Monday, September 16, 2019

Iran: Republic ready for 'full-fledged war' - AP Israel Hayom Staff

by AP Israel Hayom Staff

Iran dismisses allegation it was behind operation that saw Houthi rebels launch drone attacks on world's largest oil processing facility, sparking huge fires and halting about half of the supplies from world's largest oil exporter. US Secretary of State Pompeo: "No evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

Iran: Republic ready for 'full-fledged war'

A satellite image shows thick black smoke rising from Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq oil processing facility following a Houthi drone strike | Photo: Planet Labs Inc via AP

Iran denied on Sunday it was involved in Yemen rebel drone attacks the previous day targeting the world's biggest oil processing facility and an oil field in Saudi Arabia, just hours after America's top diplomat alleged that Tehran was behind the "unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply."

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, speaking on state TV, dismissed the US allegation as "pointless". A senior Revolutionary Guards commander warned that the Islamic Republic was ready for "full-fledged" war.

The attacks Saturday claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels resulted in "the temporary suspension of production operations" at the Abqaiq processing facility and the Khurais oil field, Riyadh said.

That led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies, authorities said while pledging the kingdom's stockpiles would make up the difference.

While markets remain closed Sunday, the attack could shock world energy prices. They also increased overall tensions in the region amid an escalating crisis between the US and Iran over Tehran's unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Late Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly blamed Iran for the attack on Twitter, without offering evidence to support his claim. The US, Western nations, their Gulf Arab allies and UN experts say Iran supplies the Houthis with weapons and drones – a charge that Tehran denies.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi dismissed Pompeo's remarks as "blind and futile comments."

"The Americans adopted the 'maximum pressure' policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning towards 'maximum lies,'" Mousavi said in a statement.

The attacks were the latest of many drone assaults on the kingdom's oil infrastructure in recent weeks, but easily the most damaging, resulting in "the temporary suspension of production operations," Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The fires "were controlled," the statement said, and no workers were injured.

The Iranian-backed Houthis, who hold Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and other territories in the Arab world's poorest country, took responsibility for the attacks in the war against a Saudi-led coalition that it has fought since 2015 to reinstate the internationally recognized Yemeni government. But the US blamed Iran, as stated, with Pompeo tweeting: "There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

"Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply," Pompeo said.

In a statement, the White House said, "The United States strongly condemns today's attack on critical energy infrastructure."

In a short address aired by the Houthi's al-Masirah satellite news channel, military spokesman Yahia Sarie said the rebels launched 10 drones after receiving "intelligence" support from those inside the kingdom. He warned that attacks by the rebels would only get worse if the war continues.

"The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us," Sarie said.

Houthi rebels have been using drones in combat since the start of the Saudi-led war. The first appeared to be off-the-shelf, hobby-kit-style drones. Later, versions nearly identical to Iranian models turned up. Iran denies supplying the Houthis with weapons, although the UN, the West, and Gulf Arab nations say that Tehran does.

UN investigators said the Houthis' new UAV-X drone likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in range.

The first word of Saturday's assault came in online videos of giant fires at the Abqaiq facility, some 330 kilometers (210 miles) northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Machine gun fire could be heard in several clips alongside the day's first Muslim call to prayers, suggesting that security forces tried to bring down the drones just before dawn. In daylight, Saudi state television aired a segment with its local correspondent near a police checkpoint, a thick plume of smoke visible behind him.

US deputy press secretary Judd Deere said the attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis "only deepen conflict and mistrust." He added that the US government is "committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied."

US President Donald Trump called Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to offer his support for the kingdom's defense, the White House said. The crown prince assured Trump that Saudi Arabia is "willing and able to confront and deal with this terrorist aggression," according to a news release from the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

The UN special envoy for Yemen said he was "extremely concerned" by the attacks.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths urged all parties to "prevent such further incidents, which pose a serious threat to regional security" and complicate the already fragile situation.

Saudi Aramco describes its Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqayq as "the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world."

The facility processes sour crude oil into sweet crude, then transports it onto transshipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea or to refineries for local production. Estimates suggest it can process up to 7 million barrels of crude oil a day. By comparison, Saudi Arabia produced 9.65 million barrels of crude oil a day in July.

"This is one of the biggest central processing facilities in the world. The Iran conflict is going to be hitting the world in a new way," said Kevin Book, managing director, research at ClearView Energy Partners LLC.

The Khurais oil field is believed to produce over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day. It has estimated reserves of over 20 billion barrels of oil, according to Aramco.

The US Energy Department said the US "stands ready to deploy resources from the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves if necessary to offset any disruptions to oil markets" in the wake of the drone attack.

In a statement on Saturday night, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed department leadership to work with the International Energy Agency on available options for collective global action if needed. Nations of the 30-member IEA seek to respond to disruptions in the oil supply and advocate for energy policy.

The US strategic oil reserves holds 630 million barrels.

There was no immediate impact on global oil prices as markets were closed for the weekend. Benchmark Brent crude had been trading at just above $60 a barrel.

While Saudi Arabia has taken steps to protect itself and its oil infrastructure, analysts had warned that Abqaiq remained vulnerable. The Rapidan Energy Group, a Washington-based advisory group, warned in May that "a successful attack could lead to a monthslong disruption of most Saudi production and nearly all spare production." It called Abqaiq, close to the eastern Saudi city of Dammam, "the most important oil facility in the world."

In a report published Saturday, Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, noted that although Aramco officials have indicated that exports will resume in the next few days, "there is nothing to suggest that this is a one-off event and that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels will forgo further strikes on Saudi sites."

The war in Yemen has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The violence has pushed the country to the brink of famine and killed more than 90,000 people since 2015, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the conflict.

The rebels have flown drones into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia's Patriot missile batteries, according to Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Houthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged. The Houthis launched drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia's crucial East-West Pipeline in May. In August, Houthi drones struck Saudi Arabia's Shaybah oil field.

AP Israel Hayom Staff


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Israel prepared to go, and fly the distance to enforce red lines - Yoav Limor

by Yoav Limor

If the Israeli Air Force is indeed behind the recent attacks on the Syrian-Iraqi border, it means Israel is prepared to go, and fly, farther than before to enforce its red lines against Iranian entrenchment in Syria or to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapons.

Israel prepared to go, and fly the distance to enforce red lines

This satellite image shows an area near Abadeh, Iran, that PM Netanyahu on Monday alleged was a site where Iran conducted nuclear tests | Photo: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies via AP

Exactly one week ago, an anonymous source leaked to Fox News that Iran is building a large military base on the Syrian-Iraqi border for its proxy Shiite militias.

The information was detailed and included satellite images and other specifics. It was impossible to view the leak as anything but a clear warning that if the activity at the base continued, it wouldn't be for long. Iran, it appears, didn't take the warning seriously, and on Monday the hammer fell: An overnight attack, destroying the base's infrastructure and killed several 18 people there (the casualty reports have varied), including Iranians.

Arab media outlets were quick to point the finger at Israel. It wasn't the first time Israel was accused of attacking Iranian targets in that area. Two weeks ago – simultaneous to the airstrikes that foiled an Iranian drone attack against Israel and a drone attack in south Beirut that was attributed to Israel – Israeli warplanes were said to have targeted an Iranian convoy delivering drones for a planned revenge attack for alleged Israeli strikes in Iraq.

The previous attack was carried out from the eastern, Iraqi, side, of the border (Al-Qa'im). The attack early Tuesday, meanwhile, came from the western, Syrian, side (Albukamal). The Assad regime allowed Iran to build the base on Syrian soil, supposedly to help him quell what remains of the Islamic State insurgency in the area. In actuality, Iran wants to control the border crossing between Syria and Iraq, which among other things would help it send weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Iran's activities in this sector have intensified in recent months, as a result of the attacks attributed to Israel in Syria. After Iran's air route for transferring weapons was almost completely shut down, Tehran transitioned to the land route – long and cumbersome but perceived as relatively secure because of the farther distance Israeli aircraft need to fly.

If the Israeli Air Force is indeed behind the latest attacks, it means that Israel is ready to go (or fly, to be more precise) very far to enforce its red lines and prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria or Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapons. Assuming this is the case, such operations present a considerable challenge. In terms of intelligence, precise, real-time information is required before a military strike can even be planned. On the operational level, the pilots need to fly a long time in tough conditions, requiring meticulous preparation and perfect execution to ensure the target is destroyed while the jets are exposed to the bare minimum of risks.

The Iranian response, even if it was expected, came quicker than expected. In the past, it took a deep breath before responding and tried carrying out quality reprisal attacks hoping it could evade Israeli defenses and inflict heavy damage. Such was the case in February and May last year and the thwarted drone attack two weeks ago. On Monday, on the other hand, Iran acted hastily: A few hours after the strike on the Syrian-Iraqi border, rockets were fired at Mount Hermon in Israel.

The Imam Hussein Division was responsible for the rocket fire. In recent years it has operated under Iranian direction in Syria and was behind the attempted drone attack reportedly foiled by Israel. It wasn't the first time Iran fired rockets at Israel. That was in May 2018, and then in January, it launched a large rocket at Mount Hermon, which was intercepted. This time, too, the rocket attack failed, indicating poor operational capabilities that were only exacerbated by the hasty execution. It wouldn't be wise to assume this will always be the result. The Quds Force has an impressive ability to learn from its mistakes and will look to improve the performance of the militias under its control, as soon as possible, to exact a price from Israel for the series of embarrassments it has suffered on all fronts – from Iran to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Israel, therefore, needs to be on high alert defensively, and of course, it must continue to enforce its red lines offensively. One of these lines, declared last week, pertains to Hezbollah's precision missile factory in the Beqaa Valley, which it built with Iranian help. If Monday's incident can serve as any sort of precedent, it's very possible that the warning message delivered to Lebanon will soon be acted upon as well.

The military pressure on Iran was buttressed on Monday by diplomatic pressure with the revelation of another secret nuclear site in Iran. The revelation was less dramatic than the exposure of the Iranian nuclear archive last year, but the fact that it came on the eve of the International Atomic Energy Agency's discussion on Iran's lack of cooperation over the previous site exposed by Israel, and ahead of a possible summit between US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, should help ramp up the pressure on Tehran.

Yoav Limor


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Applying sovereignty - political gambit or crowning achievement? - Rev. Anthony Abma

by Rev. Anthony Abma

A Christian’s view on the upcoming Israeli election.

As someone who has made it his business to study and learn the true facts on the ground in Israel, allow me to weigh in on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent promise of applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu is either trying to gain votes - or has finally determined to risk all and embrace a truth that he knows in his heart. He will either prove himself as a true leader and “father” of future generations as he charts the way forward to what can be a lasting solution of peace - or he will be the charlatan and failure his critics paint him to be. 

No one can discount the risks or costs either way. It will either be an endless cycle of terrorism, war and innocent lives being lost compounded by the prospects of indefensible borders of the “two-state” plan or the immense costs associated with the risks of investment to provide Arabs and Jews living in Israel’s heartland with liberty, with freedom and an equality better than they have ever known.

Unfortunately, human nature prefers to contend with the “devil we know", rather than the unknown and uncertain risks of the future, even though those risks embody the possibility of peace and transformation. 

No man or nation on earth is perfect and of course, Israel too has had her share of mistakes and disgrace over the years. But history and the reality of life in Israel today proves that the Jews are indeed a guiding light of democracy and justice in an otherwise dark region of the world where terror and the abuse of power prevails.

When one can come to terms with the reason why and what actually empowers the Jewish people, then Netanyahu’s plan shines in a light that is otherworldly. Every Jew on earth has encoded within the spark of spiritual DNA. When that is followed, their actions will give life to the virtues of Torah and; “love thy neighbor as thyself…” just as the needle of a compass that points north.

After 70+ years it’s time to give the Jewish people a chance and acknowledge that they have proved themselves capable. The world community has already beaten a path to Israel’s door seeking her wisdom and inventions in technology, science and medicine that is proving to be of more value and worth than Saudi or Gulf oil.

The world too has come of age and no longer tolerates the Palestinian gig of “pay to slay” or of teaching and inciting Palestinian school children to hatred and murder of innocent Jews. Forcing the will of an unequal union with a party sworn to Jewish extermination has also abated. 

This election is the time to give Israel a chance to demonstrate her place in the world as the moral leader and light to the nations that she was chosen to be. Allowing Netanyahu to fulfill his promise with official annexation will be the most significant action towards peace and Palestinian Arab prosperity the world has ever seen. Though a risky venture, it still holds promise to usher in a new era of emancipation for Arabs living there who would join the nearly 2 million others who are already live within Israeli jurisdiction.  

For this reason I urge all my fellow Jewish brothers and sisters to consider your place in history! Please do not WASTE your vote on Tuesday! Rise to the occasion, lay aside your egos and be the people God intended you to be that will fulfill your God-given role on earth. The world is watching…and waiting!

Rev. Anthony Abma is the founder of Return O’ Israel;


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A "Guide" to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by the United Church of Christ - Denis MacEoin

by Denis MacEoin

Sadly, the Palestinians have a history of regarding every goodwill gesture by Israel as a retreat, as the triumph of aggression over diplomacy

  • Titled, "Promoting a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel", and sub-headed "A Guide for United Church of Christ Faith Leaders", this toxic document is a desperately one-sided, inaccurate, and counter-factual exercise in futile politics.
  • There is no room in it for a Jewish, Israeli or moderate Christian voice; just hatred of Israel and defence of the Palestinians who, time after time, have turned down generous offers of peace. The naïvety of the UCC is particularly striking in its choice to take at face value the Palestinian statement that if Israel ended its occupation, "Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace." That is simply bunkum. Sadly, the Palestinians have a history of regarding every goodwill gesture by Israel as a retreat, as the triumph of aggression over diplomacy -- as if to say: We shoot at Israelis and they leave; so, let's keep shooting!
  • Palestinian terrorism against Israelis has continued up to 1967, right through the period of Israeli non-occupation. There were no "settlements" then. Rather, the Palestinians have always regarded all of Israel as one big "settlement". Just look at any Palestinian maps; they cover both the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories.
  • The UCC boasts that it is "a just peace church", but instead of supporting peace and justice, it defends mass murderers. It complains about the defensive actions of the Jews but is knowingly silent about the horrors wrought by Palestinian wars and terrorism.

Wafa Samir al-Biss personifies the deep dehumanization of Jews by Palestinian terrorists and those multitudes who praise and honor them. Ms Biss attempted to bomb Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, Israel -- the very hospital where, as a burn victim, she had been treated for months by Jewish and Muslim doctors and nurses. Pictured: Soroka Hospital. (Image source: Avishai Teicher/PikiWiki/Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome to yet another skewed guide on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. After a vote to support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in 2015, an organization affiliated with the UCC, the UCC Palestine Israel Network (UCCPIN), published a guide to Israel-Palestine affairs. Titled, "Promoting a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel," and sub-headed "A Guide for United Church of Christ Faith Leaders", this toxic document is a desperately one-sided, inaccurate, and counter-factual exercise in futile politics. Legally, UCCPIN operates under the aegis of one of the denomination's local conferences. Its Guide is, therefore, not the direct work of the church's leadership, but is clearly endorsed by a section of it.

The Guide most certainly does not favour either justice or peace in the Holy Land, as its contents show on every page. Some delegates, opposed to the resolution, identified its one-sidedness. Joanne Marchetto, of the Penn-Northeast Conference of the UCC, said during the 2015 vote that she was "uncomfortable with how this resolution is presented... This is a great injustice to the land, and I think we need to hear both sides of the argument." The guide produced by the church regrettably rejects any call to hear more than the Palestinian narrative and anti-Israel arguments. At the end, it has a four-page list of resources, books, DVDs, websites, a reading list, educational material, alternative travel organizations, and films. Not one of the many items on this list is remotely pro-Israel. All are hard-line pro-Palestine activist materials and links. The UCCPIN Guide does not pay even lip service to the notions of fairness, dual narratives, or a need for mutual understanding. The pro-peace Jewish or Israeli voice is silenced, while Palestinian hate speech, genocidal threats, and endless terrorism do not, at any time, come in for criticism.

It is worth looking at some of the arguments advanced in the Guide; where better to start than the Introduction (p.2), which opens with a reference to the highly distorted and inaccurate 2009 Kairos Palestine document.

In the New Testament, "Kairos" means "the appointed time in the purpose of God," the time when God acts (Mark 1:15). The Kairos document prefaces everything else because part of the resolution at the 30th synod was that church members must study it as a basis for their understanding of the Middle East and the actions that must follow. There is no room here to describe Kairos in detail, but readers can find full commentary here and here. Perhaps it is enough to say that the Central Conference of American Rabbis has described it as "supersessionist" and "anti-Semitic". (Supersessionism is a modern revival of the older Christian claim that God has replaced the Jews with Christians, who are now his favoured people. It also permits the introduction of overt anti-Semitism into Christian doctrine, and action that are no longer mainstream positions within Christian churches, except, sadly, in Sweden.)

The Kairos Palestine document was put together by Christian Palestinians who apparently adopted -- unquestioningly -- the Muslim narrative about Palestinians as innocent victims of Jewish aggression. It is mendacious about which of the two sides is responsible for the violence that has accompanied the creation and maintenance of a Jewish state. Here is just one example of that distortion: "The Palestinian people... also engaged in peaceful struggle, especially during the first intifada."

"Peaceful struggle"? During the first four years of the intifada, more than 3,600 incoming Molotov cocktail attacks, 100 hand-grenade attacks and 600 assaults with guns or explosives were reported by the Israel Defense Forces. The violence was directed at Israeli civilians and soldiers alike. During this period, 16 Israeli civilians and 11 soldiers were killed by Palestinians in the territories; and more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and 1,700 Israeli soldiers were injured. Approximately 1,100 Palestinians were also killed in clashes with Israeli troops. Palestinians were indeed stabbed, hacked with axes, shot, clubbed and burned with acid -- not by Israelis but by Palestinian death squads. In 1991, the number of Arabs killed for political and other reasons by Palestinian death squads actually exceeded the number killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

One of the authors of the Kairos document was Theodosias Atallah Hanna, the Archbishop of Sebastia from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and a former spokesman of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He called for the creation of an Islamic-Christian union that would foil the "American offensive" against Iraq and "release Palestine from the river to the sea" (and thereby entail the elimination of Israel). "The suicide bombers who carry out their activities in the name of religion are national heroes and we're proud of them," he has allegedly said, according to the ASSIST News Service. He also reportedly said, in a speech in Dubai:
"Some freedom fighters adopt martyrdom or suicide bombing, while others opt for other measures. But all these struggles serve the continued intifada for freedom. Therefore, we support all these causes."
The UCC, moreover, has gone out of its way to ally itself with Muslims and to attack Jews, so their unwillingness to condemn Hanna and other authors of the Kairos document lends a further air of one-sidedness to their position. The one-sidedness of Kairos is made abundantly clear early on:
1.4 In the face of this reality, Israel justifies its actions as self-defence, including occupation, collective punishment and all other forms of reprisals against the Palestinians. In our opinion, this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity. This is our understanding of the situation. Therefore, we call on the Israelis to end the occupation. Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace.
Oh really? As when the Israelis left the Gaza Strip? Sadly, the Palestinians have a history of regarding every concession not as a gift but as a retreat by Israel -- and as a triumph of aggression over diplomacy, as if to say: We shoot at Israelis and they leave; so, let's keep on doing it!

Yet, a Christian church in the United States endorses such a document while claiming to promote a "just" peace?

The rest of the document follows suit. There is no room in it for a Jewish, Israeli or moderate Christian voice, just hatred of Israel and defence of the Palestinians who have turned down generous offers of peace time after time. The naïvety of the UCC is particularly striking in its choice to take at face value the Palestinian statement that if Israel ended its occupation, "Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace." That is simply bunkum. When, after 1949, Gaza was occupied by Egypt, and the West Bank by Jordan, no one protested, and no one attacked Egyptians or Jordanians. In other words, Israel occupied only itself. Palestinian terrorism against Israelis continued up to 1967, right through the period of Israeli non-occupation. There were no "settlements" then. Rather, the Palestinians have always regarded all of Israel as one big "settlement". Just look at any Palestinian maps; they cover both the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

This UCCPIN naïvety is further underscored by the fact that Israel pulled its troops and civilians out of Gaza between 1994 and 2005, yet "resistance" by Gazan terrorists under the radical Islamic movement Hamas grew fiercer than before, resulting in ongoing rocket attacks on Israeli towns and three major wars in 2008-9, 2012, and 2014. In its Introduction, the UCCPIN, knowing full well that Israel has not occupied Gaza since 2005, still speaks of "the Israeli military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories: the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza". It is wholly black and white, without even recognition of the control of most of the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords, which ceded control of all of these disputed territories to a Palestinian governance that has unfortunately proved, to say the least, disappointing (here, here and here).

What, may one ask, is the point of entering into a complex political debate if one side refuses to admit the verifiable facts of the situation?

Another gratuitous piece of misinformation occurs on page 3 of the UCCPIN Guide, which claims that Israeli settlements in the West Bank "violate the Fourth Geneva Convention". Any expert in international law could have told the authors that this is false. Article 49 of the Geneva Convention addresses the forced deportation or transfer of an occupier's population into a conquered territory, as happened under the Nazis. (For finer details see here and here.) The Jewish Israeli settlers remain in the West Bank without coercion, based on the San Remo Treaty of 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres (which ratified the 1917 Balfour Declaration), the Covenant of the League of Nations Article 22, and the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, which all provide for the broad settlement of Jews across the Mandate territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention quite simply does not apply.

The UCCPIN Guide, further, flatly states that "Israeli settlements in the West Bank are identified as illegal by the international community" -- even though international law says exactly the opposite. The West Bank and Gaza were both occupied as a result of a defensive war against Egypt and Jordan in 1967, in which the Israelis were victorious. It is never illegal to occupy territory obtained in defensive military action. The legality of the occupation is confirmed in UN Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), to which the Palestinians and their supporters agreed, but have never paid heed. Resolution 242 was deliberately phrased -- "territories" rather than "the territories" -- to show that Israel should not leave all the West Bank and did not have to move its military forces out until the Palestinians agreed to a lasting peace based on secure borders for the Jewish state.

The Palestinians not only reject all offers of peace on that basis but go much further and call every day for the abolition of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state covering Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank.

On that same page, the UCCPIN Guide condemns what it describes as the "Separation Wall", pretending that Israel's 450-mile security barrier is made of concrete. In fact, only 10% of the barrier is a wall; 90% is made of fencing, ditches and other impediments to terror attacks. This gross exaggeration of simple on-the-ground facts further exposes the UCCPIN as dishonest. And more than dishonest: the UCCPIN Guide offers no reason why the fence was erected in the first place: to prevent incursions into Israel by suicide bombers and other terrorists intent on taking human life. The barrier has, in fact, been immensely successful, cutting many hundreds of Israeli deaths down to near zero.

Ignoring these facts in order to promote a false understanding of the barrier and its purpose cannot remotely serve the interests of justice. The promotion of lies merely magnifies a growing sense that the UCC itself does not care about human life. Palestinian lives, yes (and there is nothing wrong with that); but clearly, Jewish lives and Jewish efforts to preserve life are of little or no concern. What is worse, is that the church does not seem to know or care that Arab Israelis (including Christians) are as likely as Jews to die in a suicide bombing or a bomb on board a bus.

On page 4, the UCCPIN Guide also states that "Israel has built hundreds of permanent and mobile military checkpoints throughout the West Bank." This allegation, again, is pure fantasy. In 2015, there were no more than fifteen checkpoints across the West Bank. You do not have to be a mathematician to work out the difference between that figure and "hundreds". There were several hundred checkpoints some years ago, but the Israeli security services have done their utmost to reduce that number conspicuously since then. Writing in 2013, the Israel Defense Forces stated:
Today, there are nearly 40 crossings between Judea and Samaria and other parts of Israel. Some are used for the passage of people; others are used for the passage of goods. In addition to these crossings, 13 checkpoints are placed strategically throughout Israel's Central Command region, and operate in time of need and in light of security considerations.
They also clarified that,
"Crossings" and "checkpoints" are terms with different meanings. Crossings are facilities used by Palestinians to enter from Judea and Samaria into other regions of Israel. Checkpoints, on the other hand, operate during times of heightened security to prevent terrorists from carrying out their plans to harm civilians.
Checkpoints have been used as a method to filter out and prevent terror attacks before would-be Palestinian attackers have a chance to enter Israel. As a result of such insidious methods as female suicide bombers hiding explosives under their clothing and the use of ambulances to conceal and transport terrorist weapons, routine checks have been intensified at all types of crossings.
It may well be true, as the UCCPIN Guide states, that these checkpoints cause inconvenience to innocent Palestinians. That is unfortunate and wholly undesirable for an Israeli government fighting international opprobrium. But the checkpoints are not there to target innocent Palestinians. They are there to restrain terrorists from setting out to kill innocent Israelis. The only people to criticize the checkpoints across Northern Ireland during the many years of terrorism there were supporters of the Provisional IRA. This author used to go through those checkpoints when visiting the province over that period. They included body checks when entering all stores, but you never heard anyone grumbling: everyone knew they were there to save our lives from bombers and gunmen.

The above reference to "female suicide bombers hiding explosives under their clothing" was prompted by a particularly disturbing example of one young woman from Gaza, Wafa Samir al-Biss, whose story personifies the deep dehumanization of Jews by Palestinian terrorists and those multitudes who praise and honor them. In late 2004, Ms Biss was badly burned in a kitchen fire and was taken quickly to an Israeli hospital, Soroka, in Beersheba. There, she was treated by Jewish and Muslim doctors and nurses for a few months. Allowed to go home, she was given a pass to return to the hospital as an outpatient for further treatment. Six months later, she arrived at the Erez crossing, where a quick-witted guard noticed she was walking awkwardly. Forced to remove her outer clothing, it was revealed that she was carrying a 22-pound bomb strapped to one leg. When questioned, she said the bomb had been given to her by the Abu Rish Brigade, a faction of Fatah.
"My dream was to be a martyr. I believe in death. Today I wanted to blow myself up in a hospital, maybe even in the one in which I was treated. But since lots of Arabs come to be treated there, I decided I would go to another, maybe the Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. I wanted to kill 20, 50 Jews. Yes even babies."
The UCC no doubt wants to see crossings and checkpoints removed because they inconvenience Palestinians. Their point, however, is that they also inconvenience Palestinians like Wafa al-Biss and members of the Abu Rish Brigade; Palestinians like the thousands of bombers, knife-wielders, machete carriers, gunmen and others who have tried and, all too often, succeeded in slipping through checkpoints to kill innocent men, women and children; killers whom Hamas and the Palestinian Authority honor as heroes and heroines, martyrs and prisoners, and who slaughter in support of the fantasy that their deeds will advance the cause of a better life for the Palestinian people, heavenly compensation for themselves and their families, or financial compensation and glory here on earth.

The US Congress did, in fact, vote to stop incentivizing murder by passing the Taylor Force Act by outlawing payments to the Palestinian Authority (PA) of roughly $400 million a year, which the PA uses to reward terrorists. The law was named after an American tourist who was murdered in a terrorist attack by a 21-year-old Palestinian at the Jaffa port.

Payments to terrorists, however, seem to have continued (here and here) and Palestinian schoolbooks continue to promote "terror [and] the demise of Israel."

As the Palestinian media, mosque sermons, and political speeches remind the world daily, the long-term aim of the Palestinian authorities is twofold: to carry out genocide (here, here and here) against the Jews, who have lived on the land continuously for more than 3,000 years, yet are falsely accused of having "stolen" it (UCCPIN Guide, p.4); and to destroy a democratic state. The UCC boasts that it is "a just peace church" (Guide, p. 6), but instead of supporting peace and justice, it defends mass murderers. It complains about the defensive actions of the Jews and is knowingly silent about the horrors wrought by Palestinian wars and terrorism. It treats Palestinian actions as mere responses to Israeli aggression -- a total reversal of historical fact. Is it even morally defensible, then, to call the members of this church followers of a man known as "the Prince of Peace"?

Denis MacEoin, PhD (Cambridge 1979) has written for many years on Israel, the Middle East and Islam. Resident in the north-east of England, he has been a Distinguished Senior Fellow at New York's Gatestone Institute since 2014.


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Russia: Dreaming of a Return to the West - Amir Taheri

by Amir Taheri

The results of this month's municipal elections, declared last week, show a clear setback for Putinism in its Slavophile version.

  • Russia may be talking in Slavophile tones but deep in its heart, desires to be readmitted into the Western camp. This is seen in the way Russians dress, the kind of food they eat, the beverages they drink, the music they listen to, the TV shows and the films they watch, and the books they read. Queues in front of McDonald's joints may be a vulgar sign of creeping Westernization.
  • The results of this month's municipal elections, declared last week, show a clear setback for Putinism in its Slavophile version. The president's United Russia party lost more than a third of its seats in Moscow that, as in other metro-centric countries, has set the tone for national politics at least since the 1920s.
  • Putin wants to fool the Western democracies into helping negotiate a bad patch before he returns to his old shenanigans. President Macron's call for reintegrating Russia into the G7 summit last month was dismissed by other participants even before it made it onto the agenda.

Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has behaved much like a loose cannon, causing nasty surprises, not to say mystification, not only in the West but also in China and elsewhere. (Photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara - Pool/Getty Images)

If every nation, like every language, has its grammar, what is the grammar that might help us understand Russia today?

Even the least observant foreign visitors to Russia these days are likely quickly to discover the first rule of that metaphorical grammar: the unity of opposites. On one side, we have a Russia that is attached almost obsessively to its "otherness". On the other, we have a Russia that craves after "sameness" as a member of the family of Western nations.

This "otherness-sameness" duality is not new in Russian history.

Initially, Russia built its identity around its claim of "otherness" by casting itself as "The Third Rome", after Rome and Constantinople, the last standard-bearer of Christ in a rapidly de-Christianized Europe. Two centuries of wars against the Muslim powers of the time, notably the Ottoman Empire and Iran, added over 12 million square kilometers to Christendom as the Tsarist Empire expanded into Central Asia, Siberia, the Caspian Basin, and the Caucasus.

Caught between a supposedly de-Christianized Europe and a supposedly revanchist Islam, some Russian writers, poets, and philosophers developed Slavophilia, the idea that the Slavic peoples constitute a distinct, and subtly superior, a segment of humanity, as the national ideology. Basil the Blind's refusal in 1439 to bring Russia into the fold of European nations under the Latin Church formed the root of that ideology. In time, philosophers like Alexei Khomiakov and Konstantin Aksakov, and writers such as Nikolai Gogol, gave that new identity a secular expression.

Over time, Slavophilia, as Russia's national ideology, was criticized and opposed by a variety of figures including Boris Godunov, Peter the Great, Pyotr Chaadayev, van Krieviski and Aleksandr Herzen, who fostered the idea of an alternative identity for the emerging nation. They came to be labeled "Occidentalists" because they saw Russia as a European modernizing nation, not as the "Saint Russia" of Slavophiles, who behaved as if time had frozen in the 15th century.

Vladimir Putin has been a symbol of that duality at the highest level of Russian politics. He behaves as a Slavophile when he needs to justify his authoritarian style of government when compared with modern European democracies. One of his favorite phrases is: Russia is different!

Putin has succeeded in co-opting the Russian Orthodox Church by persuading his bishops that his regime is their ally and protector against atheism and infiltration by Western churches and American bible-pushing movements. Putin takes pride in recalling his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he is supposed to have had mystical experiences, and cultivates a reputation as a collector of icons and relics.

At the same time, however, Putin wants to cast himself as the arch-Westernizer modeled on Peter the Great because he knows that the rapidly expanding Russian middle classes with bank accounts in London and Zurich are more interested in trips to the French Riviera than the disputed Holy Land in Israel-Palestine.

After the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia as a punishment for annexing the Crimean Peninsula, Putin launched a campaign to persuade his people to spend their holidays in Turkey and the Islamic Republic in Iran, both of which agreed to visa-free travel for Russians. Two years later, the number of Russians taking up the offer remains insignificant. Latest estimates show that around 100,000 Russians visit Turkey while the number going to Iran remains stuck at below 5,000. In contrast, in 2018, France attracted 3.2 million Russian visitors.

Geopolitical gurus in the West might try to sell the idea of Putin forming an alliance with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, the truth is that Putin, and even more much of his electoral base, crave closer ties with people like Emmanuel Macron and Donald J Trump.

Russia may be talking in Slavophile tones but deep in its heart, desires to be readmitted into the Western camp. This is seen in the way Russians dress, the kind of food they eat, the beverages they drink, the music they listen to, the TV shows and the films they watch, and the books they read. Queues in front of McDonald's joints may be a vulgar sign of creeping Westernization. Moreover, the fact that millions of Russians have bank accounts in the West, including in Cyprus or even in dicey Greece, cannot be dismissed as mere aberrations.

In conversations with Russian intellectuals, a visitor quickly detects a concern that Russia may find itself isolated in the face of a rising China's economic and military power on the one hand and Islamist extremism, spearheaded by both Iran and Turkey, on the other.

The results of this month's municipal elections, declared last week, show a clear setback for Putinism in its Slavophile version. The president's United Russia party lost more than a third of its seats in Moscow that, as in other metro-centric countries, has set the tone for national politics at least since the 1920s.

Russia is dreaming of a returning to an Occidentalist aspect of its identity. Some analysts in the West dismiss that as a feigned dream; Putin wants to fool the Western democracies into helping negotiate a bad patch before he returns to his old shenanigans. President Macron's call for reintegrating Russia into the G7 summit last month was dismissed by other participants even before it made it onto the agenda. Other analysts, however, argue that even if one thinks beyond Putin, that thinking must start before Tsar Vladimir attains his sell-by date.

Under Putin, Russia has behaved much like a loose cannon, causing nasty surprises, not to say mystification, not only in the West but also in China and elsewhere. Thus stabilizing Russia, by defining its proper place in the emerging world order, or world chaos if you like, must be a major concern for policy-makers and strategists in all key capitals. That such a re-definition cannot be done solely through anathema and interdict, or their modern version that is economic and diplomatic sanctions, is as evident today as it was in the Council of Florence of the 15th century.
This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987.


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Green energy policies proliferating a ‘greenhouse gas’ with ‘23,500 times more warming than CO2’ - Thomas Lifson

by Thomas Lifson

Warmists need an equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath

Global warming hysteria has driven a lot of stupid investment in purportedly “green” energy production that turns out to create new problems. Wind farms that kill millions of birds because migratory birds follow the same winds that are ideal for wind power, for instance. Bald eagles, normally illegal to kill in the United States, are allowed to be slaughtered by wind farms.

Then there are the massive lithium batteries needed for electric cars, full of toxic heavy metals, that pose a huge problem of disposal when they wear out after about ten years. And the solar energy farms that eat up vast acreage and incinerate passing birds with their “death rays.”

But now the BBC focuses on yet another blowback from green energy policies: the allegedly super-duper, extra-special global warming gas sulfur hexaflouride, abbreviated as SF6, that is leaking into the atmosphere from electrical equipment, where it is used as an insulator, to prevent fires and explosions.

As more windmills, solar installations, and other decentralized energy production facilities supplement large coal- and other hydrocarbon-based electrical generating installations when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, the amount of SF6-containing equipment is rising. Indeed, one of the interest group support bases for green energy projects consists of the electrical equipment manufacturing industry that realizes they can sell much more equipment because the green sources can’t be used all the tie and need to be supplemented by base load generators that are reliable because they depend on hydrocarbon fuels.

The BBC article that hypes the alleged global warming danger of S6 is classic of hysteria mongering. At the top, it shows a picture of icky orange-ish polluted air, even though SF6 and CO2 both are colorless and odorless. It never explains why SF6 is “23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2)” but features plenty of graphics like these:

And projections like this:
…the global installed base of SF6 is expected to grow by 75% by 2030.
Even worse, there is no available substitute for high voltage equipment:
For high-voltage applications, experts say there are very few solutions that have been rigorously tested.
"There is no real alternative that is proven," said Prof Manu Haddad from the school of engineering at Cardiff University.
"There are some that are being proposed now but to prove their operation over a long period of time is a risk that many companies don't want to take."
Warmists need an equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath: First do no harm. But of course, there is so much self-interested rent-seeking a work in the movement that such a pledge will never be taken.

Hat tip: John McMahon

Thomas Lifson


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'If Netanyahu gets voted out, it will be a disaster for Israel' - Yoni Kempinski

by Yoni Kempinski

Fox News host Mark Levin lauds Trump-Netanyahu relationship as a high point in US-Israel relations. 'Bibi is enormously popular in the US'.

Mark Levin
Mark Levin
Fox News
A defeat for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in this week’s Knesset election would be a “disaster for Israel” Fox News host, lawyer, former chief of staff to the US Attorney General, and pundit Mark Levin said during an interview with Arutz Sheva.

Speaking with Arutz Sheva just days after he endorsed Netanyahu’s reelection bid, Levin took aim at the media, the Israeli electoral system, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz, and Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for his decision to indict the prime minister, calling the charges ‘weak’.

Levin argued that the three indictments pending against Netanyahu rested on trumped up charges, and criticized the media – particularly the Israeli media – for accepting Mandelblit’s indictments without questioning the basis of the charges.

‘The Media In Israel Is Even Worse Than In the US’

“I find that in free societies – and quasi-free societies, such as Europe – that the media continues to advance a hard progressive agenda.

“It’s very difficult for those of us who do not embrace that agenda to have their viewpoint honestly provided to the public. That’s why more and more, whether it’s President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu, that they have to figure out ways, such as social media, to get around it and to communicate it to the public.

“In the case of Israel, it is even worse than in the United States. There is no counterbalance channel, like Fox News, or other channels like that. There is no significant radio presence, as there is in the United States with talk radio, and you have a near-monopoly of a single ideology.

‘Juicing the Charges Against Netanyahu’

“So what happens is that you get an Attorney General who has these three ridiculous allegations against the Prime Minister. I’ve looked thoroughly at all three of them. I’m sure no other American has looked at them, and I’m sure few Israelis have. And they have the media tell them what is in those allegations. Those allegations are really prepared for the media. That’s why, particularly the third allegation, which everybody says is the toughest, is actually the weakest.

“The third allegation is, essentially, that one news outlet wanted special treatment. And in exchange for special treatment, it would run more positive stories about the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister was unhappy about his Minister of Communications, and he got rid of him. That is all you have. There is no direct evidence that there was a positive story written about the Prime Minister in exchange for some policy. To have bribery, you have to have something other than an Attorney General who lectures the media on journalistic ethics. That’s what he’s doing in there. And then he also disagrees with the Prime Minister’s policies. If you want to be the Prime Minister, you have to run for it.

“Now look at the other two” charges. “Cigars and champagne. What the Attorney General did is he actually combines cigars and champagne that were given to the Prime Minister from two people. And one person wasn’t even requesting anything. And he did that because what would otherwise look like a minimal gift now looks massive. You know what that’s called in the United States?...Juicing the charges – in other words, it’s called ‘prosecutorial misconduct.’”

“Then in the second [charge], [the AG] claims that Netanyahu was trying to deliver favored legislation to one news outlet over another. Not only didn’t he support the legislation, he opposed it, and the Knesset was suspended before it could even consider the legislation.”

“When you’re making allegations against a head of state, your allegations need to be solid as a rock. And these allegations – as somebody who was chief of staff to an Attorney General in the United States… is just so repulsive, it’s just unconscionable.”

‘Netanyahu Is Enormously Popular In the US’

“If he’s not the greatest Prime Minister that Israel’s ever had, he’s certainly one of two. In the United States he is enormously popular. I don’t think [the indictments] have had an effect on him in the United States…or in most of the world.”

“Look at his accomplishments, with respect to the United States. I don’t think there’s another Prime Minister who could work so closely with our president the objectives that he has achieved: recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, moving our embassy to Jerusalem, the recognizing the sovereignty over the Golan Heights, closing down the terrorist PLO office in Washington, cutting off American taxpayer dollars to PA terrorists who kill Israelis.”

“The relationship between Netanyahu and Trump, the United States and Israel, has never been this strong.”

Levin called the charges against Netanyahu an “attempt to try and destroy a sitting prime minister while he’s accomplishing a lot of things; while he’s facing the Iranians, while he’s building the economy.”

“Who really cares if the American Jewish Left like or dislike Netanyahu? I don’t really care. The American Left is very similar to the Israeli Left – they’re out of their minds.”

‘Blue and White Party is Just Remake of Labor’

“This Blue and White party – it’s not a ‘Blue and White party’. They can try and deceive the public about what they really are. But it is a remake of the Labor party. Look at Gantz – he’s weak on the Iranian deal. The guy said ‘There’s some good things in there. People shouldn’t respond hysterically.’”

“Nobody is responding hysterically. Smart people with sober thinking believe, and rightly, that it was a disaster, for our country, America, for Israel, and for surrounding countries.”

“Obama was the worst president not just for America, but for Israel…and what does Blue and White do? They hire [Obama’s] top adviser to advise Gantz. And we’re supposed to believe that this is a centrist party.”

Levin defended Netanyahu’s March 2015 address to a special joint session of Congress during which he lobbied against the Iran nuclear deal.

“I don’t think viewed that as going against Obama. I think he viewed it as explaining to the Israeli people and the American people, in a joint session of Congress, and to the whole world exactly what this Iranian regime is, that it is a threat to the whole world and the United States and to Israel.”

Lambasting President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for not only the Iran nuclear deal, but the passage of the United Nations Security Council measure against Israel after Trump’s election, Levin called the two the “worst individuals” with regard to Israel.

“Obama and John Kerry were these worst individuals when it came to my own country I think, and when it comes to Israel. Even on their way out the door, their actions in the UN were despicable.”

‘A Netanyahu Loss Would Be A Disaster For Israel’

Urging Israelis to support Netanyahu’s bid for reelection, Levin asked that voters consider what they “want from a prime minister.”

Netanyahu “has opened up your economy. You’ve got one of the great technological explosions on the face of the earth.”

“For a little country that is surrounded by enemies to be successful is a miracle. And when it comes to foreign policy, you’re not going to find someone better on foreign policy than this. He works with all countries. His relationships with a lot of these countries are really important.”

“Meanwhile, you have General Gantz…and how the Iranians have tapped into his conversations. And how he’s been absolutely unwilling to tell the Israeli people what he said in those phone calls. Obviously, there are things that he said that are embarrassing. Otherwise, he could answer, at least with simple yesses and noes. And this is a problem, because the Iranians know what he said, while the Israeli people don’t know what he said, heading into an election.”

“In the US, if you had a low level official who had his phone tapped by the Iranians, he wouldn’t get security clearance, let alone become President of the United States. So Gantz is telling people to trust him. The last person who ran in the United States on ‘trust me’, was Jimmy Carter, who was an absolute disaster.”

Again comparing Netanyahu to Winston Churchill, as he did last week, Levin said that if Netanyahu were defeated Tuesday, as Churchill was in the July 1945 UK general election, it would be a “disaster” for Israel.

“After World War II, the British voted Churchill out of office. I think it would be a disaster if the Israelis vote Netanyahu out of office. I don’t think they will, but if they will, they will regret it. Especially with Gantz, he’s a lightweight.”

‘Israeli Electoral System – A Disaster’

“Let’s be honest. Your electoral system is a disaster. Having elections with all these minor parties…to be it is a disaster. Not that ours is perfect. But to have a prime minister who is so successful for so long to have to travel through these ups and downs, is really quite remarkable.”

Yoni Kempinski


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Netanyahu approves new Jordan Valley settlement, says US peace plan imminent - Ariel Kahana

by Ariel Kahana

PM reiterates pledge to annex area if re-elected, says green lighting of new Jewish community near Jericho is essential because US peace plan will most likely be released just days after election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his final pre-election cabinet meeting on Sunday in the Jordan Valley on Sunday, reiterating his pledge to annex the area.

During the special cabinet meeting, the cabinet also voted to approve a new settlement in the area. The settlement, Mevo'ot Yericho, has previously been an illegal outpost, but now it is set to get official recognition.

Netanyahu further said that it was clear that the US peace plan was going to be released just days after the election, even before a new coalition is formed and a new government is sworn in. He said Israeli Ambassador to the United States had a similar assessment, and therefore it was imperative to green light the new settlement.

The meeting, along with the new pledges, came despite an international outcry over Netanyahu's promise to annex the West Bank's Jordan Valley. Annexing the area, considered to be the heartland of any future Palestinian state, would all but extinguish any remaining Palestinian hopes for independence.

Netanyahu has staged a flurry of media appearances to beseech supporters to vote in large numbers to stave off the prospect of a left-wing government he says will endanger the country's security.

A centerpiece of his late-hour agenda has been the pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and to annex Jewish settlements, something Netanyahu refrained from doing during his decade-plus in power.

Seated in a makeshift tent and flanked by his ministers against a backdrop of Israeli flags, Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting that he was proud to establish what he expects to be the country's future eastern border and officially incorporate its settlements into Israel.

"It's not just the eastern gate of Israel, it is the defensive wall from the east, because the Jordan Valley, together with the territories that will be part of Israel, guarantees that the military will be here forever," he said. "Instead of having a country that is only a few kilometers wide, it is a country with strategic depth and strategic height."

His Likud party is locked in a dead heat in the polls with the centrist Blue and White alliance and re-election seems to be his best shot at avoiding having to face the pending corruption charges against him in a courtroom.

Ariel Kahana


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