Friday, August 3, 2018

Trump Confronts Russia With the Fleet Obama ‘Sank’ - Daniel Greenfield

by Daniel Greenfield

What real power and national greatness look like.

On October 1962, destroyers from the Second Fleet streamed out to intercept Russian vessels suspected of delivering missiles to Cuba. Under the shadow of DEFCON 2, Vice Admiral Alfred Ward, commander of the Second Fleet, watched over a blockade of Cuba. The Navy men putting Russian ships under their guns knew that they were the tip of the spear in what might at any moment become the next world war.

The Russians had ordered their ships to keep going. It was up to the Second Fleet to hold the line.

"Admiral, it looks as though this is up to the Navy," President Kennedy told Admiral Anderson.

“Mr. President,” the admiral replied, “the Navy will not let you down.”

On September 2011, under the leftist politico whose admirers tried to sell him as another JFK, the flag of the Second Fleet was taken down. The fleet that had taken point against the Russians was no more.

The justification for the disestablishment of the Second Fleet was the diminished threat from Russia. The Navy was being cut to pieces while Obama focused on boondoggles like the “Green Fleet”. 

“Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917,” Mitt Romney had objected next year during a presidential debate. "We also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama sneered, to the cheers of the media. "The question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships."

When Romney brought up the Russian threat, Obama sneered some more. "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years."

These days, Obama’s party is mired in a haze of Russian paranoia. But it was their leader who dismantled our first lines of defense and Trump who is restoring our military deterrence.

Seven years after Obama shuttered the Second Fleet, its flag is flying again. The fleet isn’t green any more, it is mean. And it will watch over the East Coast and the Atlantic to checkmate Russian subs.

The shutdown of the Second Fleet was part of Obama’s failed pivot to Asia which ended with a humiliating apology to China for flying a plane too close to one of the Communist dictatorship’s fake South China Sea islands. (Trump has since dispatched B-52s, outraging China, with no apology.)
That was December 2015. 

On January 2016, the complete collapse of naval credibility led Iran to seize two United States Navy boats, steal classified information, hold their crews hostage and humiliate them on television.

Obama had forced the Navy to grovel to China. Why not Iran? 

Instead of taking decisive action against this second Iran hostage crisis, the appeasement administration instead used it to spin the success of the Iran Deal. The humiliation of the Navy was complete.

But the humiliation of the United States Navy and the United States of America ended on Jan 20, 2017.

The restoration of the Second Fleet is an important step in the revival of America’s Navy. But the full scope of the harm Obama inflicted on our readiness will take generations of hard work to repair.

The USS Enterprise, the descendant of a fabled history stretching back to the American Revolution, which took part in the Cuban blockade, was scrapped by Obama. The Enterprise was one of six carriers scrapped by Obama who wasn’t interested in counting ships or horses and bayonets.

Or in fulfilling the congressional mandate to maintain at least eleven aircraft carriers at all times. Scrapping the USS Enterprise took us to ten even though 10 U.S. Code § 5062 specifically states, "The naval combat forces of the Navy shall include not less than 11 operational aircraft carriers."

Obama broke the law. He undermined our national security. And once again, he got away with it.

The great dismantling of our military fueled Chinese, Russian and Islamic aggressive expansionism. But now the Second Fleet will be headquartered in Norfolk along with NATO’s Joint Force Command for the Atlantic. While media pundits wailed about Trump’s commitment to NATO, Norfolk sends a clear and direct message to the Russians and to NATO about American capabilities and determination. 

Under Obama, Russian attack subs and spy ships showed up on our coastlines, approaching naval bases, coming close to our waters, occasionally passing undetected, testing our capabilities and our nerve. While Obama did nothing about the threat to our naval forces, Trump shut down the Russian consulate in Seattle to stop its spying on Naval Base Kitsap, one of the homes of our underwater nuclear arsenal.

Our capabilities have room to regrow, but no matter how much the media lies, our nerve is not lacking.

President Trump nominated Vice Admiral Andrew "Woody" Lewis, a former fighter pilot, who had served on the Enterprise, the Truman, and the Roosevelt, to head the Second Fleet.  The Lewis pick demonstrates the administration’s commitment to projecting naval and air power in the Atlantic.

There are no horses and bayonets here. Just Trump’s vision for restoring carrier power. While Obama scrapped carriers in his own game of Battleship, Trump wants 12 supercarriers and a fleet of 350 ships.

"American ships will sail the seas, American planes will soar the skies, American workers will build our fleets," President Trump had declared at the dedication of the USS Gerald R. Ford. 

Ford brings the Navy up to 11 carriers. Obama took the Navy below its mandated minimum strength. Now for the first time since those terrible years of appeasement, American naval power is recovering.

By the time Trump is ready to leave office, the Navy should be back up to twelve carriers again. A few years later, the People’s Republic of China expects to have four carriers. Its advanced new vessels will likely rely on stolen technology ripped off by Chinese hackers in the weak and feckless Obama years.

These include the Littoral Combat Ship and Aegis system designs.

The Democrats and the media howling about the national security threat from Russian hackers remain uninterested in the Chinese hacks that stole some of our most vital and advanced national security secrets. They expect us to believe that hacking John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s emails, and posting spam on Facebook, was a bigger threat than China making off with the F-35 plans.

China’s ambitious new supercarrier designs take advantage of our failures during the Obama era. These carriers show that the People’s Republic is thinking of projecting force beyond its territories and islands. 

And China has worked closely together with Russia. Its first carrier is an unfinished Russian model. Russian and Chinese vessels are also participating in joint naval maneuvers because they know that seapower hasn’t, despite Obama’s assertions, gone the way of the era of horses and bayonets.

Not a day goes by without Democrat politicians and media ranting that President Trump is failing to protect us from Russian attacks. The return of the Second Fleet is an example of how Trump is doing just that. It doesn’t take the military to protect Democrat email accounts from hackers. The DNC could have spent 20 bucks on physical security keys for its people, instead of on lavish dresses for Debbie.

A single one of Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s dresses would have paid for 200 security keys.

Or the Democrats could have spent the money to maintain the military and deter foreign enemies instead of believing that empty speechifying and diplomacy could take the place of aircraft carriers.

While Obama cut the US Navy, the Russians added warships with cruise missiles. They’re adding an amphibious assault ship capable of carrying 13 tanks. Their missile patrol boats are being hailed for their innovative designs. Putin has announced 26 new ships will be added to the Russian Navy this year. 

Where are all the Democrats who shout about how we need to challenge Russia? Nowhere.
In 2016, a Russian warship made it to within 300 yards of the USS Gravely. The Gravely was protecting the USS Harry S. Truman. The warship pointed at the Truman. As usual, Obama did nothing. 

These days, the Harry S. Truman Carrier Group is already sending a message to Russian subs in the Atlantic. If the Democrats want to see Trump standing up to Russia, they can look to the waves.

Before long, they will see the flag of the Second Fleet flying once more over the Atlantic Ocean. 

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.


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Israel halts fuel supply to Gaza over arson ‎balloon terrorism - News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff 

Border cargo crossing shuttered for second time in as many weeks • Defense Ministry ‎‎stresses measure will not affect humanitarian aid deliveries

Fuel trucks at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between 
Israel and Gaza
Illustration: AFP

The Defense Ministry said Wednesday that it was ‎‎temporarily suspending the delivery of petroleum ‎fuels ‎to the Gaza Strip in response to the ‎Palestinians' ongoing arson terrorism campaign.‎

Since April, terrorists in Gaza have been launching kites and balloons rigged with firebombs across the border into Israel, decimating Israeli nature reserves and agricultural fields and causing immeasurable damage to Israeli communities near the Gaza border.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a ‎statement Wednesday saying that the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the main cargo terminal linking Israel and Gaza, would be closed, and no deliveries of fuel would be permitted.

This is the second time in as many weeks that the ‎crossing has been shuttered.

The Defense ‎Ministry stressed that the measure will not affect the ‎delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. ‎

Liberman said the decision to terminate fuel ‎supplies to Gaza stems from the "continued terror ‎of flaming balloons and friction on the border."‎

News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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Saboteurs of Immigration Law Enforcement - Joseph Klein

by Joseph Klein

The danger the Left's attack on ICE poses to communities.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) focuses its law enforcement efforts against illegal immigrants toward criminals and public safety threats. They helped to make over 4,800 gang related arrests in FY2017. Through the first half of FY2018, more than two-thirds of all persons arrested by ICE are convicted criminals. For example, according to federal officials cited by the Los Angeles Daily News, a three-day federal immigration sweep targeting convicted criminals in the U.S. illegally resulted in 162 arrests across Southern California last June. These included a Mexican national arrested who had been convicted of rape, a previously deported El Salvadorian who had been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and sex offenders against children. In a separate action last June, ICE removed an El Salvadoran illegal immigrant who was the subject of an active arrest warrant in El Salvador for affiliation with a criminal organization (MS-13). ICE also removed an Irish national who was a member of the organized crime syndicate “Cock-Wall Gang” and had served time for manslaughter in Ireland.  He had entered the U.S. through the Visa Waiver Program that President Trump has so strongly criticized and overstayed his visa. These are just a few examples of ICE successes in helping to keep Americans safe from illegal immigrant predators.

“Every day the brave men and women of ICE are liberating communities and towns from savage gangs like MS-13 that are occupying our country like another nation would,” President Trump said at a rally in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday. “We want maximum border security and respect for our heroes ICE, border patrol, and law enforcement." Most Americans would agree with the president. However, many Leftists want to shut down ICE.

“My read is that ‘Abolish ICE’ is the demand, and defunding ICE is the mechanism to do that,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data for Progress, who came up with “Abolish ICE” as a hashtag in February 2017. He is the co-founder of whose stated goal is “to abolish ICE and create an immigration system divorced from white supremacy.” He believes, in his own words, “that every Democrat running in the 2020 Presidential Election will have to articulate a vision of a world without ICE." Left-wing advocacy groups such as and Justice Democrats are helping to lead the charge. The latter group labeled ICE as “a state-funded terrorist group.”

Democrat senators considering a run for the presidency in 2020, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have hopped on the Abolish ICE bandwagon. So have other politicians. New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon said ICE is a “terrorist organization” and called for its abolition. Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated her primary opponent Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the fourth-ranking House Democrat, made the abolishment of ICE a major part of her campaign. “It’s time to abolish ICE, clear the path to citizenship, and protect the rights of families to remain together,” her website says.

Moreover, sanctuary cities refuse to cooperate with ICE agents. Instead of honoring immigration detainers, they release serious criminal offenders onto the streets in an act of defiance that is tantamount to pre-Civil War nullification. Because of such state and local government obstruction, ICE must expend resources to find and arrest these criminals who have been freed to prey on the communities they infiltrate. “When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission,” ICE spokeswoman Lori K. Haley said.  In a recent example – and there are many such examples – ICE arrested an unlawfully present Mexican national last week who is a registered sex offender in Orange County, North Carolina. The county had refused to honor an ICE detainer and instead released him from local custody in June without any notification to ICE.

Those who advocate abolishing ICE, or who sabotage its efforts to detain and deport illegal immigrants with violent criminal records, are giving dangerous illegal immigrants an open invitation to kill, rape or assault American citizens and others lawfully living in this country. These illegal immigration advocates are hiding behind the emotional issue of family reunification to obscure their real objective – open borders and a path to citizenship for all who seek to enter the United States. They oppose a border wall and other effective security measures to keep would-be migrants from entering our country illegally in the first place. For those illegal immigrants who do manage to cross the border into our country, their advocates favor a catch and release program that lets the illegal immigrants out to reside in communities across the country with little prospect of being detected. Even after the Trump administration successfully completed the reunifications of more than 1800 illegal migrant families that had been separated under President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, their advocates went to court to block the deportations of the intact families. It did not matter whether the parents had signed a form waiving their children’s right to asylum and agreeing to immediate deportation.

Most Americans want secure borders. According to a June Harvard-Harris poll, as summarized by a Slate article, sixty-nine percent of voters, including half of Hispanic voters, currently oppose disbanding ICE. Seventy percent of voters polled want tighter immigration laws. Moreover, the Slate article states, “64 percent of voters, including a 52 percent majority of Hispanics, say border-crossers should be sent home rather than allowed to stay.” Most Americans favor immigration priority based on a person's ability to contribute to America as measured by their education and skills rather than based on a person having relatives in the U.S.

In short, most Americans believe that a fair and even generous immigration policy can only work if it is implemented under the rule of law with safeguards to protect the personal and economic security of Americans citizens and others residing legally in this country. Illegal immigration advocates, on the other hand, believe that immigration is an inherent universal human right rather than a privilege. Many Leftists demand the abolishment of ICE. These Leftists, along with some libertarian allies, including at the Cato Institute, want to open our borders to all who wish to reside here. If these fanatics ever get their way, the sovereign constitutional republic of the United States of America as we know it will come to an end.

Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.


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Israel Defines Itself - Michael Curtis

by Michael Curtis

Those who swallow the "fake news" misinformation that Israel is a land of Jewish exclusivism and an "apartheid " and colonial state that denies the full and equal rights of many of its citizens must be perplexed by recent real news

The paths of glory lead but to the grave. Certainly this has been the case with the Palestinian movement, which has been hanging its tears out to dry. The glory of that movement, the PLO, Fatah, Hamas, was to be the destruction of the State of Israel. To take one formulation, the Charter of Hamas, the IRM (Islamic Resistance Movement), states that "our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious." Its preamble declares that Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam obliterates it, just as it obliterated others before it. There is, it asserts, no solution for the Palestinian people except by jihad. So-called peaceful resolutions are in contradiction to the principles of the IRM. Its neo-peaceful resolution has been instigating three wars, countless rocket and missile attacks, building aggressive tunnels from which to infiltrate Israel, using flaming balloons and kites to set fire to thousands of acres of Israeli forests, and burning tires.

Hope for glory has become displacement for Palestinian poverty, wars, intifadas, humiliation, nakba (catastrophe), and lack of development. The glory of Hamas, ruler of the Gaza Strip, has been not political and economic development, but creation of a base from which to attack the State of Israel and its citizens. It comes as no surprise that the neglect by Hamas of the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza has resulted in the area lacking in gas supplies, water desalination, and electricity infrastructure.

Unemployment in the Gaza Strip is 44%. Hamas is largely dependent on UNRWA for 252 schools, with 240,000 pupils, and health clinics.

The U.S. has been by far the largest donor to UNRWA, giving $150 million for its regular budget, compared with wealthy Qatar, which gives $1 million. President Donald Trump has decided to reduce the U.S. contribution in 2018. The Trump administration indeed questions the validity of UNRWA. Created in December 1949 to deal with the welfare of Palestinian refugees, the organization has perpetuated the refugee problem rather than help solve it. It is dealing with only a small number of genuine refugees and with five million second- and third-generation descendants who left or were evicted from their homes after the wars provoked and launched by Arab armies against Israel.

Those who swallow the "fake news" misinformation that Israel is a land of Jewish exclusivism and an "apartheid " and colonial state that denies the full and equal rights of many of its citizens must be perplexed by recent real news. Those perplexed already could not comprehend why Omar Barghouti, founder first of the Palestinian and then the general campaign to boycott Israel, BDS, defied the academic boycott and remained a student at Tel Aviv University, obtaining an M.A. in philosophy and being a candidate for a Ph.D. degree.

Now the bigots of BDS must be disoriented by the news that in July 2018, an Arab-Israeli woman, Mona Khoury-Kassabri, was appointed dean of the School of Social Work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A Christian Arab woman, born of illiterate parents, whose research concerns youth violence, she is the first Arab woman to be appointed a dean at the university. Yet she is only one of the Arab-Israelis who have occupied and are occupying high official positions in Israel. In 1999, Abdel Rahman Zuabi was appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court, and in May 2004, Salim Joubran was similarly appointed a justice. Even so, in March 2012, Joubran, in discourteous behavior that would have infuriated President Donald Trump in his attitude toward the Dallas Cowboys, refused to sing the national anthem at the ceremony for the inauguration of the president of the Supreme Court.

Despite the facts, the Palestinians and the bigots of BDS, in their implicit goal of eliminating the State of Israel, still depict Israel as a colonial and apartheid state. "Apartheid" is a term officially adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and defined again in 2002. In that year, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defined apartheid as encompassing inhumane acts such as torture, murder, forcible transfer, and persecution of an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, or religious grounds. The Statute condemns acts of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other group. 

Even the most bigoted boycotter will find it difficult to see the appointment of Mona Khoury-Kassabri as an example of any of those inhumane acts. There are no Bantustans, of South African kind, in Israel. Unlike many Middle East countries, Arab-Israeli women have always been able to vote in elections and participate in political activity.

Sanity is required to address the never-ending fake news. The existence of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the archaeological digs near it do not constitute a threat to the existence of the Al-Aqsa mosque, nor an exhibition of colonialism. Nor does the accidental dislodging in July 2018 of a large stone from the Western Wall imply a secret attempt by Jews to build a third Mount Moriah.

Nor does the fact that Israel has been medically treating wounded Syrian soldiers and civilians in the Golan Heights and admitting them into Israeli hospitals suggest acts of racial superiority.

Israel is founded on Zionism, a national but not colonial movement based on the historic Jewish connection with the land. The concept of "colonialism" is more appropriate to the empires since the 15th century set up by powers such as Spain, Portugal, Britain, Sweden, France, Russia, Holland, Belgium, Germany, and the Ottomans. In all cases, there were outstanding crimes, massacres, violence, and subjugation of a population to a foreign political, economic, cultural order.

However, controversy surrounds the Nationality Law, passed 62-55 with two abstentions by the Israeli Knesset on July 19, 2018. It states that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish nation, that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish nation, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious, and historical right to national self-determination. The law declares Hebrew the national language. Arabic, from being a national language, is explained as having a special status, and the use of the Arabic language will be required in government offices. The law, rejecting the allegation that Israel is a "settler-colonial" state, sees Jewish settlement as a national value.

Though the law has been criticized as anti-democratic and one that may allow discrimination, it does not infringe on the rights of all as equal citizens of the State of Israel. Indeed, the stress on Hebrew as the official language is similar to that in the French Constitution, where Article 2 declares that the language of the Republic is French. Moreover, every road sign in Israel is in both Hebrew and Arabic.

The law in fact is largely symbolic, arising from the problem that Israel does not have a written constitution. The nature of the system and the existence and maintenance of equal rights have to be determined from the Basic Laws. The Nationality Law is now one of them. It states the name of the country, Israel; the Star of David on the flag; the menorah as the state emblem; "Hatikvah" as the state anthem; and Jerusalem as the capital. The Jewish national movement has expressed itself in clear fashion.

Michael Curtis


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ANALYSIS: Another major battle on the horizon in Syria - Yochanan Visser

by Yochanan Visser

Assad intends to retake Idlib, but that may not be as easy as he thinks.

After completing the take-over of the region bordering Israel, the pro-Assad coalition has now set its sights on the ‘liberation’ of yet another strategically important region in Syria: the predominantly Sunni Muslim Idlib province in the north of the country.

“Now Idlib is our goal,” dictator Bashar al-Assad said after the ‘liberation’ of the regions adjacent to the Jordanian and Israeli border in the Daraa and Quneitra provinces in southern Syria.

"The military -- and it is at their discretion -- will decide priorities and Idlib is one of these priorities," he added, vowing to liberate the rest of Syria as well.

The ruthless Syrian dictator, furthermore, congratulated his forces for “moving from one achievement to another and from one victory to another in the face of systematic terrorism and its regional and international backers,” and claimed that they had managed to thwart “a Zionist-American plot” against his country.

After the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian-led attempt to secure the survival of the Assad regime, many Islamist rebels were transferred to Idlib from other areas in Syria under surrender deals negotiated by the Russians.

The rebels in Idlib - designated as a de-escalation zone under the so-called Astana agreement – used to receive backing from Turkey, which is occupying parts of the province but now tries to prevent Assad’s offensive by cracking down on the most militant rebel groups in the province.

Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan has apparently decided to cooperate with the Russians in order to prevent a bloody battle.

That battle could harm Turkish interests in Syria and would bring Idlib under the control of the ‘Syrian army’ which is today an Iranian proxy force, according to Israeli Middle East expert Ehud Jaari.

“When people speak about the Syrian army, Assad’s army, there is no army. There are remnants of the once-huge army that he had,” the Arab affairs commentator of Israel's Channel 2 said, adding that Assad’s army is now a “myriad of militias” affiliated with Iran.

Iran, meanwhile, thinks recapturing Idlib is essential for stabilizing Assad’s rule over Syria and will have no problem liquidating the Sunni Islamist rebels there, who are referred to as Takfiri militants and terrorists by Iranian media and the Tehran regime.

Most of Idlib is currently under control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the organization for the Liberation of the Levant, a merger of Salafist Islamist rebel groups such as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (an Al Qaeda affiliate which formerly operated under the name Jabhat al-Nusra), Liwa al-Haq and Jaysh al-Sunna.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has already come under attack by unknown assailants in the past few days.

These attacks could be related to the Turkish attempt to stave off the offensive by the pro-Assad coalition after new talks in Astana seemed to indicate Russia prefers Turkish action against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the ISIS-affiliated groups in Idlib, over an Iranian-led crack-down on the Sunni Islamists in Idlib.

Three of the other rebel groups in Idlib have now formed a new 100,000 man strong fighting force in anticipation of the upcoming offensive by the pro-Assad coalition.

The new merger consists of the Syrian Liberation Front, the Suqour al-Sham Brigades and the National Front for the Liberation of Syria and will operate under the name Fadlallah al-Haji (National Front of Liberation).

The move is meant to unify the factions which are affiliated with the Free Syrian Army a Turkish-backed fighting force which consists of Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.

The Turkish backed rebels in Idlib feel betrayed by the Erdogan regime and some of them are reportedly trying to leave Syria before Assad’s forces start the offensive against them.

Troops of the pro-Assad coalition are currently amassing in northern Syria while the Turkish army has limited its preparations for the upcoming battle to the deployment of additional forces along the Turkish-Syrian border.

The strategy will be to cut the supply lines to the rebels and to isolate them from the rest of Syria.

“Victory will be achieved soon,” Assad predicted during a speech published by the Jeish al-Sha’ab (People's Army) magazine on Wednesday.

The upcoming battle in Idlib is not going to be a walk-over for Assad's army, however.

Much will depend on Russian air support to defeat the large concentration of rebel groups in Idlib and on how Erdogan will react whenever Assadj's crackdown on the Sunni Islamists begins.

The Turkish strongman spoke to Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a summit in South Africa and reportedly begged him to rein in Assad because he fears a confrontation in Idlib between the Islamist rebels and the pro-Assad coalition could further destabilize the region.

Yochanan Visser


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Israel will join coalition against Iran if it blocks Red Sea, PM warns - Lilach Shoval, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by Lilach Shoval, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff 

If Iran blocks Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which leads into Red Sea, it will face international coalition that includes "all of Israel's military branches," PM Netanyahu says


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the naval officers' graduation 
in Haifa, Wednesday
Photo: Haim Zach / GPO

Israel would deploy its military as part of an international coalition to stop an attempt by Iran to block the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that leads into the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday.

"If Iran tries to block the strait of Bab el-Mandeb, I am certain that it will find itself confronting an international coalition that will be determined to prevent this, and this coalition will also include all of Israel's military branches," Netanyahu said. He was speaking at a graduation parade for new Israeli Navy officers in Haifa.

Last week, Saudi Arabia said it was suspending oil shipments through the strategic strait after Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two ships in the waterway.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a three-year-old proxy war in Yemen, which lies on one side of Bab el-Mandeb.

Yemen's Houthis, who have previously threatened to block the strait, said last week they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets.

Iran has not threatened to block Bab el-Mandeb but has said it will block the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, if it is prevented from exporting oil.

Speaking at a separate event, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel had "recently heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea." He gave no additional details.

Ships mainly from Asia pass through Bab el-Mandeb heading for Eilat in Israel. Ships also pass through the strait heading for Aqaba in Jordan and some Saudi destinations, as well as to continue on through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea.

The strait is just 29 kilometers (18 miles) wide, making hundreds of ships potentially an easy target. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said an estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and products flowed through it in 2016.

Israel has previously attacked Iranian forces in Syria and has insisted that they leave Syria completely. They have withdrawn to a distance of 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the Israeli Golan Heights, Russia's special envoy to Syria said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, senior Iranian officials and military commanders on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's offer of talks without preconditions as worthless and "a dream," saying his words contradict his actions in reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Israeli officials dismissed allegations that the declaration caught Israel by surprise.

Iran's currency plummeted to new depths on Monday, dropping below 120,000 rials to the dollar, but Trump's expressed willingness to negotiate with Iran sparked a minor recovery on Tuesday to 110,000 rials on the unofficial market.

Videos on social media showed hundreds of people rallying in Isfahan in central Iran, and Karaj near Tehran, in protest against high prices caused in part by the rial's devaluation under heightened U.S. pressure.

Lilach Shoval, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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Questions for the Left - Walter Williams

by Walter Williams

Holding bankrupt ideology accountable.

Poverty is no mystery, and it's easily avoidable. The poverty line that the Census Bureau used in 2016 for a single person was an income of $12,486 that year. For a two-person household, it was $16,072, and for a four-person household, it was $24,755. To beat those poverty thresholds is fairly simple. Here's the road map: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen.

How about some numbers? A single person taking a minimum wage job would earn an annual income of $15,080. A married couple would earn $30,160. By the way, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 4 percent of hourly workers in 2016 were paid the minimum wage. That means that over 96 percent of workers earned more than the minimum wage. Not surprising is the fact that among both black and white married couples, the poverty rate is in the single digits. Most poverty is in female-headed households.

Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign garnered considerable appeal from millennials. These young people see socialism as superior to free market capitalism. Capitalism doesn't do well in popularity polls, despite the fact that it has eliminated many of mankind's worst problems, such as pestilence and gross hunger and poverty. One of the reasons is that capitalism is always evaluated against the nonexistent, non-realizable utopias of socialism or communism. Any earthly system, when compared with a utopia, will not fare well. Indeed, socialism sounds good but, when practiced, leads to disaster. Those disasters have been experienced in countries such as the USSR, China, most African nations and, most recently, Venezuela. When these disasters are pointed out, the excuse is inadequacies of socialist leaders rather than socialism itself. For the ordinary person, free market capitalism, with all of its warts, is superior to any system yet devised to deal with our everyday needs and desires.

Here are a couple of questions: Does an act clearly immoral when done privately become moral when done collectively? Does legality or majority consensus establish morality? Before you answer, consider that slavery was legal; South African apartheid was legal; the horrendous Stalinist, Nazi and Maoist purges were legal. Clearly, the fact of legality or a majority consensus cannot establish morality.

You might ask, "If you're so smart, Williams, what establishes morality?" That's easy, and you tell me when I make the wrong step. My initial premise is that we own ourselves. You are your private property, and I am mine. Self-ownership reveals what's moral and immoral. Rape is immoral because it violates private property. So is murder and any other initiation of violence. Most people probably agree with me that rape and murder are immoral, but what about theft? Some Americans would have a problem deciding whether theft is moral or immoral.

Let's first define what theft is. A fairly good working definition of theft is the taking by force of one person's property and the giving of it to another to whom it does not belong. Most Americans think that doing that is OK as long as it's done by government. We think that it is OK for Congress to take the earnings of one American to give to another American in the form of agricultural subsidies, business bailouts, aid for higher education, food stamps, welfare and other such activities that make up at least two-thirds of the federal budget. If I took some of your earnings to give to a poor person, I'd go to jail. If a congressman did the same thing, he'd be praised.

People tend to love a powerful government. Quite naturally, a big, powerful government tends to draw into it people with bloated egos, people who think they know more than everyone else and have little hesitance in coercing their fellow man. Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek explained why corruption is rife in government: "In government, the scum rises to the top."

Photo: AFGE

Walter Williams


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Israeli airstrike kills 7 ISIS terrorists on Syrian border - News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff 

Terrorist cell eliminated just 200 meters from Syria-Israel border fence • Israeli troops recover explosive belts, assault rifle nearby

An Israeli airstrike on the Syrian side of the Golan ‎Heights border has eliminated seven terrorists, the ‎IDF Spokesperson's Unit said Thursday.‎

According to available information, Israeli Air Force aircraft were scrambled to target the cell after its members were spotted approaching the security fence.  Israeli troops later found several explosive belts ‎and an AK-47 assault rifle near the border.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis issued a statement on Thursday saying, "An operation was undertaken overnight in the Golan Heights. At around 10:30 p.m., IAF aircraft targeted seven terrorists we identified as armed and on the move. We monitored them over time."

According to Manelis, the terrorists were identified as members of the Islamic State terrorist organization and were hit a mere "200 meters from the border fence."

Manelis stressed that "at no point was there any threat to any [Israeli] soldiers or communities. We had them at a far enough distance from the border that they posed no threat to the troops, and certainly not to communities.

‎"The IDF remains on high alert and is ready to ‎defend the Israeli public."

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitoring group, said early Thursday that clashes were continuing between the Syrian army and Islamic State militants in that area.

There was no immediate Syrian government response to the Israeli statements.

Commenting on the recent developments in Syria, ‎‎where Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces are now ‎‎again in control of the area near the Israeli ‎‎border, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Syria's return to its ‎pre-civil war situation ‎was "a given."‎

Lieberman also predicted that the Golan Heights frontier ‎‎would be calmer with Assad's rule restored.‎

Before the Syrian civil war began in 2011 and ‎‎throughout the seven years of fighting, Israel and Syria have ‎‎mostly been careful to observe the 1974 cease-fire ‎‎agreement between them. ‎

The conflict has seen several small flare-ups ‎‎between the two enemy states, but both have sought ‎‎to contain tensions.‎

‎"From our perspective, the situation is returning to ‎‎how it was before the civil war, meaning there is ‎‎someone in charge, a central ruler," Lieberman told ‎‎reporters. ‎

Asked whether Israelis should be less wary of ‎‎potential flare-ups on the Golan, he said, "I believe so."

But he then qualified that with, "We remain ready and willing and we ‎‎will prove our abilities at the moment of truth. We ‎‎will not compromise when it comes to our security interests."‎

Israel has been adamant about preventing Assad's ‎‎ally, Iran, from entrenching itself militarily in ‎‎Syria. Russia, the superpower that sided with Assad ‎‎in 2015, effectively ensuring his survival, has ‎‎presented Israel with guarantees that Iranian-backed ‎‎forces will remain 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the ‎‎border. ‎

Israel insists this measure still falls short and ‎‎demands the removal of all the Iranian-backed forces ‎‎from Syria, something Russian Foreign Minister ‎‎Sergey Lavrov has called "unrealistic."‎

Lieberman stressed Thursday that "Syrian soil cannot ‎‎be used as an Iranian front against Israel and Syria ‎‎cannot be used as a conduit for weapons smuggling to ‎‎Hezbollah."‎

He reiterated his assessment that, with Assad ‎firmly ‎back in power, the Golan Heights border will ‎once ‎again be calm, saying, "He [Assad] knows what ‎will ‎happen otherwise. It's in his interest [to keep ‎the ‎border calm] and he will have to make his own ‎‎considerations." ‎

Commenting on the tensions on the Israel-‎Gaza Strip border, Lieberman said that Hamas has ‎been using children to send incendiary balloons over ‎the border into Israel, and its operative have been ‎using civilian homes and venues as cover for the terrorist cells.‎

The Palestinian arson campaign has been ‎wreaking ‎havoc on Israeli border towns for three ‎months and has caused millions of dollars in damage. ‎

Residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza border, as well ‎as several cabinet ministers, have demanded that the ‎government handle kite terrorist cells with the same ‎lethal force it does rocket launching cells. But top ‎defense officials have been wary of such a move, ‎saying that directly targeting kite and balloon ‎cells, which mostly comprise teenagers and children, ‎would lead the already volatile situation on the ‎border to spiral out of control. ‎

‎"We have to targets those [Hamas leaders] who give ‎the flaming balloons cells their orders, not the ‎pawns," Lieberman said.‎

Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‎canceled a trip to Colombia planned for next week due to the situation ‎around the Gaza Strip.‎

Netanyahu ‎had been scheduled to visit the Latin American country from ‎Aug. 6-9 to attend the inauguration ceremony of ‎President-elect Ivan Duque Marquez.‎

Numerous Latin American states are expected to ‎attend the Aug. 7 ceremony in Bogota. Netanyahu was ‎expected to hold a series of meetings with the ‎leaders of Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina and Chile, ‎among others, in an effort to bolster Israel's ‎standing in the region.‎

News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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'Arab Spring' Yesterday and Today: The Tunisian Template - Tommaso Virgili

by Tommaso Virgili

Now it is time for hesitant secular forces in Tunisia's parliament to embrace and implement Tunisia's Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee (COLIBE)'s recommendations.

  • A crucial recommendation of the report by Tunisia's Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee (COLIBE) is a call explicitly to define the country's vague criminal clauses that refer to 'public order' and 'morals.'
  • The calls to decriminalize homosexuality and blasphemy, and to equalize the inheritance rights of women with men, are opposed by political parties that claim to be post-Islamist but in practice kowtow to Islamic fundamentalists.
  • Now it is time for hesitant secular forces in Tunisia's parliament to embrace and implement COLIBE's recommendations.
  • And in the rest of the Muslim world?
As the world begins to understand what happened in the 'Arab Spring' that began in December 2010—and its ramifications today—the place where it was sparked is both a map and compass. Where did the movement come from and where is it going?

Of all the countries that took part in the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the one that most deserves the appellation 'free.'

But it is not quite there yet. This North African nation still has a long way to go. Its entrenched cultural and religious taboos are making the transition to true freedom a complicated process.

One indication of the challenges faced by the inheritors of Arab Spring is a recent report by the Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee, known by the acronym COLIBE.

Established in August 2017 by Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi, the purpose of COLIBE is "the preparation of a reform project in accordance with the requirements of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014 and international human rights standards".

Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi established the Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee in August 2017 to prepare a project of reforms that are unprecedented in the Arab world. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The extent of Tunisia's proposed reforms, unprecedented in the Arab world, is fueling significant political controversy. The apparent purpose of the reforms is to bring to fruition the Kemalist path that inspired the founder of independent Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba.

Among the recommendations in COLIBE's report that have created the greatest sensation are the decriminalization of homosexuality and blasphemy (including affirmation of atheists' rights), and equality between men and women in rights of inheritance.

Currently, the Tunisian criminal code calls for three years of imprisonment for homosexuality, for both men and women. Male homosexuality is normally 'proven' by forced anal exams. COLIBE is calling for decriminalization of homosexuality and for a ban on the cruelty of anal exams, even if homosexuality remains illegal.

The calls to decriminalize homosexuality and blasphemy, and to equalize the inheritance rights of women with men, are opposed by political parties that claim to be post-Islamist but in practice kowtow to Islamic fundamentalists.

As for blasphemy, there is no law in Tunisia explicitly criminalizing contempt of the sacred. In practice, however, anything considered 'provocative' or 'nonconformist' is prosecuted as an attack on 'decency' and 'public morals'.

The nation's inequality in inheritance rights is the fruit of a clear Quranic injunction in Surah 4:11: 'Allah commands you as regards your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females....'

Tunisia's current law enforcing this command is one of the few tributes paid to Islam by the otherwise progressive Code of Personal Status, the civil code promulgated by the country's first leader after independence in 1956, Habib Bourguiba. The code is known, among other things, for explicitly banning polygamy.

For many in Tunisia, any attacks, real or imagined, against Islam and its decrees on sexual norms, are still considered unacceptable wounds inflicted on the culture and its values.

No surprise, then, that the progressive proposal by COLIBE has infuriated Tunisia's Islamist circles to the point of explicit threats against COLIBE's president, Bochra Bel Haj Hmida.

Even so-called secular parties have expressed no more than tepid support for the report and the proposed reforms.

The so-called "post-Islamist" party, Ennahda — a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot — has expressed its opposition to the COLIBE recommendations, although in a way that often reinforces ambiguous Muslim Brotherhood positions.

This form of ambiguity was witnessed during a public exchange with Ennahda's leader, Rached Ghannouchi, at the 2016 Mediterranean Dialogues in Rome. When asked by this author about his party's stance on the decriminalization of homosexuality, inheritance equality and the right of a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, Ghannouchi avoided answering. The essence of his rhetorical dodge was a claim that he lacked religious credentials and that the constitution bestows 'freedom of conscience' on all members of Parliament.

In a written communiqué, the Ennahda party condemned the COLIBE report as a 'threat to the family's structure and society's cohesion,' but failed to specify the particular issues to which it was referring. The same communiqué further stressed that Tunisia is a civil state with a Muslim people, and that therefore it is necessary to find a compromise between freedom and Islamic identity, and to shy away from any 'exaggeration and extremism.' It also warned about the risk of stirring up issues that promote 'polarization and division.'

Such language is typical of radical Islamists, such as that used by Yusuf al-Qaradawi -- the Egyptian-born head of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars -- on 'secular extremism'.

Such language is also part of Islamist rhetoric to characterize individual freedoms as an 'insult' to Muslim identity, that provoke the risk of fitna (impious division, rebellion, sedition) within society.

While Tunisia's Ennahda party has avoided using the loaded term fitna, the country's former Minister of Religious Affairs, Noureddine Khadmi, has not exhibited the same self-restraint, explicitly calling for a fatwa against the fitna that adopting COLIBE's report would provoke.

The significance of this fundamentalist Islamic position cannot be stressed enough. In Tunisia, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, "public morals", "sedition", "extremism", and the "religious sensitivities of the majority" are the very bases upon which criminal prosecutions are pursued against homosexuals and atheists.

For this very reason, another crucial recommendation of the COLIBE report is a call explicitly to define the country's vague criminal clauses that refer to "public order" and "morals."

While the COLIBE report is paving the way for a real liberal democracy in Tunisia, the legislative enactment of its recommendations is an uphill fight.

Still, it is a fight that must be fought.

Democracy is not defined by how the will of the majority is implemented. Democracy is defined by how the rights of the minority are guaranteed.

The recommendations put forth by the COLIBE are a necessary first step. Now it is time for hesitant secular forces in Tunisia's parliament to embrace and implement those recommendations.

Tunisia's strong and brave civil society, which has shown the power of its voice since the 2010 Arab Spring revolution in repelling the Islamist backlash, will not back down in this endeavor.

And in the rest of the Muslim world?

Tommaso Virgili, who holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Constitutional Law, is based in Europe.


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