations also voiced frustration.

“It’s a very serious development, I have to say, because up until now they have been doing things that were difficult to justify but more or less in the domain of a country that wants to control the full nuclear cycle,” the diplomat said, referring to Iran’s enrichment announcement. The diplomat spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the sensitive closed-door negotiations.

“If you escalate, the others will be obliged to escalate, and we will be playing into the hands of those who do not want negotiations.” 

Participants in the Vienna talks were set to reconvene in a plenary session Thursday. The talks, while characterized as constructive by key participants, have not yet arrived at a formula that will fulfill Iran’s key demand for a sweeping removal of U.S. sanctions in exchange for Tehran’s renewed compliance with the terms of the deal.

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, struck a pessimistic note in a televised address, warning that negotiations should not drag on while accusing the United States of doublespeak in its dealings with Iran.

“Their suggestions are often arrogant and humiliating, and it is not worth even considering them,” he said.

Birnbaum reported from St. Louis.

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US secretary of state: Israel’s group of friends to grow wider in years ahead

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Israel celebrates its 73rd Independence Day

 April 14, 2021Israel celebrates its 73rd Independence DaySoldiers are seen before the main rehearsal of the 73rd Anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, April 14, 2021. (Flash90/Yonatan Sindel)

Israelis make the rapid transition from mourning to celebration, as Independence Day ceremonies and festivities begin.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israelis celebrated the country’s 73rd Independence Day Wednesday in public celebrations after the coronavirus pandemic shut down all gatherings last year.

With over 50% of the country vaccinated against the coronavirus, the country has been able to largely reopen its economy and allow large public gatherings, albeit restricted to those who have been vaccinated or can show they have recovered from being sick with the virus and thus have antibodies.

The country makes an emotional switch from mourning to celebration, having marked Wednesday’s Memorial Day with somber visits to cemeteries and recollections of those who have fallen in Israel’s wars or been victims of terrorism.

“Thanks to the fallen, our nation’s heroes who are always with us, we mark 73 years of renewed life, 73 years of building the country, of impressive achievements, remarkable prosperity,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Wednesday at the national memorial ceremony.

Independence Day ceremonies are being held in communities across the country featuring speeches, musical performances and fireworks, with the main event taking place on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem where members of the government and invited dignitaries launch the celebrations on national television – one of the most widely watched events in the country each year.

Thursday is a national holiday with Israelis by the millions expected to exploit the good weather to hold barbecue picnics, go on nature hikes and visit museums and beaches.

A highlight of the day is a national flyover by Israel Air Force jets and aircraft that traverse the country flying over dozens of towns and cities, while the Israel Navy will parade some of its fleet along the Mediterranean coast, with a special sail-by off the beaches of Tel Aviv.

Also on Thursday President Reuven Rivlin will host a reception at his official residence honoring the 120 outstanding IDF soldiers, with Rivlin saying he was excited that Israel has emerged from the coronavirus closures that canceled the in-person awards event last year.

“I see your excited faces and I am happy we can hold this moving ceremony this year almost as normal,” Rivlin said Tuesday at the dress rehearsal for the event. “You are the outstanding soldiers, men and women, of the IDF, with berets of all colors, combatants, support troops, intelligence soldiers. You are, all of you together, the beautiful face of our country. We thank you, and on the morning of Yom Haatzmaut, we will spotlight you as the best of the best.”

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The State of Israel’s Survival is an Ongoing Miracle!

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Soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces sing Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

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Holocaust Survivor Commemorates Grandson, an IDF Soldier, on Yom HaZikaron

Every year on Israeli Memorial Day, Holocaust survivor Berthe Badehi tells the story of her grandson, Lt. Gil, who was a platoon commander in the IDF Armored Corps.

Yom HaZikaron is a painful day for many Israelis as they commemorate their loved ones who were lost in defense of the Jewish state.

Every year, on Israeli Memorial Day, Holocaust survivor Berthe Badehi pays tribute to her grandson, Lt. Gil, who was a platoon commander in the IDF Armored Corps.

Watch and listen to Berthe bravely share her story on Israel’s Memorial Day, stressing how we must continue to protect the Jewish State.

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Q4T: The Israeli Palestinian Conflict

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Beware the Islamist Underbelly

Beware the Islamist Underbelly


April 10, 2021 6:30 AM

Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in 2017. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

Organizations with more than passing connections to terrorist groups remain largely free to operate in western nations.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLETucked away in the east of London, Store Street is just a short walk from the enormous Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, built for London’s triumphant hosting of the 2012 Games. The squat, unremarkable home in a cul-de-sac at number 32, however, lives in a rather more dangerous world. It is from here that, for many years, dozens of businesses and charities, controlled by British representatives of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, have been incorporated and managed.

Trustees of organizations registered at the address include Mohammad Sawalha, a representative of Hamas’s political bureau; Mohammad Jamil Hersh, an Israeli-sanctioned terror activist; Zaher Birawi, a leading British Hamas representative; and Essam Mustafa, a founder of the U.S. designated terrorist-financing charity Interpal, who is described by the federal government as having “served on the Hamas executive committee under Hamas leader Khaled Misha’al.” This list barely scratches the surface.

32 Store Street and its assortment of radical proxies, it turns out, is the home of Sayam and Co, an accountancy firm apparently serving terrorist interests by hosting, managing, and keeping the books for a considerable array of extremist proxies. Ignored by the British government, it operates with impunity.


All across the West, in fact, governments have made a habit of turning a blind eye to the “support staff” of extremist movements and terrorist groups. The noisy front lines of Western Islamism naturally contain its most visible advocates: activists, lobbyists, spokesmen, community groups, mosques, and charities. But all these Islamist individuals and institutions — long locked in battle with ordinary Muslims for the control of Western Islam — subsist on a lesser-known underlying infrastructure.

It is in the quieter background that an industry of Islamist attorneys, accountants, lobbyists, businessmen, PACs, and private grant-making foundations, among other professionals and institutions, all diligently toil — working to advance radical agendas through (mostly) lawful means.

NOW WATCH: ‘Border Patrol Deletes Press Release on Detainment of Suspected Yemeni Terrorists’Border Patrol Deletes Press Release on Detainment of Suspected Yemeni TerroristsVolume 0% 

Tracking these support staff — including accountancy firms such as the Hamas bean counters in London — generates new understandings of how lawful extremist networks (along with their unlawful terror-finance arms) all operate. Studying the lawful Islamist underbelly helps analysts, law enforcement, and journalists understand the degree of collaboration and dependency between the sundry Islamist sects and their component factions.

In Illinois, for example, it is fascinating that one accountancy firm — C&A Financial — does the books for not just the Al Furqaan Foundation, a Qatari-regime-funded Salafi organization whose officials express violently extremist rhetoric, but also the Khalil Center, a Turkish-regime-linked project of a terror-tied activist named Halil Demir, a former official of a designated al-Qaeda financing outfit.

Similarly, there are lessons to be drawn from the fact that Sterling Management Group, in Herndon, Va., still remains the accountant of choice and the controlling voice for member organizations of the SAAR network, a web of charities and businesses accused by federal prosecutors during the 2000s of laundering money for terrorism.


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It is even more interesting that the Sterling Management Group recently prepared the tax returns of a number of lesser-known private Islamic foundations around the country, such as the Khandekar Family Foundation, whose recent 990 forms show that it has handed over tens of thousands of dollars to a variety of radical charities and social organizations, such as the radical North American Bangladeshi Islamic Community, a notorious proxy of the violent South Asian Islamist movement, Jamaat-e-Islami.

But of all the hundreds of bookkeepers of American Islamism, among the most prolific by far is Mustafa Afr and his firm, A&A Management, in Southfield, Mich. Almost 50 private Islamic grant-making foundations with Islamist ties, along with a scattering of radical charities, have specifically registered their offices to 26300 Telegraph Road — Afr’s office in Southfield — with an additional 30 Islamic foundations otherwise listing Afr as their accountant in filed tax returns.

Of the radical charities among Afr’s 80 clients, some of them are already familiar to federal officials. The FBI, for example, has stated that the Muslim American Youth Association (MAYA) “played pivotal roles in building [the Palestinian terrorist group] Hamas’s infrastructure in the United States.” The FBI claims that “MAYA served as a conduit for money to Hamas . . . and served as a forum where Hamas could promote its ideology and recruit new members.”

In 1995, Sheikh Muhammad Siyam was invited to address a MAYA conference, where, according to the New York Times, he told the crowd: “Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all. Exterminate them. No peace ever.” The last published IRS records for MAYA list its registered office as Afr’s office address.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox

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Another prominent Islamist charity, LIFE for Relief and Development, also had its books managed by Afr. In 2006 (the last year LIFE was listed at Afr’s office), FBI agents raided LIFE’s nearby offices and its officials’ homes, uncovering close ties to Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services. One of LIFE’s officials was jailed and the charity itself was fined $780,000. Today, LIFE is just as extreme: Its current CEO, Hany Saqr, shares extremist material on social media openly backing the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and denouncing Egypt’s President Sisi as “the dog of the Jews.”

Is Afr just a hapless number cruncher who happens to get into bed with some very unsavory clients? Hardly. To start with, he is a staunch supporter of his radical clients. In a rare 2010 interview with Arab media, Afr claimed that LIFE was unfairly “subjected to great injustice and persecution.”

In that same interview, Afr warned his Arab audience that the “Zionist lobby” seeks to “exterminate Muslims in America and uproot Islam from the whole world.” The 2008 financial crisis, Afr claims, was “fabricated” to “cover the costs” of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Muslims should beware of banks offering Islamic financial products, because “most of those who own these banks . . . are Jews.”

Indeed, to combat such purported Jewish influence, Afr established his own (short-lived) Islamic bank, as well as four charter schools, all subsidized by the taxpayer. As a wealthy man, he also established his own grant-making charity, the AFR Foundation. Curiously, he has also owned several ice-hockey teams.

I emailed Mostafa Afr to ask about his comments, his partners, and his relationship with groups such as MAYA. He did not respond.

The danger of accountants such as Afr goes far beyond his own personal radicalism. Over the past ten years, published tax returns of the private grant-making foundations both previously and currently linked to Afr’s accountancy firm disclose the distribution of over $20 million, across more than 3,400 grants, to over 700 organizations — with enormous amounts ending up in the pockets of radical groups. Some grantees share dozens of Afr’s clients as donors — suggesting a sustained, coordinated financial arrangement or, at the very least, a shared radical focus.

Thirty-one of Afr’s foundations, for example, handed over a total of almost $600,000 to Islamic Relief USA, a branch of the global Islamist franchise recently denounced by the U.S. State Department and a number of European governments because of its officials’ “vile anti-Semitic vitriol” and support for designated terrorists. In both Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Islamic Relief’s British headquarters is banned as a terrorist organization.

The main U.S. proxies for the violent South Asian Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami — Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) and branches of its sister organization, the Islamic Circle of North America — received well over $80,000 from over a dozen Afr foundations. As first revealed in National Review, HHRD has openly collaborated with the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were murdered, including Americans.

Additional huge amounts of money are reported being given to hardline Salafi and Deobandi institutions, along with many tens of thousands of dollars to groups and charities long accused of links with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, including multiple branches of the terror-tied Council on American–Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim American Society. In 2019, members of Congress called for an investigation into the Philadelphia branch of the Muslim American Society after it organized an event at which children sang about torturing and beheading Jews.

Significant amounts of the outgoing monies cannot be tracked at all. For instance, one of Afr’s clients reported the transfer of over $300,000 to a generically named “Sharia Assoc” in Egypt, with no other details offered. Meanwhile, Afr’s personal grant-making foundation reports giving significant yearly sums to an organization of which no public record exists.

Afr does not appear to serve just one Islamist cause. Several of his clients, for example, appear to cater to Shia extremists. Over $400,000 has been given to the Al-Mabarrat Charity Association, the U.S. arm of a reported Lebanese charitable proxy for the terrorist group Hezbollah. Similarly, nearly $100,000 has been distributed to institutions that overtly support the Iranian regime, such as Dearborn’s Islamic House of Wisdom and the Islamic Center of America, which have long been associated with senior Iranian regime officials.

Moreover, it is noteworthy that a considerable number of the Afr network’s payments do not stop with the first grantee. Recipients often appear to pass the money on to other, equally worrying charities and organizations. The Michigan-based Foundation for Justice and Development, for instance, has received over $100,000 from Afr grant-making foundations, only to distribute its funds every year almost exclusively to Mercy Without Limits, a Kansas-based charity whose officials were senior members of Muslim Brotherhood networks, including Afr’s old client, the terror-tied Muslim Arab Youth Association.

Much of the network, it seems, is incestuous. A substantial amount of funds is passed between current and former clients of Afr, according to the grants disclosed in their 990s. But there are also close logistical links. For example, almost $50,000 from Afr clients was given to Baitulmaal, a Texas charity that unashamedly funds Hamas proxies in Gaza, and that is currently run by Mazen Mokhtar, a former Taliban fund raiser. Not only has Baitulmaal shared officials with LIFE for Relief and Development, but Baitulmaal’s founder, Hasan Hajmohammad, petitioned for naturalization using a letter of support from Afr’s Muslim Arab Youth Association.

Whether it’s the Hamas initiative at Store Street in London or the pan-Islamist facilitators at Telegraph Road in Michigan, organized, powerful Islamist fundaments continue to operate across the West. And Afr is far from the only American example.

Following 9/11, there had been, for a while, a concerted effort to destroy such networks. In the 2000s, the federal government brought vast law-enforcement investigations and ground-breaking prosecutions targeting Islamist financiers and their support staff. Some extraordinary successes, such as the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial, served to decimate many Islamist networks across the United States.

But this zeal soon fizzled out. Varying degrees of political interference in the early years of the Obama administration led to a number of vitally important investigations’ being dropped, and there was a distinct shift of focus away from the problems of terror finance and its supporting infrastructure.

The Trump administration, whose record on the question of domestic Islamism was surprisingly lousy, did little to resurrect the Bush-era efforts to go after Islamist infrastructure, despite a promise by candidate Trump in 2016 that “support networks for radical Islam in this country will be stripped out and removed one by one.” Meanwhile, the Biden administration shows little interest in the subject of Islamism at all.

It is amid this current obliviousness that Islamism will flourish, and a new generation of Islamist “support staff” will rebuild the financial, logistical, and legal infrastructure that extremist movements operating across the world use to advance their agenda and influence.

We will pay a heavy price later if we do not remember what happens when Islamists are left to their own device.

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Arrested Iranian agent Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi in U.S. is the tip of the iceberg

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Muslim Children the World Over Indoctrinated in Hate

by Raymond Ibrahim
The Gatestone Institute

Originally published under the title ”Indoctrinated in Hate: ‘This Is the Start of the New Caliphate’.”

Documentary filmmaker Alan Duncan recently visited the al-Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria, where children ”are training … for future jihad.”

Boys throughout the Muslim world are increasingly indoctrinated into becoming super jihadis: ISIS 2.0. The news is coming in fast from a variety of sources.

A documentary filmmaker, Alan Duncan, for instance, recently made a brief video of his visit to al-Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria, run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Although 80% of the camp consists of women and (27,000) children, many of whom had fled ISIS, the camp is known as the ”Womb of ISIS.”

In the video, highlighted in a February 2021 report, eight- to ten-year-old boys appear raising one finger — symbolic of jihad. When asked about the gesture, one boy responded: ”This means the Islamic State remains.” On being asked if they want to be doctors or teachers when they grow up, one boy says, ”We don’t want to be a doctor. We want to be a brother fighter. We want to fight the apostates.” Then a woman, dressed in a black burka, declares that she wants the children to become ”mujahidin who fight in the way Allah” — who ”fight the infidels.”

According to Duncan, the reason for all this indoctrination is that:

There are already training camps in there — they are training the ISIS ideologies to the kids. They are not teaching them A, B and C — they are teaching them to hate. To hate the West …. They are training them for future jihad…. The children are victims of ISIS and their parents. They are within an extremist Islamic-controlled camp. They are not being told how to become doctors and nurses — the little girls are there to serve and breed. The boys are there to be the future fighters and the future suicide bombers…. This is the start of the new caliphate. I am certain of it. You can sense the fear in there of the religious police. They are trying to keep the structure of caliphate in there — the laws, the punishment. It’s like walking in the caliphate. It’s like walking into another world.

A camp official agreed, adding:

The women and children are radicalized — the vehicles of the humanitarian workers are even attacked with stones. The guards do feel unsafe while patrolling the camp. However, they are armed and trained.

Similarly, in Nigeria, Islamic terrorists released a 17-minute video of children undergoing ”religious education and indoctrination sessions.” According to a February 28, 2021 report:

The dreaded Boko Haram terrorists have released a video where children as young as 10-years-old were seen being trained in the art of combat and insurgency in what it tagged ‘Next Generation Fighters’. In the alleged training video, the child soldiers are seen being trained with sophisticated weapons like AK-47 rifles and Zastava M21, a very powerful weapon… The images from the video show the relatively young children dressed in combat-style clothing and balaclava participating in martial arts training, weapon handling training and religious education class….

Hate-filled indoctrination takes place in schools all around the Muslim world.

Hate-filled indoctrination and training in violence is not limited to the ”schools” of ISIS or Boko Haram. Public schools all around the Muslim world share elements of this indoctrination. Most recently, a March 2021 study exposed how the school curriculum of Turkey — for decades one of the Muslim world’s most secular nations — is also increasingly full of jihadi propaganda. Some of the report’s ”main findings” follow:

The Turkish curriculum has been significantly radicalized in recent years. Jihad war is introduced as a central value; martyrdom in battle is glorified. Islam is depicted as political, using science and technology to advance its goals. An ethno-nationalist religious vision combining neo-Ottomanism and pan-Turkism is taught. Concepts such as ”Turkish World Domination” and Turkish or Ottoman ”Ideal of the World Order” are emphasized. The curriculum adopts an anti-American stance and displays sympathy toward the motivations of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. There are anti-Armenian and pro-Azerbaijani stances. … Subtle anti-democratic messaging is conveyed (e.g., Gezi Park protests). Christians and Jews are characterized as infidels instead of People of the Book.

The curriculum demonizes Zionism and verges on anti-Semitic.

Even in the West, Muslim children are being indoctrinated ”virtually,” online, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a March 4, 2021 report (updated March 10), ”Children are being exposed to ISIS terrorism online during lockdown, raising fears of brainwashing, the British foreign secretary said.” Dominic Raab told Parliament that this rise ”of violent internet indoctrination” is occurring at a ”critical moment,” when there has been a 7 percent increase in the amount of terrorist propaganda appearing last year, adding:

This is because terrorists have digital access to those who are probably the most susceptible to extremist narratives. And we can see a worrying rise in the proportion of children and teenagers that are now being arrested for terrorism offenses.

Raab referred to the mixture of ”bored youths stuck indoors during lockdown,” where they are ”subjected to extremist propaganda online,” as the ”perfect storm.”

There is another factor in the mix: all of this unprecedented radicalization of Muslim youth in jihadi hate and violence is occurring at a time when boys in the West are being unprecedentedly indoctrinated into renouncing masculinity and embracing effeminacy. What will happen in a few decades when all these boys — those raised on absolute hate and violence and those raised on absolute tolerance and nonviolence — become the world’s decision-makers?

Raymond Ibrahim is the Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Israel comes to a standstill to remember 23,928 fallen

Israel comes to a standstill to remember 23,928 fallen

Country plunges into mourning as sirens mark start of Memorial Day; 43 soldiers and civilians killed since last year; Rivlin entreats nation: Israel must not be ‘taken for granted’

By TOI STAFF13 April 2021, 5:44 pmUpdated at 8:00 pm 

  • Israeli soldiers stand still as a memorial siren sounds during the ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)Israeli soldiers stand still as a memorial siren sounds during the ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • People stand still as one minutre siren sounded across Israel, marking Memorial Day which commemorates the fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terror in Ayalon highway, Tel Aviv, April 13, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)People stand still as one minutre siren sounded across Israel, marking Memorial Day which commemorates the fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terror in Ayalon highway, Tel Aviv, April 13, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • Israeli soldiers lay flowers and Israeli flags on the graves of fallen soldiers at the Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery on April 13, 2021, ahead of Israeli Memorial Day. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Israeli soldiers lay flowers and Israeli flags on the graves of fallen soldiers at the Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery on April 13, 2021, ahead of Israeli Memorial Day. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • An Israeli man looks at wall with names of fallen soldiers of the armored corps in Latrun's Military memorial, April 13, 2021, ahead of Israeli Memorial Day, which begins tonight. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)An Israeli man looks at wall with names of fallen soldiers of the armored corps in Latrun’s Military memorial, April 13, 2021, ahead of Israeli Memorial Day, which begins tonight. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
  • An Israeli soldier places flowers on the graves of fallen Israeli soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery hours before the start of Memorial Day, in Jerusalem on April 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)An Israeli soldier places flowers on the graves of fallen Israeli soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery hours before the start of Memorial Day, in Jerusalem on April 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Israeli soldiers visit graves of fallen soldiers in Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, on April 13, 2021, ahead of Israeli Memorial Day, which begins tonight. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)Israeli soldiers visit graves of fallen soldiers in Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, on April 13, 2021, ahead of Israeli Memorial Day, which begins tonight. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israelis paid tribute to the country’s 23,928 fallen soldiers and terror victims starting on Tuesday evening, bowing their heads for a minute of silence as sirens sounded around the country to mark the start of Memorial Day.

The one-minute siren at 8 p.m. was immediately followed by the state ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On Tuesday night, additional public memorials will be held, including at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

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During the siren, traffic around the country came to an abrupt halt, as Israelis stopped driving to stand beside their cars and people at home stood in somber silence on their balconies or in their yards.

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A second, two-minute, siren will go off at 11 a.m. Wednesday, which will be followed by the main Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, and smaller events at cemeteries across the country.

The Memorial Day events officially began at the Yad LaBanim center in Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and Chief Justice Esther Hayut in attendance.

Speaking at the ceremony, Netanyahu said Israel will make “every effort” to return its captives, which include two civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers believed to be held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

“This is a sacred mission that we’re not letting go of,” he said.People stand for a two-minute silence in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market on Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, April 28, 2020 April 28, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Speaking at the official state ceremony held at the Western Wall, President Reuven Rivlin said the message of the day was that citizens of the Jewish state must not take it for granted.

“From here, I want to speak to you, the commanders, the soldiers, those soon to enlist, the young generation. I grew up as a child at a time when we did not have a state. For me, for those of my generation, the State of Israel is not something to be taken for granted. This strong and powerful country you see was established by the heroism and dedication of young people of your age,” Rivlin said.

“Today, the task of protecting the State of Israel, is on your shoulders. Remember, without love of the homeland, dedication to mission, aiming for victory, comradeship, purpose, personal example and the purity of weapons, a free people will not be established here. The Israel Defense Force and the State of Israel, we, need you young, strong, united, united, united, determined to lend a hand, determined to continue to prevail, ready when necessary, to pay a price,” he entreated.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi said, “Out of a commitment to the current generation of soldiers and their families, we will do everything to only send them on worthy missions.”

“We will improve the IDF’s capabilities: first of all, its ability to successfully carry out missions, but no less, to protect and defend the soldiers,” he said.IDF chief Aviv Kochavi speaks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Forty-three soldiers and civilians were killed since last Memorial Day and the total number of Israeli casualties of war stands at 23,928, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry on Friday.

Since last Memorial Day, 112 new names were added to the roster of those who died defending the country since 1860.

Forty-three were IDF soldiers, police officers, and civilians, and 69 were disabled veterans who passed away due to complications of injuries sustained during their service.

The figures include all soldiers and police who died during their service over the past year, including as a result of accidents, suicide, or illness.

In a stark reminder of the toll of Israel’s wars, a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder set himself on fire on Monday outside the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation center, setting off a national reckoning. Itzik Saidyan, 26, remains in critical condition.

Unlike last year, when the pandemic saw all Memorial Day ceremonies held without audiences and smaller events planned for municipal cemeteries across the country were canceled, this year’s events will be held under few health restrictions.

On Wednesday, ministers approved removing some Memorial Day rules which included allowing relatives of the fallen who do not have the Green Pass to attend ceremonies.

The Green Pass is given to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus, granting them entry to public venues not open to others.

The new measures, effective as of Thursday, include raising the number of people allowed to gather outdoors from 50 to 100.  The current limit of 20 people indoors remains in place.A nurse stands at a grave at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery as Israel marks Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, April 28, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Memorial Day is one of Israel’s few national, non-religious holidays, during which large swaths of the Israeli public typically visit the graves of loved ones and comrades.

The general public has been encouraged to visit the graves of fallen soldiers over the next few days to avoid crowding on Memorial Day itself when close relatives are expected to attend.

The commemoration day, established in 1951 by then-prime minister and defense minister David Ben-Gurion, was set for the 4th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, the day before Independence Day, which begins immediately after Memorial Day.

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Elsa Widding 35. Mer koldioxid i luften – Bra eller dåligt?

Mer koldioxid i luften – bra eller dåligt? Det här avsnittet kommer handla om hur mycket vi egentligen kan höja halten av koldioxid i atmosfären på lång sikt och hur mycket vi teoretiskt kan pressa upp halten på kort sikt. Frågan är intressant eftersom många ser det som enormt viktigt att samhället bir fossilfritt så fort det bara går. Är det då en smart strategi att försöka minska halten av koldioxid i atmosfären eller är det bara ett led i den politiska klimatcirkusen? För att vidga perspektivet har jag delat upp problematiken kring koldioxiden i tre frågor. Därefter kommer jag in på hur mycket det ens är möjligt att höja koldioxidhalten till nivåer som är optimala för produktion av världens viktigaste baslivsmedel. Politikerna vill ställa om, bygga ett nytt samhälle och energisystem på klimatreligiösa grunder, inte på vetenskapliga. Experterna är överens om att jordens strålningsbalans påverkas av växthusgaser i atmosfären. Man avser framförallt vattenånga som ju är den helt dominerande växthusgasen men också till viss del koldioxid, metan, dikväveoxid och ozon. Det är viktigt att känna till i dessa sammanhang att den uppvärmning som hittills inträffat på de flesta håll är avsevärt mindre än klimatets slumpmässiga och oförutsägbara variationer. Koldioxidens främsta uppgift i atmosfären är att ge näring till växter och möjliggöra fotosyntesen. Ur växternas perspektiv gäller normalt Ju mer desto bättre. Sen kan man alltid diskutera vilken halt som är optimal och om det faktiskt går att uppnå den optimala halten ens med lite hjälp av oss människor. Jag pratar mer om detta i nästa avsnitt där jag kommer att visa i detalj hur media förvränger verkligheten. Sammanfattningsvis kan man säga att på lång sikt kan vi räkna med max 299 ppm koldioxid i atmosfären och på kort sikt någonstans i intervallet 600-800 ppm. Tillförseln kommer inte att kunna fortsätta för evigt eftersom tillgången till fossila bränslen är begränsad.

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If this bird was covered in oil…

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Olmert says Iran Natanz bomb could have been planted 10-15 years ago

Olmert says Iran Natanz bomb could have been planted 10-15 years ago

Former prime minister denies any direct knowledge of operation, pans Netanyahu’s ‘smug bragging’ amid spate of leaks crediting Mossad spy agency for incident at nuke plant

By TOI STAFFToday, 3:47 am 

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks during a conference in Tel Aviv, on February 7, 2018. (Flash90)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that a bomb that caused severe damage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility was likely placed there more than a decade ago, waiting for the right time to be detonated.

While specifying repeatedly that he had no direct knowledge of the operation, or who was behind it, Olmert said such an attack would have been the fruit of long-laid plans. He also slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blaming him for a series of leaks to Israeli and foreign media that attributed the strike to Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Iranian officials on Tuesday confirmed that the blast at the site caused significant harm, damaging or destroying thousands of centrifuges. Iran has blamed Israel, calling the attack an act of “nuclear terrorism.”

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“I don’t know what happened there, who set it off, if it was planted in that year or another, 10 years ago or 15, I don’t know,” Olmert told the Ynet news site in an interview.  “If these things happened, I can think of all sorts of operations that could have caused this, and it is possible the foundations for this were laid a long time ago.”

Olmert was prime minister between 2006 and 2009, famously overseeing Israel’s bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor. The development of the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear program and has been blamed on Israel and the US, was also reportedly developed during his time in office.The rubble of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear reactor, which was destroyed by Israel, on September 6, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

“These kinds of missions, whether we carried them out or not, are not ‘somebody broke in two nights ago and planted things there.’ These things happen when all sorts of machines, long before they are even installed, they are already booby-trapped and waiting for the right time,” Olmert said.

A senior Iranian official confirmed Tuesday that the blast at the Natanz nuclear facility destroyed or damaged thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Alireza Zakani, the hard-line head of the Iranian parliament’s research center, referred to “several thousand centrifuges damaged and destroyed” in a state TV interview. However, no other official has offered that figure and no images of the aftermath have been released.

On Monday, an Iranian official acknowledged that the blast took out the plant’s main electrical power system and its backup. “From a technical standpoint, the enemy’s plan was rather beautiful,” Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, the head of the Iranian parliament’s energy committee, told Iranian state television on Monday.

“They thought about this and used their experts and planned the explosion so both the central power and the emergency power cable would be damaged.”

Despite giving insights into the workings of intelligence operations, Olmert lashed out at Netanyahu, blaming him for a series of apparent leaks that attributed the attack to the Mossad.

His criticism echoed Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who on Monday called for a high-level investigation into recent apparent leaks to the press by Israeli officials regarding recent attacks on Iran that have been widely attributed to Israel’s Mossad spy service, saying they were “damaging to our troops, to our security and to the interests of the State of Israel.”

Gantz referred specifically to comments regarding Sunday’s alleged attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility that were attributed to unnamed “intelligence officials” and “Western officials,” whom the defense minister indicated he believed were in fact Israeli officials.

“This ‘Western officials’ is nonsense,” Gantz told reporters on Monday, following meetings with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, meets with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, at Israel’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv on April 11, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni)

Olmert agreed, but went further, specifically laying the blame with Netanyahu.

“I have no doubt that the prime minister of Israel, with his smug bragging, with the deliberate leaks that he either personally endorses or comes from the gang surrounding him, is doing these things on purpose to achieve several goals,” Olmert said.

Olmert said that Netanyahu, who is battling to form a government, was trying to create an atmosphere of fear that Israel faced a military confrontation in order to pressure possible coalition partners. “We know these techniques,” Olmert said.

He also accused Netanyahu of deliberately antagonizing the Americans in a bid to torpedo talks with Iran aimed at bringing Tehran back to the nuclear deal.

“All this talk of ‘foreign sources’ is nonsense. They just leak to foreign reporters in Israel,” he said.

On Monday, Gantz said he was calling for a probe “at the highest possible level” by the Shin Bet security service and by Military Intelligence’s Information Security Department. Asked who he believed was responsible for the leaks, the defense minister said he “did not know specifically where it’s coming from, but I know where it’s not coming from (Gantz’s office), and it has to stop.”

“We cannot act when everyone is chattering on with their opinion. We cannot accept these winks and fairytales from ‘Western officials,’” Gantz said.Centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, in an image released on November 5, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)

Later on Monday, the defense minister’s office said he had officially filed a request with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt, who it said was the appropriate figure to conduct such a probe.

Gantz stressed that he would not comment on the veracity of the claims or discuss any Israeli operations “if there were any, weren’t any or will be any.”

Israel officially maintains a policy of ambiguity regarding its activities against Iran, generally save for those that are in direct retaliation for attacks initiated by Tehran or its proxies.

The morning after the unidentified intelligence officials told the press that the Mossad was responsible for the issues at Natanz, Iran publicly accused Israel of carrying out the attack and threatened retaliation

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As Iran vows enrichment to 60%, White House says diplomacy the only way forward

As Iran vows enrichment to 60%, White House says diplomacy the only way forward

US condemns Tehran’s ‘provocative’ announcement it’ll increase uranium purity to 60%; Israeli analyst: With Natanz out of commission, enrichment at those levels will be limited

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIES13 April 2021, 11:20 pm 

President Hassan Rouhani, second right, is shown new centrifuges and listens to head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi, while visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran, April 10, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

The White House said Tuesday it remains committed to nuclear negotiations with Tehran despite the Islamic Republic’s “provocative” statement that it will ramp up uranium enrichment, amid high tensions in the Middle East and alleged tit-for-tat attacks between Israel and Iran.

“We are certainly concerned about these provocative announcements,” US President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters.×

“We believe that the diplomatic path is the only path forward here and that having a discussion, even indirect, is the best way to come to a resolution,” she said.

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The meeting came as a flurry of escalations in Iran and at sea threatened to derail ongoing talks aimed at rescuing Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal. The Biden administration opened indirect talks with Iran over the deal last week.US President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, in Washington, April 7, 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The nuclear talks in Vienna were set to resume Wednesday, but Russia’s ambassador to the UN said they had been postponed by a day. Russia is a signatory of the deal.

On Tuesday, Iran said it was stepping up uranium enrichment to an unprecedented 60 percent and installing new centrifuges in response to a Sunday attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, which it has blamed on Israel. Washington has denied any involvement. The 60% step will bring Iran closer to the 90 percent purity threshold for military use and shorten its potential “breakout time” to build an atomic bomb.

Iran has threatened Israel over the strike, and an Israeli-owned ship was attacked in the Gulf of Oman Tuesday, the latest incident in the shadow maritime war between Tehran and Jerusalem.

The details of the Natanz incident and extent of the damage are still murky. The event was initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls, but later Iranian officials began referring to it as an attack, and an Iranian official on Monday specified that it was a blast that knocked out the plant’s primary and backup power.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said it damaged some of Iran’s first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, the workhorse of its nuclear program. Unsourced Israeli media reports have claimed that the entire plant, with some 6,000 centrifuges, remains out of action, and that various kinds of centrifuges, included advanced ones, were damaged.

Enrichment to 60% marks a significant escalation and is a short technical step away from weapons-grade uranium. Iran had been enriching up to 20%, and even that was a short step from weapons-grade levels of 90%.Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility on April 7, 2021 (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

An Israeli TV report on Tuesday said that Iran will only be able to enrich very small quantities of uranium to 60% since Natanz is still out of commission following the Sunday attack.

Channel 13 analyst Alon Ben David said that despite Iranian officials’ vow to begin the higher enrichment process on Wednesday, they cannot do it at Natanz, since the 6,000 centrifuges there remain inoperable.

There are 1,000 centrifuges at Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility that can enrich to 60% in very small quantities, which did not appear to constitute a significant threat, the Israeli analyst said.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said its atomic energy agency will initiate preparatory steps to ramp up enrichment on Tuesday night. The report said the damaged IR-1 centrifuges will be replaced with new machines that have a higher capacity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in a statement that Iran warned it will start enriching uranium up to 60% purity.

In a report to member states, the IAEA’s director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, “said Iran had informed the Agency that the country intends to start producing UF6 enriched up to 60 percent,” the statement said.

Earlier Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attack at Natanz could hurt the negotiations in Vienna.

“Americans should know that neither sanctions nor sabotage actions would provide them with an instrument for talks,” Zarif said in Tehran alongside visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “They should know that these actions would only make the situation difficult for them.”

Zarif separately renewed his earlier warning to Israel over the sabotage, saying that if Iran determines its archenemy was behind it, “then Israel will get its response and will see what a stupid thing it has done.”Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses a conference in Tehran, Iran, February 23, 2021. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi, in Vienna to begin informal talks Tuesday night, made a point to make his announcement in English.

“We believe this round of negotiations is the time for the US to present a list and I hope that I can go back to Tehran with the list of sanctions which should be lifted,” Araghchi told Iranian state television’s English-language arm Press TV. “Otherwise, I don’t believe we can continue like this. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time.”

He said authorities would install another 1,000 centrifuges at Natanz.

“The damaged centrifuges in Natanz… would be replaced with more-advanced centrifuges and more-capable centrifuges,” he said. “We insist on what we have asked. All sanctions should be lifted, we verify and then we go back to full compliance if we are satisfied with the verification process.”

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to the IAEA, said that “those who undertook an act of sabotage against the nuclear facility in Natanz probably wanted to undermine the process of” reviving the nuclear accord.

“They underestimated the possibility of significant ‘side effects,’” he tweeted. Russia is a member of the nuclear deal.

The move to 60% had been hinted at in the past. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had threatened to go to that level in February.In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran previously had said it could use uranium enriched up to 60% for nuclear-powered ships. However, the Islamic Republic currently has no such ships in its navy.

Kayhan, a hard-line Tehran newspaper, urged Iran to “walk out of the Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, retaliate against Israel and identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage.”

Iran’s withdrawal from the talks remains unlikely as the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose main diplomatic achievement was the 2015 accord, hopes to get the US to rejoin it and provide desperately needed sanctions relief. But the announcement that it would enrich uranium further shows how pressure has been growing within Iran’s theocracy over how to respond to the attack.

Also Tuesday, an Israeli-owned ship, the Hyperion Ray, sustained minor damage in an attack near the United Arab Emirates, in the third incident of its kind in recent months. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike, but officials in Jerusalem believe Iran is responsible, according to Hebrew media reports.

Tehran and Jerusalem are engaged in a maritime shadow war, with both sides blaming the other for explosions on vessels, marking a new front in the conflict that was previously carried out on land, by air, and with alleged espionage and cyberattacks.

The MV Saviz, an Iranian cargo ship said to serve as a floating base for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces off the coast of Yemen, was struck by an explosion last Tuesday, likely from a limpet mine.FILE: A suspicious boat off the stern of the Iranian ship ‘Saviz’ in the Red Sea in 2018. (Al Arabiya video screenshot/File)

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it will return to the 2015 nuclear deal if Iran first returns to compliance. Iran has taken a hardline approach, demanding the US lift all sanctions against it first, putting the two sides at a stalemate.

Officials from the US, Iran, and European intermediaries said talks in Vienna last week were “constructive,” but yielded little progress. US officials later voiced doubts about Iran’s seriousness in the talks.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have adamantly opposed the US returning to the nuclear deal, putting Jerusalem at odds with the new White House administration.

US and Israeli security officials held a bilateral strategic group meeting aimed at collaborating in the effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon on Tuesday. The US stressed its commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran during the virtual discussion and invited Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to visit Washington in the coming weeks.

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Biden to approve $23 billion sale of F-35s to UAE that followed Abraham Accords

Biden to approve $23 billion sale of F-35s to UAE that followed Abraham Accords

New administration had been reviewing foreign arms sales made by Trump, including deal to supply advanced stealth jets reached as part of Israel normalization

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIESToday, 4:29 am 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to reporters at Israel’s Nevatim air base Monday, with an Israeli F-35 fighter jet in the background, on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Israel. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)

The Biden administration has told Congress it will move ahead with a massive arms deal to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, that was signed in the wake of Israel’s normalization deal with the Gulf nation, congressional aides told Reuters on Tuesday.

A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, which also include armed drones and other equipment, “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons.

In January, the new administration put a temporary hold on several major foreign arms sales initiated by former US president Donald Trump, including the deal to provide 50 F-35 advanced fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, which was fast-tracked by Washington after Abu Dhabi agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

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The State Department spokesperson told Reuters that estimated delivery dates to the UAE were for after 2025.

In addition to the massive $23 billion transfer of stealth F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates, another deal being paused is the planned major sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia. Both sales were harshly criticized by Democrats in Congress.

It was not immediately clear if the Saudi deal was also going ahead.

“When it comes to arms sales, it is typical at the start of an administration to review any pending sales, to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after putting the review in place in January.From left to right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan are seen on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, September 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Trump administration’s announcement on the F-35 sale came shortly after the Republican president lost the November 6 election to now-President Joe Biden and followed the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE, under which the Arab states agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

Trump had explicitly backed arms sales on commercial grounds, saying that the Saudis were creating US jobs by buying from US manufacturers.

Congressional critics have expressed disapproval with such sales, including the deal with Saudi Arabia, that then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed through after bypassing lawmakers by declaring an emergency required it. The critics have alleged the weapons could be used to aid Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which is the home of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Less than a month after the UAE sale was announced, an effort to block the deal fell short in the Senate, which failed to halt it.

Senators argued the sale of the defense equipment had unfolded too quickly and raised too many questions. The Trump administration billed it as a way to deter Iran, but the UAE would have become the first Arab nation — and only the second country in the Middle East, after Israel — to possess the stealth warplanes.

The deal was approved by the UAE during Trump’s final hour in the White House, a US official said.

The exact nature of the agreement signed that day was not clear though, nor whether it represented the contract itself. A contract would be more binding and could place financial penalties on parties who fail to follow through with the deal.Then-Vice President Joe Biden (left) and then-Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, June 30, 2015, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“We very much support the Abraham Accords. We think that Israel normalizing relations with its neighbors and other countries in the region is a very positive development,” Blinken said in January.

“We’re also trying to make sure that we have a full understanding of any commitments that may have been made in securing those agreements, and that’s something we’re looking at right now,” he added.

In a November interview with The Times of Israel, Blinken panned the apparent “quid pro quo” nature of the F-35 sale that immediately followed the normalization agreement.

“The Obama-Biden administration made those planes available to Israel and only Israel in the region,” said Blinken, who served as Biden’s national security adviser, deputy national security adviser to the president and deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration.

Israel and the UAE signed a US-brokered normalization deal in September. The Trump administration formally notified Congress of its planned weapons sale to Abu Dhabi two months later.

Despite the review, Israel-UAE normalization has moved ahead without any adverse effects over the last few months.

On the record, the three countries have insisted that the arms deal was not part of negotiations that brought about the so-called Abraham Accords.

But Trump officials have acknowledged that the agreement put Abu Dhabi in a better position to receive such advanced weaponry, and a source with direct knowledge of the talks told The Times of Israel that both the US and Israel knew that the arms deal was “very much part of the deal.”

Israel announced in October that it would not oppose the sale, an about-face from its previous opposition to the deal on the grounds that it would harm the Jewish state’s military edge in the region. That decision came after meetings held between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his US counterpart at the time, Mark Esper, at the conclusion of which the sides signed an agreement further codifying Washington’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s federally-protected military edge in the region.From left, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin stand in front of an Iron Dome missile defense system at the Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel on April 12, 2021. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Tuesday’s news that the US would move ahead came a day after Gantz met current US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Tel Aviv. It was not clear if the sale to the UAE was a focus of their talks.

Gantz is also believed to have secured an American commitment to a substantial military package to compensate for the weapons that the Pentagon was preparing to sell to one of Israel’s neighbors.

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Iran, China sign huge 25-year strategic deal; could reduce US regional influence

Iran, China sign huge 25-year strategic deal; could reduce US regional influence

Beijing to invest $400 billion in Iran in exchange for oil, report says; agreement will strengthen military ties and may undermine US leverage in Middle East

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the capital Tehran, on March 27, 2021. Iran and China signed what state television called a "25-year strategic cooperation pact" on today as the US rivals move closer together. (AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the capital Tehran, on March 27, 2021. Iran and China signed what state television called a “25-year strategic cooperation pact” on today as the US rivals move closer together. (AFP)

TEHRAN — Iran and China on Saturday signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement addressing economic issues amid crippling US sanctions on Tehran, according to Iranian state media.

The agreement, dubbed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, covers a variety of economic activity from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transportation and agricultural collaborations, according to the report.

No additional details of the agreement were revealed as Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Chinese counterpart Wang Yi took part in a ceremony marking the event.

The New York Times reported that China will invest some $400 billion in Iran in exchange for oil as part of the deal. The two countries will also step up military cooperation with joint training, research and intelligence sharing, the report said.

China is Iran’s leading trade partner and was one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil before then US president Donald Trump reimposed sweeping unilateral sanctions in 2018 after abandoning a multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran.

The deal signed Saturday could undermine US leverage over Iran ahead of expected negotiations and lessen American influence in the Middle East. Ongoing US sanctions against Iran could hamper its trade with China despite Saturday’s agreement, however.

The Times report said Iran was prepared to host direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, further suggesting that US influence in the region could be waning.Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani prepare to shake hands at the conclusion of their joint press conference at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, January 23, 2016. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

“We believe this document can be very effective in deepening” Iran-China relations, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, recalling that the pact had first been proposed during a visit to Tehran by Chinese President Xi Jinping in January 2016.

Xi and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani agreed then to establish a roadmap for “reciprocal investments in the fields of transport, ports, energy, industry and services.”

“Iran’s government and people are striving, as they always have, to broaden relations with trustworthy, independent countries like China,” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said at the time, describing the proposed cooperation agreement as “correct and reasonable.”

Xi has championed the Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to fund infrastructure projects and increase China’s sway overseas.

The deal with China marked the first time Iran has signed such a lengthy agreement with a major world power. In 2001, Iran and Russia signed a 10-year cooperation agreement, mainly in the nuclear field, that was lengthened to 20 years through two five-year extensions.

Before the ceremony Saturday, Yi met Rouhani and the special Iranian envoy in charge of the deal, Ali Larijani.

The deal also supports tourism and cultural exchanges and comes on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Iran. The two countries have had warm relations and both took part in a joint naval exercise in 2019 with Russia in the northern Indian Ocean.

Reportedly, Iran and China have done some $20 billion in trade annually in recent years. That’s down from nearly $52 billion in 2014, however, because of a decline in oil prices and US sanctions imposed in 2018 after Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, meets with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, right, in the capital Tehran, on March 27, 2021. Iran and China signed what state television called a ’25-year strategic cooperation pact,’ as the US rivals move closer together. (AFP)

Iran has since pulled away from restrictions imposed under the deal under those sanctions in order to put pressure on the other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — to provide new economic incentives to offset US sanctions. Iran is also believed to be maneuvering for leverage ahead of expected negotiations with the Biden administration.

The nuclear accord gave Iran relief from international sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program, but after Trump took the US out of the deal Iran walked back its own commitments, including by enriching uranium past the accord’s limits and barring UN inspections of its nuclear facilities. A number of other world powers remain committed to the deal.

US President Joe Biden wants to negotiate tougher conditions for an agreement with Iran, including by limiting its missile production and destabilizing activities in the region. Iran has ruled out such talks and demands the US lift sanctions before it returns to compliance, putting the two sides at a stalemate.

A US official said Saturday that it doesn’t matter “who goes first” to return to compliance with the deal, suggesting Washington was softening its position in the standoff with Tehran.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have voiced opposition to the Biden administration’s desire to rejoin the deal, putting Jerusalem and Washington at odds on the issue. Some leading Israeli officials in recent months have warned of military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

Nonetheless, Israeli and US officials agreed to set up a joint team for sharing intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program during recent strategic talks, according to a report last week.

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Israel’s Strategy To Stop Iran’s Existential Threats

Article from 26 Feb 2021

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Israel is willing to take action to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said this week. His statement framed part of a full-court press of Israel warning of Iran’s regional threats as Tehran continues to enrich uranium. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long warned of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, but the transition to a new administration in Washington has been exploited by Iran to increase its enrichment and threats. A senior Israeli defense official laid out to me this week how seriously Israel views the threat. Tehran should listen.

Israel has acted in the past to prevent Iraq and Syria from obtaining nuclear capabilities. Netanyahu warned in a 2012 speech to the United Nations that a red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Now Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei says Iran could increase the levels of enrichment to 60 percent. This is a nuclear numbers game that Iran uses like a game of chicken with the U.S., hoping the Biden administration will blink and jump right back into an Iran Deal 2.0.

For Israel, it’s essential that the U.S. understand Jerusalem’s views. Israel doesn’t want a nuclear arms race in the region. Iran is an existential threat and no matter who wins Israel’s elections next month, Israel will not accept a threat that violates its declared red lines. At the same time, Israel wants the U.S. and its Western allies to know that they can count on Israel to confront Iran’s proxies and various entrenchments throughout the region. In January 2019, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizenkot revealed that Israel had carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria. Since then, Israel has continued what it calls the “campaign between the wars” to stop Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and transfer of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

There is no substitute for U.S. power and influence in the Middle East, the senior Israeli defense official told Newsweek this week. This unshakable bond with the U.S. is essential, as is bipartisan support for Israel in Congress. Part of this support for Israel also anchors the Jewish state in the region via new U.S.-brokered peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and it is linked to U.S. support for other important partners, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. While the Biden administration has been critical of Egyptian and Saudi human rights abuses, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently indicated in a call with his Egyptian counterpart, Israel hopes this criticism will go hand-in-hand with continued U.S. support.

The threats are too grave for the U.S. and European allies, such as France and Germany, to take their eyes off the threat. Iran’s nuclear program is connected to its broader destabilizing policies, from fueling the Houthi rebels in Yemen and arming them with ballistic missile and drone technology, to moving rockets to Iraq that threaten U.S. troops and Israel. Iran today is one of the leading countries in the world for ballistic missile technology.

The strategic paradigm for Israel today is multilayered. It wants to increase its ability to deter Iran, for instance, through acquisition of more F-35s and other aircraft from the U.S., along with its own development of new air defense capabilities. It also wants Iran to end its long-running entrenchment in Syria. An American commitment to Syria, or even a U.S. deal with Russia on Syria, might reduce Iran’s freedom of maneuver there. Any new Iranian nuclear deal must prevent future enrichment and not merely enable Iran to continue enrichment after a certain time period, as the 2015 deal did. Iran was supposed to keep stockpiles of enrichment at 3.67 percent. Instead, it has installed advanced centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow.

Iran thinks that it can use this nuclear blackmail to get the U.S. and the West to do what it wants. But Israel is messaging to Washington and others how seriously it takes the Iranian threat. Iran is becoming reckless, with recent rocket attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, and is encouraging attacks on Saudi Arabia. In Lebanon, Hezbollah even fired a missile at an Israeli drone this month.

In mid-February, days after Hezbollah fired the missile at an Israeli drone, and the day before Netanyahu and President Joe Biden first spoke by phone, Israel launched a surprise air force drill in which it simulated striking up to 3,000 targets a day. A week later, Netanyahu and Gantz warned Iran that Israel was serious about preventing a nuclear Iran. Tehran should listen.

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How the IDF invented ‘Roof Knocking’, the tactic that saves lives in Gaza

How the IDF invented ‘Roof Knocking’, the tactic that saves lives in Gaza

A lengthy but fascinating article.

SMOKE RISES from the Gaza Strip following an IDF military strike, August 2014.  (photo credit: ALBERT SADIKOV/FLASH90)

December 2008 was the turning point. After a year of incessant rocket fire, the Israeli government decided enough was enough. It was time to go back into the Gaza Strip and do everything possible to take down Hamas.

While a ceasefire had been in effect for six months, sporadic rocket fire – Kassams and mortars – continued to rain down on Israel. Nevertheless, the government had initially preferred quiet. The situation was tenuous but the residents of the South were, for the first time in years, able to leave their homes with some measure of safety. The government wasn’t going to put that at risk so quickly.

In November, though, the calculation changed. The IDF received intelligence that Hamas was digging a terror tunnel across the border into Israel similar to the one that had been used two-and-a-half years earlier to kidnap Gilad Schalit, a soldier in the Armored Corps. Schalit was still being held by Hamas somewhere in Gaza and the IDF decided that the “ticking tunnel” – as it was being called – had to be destroyed.

An elite IDF force from the Paratroopers’ Brigade was sent across the border near the home under which the tunnel was being dug. In a subsequent firefight, a few Palestinian gunmen were killed. At one point, a large bomb went off in the home, bringing down the structure and collapsing the tunnel.

The Hamas response and rocket onslaught was immediate. Dozens of Kassams, Katyushas and mortar shells pounded the South, reaching as far as Ashdod. A rocket attack led to an Israeli Air Force bombing and then more rockets and more airstrikes. By mid-December the truce – tahdiya in Arabic – had completely fallen apart.

Only a handful of people knew that at the same time as Israeli diplomats were trying to salvage the ceasefire with Egyptian assistance, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IAF were busy building a bank of Hamas targets – headquarters, arms caches, command posts, tunnel openings and rocket launchers. Homes, schools, hospitals, mosques – everything was being used by Hamas to hide their weapons and everything was being added to the IDF list.

On December 27, at 11:30 a.m., what would become known as “Operation Cast Lead” was launched with the bombing of 50 different targets by dozens of IAF fighter jets and attack helicopters. The planes reported “Alpha Hits,” air force lingo for direct hits on their targets. Some 30 minutes later, a second wave of 60 jets and helicopters struck another 60 targets, including underground rocket launchers – placed inside bunkers and missile silos – that had been fitted with timers. 

In all, more than 170 targets were hit by IAF aircraft throughout that first day. Palestinians reported more than 200 Gazans killed and another 800 wounded.

OPERATION CAST LEAD would be remembered as the first large-scale war in Gaza since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Strip three years earlier. It would also go down in history for the United Nations fact-finding mission known as the Goldstone Report that would be established and accuse Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ahead of the operation, Israeli intelligence agencies knew they had to adapt. Since the withdrawal from Gaza three years earlier, they no longer had a physical presence on the ground inside the now Hamas-controlled territory. While they could use spies and electronic sensors to identify targets, they would not be able to know – in real time – what was happening inside a specific target.

What the IDF knew was that Hamas was storing its weapons in homes, in apartment buildings and under schools, mosques and hospitals. If a war erupted, Israel had to find a way to attack the targets while, at the same time, reducing civilian casualties and collateral damage.

Recognizing the challenge, the Shin Bet did something new: it created lists of phone numbers belonging to the owners of the homes, office buildings and hospitals throughout the Gaza Strip. It was a Sisyphean effort never undertaken by another military, but Israel knew it didn’t have a choice.

While collecting the phone numbers was difficult, their use was supposed to be simple. The IDF knew that there were basically two categories of targets. The first were terrorists: Palestinians perpetrating an attack or in the midst of planning one. Those people were not going to get called before being attacked. To successfully hit them, Israel needed to retain the element of surprise even if that meant some innocent civilians would unfortunately be caught in the crosshairs.

The second category included the homes, apartment buildings, offices, mosques and other civilian buildings where Hamas and Islamic Jihad had stored their weapons, set up command posts or used as cover to hide a cross-border terror tunnel. These were the targets that would get phone calls in order to give the people inside the opportunity to leave.

“We identified thousands of targets thanks to our agents on the ground,” explained Victor Ben-Ami, a 30-year veteran of the Shin Bet, who was involved in the effort. “We had a list of warehouses, factories and buildings with the understanding that the enemy had a tactic it was using to do everything it could to blend in and hide within civilian infrastructure.”

The intelligence, Ben-Ami recalled, was incredible. “We knew what floor the target we were looking for was located, what color it was, what was there, where the air-conditioning machine was located and more,” he explained.

But because Israel knew that civilians would be inside the buildings, the IDF and Shin Bet created a new operational doctrine. Before attacking, it would take the extra precaution of contacting the building owner or occupant.

The callers had a standard text they read in Arabic that went something like this: “How are you? Is everything okay? This is the Israeli military. We need to bomb your home and we are making every effort to minimize casualties. Please make sure that no one is nearby since in five minutes we will attack.” The line would then go dead.

In every case, an Israeli drone would be hovering above, watching what was happening in the home and nearby. Once it saw people running out of the building, IAF headquarters would give the fighter pilot or attack helicopter the green light to drop their bomb. In some cases, the Palestinians claimed Israeli drones were also used to launch the missiles – although Israel has never officially confirmed that it has attack drones.

Not everyone in the IDF saw eye-to-eye on this new tactic. Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch was head of the International Law Department of the Military Advocate General (MAG) Unit as Operation Cast Lead was in the planning stages.

Almost every target was brought to her for approval. In one discussion, one of the other officers around the table suggested skipping the warning stage and attacking the building even at the cost of killing or wounding innocent civilians. The building, the officer explained, had been turned into a military target by Hamas and if people were inside they too were military targets.

The argument was immediately and vehemently shot down by all the participants. “That was the definite fringe minority,” she recalled.

In discussions with combat units, Sharvit-Baruch stressed two reasons why this new tactic was critical for Israel. The first was ethical. Israel, she explained, does not callously attack civilians when they can be spared. 

“It is our moral obligation,” she affirmed.

The second reason was of political and diplomatic significance. 

“A lot of dead civilians deteriorates the conflict and creates diplomatic international pressure and continues the conflict,” she said. “It harms our interests.”

Ben-Ami agreed. 

“Whether we like it or not, this is who we are and how we do things,” he explained. “There is no plan that doesn’t take civilians into consideration. This is who we are.”

FOR THE most part the tactic worked. A building would be brought by the Shin Bet to the Southern Command’s Attack Center where it would be added to the list of targets. There, on the second floor of a plain-looking gray structure in the Beersheba-based headquarters, the IDF soldiers and Shin Bet analysts would discuss what to do and how to attack.

The IDF officers would allocate the necessary attack platform and ensure it was available. Once the mission was approved, an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer would call the owner. The drone would show that the people inside the building had left, the soldiers in the IDF command center would count the number of people who had left, ensuring the number matched up with the intelligence they had received, and they would then give the IAF the green light to attack.

The type of bomb used was adapted based on the target. If it was a private home with an arms cache hidden in the basement, the bomb needed to be capable of penetrating the roof and other floors and only detonate once it hit the basement. If the target was on the second floor, it needed to be a bomb that could be launched into a window and just destroy the second floor but nothing else. Success was often measured by the number of secondary explosions, caused by the amount of explosives hidden under the home.

For the first 40 strikes, everything worked smoothly. Some officers privately wondered among themselves why the Palestinians didn’t go to the roof and try to prevent the bombing.

“We knew that if they did that we would have to call off the strike,” one of the military planners at the time recalled.

Calls were made and empty buildings were struck. But then one day, the officer’s fears came true. One of the Palestinians, whose two-story home was a known Hamas weapons storage center, told the Israeli intelligence officer that he would not leave. Word was circulating around Gaza about the new tactic and people knew that exiting the building would mean not having a home to return to.

The family climbed to the roof, knowing a drone was above, and started making indecent gestures at the Israeli aircraft.

A disagreement broke out in the command center. Some of the officers thought Israel needed to go ahead with the attack. 

“If we don’t attack we will lose deterrence,” argued one of the officers, a veteran combat soldier from the IDF’s Nahal Infantry Brigade.

Others pushed back. The Jewish state, they said, couldn’t strike a building while knowing there were still civilians inside. The commander of the Southern Command was updated and the issue eventually made its way up to the chief of staff. Both agreed the strike could not go forward. It was called off.

The next day, another Palestinian refused to leave his home and the surveillance drone showed he had also climbed up to the roof. The commanders in the Attack Center watched the live feed with curiosity. In truth they didn’t know what to do.

On the one hand, they were dealing with a legitimate military target. Yes, it had been a house or an apartment building. But once it was being used for military purposes it had morphed into a military target according to the laws of war. The question now was about “proportionality” – a rule prohibiting attacks that may cause loss of life in excess of the military gain from the attack. This was a legal question that required constant consultations with Sharvit-Baruch and her team of lawyers.

Zvika Fogel, a retired brigadier-general, was in the war room that day. A reservist, Fogel had served as deputy commander of the Southern Command in the early 2000s. When Cast Lead broke out, Fogel was called up to run the Attack Center. Every target had to be signed off by him, whether a home, mosque or terrorist on a motorbike fleeing a just-used rocket launcher.

This war hit close to home for Fogel. On January 5, an IDF Merkava tank shot a shell at a building in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. The tank crew had mistakenly identified movement in the structure for Hamas terrorists when they were actually Israeli infantry soldiers from the Golani Brigade. Three troops were killed; 24 more were wounded.

Fogel oversaw the evacuation of the wounded. It would be remembered as one of the more complicated evacuations in IDF history. Once the tank had fired its shell, Hamas terrorists opened fire in the direction of the tank and the building and the whole street became a war zone, making it difficult to get the wounded out of the building.

The IDF launched artillery shells to create a smokescreen and provide cover for the troops to get out of the densely populated area and into the open where helicopters were trying to land to fly the wounded across the border to Israeli hospitals.

As he was overseeing the complex operation, Fogel had no clue that one of the wounded was his own son Dor who had been inside the building when the tank shell struck. Thankfully, he sustained only light injuries.

AFTER THE first time one of the telephoned Palestinians refused to leave his home, Fogel gathered his men in the Attack Center for a consultation on what to do. The home was a legitimate target and had been authorized by Sharvit-Baruch’s team. On the other hand, Fogel knew that attacking would incur too many civilian casualties and whatever tactical gain Israel might achieve from the bombing, it would be for naught.

One of the officers recalled the “Neighbor Procedure,” a controversial tactic employed by infantry units during operations in the West Bank in the beginning of the Second Intifada.

The procedure, which was eventually banned by the High Court of Justice, involved Israeli soldiers sending a neighbor or relative of a wanted Palestinian terror suspect to knock on their door before going in themselves. The idea was that the terror suspect wouldn’t open fire if they knew their cousin or neighbor was standing outside.

While that couldn’t be applied in the same way in Gaza – IDF troops were not always going to be on the ground – the officers started throwing around different ways to achieve the same goal: minimize casualties, on the Israeli side and Palestinian side as well.

“The Neighbor Procedure was an effort used to minimize harm to our soldiers and we thought how could we take it and do something else that could reduce harm to Palestinian civilians,” Fogel recounted.  

Fogel was highly motivated to find a solution. In 1996, he was commander of an artillery brigade operating in Lebanon during Operation Grapes of Wrath, started with the objective of stopping Hezbollah rocket fire into northern Israel.

Israel was determined to fight and push Hezbollah far from the border. But seven days into the operation, artillery shells fired by another unit to provide cover for an elite commando team operating in Lebanon accidentally hit a UN compound where Lebanese civilians had sought refuge. Over 100 civilians were reported killed.

While Fogel had not been involved in the assault, what happened next taught him a lesson. Later that day, in New York, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1052, calling for an immediate ceasefire. Israel, which started the operation with a legitimate cause – to defend its own people – came under harsh international criticism. Within days, the operation was over.

Now, 12 years later, Fogel was again fighting in an operation that had been launched to defend Israeli citizens and again was facing a similar problem like in Grapes of Wrath. Civilian casualties would undermine Israel’s legitimacy to act. The world would condemn the country and the government would ultimately succumb to the pressure and stop the IDF.

A couple of days later, when another Palestinian refused to evacuate his house, one of the officers on Fogel’s team came up with an innovative idea. He suggested sending an F-15 or F-16 to dip low over the home in Gaza, to break the sound barrier and try to scare the people inside.

Another officer had a different idea. The house was next to an empty field. 

“Why don’t we have a helicopter fire some warning shots into the empty field right next to the house,” the officer suggested.

The Southern Command officers liked the idea and tried it out. It worked and the residents fled the building. The problem was that the IDF would not always have empty lots next to structures it wanted to attack. It needed to come up with a better method.

“It was kind of like what we would do with a terror suspect who refused to leave his home in the West Bank,” the former Nahal Brigade officer who was stationed in the Attack Center explained. “We would first fire a standard 5.56 mm machine gun bullet at the door. If that didn’t work, we would fire a heavier cannon and if that didn’t work, we would throw a grenade.”

After a few more times, the IDF had refined the tactic. It selected a missile developed by Israel Aerospace Industries known for being small, accurate and capable of being configured to carry a limited amount of explosives.

After calling and encountering a refusal to leave the home, the air force will first fire one of these missiles on the roof. It will usually be fired into a corner, far from where people might be standing. In some cases, the missiles can be configured to burst in mid-air, minimizing even more the chances of casualties.

Once the Palestinians experience the “roof knocking,” in almost all cases they flee the building. After the Israeli drones verify the people have left, the Air Force then drops an even heavier bomb, destroying the structure.

While the IDF doesn’t say much about the weapons it uses, pictures of unexploded ordnance circulated online by Gaza residents show a missile with “Mikholit” written on it on Hebrew next to a stamp of Israel Aerospace Industries’ MBT Missile Division. Mikholit in Hebrew is a small paintbrush, like the kind an artist would use for precise painting.

The missile looks exactly like one developed by IAI called “Sledgehammer” which the company says has a range of 20 km., can carry 15-kg. warheads and weighs just 30 kg. It is this missile that Palestinians claim is fired at them from Israeli drones.

DEVELOPMENT OF the roof-knocking tactic was similar to the way the air force adapted to the use of civilian targets in the 1970s in Lebanon. These were the days before Hezbollah when the IDF was fighting against the PLO, which was regularly shelling northern Israel from Lebanon.

At the time, the term “collateral damage” was not as prevalent as it is today. The IAF had just come out of the Yom Kippur War badly beaten – over 100 aircraft were lost – and needed to adapt to a new urban battlefield in Lebanon while rebuilding its morale and deterrence.

“In the war, we were sent to hit runways where there isn’t collateral damage to worry about,” explained retired Brig.-Gen. Uzi Rosen, a former head of the IAF’s Operations Division. “You would take 10 bombs and statistically one would land where it needed to. You didn’t care if they didn’t hit exactly because the target was a runway. Same when you attacked a Syrian battalion on the Golan Heights.”

During the war, Rosen flew in the IAF’s 107th Squadron and on one flight his F-4 Phantom was hit by an Egyptian missile. Despite losing an engine, Rosen succeeded in landing back in Israel. In total, the squadron lost five planes during the war but not a single pilot. Its pilots succeeded in downing 14 enemy aircraft.

After the war, as fighting intensified in Lebanon, Israel found itself facing a new type of enemy – PLO fighters hiding with their Katyusha rockets inside apartment buildings. It presented the IDF with a new tough dilemma.

On the one hand, not attacking meant that within a day or two those same rockets would rain down on Kiryat Shmona. On the other hand, Israel really didn’t have precision-guided munitions yet in its arsenal. Civilians were always around the apartment buildings and attacking would mean extensive collateral damage.

One officer under Rosen came up with the idea to take regular bombs, remove the explosives and fill them instead with cement. This way, the bombs wouldn’t explode but would just cause damage. In other cases, the IAF took 250-kg. bombs and removed half the explosives to minimize the radius blast.

“We were in distress,” Rosen recalled.

The cement bombs were used on hundreds of targets, sometimes successfully and sometimes not as much. But it was all the IAF had until the 1980s, when laser-guided munitions as well as the Maverick – a bomb that used an electro-optical television guidance system – came into service.

Every bomb had its advantages. Laser-guided munitions required a pilot to either be directly over the target or to have troops on the ground “lighting” it up. Electro-optical bombs needed the ability to see the targets as well and sometimes have the navigator – also referred to as the “weapon systems operator” – drive the missile with a joystick all the way to the target.

“It was always a battle between the operational need to destroy a target and the collateral damage challenge,” Rosen remembered. “But it was exactly this need that started leading the defense industries and the army to develop our own precision capabilities.”

Israel’s technological leap came in the mid-1980s with the rollout of the Popeye, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. What made the Popeye unique was that it came with a smokeless rocket engine – meaning it did not leave a trail – it could be launched from a plane around 100 km. away from a target and could then be driven – via datalink – all the way there by an IAF navigator. Its control could even be handed off to another plane as needed.

Another missile that has become popular in the IAF is the Spike. Also developed by Rafael, Spike’s origins were also in the Yom Kippur War during which the IDF got hammered by Syrian and Egyptian tanks. While Israel ultimately held on to its territory both in the Golan and the Sinai Peninsula, it needed a new weapon to have the upper hand in the event of another conflict.

The Spike – called “Tamuz” in the army – was a secret until just a few years ago. It was operated by two elite units and was fired from armored personnel carriers. The goal was to use the missiles to surprise and stop future tank invasions. IDF bunkers were stocked with the missiles, which came in different sizes and models, and were appreciated for their high degree of accuracy and lethality.

But with warfare changing – tank battles are no longer really a threat to Israel – the IDF needed to find a new use for the Spike and it did, in the air force always on the lookout for new precision-guided munitions.

ALL OF this was done on the fly and in the midst of battle. During the three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF would go on to drop more than 2.5 million leaflets warning civilians to leave their homes and made more than 165,000 phone calls warning civilians to distance themselves from military targets. The roof-knocking tactic was used dozens of times.

It didn’t go unnoticed. In a report published by the United Nations, Israel’s use of roof-knocking was harshly criticized, with investigators concluding that the “technique is not effective as a warning and constitutes a form of attack against the civilians inhabiting the building.”

One case that drew international condemnation was in July 2018 when two Palestinian teenagers were accidentally killed in a roof-knocking operation on an empty building in Gaza. In a reconstruction of the incident, B’Tselem found that the IAF had fired four warning shots at the building and that the first one had killed the boys as they sat on the roof taking a selfie with their legs dangling over the edge.

The attack, B’Tselem said at the time, showed how roof knocking was not just a warning but was a real attack and therefore needed to conform to international rules of law.

Israel has rejected this assumption. 

“Even if warning shots are considered an ‘attack,’ it is incorrect to view them as an attack ‘against civilians’ because they are not fired at civilians, since the objective of their use is to avoid harm to civilians,” explained Sharvit-Baruch, the IDF legal expert.

Despite the criticism, Israel has continued in the years since Cast Lead to use roof-knocking in its Gaza operations, out of a combination of tactical and strategic interests.

Tactically, commanders recognize the need to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties. Strategically, Israel’s political and military leaders know that when there are fewer casualties, there is less of a chance of a wider escalation with Hamas. Both are clear Israeli interests.

With the International Criminal Court in The Hague now investigating Israel’s 2014 war in Gaza, Israel will once again have to defend its tactics and explain what precautions it takes to minimize civilian casualties, an effort in which roof knocking plays a critical role.

When looking back on the day in 2009 when the IDF came up with roof knocking, it illustrated a determination to adhere to a level of morality not often seen in the midst of battle.

Israel could have taken the easy way out and attacked without phone calls or warning strikes. But it didn’t. The IDF officers and soldiers in the command center adapted to an evolving situation without having a thoroughly thought-out or carefully crafted doctrine for what to do, nor special technology that would guarantee success.

But, they had their objective – to adhere to Jewish values of going the extra mile to protect civilian life – and they acted accordingly. That is the story of roof knocking. 

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IDF’s Point Man on Iran Says Israel ‘Definitely’ Has Capacity to Destroy Nuclear Program, Biden Administration ‘Keeping Its Promises’ So Far

IDF’s Point Man on Iran Says Israel ‘Definitely’ Has Capacity to Destroy Nuclear Program, Biden Administration ‘Keeping Its Promises’ So Far

Algemeiner 30 March 2021

The head of the IDF directorate tasked with dealing with the Iran nuclear issue said that the Biden administration largely sees the situation as Israel does, and is so far “keeping its promises.”

Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman, who heads the Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate and has participated in discussions with the Biden White House at the highest levels, told Israel Hayom that “the first stage is to be aligned with [the US] on the intelligence picture.”

“I think that in very high percentages they see the situation as we do,” he said.

Asked about Israel’s concern that many officials who negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently opposed, have returned to office, Kalman said, “It’s true that in some of the cases these are the same people, but it’s not the same administration.”

“So far, this administration is keeping its promises,” he asserted. “It has come to listen, not rush to a new deal.”

“So, I think there’s a space of a few months to try and influence the administration’s policy,” Kalman said. “Even the Americans are clearly saying they will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear capability. Now, the question is how to act in this situation.”

Israel’s position, he added, is “we’re saying ‘yes’ to a deal that will be longer and stronger” than the 2015 agreement.

Asked whether Israel has the military capability to completely destroy Iran’s nuclear program if necessary, Kalman said, “The answer is yes. When we build these capabilities, we build them to be operational.”

“It’s not that there aren’t many strategic dilemmas, since the day after Iran can go back to the plan, but the ability exists,” he said. “Definitely.”

Regarding a possible strategy of turning the tables on Iran — which has sought to entrench itself on Israel’s borders — by positioning Israeli assets on Iran’s borders, Kalman said, “We need to strengthen that component in the set of actions we’re doing.”

One aspect of this is the Abraham Accords, which have made Gulf states bordering Iran strategic partners of Israel, he added.

“I think the Iranian leader, whose strategy is to base Iran on Israel’s borders, wakes up these days and is very concerned, because he sees potential for Israel to be based around his own borders. It’s a major change,” said Kalman.

The former fighter pilot became a major general in 2020, and took charge over the new, Iran-focused position on the IDF’s General Staff.

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Chinese ‘militia vessels’ menace Philippines coast, says Manila

Chinese ‘militia vessels’ menace Philippines coast, says Manila 

April 11, 2021Chinese ‘militia vessels’ menace Philippines coast, says ManilaChinese vessels are moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea on March 27, 2021. (National Task Force-West Philippine Sea via AP)

The U.S. criticized China for sending vessels near the Philippines as one of Beijing’s efforts to intimidate a smaller nation in the region.

By Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday discussed with his Philippine counterpart China’s recent positioning of “militia vessels” near the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Austin spoke by phone with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana while Austin was flying from Washington to Israel to begin an international trip.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Austin and Lorenzana discussed the situation in the South China Sea and the recent massing of Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, which has drawn criticism from Manila.

China has said its vessels are there for fishing.

In their phone call, Austin proposed to Lorenzana several measures to deepen defense cooperation, including by “enhancing situational awareness of threats in the South China Sea,” Kirby said. He did not elaborate.

Kirby said earlier this week that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its strike group, as well as the amphibious ship USS Makin Island, are operating in the South China Sea.

The U.S. has no military forces based permanently in the Philippines but sometimes rotates forces to the country under the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement.

The recent gathering of Chinese vessels near the Philippines is among moves the United States has criticized as efforts by Beijing to intimidate smaller nations in the region.

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Joe Biden has shut down ICE, ‘people are going to die’

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Hamas party bosses jockey for power ahead of Palestinian elections

Hamas party bosses jockey for power ahead of Palestinian elections 

April 13, 2021Hamas party bosses jockey for power ahead of Palestinian electionsHead of the Hamas terror group, Khaled Mashal (AP Photo Bassem Tellawi)

Khaled Mashaal was previously head of the terror organization’s overall political bureau until four years ago, when he was replaced by Ismail Haniyeh.


Internal Hamas elections have resulted in Khaled Mashal being elected as head of the organization’s overseas operations, reports said on Monday. He will replace incumbent Maher Salah.

Mashal previously served as head of Hamas’s overall political bureau—the top post in the Islamist organization—until four years ago, when he was replaced by Ismail Haniyeh.

The appointment could now clear the path for Haniyeh to serve a second term as head of the overall political bureau, according to news reports.

The elections follow Hamas votes for other key positions. In recent weeks, Yihya Sinwar won an internal vote for a second term as head of the organization in the Gaza Strip, narrowly beating challenger Nizar Awadallah, described by Hamas observers as a representative of the organization’s old guard.

According to Israel Defense Forces Col. David Hacham (ret.), a former adviser on Arab affairs to seven Israeli Ministers of Defense, it took four rounds for Sinwar to assure a majority, meaning that he came close to being defeated after just a single term.

Hacham said Sinwar has faced internal criticism over his policies in Gaza, such as his willingness to enter into a long-term truce with Israel and his failure to significantly improve the quality of life for an estimated 2 million Gazans.

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Israel remembers its fallen, those who sacrificed all

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60% uranium: Iran begins enriching to highest level ever

60% uranium: Iran begins enriching to highest level ever 

April 13, 202160% uranium: Iran begins enriching to highest level everIranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (AP/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

The announcement marks a significant escalation after the sabotage, suspected of having been carried out by Israel.

By Associated Press

Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, higher than the program ever has before though still short of weapons grade, after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, an Iranian negotiator said Tuesday.

The announcement marks a significant escalation after the sabotage, suspected of having been carried out by Israel. It could result in further action by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and further raise tensions across the Mideast.

Already earlier in the day, Iran’s foreign minister had warned that the weekend assault could hurt ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers. Those talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to re-enter the agreement, the goal of which is to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment in exchange for relief on sanctions.

“We believe that this round of negotiations is the time for the U.S. to present a list. I hope that I can go back to Tehran with the list of sanctions that will be lifted,” nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi said in Vienna, where the talks have been taking place. “Otherwise, I don’t believe we can continue like this. Otherwise, I believe this would be a waste of time.”

Aragchi said informal talks would start Tuesday night, with a formal session beginning Thursday.

Iran had been enriching up to 20% — even that was a short technical step to weapons-grade levels of 90%.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of the media reports of Araghchi’s comment, which was quoted by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, but had no comment at the time.

Press TV, the Iranian state television’s English-language arm, separately said that the IAEA had been informed of the move. It said the enrichment would begin as of Wednesday.

The broadcaster also quoted the negotiator as saying Iran would introduce another 1,000 centrifuges at Natanz, without elaborating.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had threatened to go to 60% enrichment in February if the country needed.

“We are determined to develop our nuclear capabilities in line with the needs of the country,” Khamenei said then, according to a transcript of his speech published by his website. “For this reason, Iran’s enrichment will not be limited to 20%, and we will take whatever action is necessary for the country.”

Iran previously had said it could use uranium enriched up to 60% for nuclear-powered ships. The Islamic Republic currently has no such ships in its navy.

Details remained scarce about the weekend attack at Natanz. The event was initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls — but later Iranian officials began referring to it as an attack.

The U.S. has insisted it had nothing to do with Sunday’s sabotage. Instead, Israel is widely believed to have carried out the assault that damaged centrifuges, though it has not claimed it.

But earlier Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif still issued a warning to Washington.

“Americans should know that neither sanctions nor sabotage actions would provide them with an instrument for talks,” Zarif said in Tehran alongside visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “They should know that these actions would only make the situation difficult for them.”

Zarif separately renewed his earlier warning to Israel over the sabotage, saying that if Iran determines its archenemy was behind it, “then Israel will get its response and will see what a stupid thing it has done.”

Kayhan, the hard-line Tehran newspaper, urged Iran to “walk out of the Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, retaliate against Israel and identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage.”

“Despite evidence that shows the role of the U.S. as main instigator of nuclear sabotage against Iran, unfortunately some statesmen, by purging the U.S. of responsibility, (aid) Washington’s crimes against the people of Iran,” the paper said in Tuesday’s editions.

While Kayhan is a small-circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.

Such a walkout remains unlikely as the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose main diplomatic achievement was the 2015 accord, hopes to get the U.S. to rejoin it and provide desperately needed sanctions relief. However, pressure does appear to be growing within Iran’s theocracy over how to respond to the attack.

The talks in Vienna — among Iran, world powers still in the deal and the U.S. — are aimed at reviving America’s role in the agreement that former President Donald Trump abandoned and lifting the sanctions he imposed. Iran, in turn, would return to the limits set by the deal and dilute its growing stockpile of uranium — some of which has been enriched up to a short step away from weapons-grade levels.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, though the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program up until the end of 2003. However, the deal prevents it from having enough of a uranium stockpile to be able to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Rouhani met later Tuesday with Lavrov and stressed the importance of all parties returning to the deal. Russia is a member of the nuclear deal.

“We are neither ready to accept less than that, nor are we after achieving more than that,” he said.

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In Photos: Israeli Troops Prepare for Battle

In Photos: Israeli Troops Prepare for Battle

IDF conducts major military exercise on the Golan Heights as tensions with Syria and Lebanon escalateApril 13, 2021 | Michael Selutin

IDF troops train in the north
Michael Giladi/Flash90

At the end of March, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded a massive 17-week training session that began last November. The maneuvers were conducted in the Golan Heights amid increased concerns of an attack by Hezbollah or other Iran-backed militias.Michael Giladi/Flash90

The next war will come from the north.

The highlight was maneuvers by the 188th Armored Brigade. But the battle scenarios required collaboration with infantry, artillery and attack helicopters. A spokesman for the brigade explained the importance of a “combined arms” approach: “Our tanks do not act alone. Each unit always cooperates with other units. This exercise emphasized joint formations and coordination.”Ofer Zidon/FLASH90

Israel’s vaunted Merkava main battle tank, with Mount Hermon in the background.

A combined arms approach calls upon the tanks to not only advance into enemy territory, but to also act as scouts and communicate battlefield conditions to other units in real time. In preparation for this role, 188th has been equipped with upgraded digital communications systems and sensors.Michael Giladi/Flash90

In the next war, Israeli forces will work in a more coordinated way than ever before.

Also on display was the new TROPHY system installed on the Merkava tanks to protect them from incoming projectiles. The advanced system can quickly detect incoming projectiles and shoot them down with small interceptor missiles. A tank protected in this way can advance particularly quickly, locate enemy positions and communicate this to other units, which can then attack from the sky, sea or land.Michael Giladi/Flash90

Prayer break. No matter how advanced Israel’s military, we must always remember from where our strength truly comes.

Key to Israel’s battle doctrine for the future is clear and reliable communications. New digital systems have made this possible.Michael Giladi/Flash90

Never alone on the battlefield.

This evening, Tuesday, April 13, we mark the start of Israel’s Memorial Day, a solemn occasion in which the entire nation remembers the sacrifices of our brave soldiers, and comforts the families who have lost beloved fathers, mothers, sons and daughters to war and terrorism.

Would you like to help support the Israeli army?

Israel Today has partnered with a very special IDF unit tasked with finding and destroying terrorist tunnels. This work is both dangerous and expensive, and the Yahalom Unit has been grateful for Christian support in helping them to operate safely and effectively.

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Lebanon’s former Justice Minister calls Hezbollah ‘mini-Nazi’

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Israeli delegation attends historic Yom Hashoah program in Dubai

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Israeli Urban Flying Car Soars in 300 Test Flights

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Saudi Official tells CNN Ties with Israel Would Benefit Kingdom

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Israeli technology repairs severe vision problems without surgery

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China defies US with $400 billion Iran gas deal

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A hard look at Israel’s United Arab List, ‘ideological brother to Hamas’

 April 6, 2021A hard look at Israel’s United Arab List, ‘ideological brother to Hamas’Knesset Member Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am faction of the United Arab List. (Facebook) 

Could the Right form a government with the support of a Hamas-supporting, anti-Zionist party?

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Could a right-wing government be created based on the support of a rabidly anti-Zionist party?

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc gaining only 52 seats in the March elections, speculation is rife as to which parties may be tempted to join his consortium.

Many pundits assume that Naftali Bennett will ultimately come back into the fold, as his Yamina party is a natural fit ideologically and Bennett never joined the pre-election, anti-Netanyahu chorus. Yet that only brings seven more seats to the table, leaving the coalition two shy of a majority.

Attention has therefore turned to another faction whose leader coyly said he would join coalition talks with almost any party – Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am, which gained five mandates from its Arab constituents. Ra’am’s platform, however, seems out of sync with the beliefs of even the left-wing Jewish parties, let alone the right end of the political spectrum.

The party is the political wing of the Southern Islamic Movement, whose charter calls for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish country in two ways: By giving all Palestinian refugees and their descendants the right of return into Israel along with establishing a Palestinian state or by creating a single, binational state.

The Movement’s hostile attitude to the Jewish state is clearly stated.

“The State of Israel was born of the racist, occupying Zionist project; iniquitous Western and British imperialism; and the debasement and feebleness of the Arab and Islamic [nations]. We do not absolve ourselves, the Palestinian people, of our responsibility and our failure to confront this project,” the charter says.

Although it says its “most important goal” is to advance Palestinian Arab society by preserving its identity and enabling it to “achieve its rights in civil, national and religious spheres,” it admits that its participation in Israeli political life is also “an attempt… to aid our Palestinian cause, and to clash with the proposals and policies and programs of the Zionist project from within the heart of the state institutions.”

Abbas smartly focused his campaign on practical and social issues facing the Arab community in Israel, such as the need for expanded budgets to fight the rampant crime and violence plaguing the sector, instead of on the ideology that motivates the party.

He gave a very conciliatory-sounding speech carried live by every major television channel. He ignored the Palestinian cause completely while speaking of the need to “give us and our children the opportunity, the right, to understand one another.”

Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar Ilan University told Channel 20 Friday that Abbas’ address “was meant to lull the Jewish Israeli viewer to sleep and prepare the ground … [so that] the state will legitimize the [Islamic] Movement, which sees the state as an entity that has no right to exist,” he said.

“Mansour Abbas is an ideological brother to Hamas,” he said, warning that Abbas would demand that Israel sit down with the terrorist organization as a condition for Ra’am joining the government. “Israeli politicians prefer their personal interests over national interests,” he added. “It’s a deterioration of Israeli politics to the point where it gives up the nation’s country.”

Abbas’ chances of actually closing a deal with Netanyahu do seem poor overall, because Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich completely opposes the idea, and without his faction’s six seats there can be no coalition. He has made it clear numerous times since the election that he would veto Ra’am outright.

“A government supported by Ra’am would be a generational disaster and we will not allow it to happen,” he said in a Facebook post on Friday. “Abbas is and has remained a terror supporter who visits and hugs Jew-killing terrorists and does not accept the right of the Jewish people to exist as a nation in its Jewish state.”

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Palestinian president demands that Biden call, rejects secretary of state’s overture

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PM Netanyahu Meets US Secretary of Defense Austin

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Europe’s COVID-19 deaths top 1 million as pandemic hits ‘critical point’ (567.894 in the USA)

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Nikki Haley says she’ll back Trump, give up own bid if he runs in 2024

‘That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about,’ says former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador, seen as a likely 2024 Republican presidential contender

By MEG KINNARDToday, 3:42 am

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks with reporters after a tour of the campus of South Carolina State University on Monday, April 12, 2021, in Orangeburg, S.C. Haley, often mentioned as a possible 2024 GOP presidential contender, said Monday that she would not seek her party’s nomination if former President Donald Trump opts to run a second time. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

ORANGEBURG, South Carolina (AP) — Former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, often mentioned as a possible 2024 GOP presidential contender, said Monday that she would not seek her party’s nomination if former President Donald Trump opts to run a second time.

“Yes,” Haley said, when asked if she would support a second bid by Trump, in whose Cabinet she served for the first half of his administration.

“I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it,” Haley said, asked by The Associated Press if a possible Trump bid could preclude her own effort, were he to announce first. “That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about at some point, if that decision is something that has to be made.”

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Haley spoke Monday after touring the campus of South Carolina State University, an HBCU in Orangeburg where current President James E. Clark showed her campus improvements including a revamped student center and state-of-the-art cancer research and cybersecurity facilities.

The visit was one of Haley’s first public events in months in her home state.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haly on Friday, 28 September 2018 in New York. (Avi Ohayon /GPO)

Since her 2016 resignation as South Carolina governor to join Trump’s Cabinet, Haley has maintained a delicate balancing act among Republicans who have in some ways been sharply split on the now-former president. In two years at the United Nations, Haley treaded a path of speaking out against Trump while not directly drawing his ire. She left the office on her own terms in 2018, a rarity then during a wave of staffing turmoil.

Haley has made several moves in recent years to fuel speculation her sights are on higher office. In 2019, she and her family moved back to South Carolina, purchasing a home in the Kiawah Island community. She also launched a political action committee, published a memoir and commanded as much as $200,000 for speaking appearances.

Republicans had already been grappling with the party’s future following Trump’s tumultuous term. But after the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill violence as lawmakers gathered to certify Joe Biden’s election victory, Haley said Trump had been “badly wrong” in stoking the crowd before the riot, telling an audience at the Republican National Committee winter meeting that Trump’s “actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”

Haley also said the whole notion was “deeply disappointing” because of the effect it will have on the legacy of the Trump administration, echoing remarks by some including fellow South Carolinian Sen. Lindsey Graham, who called the melee Trump’s “self-inflicted wound.”In this photo from September 24, 2018, US President Donald Trump talks to Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, at the UN General Assembly at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

On Monday, Haley defended her former boss, who this past weekend lit into fellow Republicans including his own vice president, saying he was “disappointed” in Mike Pence and calling Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a “stone-cold loser.”

“I think former President Trump’s always been opinionated,” Haley said, asked about Trump’s weekend comments and if they hurt the GOP. “Just because he left being president, that’s not going to stop. But I think what he also talked about were all the successes that he had in the administration. And I think that’s what Republicans are uniting on. … Every day Biden and Kamala Harris are in office unites the Republicans.”

The outing was Haley’s first public event in her home state in months. It comes just two weeks before Pence, also among those mentioned as a possible 2024 candidate, is set to visit South Carolina for his first public speech, a gathering with a conservative Christian nonprofit group.

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Natanz blast caused by remote-detonated bomb, took out power and backup – report

NY Times cites officials who say device was smuggled into plant; Tehran lawmakers call for suspension of nuclear talks; US officials don’t know if Iranians will show up in Vienna

By TOI STAFFToday, 9:19 am  0

File: Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

A blast at Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility that has been attributed to Israel was caused by a bomb that was smuggled into the plant and then detonated remotely, The New York Times reported Monday.

The report cited an unnamed intelligence official, without specifying whether they were American or Israeli.

According to the official, the blast took out the primary electrical system as well as its backup.

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The claim was apparently confirmed by the former head of Iran’s atomic energy organization in an interview with Iranian state television.Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, Iran's vice president and head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization (photo credit: Ronald Zak/AP)Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, Iran’s vice president and head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization (Ronald Zak/AP)

“From a technical standpoint, the enemy’s plan was rather beautiful,” said Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, now head of the Iranian parliament’s energy committee. “They thought about this and used their experts and planned the explosion so both the central power and the emergency power cable would be damaged.”

Although the extent of the damage remains unknown, the Times said intelligence officials believed it would take many months for the damage to be undone.

However, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that emergency power was already restored at the plant and enrichment was continuing, although it was unclear to what level.

“A large portion of the enemy’s sabotage can be restored, and this train cannot be stopped,” he told Iranian media, according to the Times.

Sunday’s incident came as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The US, Israel’s main security partner, is seeking to reenter the 2015 atomic accord aimed at limiting Tehran’s program so that it cannot pursue a nuclear weapon — a move staunchly opposed by Israel, particularly Netanyahu.

According to the Times, US officials said they did not know if their Iranian counterparts would show up in Vienna on Wednesday when the talks on the agreement were set to resume.

Lawmakers in Tehran have called for the discussions to be suspended, although the US denied Monday that it was involved in the incident at Natanz.FILE: The aftermath of an explosion and a fire at an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, July 5, 2020. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

An Israeli television report said Monday that the bomb went off Sunday at 4 a.m., when some 1,000 workers were at Natanz. The facility was reportedly evacuated immediately after the blast over fears of further bombs, but no other explosives were found.

The Channel 13 news report, which did not cite a source, said the explosive was placed near the main electricity line at Natanz and that when it detonated, the entire facility stopped functioning. The facility remains nonfunctional, the report said, with the program set back by months.

“All the signs point to this being the worst attack that Iran’s nuclear program has suffered… at the most important Iranian nuclear facility,” said Alon Ben-David, the network’s military analyst.

Natanz has previously been targeted, including by an explosion that rocked the facility last summer, in what was also said to have been an Israeli attack aimed at disrupting uranium enrichment and research at the site. In 2010, the United States and Israel allegedly halted Iran’s nuclear program with the Stuxnet virus, which caused Iranian centrifuges to tear themselves apart, reportedly destroying a fifth of the country’s machines.

Israel is anticipating Iran will respond to the latest attack but not necessarily right away, according to Ben-David. He said such retaliation could come in the form of a cyberattack on civilian infrastructure, an attack on Israeli-owned ships, missile fire from Syria or Yemen, or cruise missile or drone attacks on strategic Israeli targets.

“Yesterday signifies that the faceoff between Israel and Iran has escalated to a higher level,” he said.Centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, in an image released on November 5, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)

The network also said Iran may now try to expand its operation at the underground Fordo plant, where it has over 1,000 centrifuges. There were some 6,000 centrifuges at Natanz.

Separately, the Kan public broadcaster reported that advanced centrifuges were damaged in the blast at Natanz. The report, which cited an intelligence source, did not specify which model of centrifuges were targeted. Iran publicly inaugurated the advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges at the facility on Saturday.

The television reports came after the Iranians downplayed the extent of the attack, with a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran saying Monday that the blast was caused by a “small explosion” but insisting the damage could be quickly repaired.

Iran initially reported a power blackout had hit Natanz on Sunday, a day after it announced it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges banned under the 2015 deal limiting its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran blamed Israel for the attack, calling it an act of “nuclear terrorism,” and has vowed “revenge on the Zionist regime.”

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President “fears for Israel” as he taps Netanyahu to lead government

24 hours of high political drama once again leaves Netanyahu king of the hill. But can he form a coalition?April 6, 2021 | Israel Today Staff

President “fears for Israel” as he taps Netanyahu to lead government
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israel President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday reluctantly handed the mandate to form the next government to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the decision difficult from a moral standpoint.

“This is not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis,” said a troubled Rivlin. ‘I fear for my country. But I am doing what is required of me as president of the State of Israel.”

Rivlin, like many Israelis, does not believe a person under criminal indictment should be prime minister, but acknowledged that there is no law against it.

Last month’s national election once again produced an indecisive result, but the anti-Netanyahu bloc had held out high hopes of finally unseating Bibi. While many of the other factions do to see eye-to-eye on many issues, they were firmly united in their opposition to another term of Netanyahu in office.

But in the end, Rivlin said he felt “obligated” to tap Netanyahu for prime minister after he received more nominations a day earlier when the heads of the parties making up the 24th Knesset visited the President’s Residence.

No candidate received a majority of nominations, leaving Rivlin to exclaim, “I can’t see a way to form a coalition.” Even so, someone must receive the mandate, and at this point, Netanyahu clearly has the best chance of forming a stable coalition.

If he fails, however, Rivlin said he likely won’t give a second candidate a chance. Rather, the president has the option to send the mandate back to the Knesset itself and let the lawmakers there fight it out.

“After four election campaigns, democracy has exhausted itself,” said the weary Israeli president.

Netanyahu was backed by the Likud, the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the far-right Religious Zionism giving him a total of 52 nominations.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid was backed by his own Yesh Atid party, as well as “Blue and White,” Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz giving him a total of 45 nominations.

“Kingmaker” Naftali Bennett gave his Yamina party’s 7 nominations to himself.

The big surprise came when New Hope (6) and the Joint Arab List (6) both declined to endorse a candidate for prime minister, despite both being dedicated to ousting Netanyahu.

The right-wing New Hope said that it supports an alternative government headed by Lapid and Bennett, but was unhappy that they had failed to reach a final agreement before meeting with the president.

The Joint Arab List said that while it wants to see Lapid succeed Netanyahu, the former’s efforts to join forces with a religious Zionist like Bennett means the Arab factions see no place for them in his government.

The Islamist party Ra’am likewise nominated no candidate for prime minister, but by the time the party was called in to offer its four votes, it was too later. They wouldn’t have been enough to put Lapid over Netanyahu.

The bickering, indecision and infighting among the “change bloc” was somewhat expected, and has now given Netanyahu a path to victory, if he can somehow pull off another political miracle and convince at least 61 lawmakers to sit in his coalition.

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