Friday, January 8, 2016

The Return of the Rule of Law in Israel - Caroline Glick

by Caroline Glick

What the majority of Israeli Arabs say about their Knesset representatives.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

Last October, as the Palestinians began their latest round of terrorist war against Israel, lawmakers from the Joint Arab List participated in mass anti-Israel rallies in major Arab towns. One such rally in Nazareth in mid-October attracted some 2,500 participants. After it ended, some demonstrators started throwing rocks at Jews.
The next day, MK Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint Arab List stood on a street in Nazareth and gave a live interview to Channel 2 news.

Just as the camera began filming, Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam drove down the street. Seeing Odeh, Salam stopped his car and began bellowing, “Get out of here! Enough of your interviews. Go ruin things somewhere else!” Odeh tried lamely to get the camera to stop filming. But Salam continued shouting.

“You guys ruined the city. I’m the mayor… there wasn’t even one Jew here today. Not even one! What are you being interviewed about? What are you doing to us?... You had a march, you guys torched the world. Shut up! Leave! Move it!” Salam’s outburst did not come out of nowhere. He was voicing the frustration that most Israeli Arabs feel towards their Knesset representatives who spend far more time demonizing Israel than advancing the interests of Arab Israelis inside of Israel.

According to the latest detailed survey of Arab Israelis published in November by Prof. Sami Smooha, 60 percent of Israeli Arabs do not trust their representatives in the Knesset. Two thirds of Israeli Arabs say that their Knesset representatives are not advancing their interests.

A full 80% of Israeli Arabs believe that it is the job of the Arab members of Knesset to advance their communal interests rather than concentrate on political war against Israel.

Most Israeli Arabs would probably agree that they are hurt by the political war against Israel. After all, 77% of Israeli Arabs define themselves as Israelis, 60% accept Israel as a Jewish state, and 54% believe Israeli democracy extends to them.

While Odeh’s constituents feel betrayed by him, the Obama administration apparently can’t get enough of him and his anti-Israel message.

Last month Odeh became the first Israeli Arab politician to receive an audience at the White House.

While in the US, Odeh was hailed as an Israeli Martin Luther King Jr. as he trampled on the civil rights of Jews. Odeh insulted the American Jewish community by refusing at the last moment to participate in a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

As the leaders of the Conference’s member organizations sat waiting for him at the Conference’s offices in New York, Odeh stood in the building’s lobby and refused to get into the elevator. Odeh, a member of Knesset who has sworn allegiance to the Jewish state, wouldn’t meet with the American Jewish leaders because the Conference offices are located on the same floor as the Jewish Agency’s offices. And the leader of the third-largest Knesset faction didn’t want to give any legitimacy to Israel’s national institutions.

In light of Odeh’s insulting bigotry, it is troubling that the Obama administration spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to train Odeh’s political operatives and help them campaign during last year’s Knesset elections. It is similarly distressing that to elevate Odeh, the administration broke protocol and rolled out the red carpet for him, even as his own constituents attack him for effectively disenfranchising them.

It is against the backdrop of Odeh’s US-supported irredentism that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave one of the most significant speeches of his career Saturday night.

Standing at the site of Friday’s Islamic State-like massacre in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that the time has come for Israeli Arabs – and their leaders – to recognize that with equal rights come equal obligations.

In his words, “One cannot say ‘I am an Israeli in rights and a Palestinian in obligations.’ Whoever wants to be Israeli should be an Israeli all the way, both in rights and in obligations, and the first and highest obligation is to obey the laws of the state.”

Netanyahu demanded that the Arab members of Knesset denounce the attack and condemned the rampant incitement against Israel that takes place in the Israeli Arab sector. He then announced that the government will be investing billions of shekels in massively strengthening law enforcement in Israeli Arab towns and villages, and will seize the tens of thousands of illegal firearms that are now held by Israeli Arabs.

Netanyahu ended his remarks by embracing the integrationist trend among Israeli Arabs.

In his words, “I view positively the increasing involvement in the IDF, in national service and in the overall life of the state, of the Christian, Druze and northern Bedouin communities, and within the Muslim community as well.

I call on all citizens of Israel, especially its Muslim citizens, to take the path of integration, coexistence and peace and not the path of incitement, hatred and fanaticism. We are all citizens of the state and are all bound to maintain it and uphold its laws.”

According to Smooha’s data, only 18.5% of Israeli Arabs support violence against Israeli Jews, and only 17% have no problem with Islamic State. But then again, when taken in absolute numbers, these numbers mean that some 250,000 Israeli Arabs do not have a problem with Islamic State and support violence against Israeli Jews.

Odeh, who opposes Israeli Arab military and national service, harshly condemned Netanyahu’s speech. He castigated the premier as “a human being that just incites.”

Of course, the problem is Odeh, not Netanyahu. In a recent interview with Army Radio, Odeh refused to condemn Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israeli Jews insisting, “I won’t define red lines for the Palestinian nation.”

It is Odeh, through his US-supported denunciation of Israel who cultivates an intellectual climate where support for IS and terrorism against Israel in general can grow, even as the vast majority of Israeli Arabs reject it. While Israeli Arabs like Mayor Salam stand helplessly on the sidelines, Odeh embraces Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. Not surprisingly, in this welcoming environment, it is hard to rein in Islamic terrorism. So it has grown.

According to data from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), to date, some 150 Israeli Arabs have left the country to join Islamic State. Last year the Shin Bet reported it had broken up four Islamic State cells of Israeli Arabs. Three of the reports were from the past three months alone.

The main jump in Israeli Arab support for Israel has come in recent years, and in the face of the breakdown in the peace process between Israel and the PLO.

There are two main reasons for positive trend. First, since 2009, the government has invested billions of shekels in strengthening Israeli Arabs economically and integrating them into wider society. Arab income has grown nearly ten percent in the past decade.

The second reason for the steep rise in Israeli Arab identification with Israel owes to the rise of Islamic State and the demise of the Arab states as Syria, Libya and Iraq have disappeared and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia teeter on the brink.

In comparison to the rest of the region, Israel Arabs rightly view their country as an island of tranquility and peace.

Netanyahu’s speech was a watershed moment in Israeli politics, because after years of pretending away the breach between popular Israeli Arab support for integration and rejection of integration – and of Israel itself – by the radicalized Israeli Arab political leadership, Netanyahu attacked it head on. In so doing, he made a direct link between the rise of Islamic State-style terrorism and Odeh’s support for Palestinian terrorism.

By demanding loyalty and pledging to apply the law equally to Arabs and Jews alike, Netanyahu put Odeh and his international supporters on notice. Israel will not allow radical Arab politicians and their radical supporters in Washington to continue to intimidate the government out of enforcing the laws of the state to all of Israel’s citizens equally.

With the support of the vast majority of Israeli Arabs, who realize that Odeh and his colleagues are endangering their future, the government will root out and destroy the jihadists and their supporters, and so ensure that Israeli remains the Jewish democracy that extends full rights to its Arab citizens it has always been.

Caroline Glick


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

2016: Year of Fateful Decisions - Bruce Thornton

by Bruce Thornton

Freedom does not mean America writes you a blank check.

Next November’s election will decide more than who becomes president. It will establish whether the United States has shifted from its foundational ideals of limited government, personal freedom, citizen autonomy, and a robust foreign policy that serves America’s interests and security, to the European model of quasi-pacifist internationalism abroad, and a centralized, collectivist technocratic rule at home –– exactly what 2400 years of political philosophy has feared is the infrastructure of tyranny.

Barack Obama vowed to “fundamentally transform the United States,” but for all his malign changes and erosion of the Constitutional order, “fundamentally” remains a question-begging adverb. The unique circumstances of his election and re-election ––especially the desperate and misguided yearning for racial reconciliation to be achieved merely by voting –– question whether a critical mass of Americans agrees with that goal. High disapproval numbers in polls of Obamacare, the president’s foreign policy, and the man himself suggest not. But the election of Hillary Clinton would show that despite those opinions, a majority of Americans endorse the progressive Democrats’ agenda.

That agenda has been obvious for at least a century. It is predicated on political scientism, the false idea that human nature, motivation, and behavior, along with social and political order, can be understood “scientifically,” and thus manipulated and guided toward a more egalitarian world –– the “social justice” of so much progressive rhetoric. But such a program requires a technocratic, administrative elite housed in powerful government bureaucracies and agencies, walled off from direct accountability to and scrutiny by the people. The ensuing reduction of political freedom and autonomy necessary for top-down rule is compensated for by redefining political freedom as private hedonism –– the freedom to indulge the appetites, consume products and services, abort unwanted pregnancies, and choose whatever sexual identity one fancies.

The second dimension of this agenda is the adoption of “internationalism,” the notion that nationalist particularity and interests are dangerous and immoral, and so must be marginalized. Transnational organizations and bureaucracies, manned by technocratic elites, must order the world’s peoples in order to create global “social justice.” The belief that diplomatic “engagement” and consultative processes can reduce, contain, or forestall conflict and eliminate violence as the arbiter of interstate rivalries. Our nation is no more “exceptional” than any other, as Obama once said, and so must defer to the consensus of the “global community” and pursue its interests. The West in particular is obliged to adopt this ideology. Its alleged imperialist and colonialist crimes, and its advanced capitalist economies and technologies, have fomented the disorder that has exploited and oppressed the rest of the world, and inhibited its development and improvement. Thus the West, especially the United States, apparently owes various forms of “reparations” to the Rest, and be a world “partner mindful of its own imperfections,” as Obama wrote in 2007.

The two administrations of Barack Obama, and the campaign platform of Hillary Clinton, are expressions of this agenda. Federal agencies like the EPA, the NLRB, the DOJ, and the IRS, to name a few, have aggressively intruded into the freedom of citizens and businesses in order to impose politicized investigations and regulations never sanctioned by Congress. The president has abused executive power to change laws from Obamacare to immigration, realizing Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a chief executive empowered not just to veto bad laws, but to create “good” ones. Hillary has already promised to do the same, vowing, for example, to take executive action on gun control. She also has peddled the same “social justice” rhetoric that has dominated the Obama presidency –– “fair share,” “you didn’t build that,” “income inequality,” “war on women,” all the slogans of the redistributionist federal government increasing its power in order to create “equality.”

And like Obama, Hillary supports the social changes that redefine ordered liberty as the power to do what one likes in private life –– the public square is another matter –– without hindrance from tradition or religion or even common sense. Hence the flip-flop both politicians made on same-sex marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act signed by Hillary’s husband. They both support compelling religious organizations and private businesses to violate their tenets and provide birth control and abortions in their health plans, or consumer services to same-sex couples.

It is no accident that progressive hedonistic freedom focuses on sexual matters. Sex is the most effective appetite to exploit for distracting people from their loss of political autonomy and independence, and weakening institutions like churches and families that offer an alternative moral authority to the Leviathan state. As the Athenians understood, sexual indulgence –– in our case, freed from traditional and religious taboos, its destructive consequences subsidized by state-funded birth control, abortion, and wealth transfers to children born out of wedlock –– erodes the fundamental virtues necessary for self-government: duty, self-control, and the sacrifice of personal pleasure for the good of the political community.

As for foreign policy, Obama’s record of appeasement and retreat speaks for itself. If you want a monument to that failure, just look around the Middle East. But he has camouflaged his failure in the rhetoric and procedures of internationalism, spiced with distrust of American power and influence as a disruptive force in global affairs. Apart from droning to death an endless supply of al Qaeda number twos, the bulk of his foreign policy, from the Iranian negotiations to the Paris climate-change talks, has comprised multinational gabfests with much posing for the cameras and portentous but empty statements, while little of substance is achieved.

Just peruse the State Department’s “Pivotal Foreign Policy Moments of 2015,” which comprise summits, U.N. Security Council Resolutions, establishing diplomatic relations with a thug regime, chairing the Arctic Council, negotiating a bad deal with the Iranians, “committing to ambitious development goals,” negotiations on free trade, another conference on “protecting our oceans,” negotiating a symbolic “climate agreement,” and the much lampooned preposterous claim of “bringing peace to Syria,” which a spokesman later clarified as beginning the process of discussions that will bring peace to Syria. In short, while half the world descends into violence, state adventurism, and expansion by aggressors, Obama does nothing but engage in multilateral talk and symbolic gestures that give the weak an excuse not to act, while the ruthless manipulate the process to achieve its aims or camouflage its designs.

Hillary’s foreign policy beliefs are murkier. Even the uber-liberal New Yorker has called them “baffling” and “confused.” There’s no doubt her progressive instincts are all toward the internationalist, “diplomatic engagement” style of foreign relations. She talks of “smart power,” in general a euphemism for avoiding military force beyond the symbolic drone strikes favored by Obama, or the occasional photogenic, politically safe (i.e. no American casualties) bombing campaigns. Indeed, as she defined it, “smart power” is even squishier than that: it comprises “leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective and point of view.” She makes the right internationalist noises about “invigorating diplomacy” and soliciting allies, “partners,” and “coalitions.” The mess in Libya in part reflected the naïve, internationalist idealism of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, invoked because of Gaddafi’s murderous rhetoric about the jihadist rebels fighting against him. And in 2011 she thought the time was right to start peace talks with the resurgent Taliban.

Yet if we can believe her champions, Hillary is much more of a realist than Obama. She advocated arming the Syrian rebels early on, taking a tougher line on Iran, backing off of pressuring Israel over settlements, and sending more troops to Afghanistan than the president sent in his “surge.” She also believes, we are told, that America must take the  “lead” in resolving global conflicts, in contrast to her quondam boss. All these more hawkish positions have troubled her dovish base, which explains her difficulty on the stump in dealing with her vote to approve the Iraq War Resolution in 2002, and her evasive response to ABC’s Martha Raddatz’s question about establishing a no-fly zone in Syria.

Hillary’s foreign policy positions, however, shouldn’t “baffle” anybody. She said clearly in her book Hard Choices, “Our challenge is to be clear-eyed about the world as it is while never losing sight of the world as we want it to become. That’s why I don’t mind that I’ve been called both an idealist and a realist over the years. I prefer being considered a hybrid, perhaps an idealistic realist.” In other words, Hillary’s self-professed foreign policy philosophy is classic Clintonian triangulation based on political calculation. So what does that mean for a President Hillary Clinton? Will she be more apt to do the right thing for political reasons, as her husband often did? If so, she may be a slight improvement over Obama.

In the main, though, lacking her husband’s genius for political trimming, Hillary will govern based on the progressive paradigm that points to bigger intrusive government at home, and further American retreat abroad, all subject to self-serving political needs. That will be the consequence of the decision American voters face in November––a continuation of Obama’s weakening of the political freedom and citizen self-reliance the Constitution was designed to protect.

Bruce Thornton


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

NSA spying on Israel: This is how you treat your enemies - Ronen Bergman

by Ronen Bergman

Hat tip: Dr. Carolyn Tal

'Obama ordered to stop spying against friendly heads of state, but to continue spying on Netanyahu. We all understood what that meant,' he says.

BERLIN - We met on Wednesday in a cafe in Berlin, near the Brandenburg Gate, where preparations were underway for the fireworks display on New Year's Eve. I can't reveal his real name, so in this story I will call him "Robert." He's a former senior official in the American intelligence community, and during his service he was exposed to highly classified material concerning Israel – the kind that originated from the deep intelligence cooperation between the intelligence agencies of both countries, and the kind that the United States obtained without Israel's knowledge by using advanced spying measures.

I've known Robert for a few years, since he retired from his job, and have interviewed him for a new book on the history of the Mossad. In several of our meetings he hinted that the United States knows much more about Israel than we think it does, but refused to elaborate further. In our meeting this week, he finally agreed to get into the details.

"Throughout the years we've been wondering about what we perceived to be a kind of Israeli naiveté, or a certain kind of complacency, when discussing highly classified secrets on encrypted communication systems," Robert says. "After all, the ISNU (Israeli Sigint National Unit, the nickname given to IDF Intelligence Unit 8200 by the American intelligence community - RB) managed to break so many measures considered safe by your enemies, that you should know that anything could be decrypted. You're a lot more vulnerable and transparent than you think."

Prime Minister Netanyahu has a 'Red Phone' in his office (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
Prime Minister Netanyahu has a 'Red Phone' in his office (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
Several hours before our meeting, which was originally scheduled to discuss another issue, the Wall Street Journal published an investigative report about American spying against Israel, and mostly against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top aides. The report describes the American spying capabilities as much deeper and more comprehensive than Israel knew, including the ability to operate eavesdropping devices or interception (it is unclear whether a physical device or sophisticated computer spyware were used) inside the internal communications system that the prime minister also uses.

Following the report's publication, Robert agreed to broach the subject. The reason for that, beyond the fact that the information he had kept from me until that point had now been revealed by the newspaper, was his desire to warn against the disastrous consequences of the strained relationship between the leaders of the two nations. "In the United States, the mindset coming from the Commander in Chief projects onto the soldiers, down to the most junior among them. Obama despises Netanyahu, and that affects the entire system," Robert, who cares much about Israel, says with pain.

According to him, "After the Snowden affair (the revelation that the NSA eavesdropped on Western leaders - RB), President Obama ordered to stop spying on leaders that the United States views as close and friendly allies (Robert gestures at the Chancellery building by the river). But he ordered to continue, all the more forcefully, spying on several leaders, primarily Netanyahu. We all understood what that order meant: Obama doesn't view Netanyahu as a friendly leader."

Obama, right, does not view Netanyahu, left, as a friendly leader (Photo: EPA)
Obama, right, does not view Netanyahu, left, as a friendly leader (Photo: EPA)

Netanyahu, it's important to note, did not wait for the report in the American media. Over the past few years he has been repeatedly telling his aides that the US is making great efforts to spy on him. He even instructed information security personnel at the Shin Bet (Israel's General Security Agency – RB) and the Director of Security of the Defense Ministry (MALMAB) to take measures that, at times, were perceived as extreme, to the point of paranoia.

For example, Netanyahu ordered to get rid of the signs declaring on a parking spot reserved to the prime minister at any outdoors location he arrives at (for example, a classified military drill), claiming that American satellites could read the signs, telling Washington something important was happening there. He also ordered during classified meetings not only that cellular phones be switched off and electricity devices be unplugged (like televisions), but also that all data networks in the building be taken offline. These measures might have been too extreme, but at least based on what Robert says, Netanyahu's suspicions were justified - the Americans are making huge efforts to spy on him "a lot more than against any other Israeli leader ever."

"A big part of the efforts during Netanyahu's first years in office were dedicated to two things: The illegal settlements in the territories, and the preparations for a possible Israeli strike on Iran," Robert explains. Later on the Americans realized most of the information about the settlements can be obtained from public sources.

By the end of 2012, he says, American intelligence officials reached the conclusion that the threat of an Israeli strike against Iran had been lifted, at least temporarily. However, shortly thereafter, in early 2013, the US entered secret talks with Iran, and American intelligence significantly increased its efforts to discover what Israel knew of these negotiations. The United States hid the fact that the talks in Muscat, Oman were talking place, and when the Mossad caught wind of the talks and told Netanyahu about them, he responded with anger.

Later, when the public talks between world powers and Iran began, Netanyahu, who thought the deal being discussed was "a very bad deal," launched a massive campaign in an attempt to thwart the agreement.

"The CIA and the NSA received commanders' orders (meaning from Obama - RB) to view Netanyahu's aggressive measures against the diplomatic dialogue with Iran as a threat on vital national security interests of the United States, and act accordingly," Robert says. "This is an extreme situation, difficult, unprecedented in the relationship between the two countries, the kind of which I can't remember since I was a young intelligence agent during the (June 1982) Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the heightened hostility between the defense minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, and the Reagan administration. However, if you measure the amount of intelligence measures the United States is using against Israel, then the situation today is much graver."

Picnic by the Dimona reactor 

American spying on Israel did not begin when Netanyahu was elected prime minister. Inside the massive complex of the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv, a large CIA station has been operating for many years. The head of the station is normally a very senior official in the agency, which is a testament to how important the agency's headquarters at Langley, Virginia consider this job. In addition, the embassy is home to a large representation of the FBI, the Pentagon and the American military, with all of its different branches.

In the mid-60s, an NSA station was also set up at the Tel Aviv embassy. This agency, which is responsible for eavesdropping and intercepting communications, started developing a comprehensive and productive collaboration with Unit 8200. At the same time, the embassy spied on Israel.

A vast forest of antennas was erected on the roof of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, some of them out in the open and some covered, so Israel would not be able to figure out their purpose and the direction in which they are pointed. Two of the building's floors are dedicated exclusively to intelligence operations. The entrances and exits to these floors are heavily guarded 24/7 by Marines and closed-circuit security cameras. The Marines themselves are not allowed into the closed-off area, only intelligence operatives can enter.

A forest of antennas and satellite dishes on the roof of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv (Photo: Meir Partush)
A forest of antennas and satellite dishes on the roof of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv (Photo: Meir Partush)

This area is built of an alloy of concrete, steel, and other materials that create a structure that is impenetrable to eavesdropping, even with lasers that can penetrate windows. With the computers and experts in the building, alongside their colleagues in Washington, Robert says, "we were able to infiltrate much of Israel's communication systems."

The Americans wanted, and still want, to know about Israeli plans - both military and diplomatic - that could change the face of the Middle East, and that Israel doesn't officially share with them. They also really want to know about the defense establishment's military and technological capabilities. They're not really interested in stealing sensitive technologies. They're more interested in the way such systems, or weapons with apocalyptic capabilities, might change the situation in the world. These things were particularly important during the Cold War, when any conflagration in the region could've led to a third world war.

So, for example, the US and Russia believed that Israel raised its level of nuclear readiness in the wake of Syria and Egypt's surprise attack in October 1973, which significantly increased the tensions between the two world powers. At a later stage of the Yom Kippur War, Israel believed the Russians had deployed nuclear missiles on the Nile Delta, and prepared to respond to that. This raised the tensions further, and put the United States at its highest level of nuclear readiness (other than during the Cuban missile crisis).

One of the central topics of interest for American intelligence throughout the years has been to know what is happening at the Dimona reactor. The late John Hadden, who served as the head of the CIA station in Israel in the 60s, revealed to me in an interview about a decade ago that he dedicated a considerable part of his time to trying to ascertain whether Israel was attempting to build a nuclear bomb.

He told me that Israel's Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Gazit summoned him to rebuke him for the fact that he, Hadden, was spying on the State of Israel, telling him that he shouldn't think the Shin Bet hadn't noticed. "Our basic assumption was that in every movement we made outside the embassy building, your Shin Bet was sitting on our tails," Hadden told me. "They were very professional and took great pains not to be discovered."

The Dimona reactor (Photo: Getty ImageBank)
The Dimona reactor (Photo: Getty ImageBank)

Hadden's son, John Junior, is about to release his book "Conversations with a Masked Man" next month. In this book (and also in a conversation with Israeli nuclear researcher Prof. Avner Cohen), John Jr. tells of how his father used to take him and the rest of the family for a "picnic" in southern Israel, where they would collect dirt samples from different spots as part of a "game to get to know the area" that his father invented. Except that it was all a cover story: The samples were sent to the United States and analyzed by American nuclear experts. Hadden and his people were detained by the Israeli police several times over these spy games.

Israel was very sensitive about the Americans spying on Dimona. "We all were and still are convinced that the Liberty affair (on the third day of the Six-Day War, Israel sunk the Liberty, an American intelligence ship. 34 crew members were killed and 171 were wounded - RB) was not a mistake, but an intentional sinking meant to signal to the United States to stop spying on Israel," Robert claims.

Another point of interest for the US in the 70s and 80s was the special relations between Israel and South Africa. And, indeed, classified CIA documents accused Israel of conducting joint research with the apartheid regime on a series of weapons systems, advanced missiles of different kinds, and nuclear development.

But there was one incident that led to a dramatic increase in the amount of resources the US dedicates to spying on Israel. "The strike on the Iraqi reactor in 1981 - which we heard about only when Ambassador Sam Lewis was summoned to (Prime Minister Menachem) Begin's office, where he was told of the operation - was perceived as a grave failure of American intelligence," Robert says. "I even heard that there was a special team formed to investigate how it was possible that the Israeli Air Force, Military Intelligence, the Mossad, and a big part of the political system, are working on something of that magnitude, and we don't know anything about it and are caught so off-guard."

Following the attack on the reactor in Iraq, Robert says, the NSA launched intense efforts to infiltrate Israel's classified communication systems, "and primarily the Air Force's communications systems, which I believe were nicknamed 'Rigo' at the time, which were later adopted by the rest of the IDF." In fact, Robert is referring to the 'Trigo' communications system, which is a part of an advanced and encrypted communications apparatus that was developed by the Air Force after the 1967 Six-Day War. Later, these communications systems were adopted by the entire IDF and were nicknamed "Precious Stone," which is what many soldiers throughout the last decade called "The Red Phones," because the color of their receivers was red.

The mysterious agent 'Mega' 

The United States first reaped the benefits of cracking those communication systems during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. On June 17, some two weeks after the beginning of the war, the US strongly protested to Israel against IDF chief Rafael Eitan's order to bomb a certain area of Beirut. Since the bombing hadn't actually happened, the Israelis concluded that the Americans managed to intercept an encrypted "Red Phone" call between Eitan and the GOC Northern Command Amir Drori.

"The fact that they (the White House and State Department) decided at the time to take part of the information - we had much more than that - and share it with Israel, meaning endangering the secret that we know, shows how strained the relationship between the two sides was," Robert says.
It was clear to the NSA that Israel suspected some of the encryptions were cracked, but the Israelis, Robert says, kept talking freely. "All of these years you've been fighting enemies that were not good at developing advanced technological and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) measures, and that's why you've become, in many ways, spoiled and complacent. Beyond that, you could've assumed, and rightly so, that the United States was a friend of Israel and would not make bad use of the information apart from instances in which it was against American interests. In the many meetings I had with Israeli intelligence officials, I was astonished many times when I got from them, during casual conversation, information that we made great efforts to obtain using exotic electronic measures."

Many of the documents in the ocean of files leaked by former NSA and CIA employee Edward Snowden, of which only a few were published, detail the deep cooperation between Unit 8200 and the NSA. In these periodic meetings, some of which Robert attended, the division of labor between the two intelligence agencies was discussed.

Former NSA and CIA employee Edward Snowden (Photo: AP)
Former NSA and CIA employee Edward Snowden (Photo: AP)

As part of the cooperation between the two states, NSA satellite dishes were placed near Jerusalem, an area proven strategically important to catch broadcasts, in order to intercept communications from different places in the world and transfer them directly to the agency's headquarters in Maryland. The two agencies, according to the Wall Street Journal, have divided the Middle East and its main targets between them, and the information was being uploaded to a shared database.

On the other hand, American intelligence agencies were very much burned by the Pollard affair and invested a lot of effort into the search for any additional spies. These efforts mostly failed to lead to indictments (except for Larry Franklin, who was kicked out of his Pentagon job after it was claimed he leaked documents about Iran to AIPAC, although his sentence was eventually mitigated), but they led to a series of information leaks that could not have been obtained in any other way than by spying.

In May 1997, for example, the Washington Post made a lot of noise with a report of what at first appeared to be another Israeli spying affair. According to that report, the NSA picked up a phone call from the head of the Mossad's TEVEL division (responsible for maintaining ties with foreign intelligence agencies) in Washington to the Tel Aviv headquarters, in which he talks about using 'Mega' in order to obtain a letter from then-US Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Arafat. The Americans were furious. They thought 'Mega' was the code-name of a new agent that had infiltrated the US administration.

Except that the entire story was completely farfetched. The NSA translator simple misunderstood what Y., the head of the division, said - "Helga" and not "Mega." Helga is the Mossad's nickname for the CIA. Meaning, he was talking about an official request to American intelligence to receive the letter.

In another instance, a routine Shin Bet detail discovered communications made between a major in the IDF, who was serving in the Air Force, and one of the American Embassy's intelligence agents. That major, who was an agent for the Americans for several years, strayed from the communication guidelines he was given, and was caught. In this affair, to which there is more than meets the eye, the IDF officer was put on trial under a cloak of secrecy. He was sentenced to a long jail term, but was pardoned several years later and has been keeping a very low profile ever since.

Spying on the defense minister 

"Desert Storm (the Gulf War) was a great opportunity for us to study the Israeli communication systems," Robert says with a smile. Israel, which at the time did not yet have reconnaissance satellites, needed the American satellites to receive warnings of Scud missiles being launched from Iraq.

“Prime Minister Shamir reached an agreement with President (George H. W.) Bush to set up a direct line of data connecting our spy satellites' command and control center with the United States Embassy and with the subterranean IDF bunker. This communications system was indeed set up, but in the process of setting it up, and in the month it was active, we received important insights into Israel's command and control center in a way that would later help us to infiltrate them."

The September 11 attacks put the United States into war mode. On the instructions of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the American intelligence was given a series of processing and data mining systems developed by the Shin Bet, which even won The Israel Defense Prize, the highest decoration in the field. Thanks to these systems, which could place a very large amount of data gathered from different sources on one intelligence map, Israel's intelligence community was able to defeat an enemy considered unbeatable - suicide bombers. The Americans took these methods and developed them further with an investment of billions of dollars.

Michael Hayden, who was the head of the NSA and later the CIA in the last decade, in a conversation with me defined the cooperation between the US and some of its allies worldwide, including Israel: "Here is what we bring: We're big, we're rich, we're technologically advanced and we're global. What do our partners bring? They're small, focused and culturally and linguistically smart and relevant to the targets."

This cooperation allowed for advanced intelligence infiltration of common enemies like Iran and terror organizations, but it also led to serious disputes. Israel shared with the US the information it had on the Syrian reactor that was being built in Deir ez-Zor, but the prime minister at the time, Ehud Olmert, was not able to convince President George W. Bush to bomb the reactor.

Then-prime minister Olmert, right, could not convince then-US president Bush to bomb the Syrian reactor (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
Then-prime minister Olmert, right, could not convince then-US president Bush to bomb the Syrian reactor (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)

Israel tried to hide from the United States its decision to bomb the Syrian reactor, and extreme information security measures were taken, including barring the communication of critical information via electronic measures. Robert says these efforts were only partially successful.

"Before the attack, we saw a very significant spike in the activity of some intelligence and Air Force officials. Because of our past dialogue on the Syrian reactor, we assumed that was what this was about, but we didn't know about the exact date," he says.

Nonetheless, Robert says that the Americans did notice that the Israeli side was put on a high level of alert. There were internal reports in Israel that President Bashar Assad put his Scud C batteries on alert, and might have even armed them with chemical weapons.

The assassination of Syrian general Muhammad Suleiman in Tartus in August 2008, which was attributed by Syrian intelligence and some media reports to Israeli Naval commandos (Flotilla 13) and the Mossad, was also done under the watchful eye of the US. Robert reveals the American Navy’s intelligence unit and the NSA identified activity of the Israeli Navy and of "a special force of naval commandos" along the Syrian shoreline, and immediately connected this activity with the assassination and with information that came in at the same time from sources in Syria.

This comment by Robert is very significant, as it shows that even highly classified IDF tactical operations, if such an operation indeed occurred, are exposed to US intelligence.

But most of the American spying efforts against Israel over the past decade were focused on one thing: Iran.

Shortly after being appointed defense minister, Ehud Barak instructed the IDF to start seriously examining the possibility of attacking Iran's nuclear facility. At the same time, and not by coincidence, the Shin Bet discovered that the United States Embassy rented an apartment with a view of Barak's apartment at the Akirov Towers on Pinkas Street in Tel Aviv. The excuse for the renting that apartment was that it was for a Marine securing the embassy. But a Shin Bet detail that was stationed near the apartment noticed unusual electronic equipment being brought into that apartment.

The Israelis estimated that the apartment was fitted with highly advanced electronic equipment to eavesdrop on the defense minister's conversations, including a "laser microphone." This device shoots a laser beam towards an object in the room the person being spied on is in, normally a smooth surface like a framed picture or a window, and when the beam "bounces" back, it's affected by the sound vibrations caused to the object from the voice of that person. The device can catch the beam and "understand" in what way it was affected by the sound vibrations. A state-of-the-art computer converts these changes to audio.

Then-defense minister Ehud Barak with then-Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot (Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
Then-defense minister Ehud Barak with then-Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot (Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)

Barak used to hold meetings with different security officials in his apartment in the evening hours and during the weekends. The apartment had both regular phones and encrypted "red phones." The Shin Bet and the Information Security Department of IDF Intelligence took different measures to prevent eavesdropping on what was being said in the room, including closing the blinds every time there was a phone call or a meeting on security issues, as well as installing a system to disrupt the catching of the laser beam that bounces off the window.

"We were sure the Americans were listening and it became a routine practice at his home," says an intelligence official who used to come to the defense minister's apartment to brief him on classified information.

It would appear the Americans weren't able to get much from the laser microphone, but at the same time, and in light of the threat of an Israeli strike, they increased their spying efforts against Israel exponentially. A highly classified document Snowden took with him (parts of which were published by Der Spiegel correspondents Holger Stark and Marcel Rosenbach), includes a list of priorities for the NSA (NIFP) from 2010, meaning: The instructions the heads of the agency received from the American president on whom to spy on and on what topics to focus. Israel can be found high up on the list of spying targets, and in some of the categories it is no less important than states like Iran or North Korea.

The secret British base

The Snowden documents that were published reveal American spying of an incomprehensible amount of entities and institutions, including Israeli targets, by monitoring their e-mail accounts. This activity, which received the code names of Broadoak or Carboy, was mostly conducted at a secret eavesdropping based shared by the NSA and the GCHQ (the British version of the NSA) on the coast of the Atlantic ocean, some 300 km west of London. The documents show that the US spied on the e-mails of the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, the defense minister's office and several Israeli embassies across the world. As part of their cooperation, the two intelligence agencies - the American and the British - were able to hack into the international roaming system in order to intercept text messages and calls from smartphones that were outside their country of origin. Robert says that the NSA used this ability to monitor the phone conversations of Israeli officials in order to "try and understand whether Israel was about to unilaterally attack Iran's nuclear facilities."

Iran's nuclear reactor in Bushehr (Photo: AFP)
Iran's nuclear reactor in Bushehr (Photo: AFP)

Snowden's leaking of these documents caused great embarrassment to American intelligence and to the White House. President Obama announced that he will from now on limit the NSA's activity against American citizens and friendly heads of states. But the efforts against Israel were not limited – quite the opposite.

Most of the efforts, Robert says, were aimed at Netanyahu and his aides on one topic: "What do they know about the negotiations with Iran, and how do they intend to disrupt it, among other things through the (AIPAC) Israeli lobby's activity in the US and by approaching American officials," The Wall Street Journal reported that these activities reached a problematic point when conversations with American citizens were eavesdropped on (AIPAC officials, Congressmen, government officials) - a controversial issue in the US from a legal standpoint.

The White House, the WSJ's report stated, asked the NSA to pass on only what "you decide to deliver."

But even if not all of the material was passed on, Robert says, it doesn't matter. The problem was of a fundamental nature: "The order to use this kind of spying power against Israel, even after Snowden's leaks and the knowledge that continuing this kind of activity includes a significant political risk, illustrates just how the White House regards the Israeli government. This is not how you treat friends. This is how you spy against enemies."

Ronen Bergman


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AJC, how about Standing with Israel instead of Breaking the Silence? - Ronn Torossian

by Ronn Torossian

The AJC should Stand With Israel – not with Breaking the Silence and The New Israel Fund.

For some liberal American Jewish leaders, democracy matters everywhere – except the State of Israel. 

The American Jewish Committee issued a press release today opposing the Knesset’s proposed transparency legislation which would require Israeli NGOs to report if they receive money from foreign governments.  While the majority of Israel’s democratically elected leaders view this bill as necessary in order to help combat Israel’s enemies and opponents, the AJC, the self-proclaimed foreign affairs arm of the Jewish community,opposes it. 

Rather than support Israel during this time of need – or stay silent - the AJC, which has never criticized the nefarious activities of Breaking the Silence, or that of other anti-Israel grantees of the New Israel Fund claimed that Israel’s Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked’s proposed NGO law poses a "risk to Israel's reputation." The risk lies with those foreign governments seeking to undermine Israel. 

The AJC – which has positioned itself as the “State Department of the Jewish people”  - is hardly critical of groups funded by the New Israel Fund that actively pursue boycotts of the Jewish State.  However, it feels that being open about foreign governments that fund campaigns to usurp Israeli democracy is a danger to Israel. This is simply absurd.

The law is simply a way of knowing whether an NGO in Israel is beholden to foreign governments.

The AJC’s press release did not mention that it consistently opposes the ideology of Shaked’s political party, the Jewish Home, nor that AJC director David Harris aggressively supports a peace process and a two-state solution with entities who consistently inflict terror in Israel and who refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist. 

The American Jewish Committee opposes cutting off funds for academic institutions that support BDS, has criticized Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett for supporting the rights of Jews to settle throughout Israel, and is an outspoken proponent of a Palestinian Arab State.

Lest one forget, in 2004, the leadership of the AJC met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's national security adviser, Jibril Rajoub, and Harris publicly urged Israel to use the “road map” to get to “peace.” At that time he said, "If the line were closer to the Clinton-Barak lines, the U.S. would have less concerns and the fence could be politically defensible." (Those parameters would have placed nearly 97 percent of Judea and Samaria in Palestinian hands.)

During that meeting, Rajoub said, "Terror attacks against Israeli civilians within the Green Line were a tragic mistake for the Palestinian people.”  The clear implication was that killing innocent Jews elsewhere is alright.

Last year, Harris published an article in the Huffington Post entitled “Give The Peace Process A Chance.”

In 1928, Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky said, “Peace with the Arabs is, of course, to be desired. There is no need for a discussion on this matter among the Jews. All of us, one hundred percent of us, want peace.”  That remains true today.  

The AJC – with $100 million in assets – would be best served standing with Israel, and not with foreign governments who seek to undermine democracy in Israel.

Ronn Torossian


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Debate In Lebanon Surrounding Saudi Establishment Of Islamic Anti-Terrorism Alliance, Lebanon's Inclusion In It - E. B. Picali

by E. B. Picali

Much still remains unknown about the alliance. As of yet, it is unclear which organizations aside from ISIS fall under the definition of "terrorist organizations" that the alliance intends to combat.

At a press conference on December 15, 2015 at 3:00 a.m., Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman announced the establishment of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, which includes 35 Arab and Muslim countries. He said that the alliance, which will be headquartered in Riyadh, is meant to coordinate these nations' efforts to combat terrorism on the military, security, ideological, and media levels. Bin Salman stressed that every country would contribute according to its ability and that the alliance was geared towards combating all forms of terrorism and not just ISIS. Addressing Syria and Iraq, bin Salman said that the alliance could operate against terrorist groups in those countries, but only in coordination with their "legitimate" authorities (without specifically explaining what this refers to) and the international community.

Conversely, Saudi Foreign Minister 'Adel Al-Jubeir said that the possibility of the alliance's involvement in ground operations in Syria must not be ruled out, and did not mention anyone's consent.[1] 

Alongside Saudi Arabia, the alliance members include major regional Arab and Muslim countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, and Morocco. However, the notable absence of other important countries such as Iran, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and Oman has created the impression that this is a Saudi attempt to establish an alliance against the resistance axis, which Iran leads, in order to invalidate Iran's claims that its involvement in the Arab world is with the purpose of combatting terrorism. Another potential reason for establishing the alliance is the recent wave of withering international criticism against Saudi Arabia, accusing it of being responsible for the emergence of the radical ideology of terrorist organizations and for being their financial backer. It is possible that the establishment of the alliance is a Saudi attempt to prove to the international community that it combats, rather than produces, terrorism.

Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Salman announces the establishment of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (, December 15, 2015)

Much still remains unknown about the alliance. As of yet, it is unclear which organizations aside from ISIS fall under the definition of "terrorist organizations" that the alliance intends to combat. For example, does Hizbullah - which is on Saudi Arabia's list of terrorist organizations - fall under this category? Additionally, as stated, it is unclear to what "legitimate" authorities in Syria the Saudi Foreign Minister was referring. Other matters that remain unclear are the alliance's methods and means, its decision-making mechanisms, and more.

Another puzzling aspect is that the announcement of the alliance's establishment came suddenly, in the middle of the night, without advance notice by the Saudi defense minister, and without the presence of representatives from other member countries. Moreover, reports indicate that some countries announced as members of the alliance, such as Pakistan and Indonesia, had no prior knowledge of this.[2] 

Lebanon's membership in the alliance is also a point of contention. While the Lebanese foreign ministry claimed to have had no prior knowledge of it, the office of Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that the Saudi declaration on Lebanon's inclusion in the alliance came after a phone conversation between the Saudi leadership and Salam himself, in which the latter approved the initiative.[3] In fact, the announcement on Lebanon's inclusion in the alliance sparked a fierce debate between the country's pro-Saudi and pro-Iranian camps.

This report will focus on the responses in Lebanon to the Saudi announcement of its inclusion in the Muslim Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism: The sweeping support of pro-Saudi Lebanese elements, particularly the Al-Mustaqbal stream led by Sa'd Al-Hariri; the criticism and even threats on the part of pro-resistance axis elements, mainly Hizbullah; and the conflict between the two.

This Is An Alliance In Support Of Terrorism; Such Decisions Require The Consent Of The Government And Parliament
The Saudi announcement that Lebanon had joined its anti-terrorism alliance infuriated Hizbullah, especially since it is on Saudi Arabia's list of terrorist organizations along with other groups supported by Iran such as Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi in Iraq and Ansar Allah in Yemen. It should be mentioned that the Lebanese daily Al-Safir cited a knowledgeable source who said that during talks in New York on the eve of the December 2015 ratification of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 for a political solution in Syria, a certain Gulf state demanded to include Hizbullah, the Lebanese Amal movement, and the Syrian Ba'th party on the list of terrorist organizations fighting in Syria.[4] 
Hizbullah's main grounds for opposing Lebanon's membership in the alliance is that the decision on such a move requires government approval; that the alliance is actually meant to support terrorism rather than fight it, and that Lebanon's participation would endanger the country's stability and unity.

On December 17, several days after the Saudi announcement, Hizbullah issued a statement stressing its outright opposition to Lebanon joining the alliance, claiming that Prime Minister Salam had given his consent "of his own personal volition, which does not bind anyone, since no prime minister can enter into a military alliance... without the consent of the government and the approval of the Lebanese parliament." The statement also added that due to these facts, Salam's consent had "no legal, political, or practical meaning."

Hizbullah's statement also questioned the alliance and its true goals: "This [the establishment of the alliance] is merely the response of Saudi Arabia and other countries to an American decision... This alliance was formed quickly and suspiciously, which raises many questions, chief among them being how worthy is Saudi Arabia to head an anti-terrorism alliance, given that it is responsible for extremist terrorist ideology, which it continues to adopt and support throughout the world. Everyone knows that Saudi Arabia conducts state terrorism, as it did in Yemen, and that it supports terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and that some of its partners in this false alliance also support terrorism."[5] 

Similar comments were made by Hizbullah's deputy secretary-general Sheikh Na'im Qassem, who said: "This alliance is meant to support terrorism, not combat it." He added: "Lebanon will certainly not be a part of it, and we will certainly not agree to assist Saudi Arabia, which stands accused and guilty of terrorism, [just] in order to cover up its hypocrisy." Qassem also said that "the age in which Saudi Arabia led countries to carry out its will has already ended."[6] 

Hizbullah MP Nawaf Al-Moussawi added: "There is a well-known constitutional mechanism in place to approve Lebanon's joining the Islamic Alliance. Article 52 [of the Lebanese Constitution] determines that the president conducts negotiations and that the government [must] take a decision by a two-thirds majority and bring it to the approval of parliament. This means that [the process] must have three stages: The president, the government, and the parliament [but this decision did not meet those criteria]."[7] 

Hizbullah Official: If This Alliance Was Established Against Us, They Should Beware Our Rage
The head of the Hizbullah bloc in the Lebanese parliament, MP Mohammad Raad, expressed total rejection "of Lebanon's participation in such a suspicious alliance" and even claimed that "participating in it endangers Lebanon's stability, unity, and security." He wondered: "What terrorism does the Islamic Alliance wish to combat?" and added: "The terrorist organizations that received support from most Gulf states and from some of Lebanon's political forces [i.e. the Al-Mustaqbal stream] are tied to the Gulf states."

Raad warned the Saudi founders of the alliance, saying: "If they think resistance is terrorism and if they wish to establish this alliance against us, they should beware our rage. If the purpose of declaring this alliance is to beatify their image and whitewash the crimes they committed when they supported takfiri terrorist groups, it should [be stated] that they have not repented in any way." He stated further: "Those who were involved in terrorism have no right to speak of terrorism..."[8] 

Al-Mustaqbal Stream: Since When Does Hizbullah Consider The State's Opinion Or Ask For Its Permission?
Conversely, the Al-Mustaqbal stream led by Sa'd Al-Hariri, who is known for his pro-Saudi position - praised the establishment of the Islamic Alliance. Al-Hariri, who has been away from Lebanon for several years, issued a statement that read: "This is an historic step on the road to dealing with this political, security, and ideological problem [of terrorism], which has become a dangerous burden on the image of cultured Islam and humanity, and a threat to Islamic existence and coexistence with the world's societies." He added: "It is natural that the announcement comes from Riyadh, since responsibility for combating terrorism rests on the shoulders of Muslims, especially Arabs." Al-Hariri concluded his statement with praise and esteem for the Saudi leadership headed by King Salman, the crown prince and deputy crown prince.[9] Expectedly, the Al-Mustaqbal party also issued a statement praising Saudi Arabia for the move.[10] 

The Al-Mustaqbal stream also launched barbs at Hizbullah and its attack on Saudi Arabia, claiming that Hizbullah's demand that such decisions go through proper legal channels borders on hypocrisy, since Hizbullah itself has always ignored this obligation, and in many cases disregards the state and its institutions and makes decisions on its own accord, as it did, for instance, regarding its military involvement in Syria.

On December 18, 2015, the Al-Mustaqbal stream issued a statement that read: "It is not surprising that Hizbullah took a harsh negative stance on the announcement of the establishment of the broad Islamic Alliance to Fight Terrorism, particularly since the announcement came from Saudi Arabia – and Hizbullah treats this kingdom as an enemy and does not miss any incident and any chance to attack it and harm its role and its efforts to defend the rights of Arabs and Muslims." This statement too accuses Hizbullah of hypocrisy, expressing wonderment at its "sudden discovery that such decisions require the consent of the government and the approval of parliament... It would have been best if Hizbullah had discovered [the need] for political, constitutional, and legal backing [for such steps] many years ago – namely when it claimed the [exclusive] right to bring members of the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guard [Corps] into the Beqa'a [Valley] and other areas [in Lebanon] to train its armed activists without the consent or knowledge of Lebanese authorities and without notifying them; or when it decided, on its own accord, to participate in the fighting in Syria while defying the government's decision [at the time] stating that Lebanon would not tie itself to regional conflicts[11] and [while challenging] the state's exclusive right to [bear] arms and use them, as well as make decisions regarding launching wars inside and outside [the country]."[12] 

Lebanese Columnist: Hizbullah Opposes The Alliance Because Iran Does Not Really Wish To Combat ISIS
The previous day, columnist 'Ali Rabbah published an article in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal claiming that Hizbullah's opposition to the Islamic Alliance is rooted in Iran's fear that it will no longer be able to cynically exploit terrorism in its efforts to become the region's police. He wrote: "Why are Hizbullah and its backer [Iran] worried about the Islamic Alliance to Fight Terrorism? After all, Hizbullah [supposedly] believes that ISIS is a greater existential threat to the peoples of the region than Israel... We cannot ignore the fact that Iran... trades in the issue of combating terrorist groups for political purposes, using it to establish a number of goals in its current expansion in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The truth behind the Iran plan has become clear. Apparently someone here does not [truly] desire to combat ISIS, but rather to use it as a scarecrow that frightens the West regarding Sunni terrorism, so that it can trade in [this fear] and sell it to local Christians and the international community as a pretext that leads to proposals to appoint Iran as the region's police."

According to Rabbah, Iran is also worried that, after concluding the struggle against ISIS, the Islamic Alliance will set its sights on Iranian proxies such as Shi'ite militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, since some of them are included on Saudi Arabia's and other countries' lists of terrorist organizations.[13] 

Saudi Ambassador To Lebanon: Hizbullah Is The One Appropriating The Country's Decisions
The Saudis joined the attack on Hizbullah via their ambassador to Lebanon 'Ali Awadh Al-Asseri, who said on December 18: "It is strange that some of those voicing criticism of the kingdom's decision [to establish the alliance] are the same ones accused by Lebanese public opinion of ongoing harm to Lebanon's sovereignty and of appropriating the country's decisions." He continued to attack Hizbullah, albeit without naming it specifically: "Some elements tie themselves to dubious plans aimed entirely at creating schism in regional countries, divide the Arab ranks, and stoke sectarian rivalries."[14] 

It should be mentioned that the following day, Al-Asseri stated that his country respects Lebanon's sovereignty and special circumstances and that it would not force any country to join the alliance, [15] despite the approval of Prime Minister Salam. This indicates Saudi understanding of Lebanon's political sensitivities vis-a-vis the Saudi-Iranian conflict, while also reflecting the obscure circumstances surrounding the establishment of the alliance.

*E. B. Picali is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1], Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 15, 2015.
[2] Al-Watan (Egypt), December 16, 2015;, December 18, 2015; Al-Atheer (Malaysia), December 18, 2015.
[3] Al-Safir (Lebanon), December 15, 2015; Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 16, 2015.
[4] Al-Safir (Lebanon), December 19, 2015.
[5] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 18, 2015.
[6], December 19, 2015.
[7], December 19, 2015.
[8], December 19, 2015.
[9] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 16, 2015.
[10] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 16, 2015.
[11] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 842, Syria's Role In Lebanon's Conflagration, June 1, 2012.
[12], December 18, 2015.
[13] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 17, 2015.
[14] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 19, 2015.
[15] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 20, 2015.

E. B. Picali


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ObamaCare does not Trump the Second Amendment - Daniel John Sobieski

by Daniel John Sobieski

The Obama administration has long tried to use mental health as a means, not to make us safer, but to deny us our gun rights under the Second Amendment.

Shredding the right to keep and bear arms has long been a goal of President Obama, the self-professed constitutional law professor who has long regarded the Constitution as an impediment to advancing his progressive agenda and acquiring as much federal power as possible. The rules he has announced are touted as “sensible gun restriction” are in fact a shameless gun grab that violate the Constitution and patient-doctor confidentiality.

On Monday, the Obama administration finalized a rule allowing your doctor to report your mental health status to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS):
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS or “the Department”) is issuing this final rule to modify the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to expressly permit certain HIPAA covered entities to disclose to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the identities of individuals who are subject to a Federal “mental health prohibitor” that disqualifies them from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm. The NICS is a national system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct background checks on persons who may be disqualified from receiving firearms based on Federally prohibited categories or State law. 
Previously a doctor who disclosed such information could be subject of a lawsuit for malpractice or invasion of privacy. Now he or she becomes a federal agent turning those who seek a doctor’s care into threats to society from which guns must be grabbed. No one wants the truly mentally ill to possess firearms, but does seeing a psychiatrist for depression or taking anti-depressants, for example, make one a threat to public safety?

The Obama administration has long tried to use mental health as a means, not to make us safer, but to deny us our gun rights under the Second Amendment. Consider Obama’s selection of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be our Surgeon General, someone who firmly believes gun control is a health issue, something that can and should be used to gut out Second Amendment rights. As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized during his confirmation process:
Murthy's approach to attacking the Second Amendment has been to say private ownership of firearms is a public health issue. The 37-year-old Murthy is president and co-founder of the anti-gun group Doctors for America, which advocates ObamaCare and gun control laws. His group, which has been dubbed Docs vs. Glocks, has pushed Congress to ban "assault" weapons and "high capacity" magazines.
Doctors for America has promoted the invasion of privacy by doctors by advocating they ask patients if they have guns at home, including asking children if their parents own guns. He would have doctors counsel their patients against exercising their Second Amendment rights. One wonders how private that information would remain if entered into the medical records the government would be privy to under ObamaCare.
Back in 2013, a piece of legislation called Toomey-Manchin proposed that doctors be allowed to unilaterally place a patient’s name in the background check system in a way that violated patient doctor confidentially under HIPAA as well as our Second Amendment Rights:
The Toomey-Manchin proposal contains a provision that lets a doctor add a patient to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) without ever telling the patient he or she has been added.
This would seem to violate doctor-patient confidentiality, due process and the presumption of innocence in one fell swoop.
As the Heritage Foundation reports, this "gun control legislation eliminates any (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy protection for mental health records in connection with the NICS system, leaving only what privacy protection the attorney general cares to provide."
Another new rule targets seniors and includes among those unable to purchase or possess a firearm those considered unable to manage their own finances. As the Los Angeles Times has reported, the Obama administration has long sought to make our Social Security records part of the background check system. The move would strip some four million Americans who receive payments though a “representative payee” of their gun rights. It would be the largest gun grab in U.S. history.
A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to "marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease."
There is no simple way to identify that group, but a strategy used by the Department of Veterans Affairs since the creation of the background check system is reporting anyone who has been declared incompetent to manage pension or disability payments and assigned a fiduciary.
Keeping guns out of the hands of the truly mentally unstable is a worthy goal, but it should not be used as a cause for disarming those who sought needed medical help or senior systems who might need some assistance in paying their bills.

Stripping away their Second Amendment rights in the name of mental health would be a gross injustice that would not make us safer, but would merely create millions of unarmed victims for the next shooter with an agenda.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.    


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