The Bible Teaching Ministry of David Hocking
“The Word of our God shall stand forever” Isaiah 40:8

Archive for February, 2013


Thursday, February 28th, 2013

by Raphael Ahren

Turkish PM slammed for juxtaposing Jewish self-determination with anti-Semitism, Islamophobia; UN chief called out for remaining silent!

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday described Zionism as a “crime against humanity” on par with anti-Semitism and fascism.

Speaking in Vienna at a United Nations event devoted to dialogue between the West and Islam, Erdogan decried rising racism in Europe and the fact that many Muslims “who live in countries other than their own” often face harsh discrimination.

“We should be striving to better understand the culture and beliefs of others, but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them,” Erdogan said, according to a simultaneous translation provided by the UN. “And that is why it is necessary that we must consider — just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism — Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”

The Turkish leader’s comments, made at the official opening of the fifth UN Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum, drew harsh criticism from UN Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog group monitoring anti-Israel bias and human rights abuses at the organization.

“Erdogan’s misuse of this global podium to incite hatred, and his resort to Ahmadinejad-style pronouncements appealing to the lowest common denominator in the Muslim world, will only strengthen the belief that his government is hewing to a confrontational stance, and fundamentally unwilling to end its four-year-old feud with Israel,” UN Watch said in a statement.

The group also criticized UN chief Ban Ki-moon — “who was present on the stage yet stayed silent” — for not condemning Erdogan’s remarks.

“We remind Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that his predecessor Kofi Annan recognized that the UN’s 1975 Zionism-is-racism resolution was an expression of anti-Semitism, and he welcomed its repeal,” the statement said.

UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which was adopted by a vote of 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions), stated that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Due to US pressure, it was revoked in 1991.

Israel and Turkey enjoyed close diplomatic and business relations for years until a gradual deterioration accelerated due to the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, in which clashes between pro-Palestinian activists and IDF troops aboard the Mavi Marmara ship resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens and injuries to several Israeli soldiers.

Relations between Ankara and Jerusalem have since remained sour, with Turkey demanding an apology, and compensation for the families of those killed, as prerequisites for the renewal of ties.


Thursday, February 28th, 2013

by Mark Langfan (Arutz Sheva News)

In a wide-ranging power-point analysis briefing given to the National Security Roundtable this week, US Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering (Ret.), who led the US Missile Defense Agency during the mission-critical years of Iron Dome from 2004 to 2009, boiled down the “Lessons Learned” of Iron Dome experience to 5 keys.

He set the stage for his Lessons Learned analysis by asking the audience “What would America have done if 25% of its population or 50,000,000 Americans were under Grad rocket assault by a bunch of Islamist Terrorists?”

Gen. Trey Obering’s five keys for success were:

1. Mission Vision

He said President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) wasn’t a sci-fi fantasy, but an out-of-the-box vision of where the future of defense should be. Israeli defense officials, like Yitzhak Rabin, shared President Reagan’s vision from early on. This tradition continued with Israeli defense planners like Brig. Gen. Daniel Gold and missile defense developers like Arieh Herzog.

2. Perseverance through Technical Difficulty

Gen. Obering explained that with any new technology there will be test failures. Today’s effective US sea-based and land-based interceptors suffered early failures, then strings of successes. Likewise, the Arrow program failed in its early flights, then succeeded in a series of intercepts. Israel funded the Iron Dome program through the earliest stages despite US military planners’ doubts and set-backs.

3. Courage of Leadership

Iron Dome and Arrow both faced withering attacks from naysayers like the MIT Professor Theodore Postol who testified that the “Patriot’s intercept rate could be much lower than ten percent and maybe even zero,” and the Jaffe Center’s missile defense program critic Reuven Pedatzur who, as recently as 2010, with supreme confidence stated “The Iron Dome is all a scam!”

But heroes, like Israeli Brig. Gen Daniel Gold, stayed the course, stuck to their knitting, and got the job done.

Obering quipped, “For every MIT professor who said ‘It couldn’t be done,’ I had 10 MIT young geniuses who were making the scientifically impossible, possible.”

4. Program Management

Gen. Obering emphasized that for a technologically game-changing defense program to be successful, the managers had to have “freedom of maneuver” in the allocation of resources to meet the fast moving day-to-day challenges. He explained that unlike usual defense programs, he had relief from the classic acquisition regulations and directives. Likewise, Gen. Gold established programmatic freedom to act in the Israeli program. The streamlined program oversight was the key to success.

5. Policy Considerations

Gen. Obering stated that the Iron Dome, and defensive systems like it, are game-changers that have to be pursued with supreme effort. He explained that the naysayers just looked at the “cost” in the cost/benefit analysis. He clarified that as a “policy consideration” defense rockets “cost” is not just measured in money, and that it is critically important to factor in the benefit of not having civilian assets destroyed – or of having to reinvade the territory with the consequent loss of Israeli soldiers lives – and of enabling the defenders time and space to react appropriately. Also, there is the missile defense deterrence factor in that the enemy has to effect a dramatically greater offensive attack profile before it attacks in the first place. Therefore, the risk/reward ratio for the enemy attacker is so changed that it is dramatically less likely to attack in the first place.

During the Q & A, Gen. Obering wowed the crowd with a live action video of an actual US missile defense early “kill” against an errant satellite.

Given the profound military and policy analysis of Gen. Obering and his critical hands-on assistance to Iron Dome project at its most sensitive and problematic stages, it was clear that Gen. Obering is not only an American true hero, but an Israeli hero as well.


Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

by Chana Ya’ar (Arutz Sheva News)

The European Union is targeting Jewish construction in Jerusalem, calling it “systematic, deliberate and provocative.” Building projects in the eastern portion of Israel’s capital city are part of a strategy aimed at preventing the holy city from being divided and used as the capital for two states, the EU’s “Jerusalem Report 2012″ claims.

Jewish construction in sections of the city restored to the capital and annexed following the 1967 Six Day War is seen by the EU as “the biggest single threat to the two-state solution,” according to the report seen by AFP on Wednesday.

This refers to construction projects such as basic upgrades to neighborhoods like Gilo, home to some 40,000 Jewish and non-Jewish residents in southern Jerusalem, and built in 1980; the more central neighborhoods of Ramat Eshkol and French Hill, where residents first began living in 1970, and the outlying neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Ze’ev, East Talpiot (Armon HaNatziv) and Ramot.

Relations between Israel and the European Union have been particularly tense in recent months, with Europe voicing increasing discontent over Israel’s plans to build more than 5,000 new homes for Israelis in and around the capital.

The report, authored by EU heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, flagged construction in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Har Homa, Gilo and Givat HaMatos as being “the most significant and problematic plans.”

All three were referred to as “settlements” rather than the neighborhoods of the city that they are.

“The construction of these three settlements is part of a political strategy aiming at making it impossible for Jerusalem to become the capital of two states,” the report warned. “If the current pace of settlement activity on Jerusalem’s southern flank persists, an effective buffer between east Jerusalem and Bethlehem may be in place by the end of 2013, thus making the realization of a viable two-state solution inordinately more difficult, if not impossible.”

Israel does not consider the division of Jerusalem to be an issue for consideration in talks with the Palestinian Authority. All of Jerusalem — Judaism’s holiest city, containing the Jewish People’s holiest sites – is considered Israel’s eternal, undivided capital.

The Palestinian Authority has demanded that Israel hand over nearly half of the city to create a capital for its hoped-for state, “Palestine.” The international community also dispute the status of the areas restored to the Israeli capital in the 1967 Six Day War and accuses Israel of violating international law in their annexation.

But many of the disputed neighborhoods in Jerusalem actually pre-date the state in one form or another, and were simply rebuilt on their original sites after Israel conquered the land from the Jordanians, who occupied the area from 1948 to 1967.

“If the implementation of the current Israeli policy regarding the city continues, particularly settlement activity, the prospect of Jerusalem as a future capital of two states – Israel and Palestine – becomes practically unworkable,” the executive summary states. “This threatens to make the two-state solution impossible.”

In 2012, tenders were issued for 2,366 new housing units – “more than twice” the total number issued over the preceding three years, the report noted.

As a concession to restart final status talks with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu froze construction for a 10-month period in all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – at considerable political cost to his party and government – at the behest of U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010.

Nevertheless, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reneged on his side of the agreement, grudgingly arriving towards the end of the freeze as a guest in the White House after having been dragged there by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Three meetings later, the “talks” were over, ended by a new demand by Abbas for an additional Israeli construction freeze in order to proceed further.

The report also noted an increase in clashes between Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem’s Old City, particularly at the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, and Islam’s third holiest. “With the peace process at an impasse and the region in transition, this increases exponentially the risk of a new crisis erupting over the site,” the report said.


Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

by Reza Kahlili

Reza Kahlili, author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray,” served in CIA Directorate of Operations, as a spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, counterterrorism expert; currently serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board to Congress and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI). He regularly appears in national and international media as an expert on Iran and counterterrorism in the Middle East.More ?

Radiation is leaking from Iran’s nuclear facility at Fordow, which suffered devastating explosions on Jan. 21, WND has learned, and the regime has ordered millions of antidote iodine pills from Russia and Ukraine amid fears the radioactivity will spread.

Many of the personnel, who arrived after the explosion to assist with the cleanup at the site, have been taken to a military hospital suffering from headache, nausea and vomiting, according to a source in the security forces protecting Fordow.

A special team of nuclear experts was ordered to the site days ago, the source said, and detected high levels of radiation.

The number of confirmed dead from the explosions has risen to 76, said the source, who provided exclusively the names of 14 Iranian scientists and one North Korean who died in the blasts.

Security forces have arrested 17 high-ranking officers, including majors and colonels, over the incident and summarily executed Maj. Ali Montazernia, a member of the security forces in charge at Fordow.

The Islamic regime has put up a wall of silence surrounding the explosions, but with the possibility of radioactive fallout creating grave health and environmental disasters in the nearby holy city of Qom and other surrounding cities, it may not be able to maintain the secret, the source suggested.

WND reported exclusively on Jan. 24 that explosions rocked Iran’s nuclear facility at Fordow on Jan. 21, with updates on Jan. 27, 29, 30, 31, and Feb. 3, 6, 13 and 23. The blasts at first trapped 219 workers, including 16 North Koreans: 14 technicians and two military attaches.

Iran denied the incident, and its official news agency, IRNA, in a report, called WND a “mouthpiece of the CIA” and Reza Kahlili a CIA agent whose reporting was mere propaganda by the West. Regime media have also attacked Hamidreza Zakeri, a former officer of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, now living in Europe, who has provided information on the Fordow explosion and other valuable insights into the regime’s illicit nuclear activities.

In an unusual move on Jan. 29, the spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, Gill Tudor, emailed reporters a brief statement: “We understand that Iran has denied that there has been an incident at Fordow. This is consistent with our observations.”

When pushed, however, Tudor could neither confirm nor deny the incident had taken place and would not say whether IAEA inspectors had visited the site after the explosions, despite some media reports that they had.

The IAEA’s latest report, released on Feb. 21, states that a physical inspection of Fordow was done between Nov. 26 and Dec. 3, well before the reported explosions. The report said that as of Feb. 17, Iran continued to feed hexafluoride gas into all four cascades of centrifuges at Fordow to enrich uranium, but this information was solely based on what Iranian officials told the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Even the regime’s Fars News Agency, in covering the recent IAEA report, confessed to that by running this headline: “Fordow site is active, according to information provided by Iran to the IAEA.”

The Fars story reported, “The IAEA in part of its report verifies that the Fordow site, based on the Design Information Questioner filed by Iran, is active.”

The Fars story shows a high level of uncertainty even within Iran about whether Fordow suffered the explosions, and the regime is trying to keep morale high for its forces and allies, because the Fordow explosions would show the regime’s deep vulnerability.

Iranian officials have repeatedly lied about previous acts of sabotage, including the effect of the Stuxnet virus and the status of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The BBC, in a Feb. 22 report, said the Bushehr plant has again been shut down and that Russia has confirmed it, despite the Iranian regime’s earlier denial.

IAEA officials were denied access to Fordow during their last inspection trip. IAEA requests to inspect the Parchin military site and four other suspect sites were also denied. The regime also failed to respond to IAEA inquiries on its activity involving laser technology for uranium enrichment.

An exclusive report on Jan. 22 revealed that Russians are helping to enrich uranium using lasers at the secret Bonab site. The IAEA has revealed that Iran’s heavy-water plant in Arak could likely become operational in the first quarter of 2014. The plant, once live, could provide enough plutonium for several bombs just in its first year of operation.

The latest IAEA report also indicated that the regime has started the process of installing its advanced centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, which the U.S. State Department called “yet another provocative step.”

Furthermore, 252 parliamentarians of the Islamic regime issued a statement today asserting, “There is no stopping in the Iran’s nuclear train,” and that despite the psychological war by America and all the sanctions in place, the country’s nuclear program will continue.

The statement advises America and “its western allies” to accept the reality of the Islamic regime’s nuclear program and change their policies.

Iran and the 5-plus-1 countries (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany) are to hold another round of nuclear talks on Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan, though expectations are low for any meaningful process.

Although the West has demanded Fordow be shut down as a precondition to easing sanctions, and though Iran has responded that it won’t comply, this is merely a political game in which the West knows what has happened at Fordow and is leaving a face-saving way out for Iran to still engage in dialogue to avoid further pressure. Despite this, the regime is actively trying to develop nuclear weapons at several secret sites.


Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

(Israel Today Staff)

We have already reported several times on Benjamin Netanyahu’s revival of the Prime Minister’s Bible Study group in Israel. Now the Knesset is getting in on the trend with the establishment of its own weekly sessions of scriptural enlightenment.

The initiative came from one of the new Knesset parties, the centrist Yesh Atid, which fields both secular and religious lawmakers.

Despite running an election campaign that emphasized an end to army exemptions for and exaggerated welfare payouts to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sector, and subsequently being labeled anti-religious by ultra-Orthodox leaders, Yesh Atid has since the election been the most outspoken party about getting more Israelis to study the Bible.

Tuesday’s Knesset Bible study was led by Yesh Atid lawmakers Rabbi Shai Piron, Rabbi Dov Lipman and Torah scholar Dr. Ruth Calderon. More than 30 Knesset members attended the inaugural session.

“Seeing MKs and staff members from ultra-Orthodox through secular studying Torah together showed the beauty of the environment we are creating in this new Knesset,” Lipman told the Times of Israel.

There is a growing sense in Israel that the Bible needs to form the basis of the state’s culture and policies, but that the ultra-Orthodox must not have a monopoly on the biblical interpretation of what it means to be Jewish.


Monday, February 25th, 2013

By David Dolan

After coming out on top in last month’s Knesset elections, but by a much smaller margin than opinion polls had originally predicted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggled during February to form a viable coalition government. His first, and so far only, confirmed coalition partner was not from his natural rightwing base, but was instead a holdover from the decimated Kadima party, founded by Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu was only able to persuade former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to include her small six-seat party on the coalition train after promising her control over a coveted ministry and a major role in any future peace talks with the Palestinians. This came despite the fact that she had vowed during the election campaign not to participate in any government led by her longtime political rival. Earlier in the month, the leader of another, larger center-left party said he would not join the coalition if the religious Shas party is included.

The announcement that Livni would join the new government created fresh problems for the Premier. Since like other centrist political parties, she is demanding that all Orthodox Jews be required to do some form of national service, both Shas and a new party supported by many Israeli residents of the disputed territories said they might sit in the opposition. However many analysts predicted in the end, both parties would most likely sign up with Netanyahu since they would have far less power and influence, and government funding, if they stayed away from the cabinet table. They are also fully aware that most of their voters want Netanyahu to remain at the government helm.
By the end of the month, it became clear that the Premier might not succeed in forming a new government by the mid-March final deadline. If so, this would probably spark off fresh elections, despite the high cost of holding them. One opinion survey predicted that if another vote were held, the new center-left Yesh Atid party would trounce the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu joint party. This outcome would probably make its populist leader, Yair Lapid, the likely new Israeli leader. Further complicating coalition negotiations for Netanyahu, the White House announced that President Barrack Obama will make his first state visit to the small country just four days after the coalition formation deadline is reached.
Tensions remained very high in the region during the month as more unrest swept through Egypt and the internal war wracking Syria continued to produce a heavy death toll, now averaging 100 per day. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Cairo and other Egyptian cities to protest various anti-democratic actions taken by the new regime headed by the increasingly controversial Muslim Brotherhood-backed President, Muhammad Morsi. In an apparent effort to help defuse the growing concerns expressed by many world leaders over Morsi’s moves, Egyptian officials held several high level meetings with their Israeli counterparts during the month despite harsh anti-Jewish statements made by Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders during the past few years.

In Syria, fighting continued to rage on many fronts as more citizens fled the intense warfare tearing apart their country. For the first time, the embattled regime deployed powerful SCUD missiles on its own people in several places during the month. Analysts said this indicated that the desperate regime is losing the war. Meanwhile the mostly Sunni Syrian opposition released a statement threatening to respond to ongoing shelling of Sunni towns near the Lebanese border. They said the attacks were carried out by the Shiite Hizbullah militia. This came as media reports said more Hizbullah militiamen were pouring into Syria to support the embattled Assad regime. Other reports said Palestinian fighters from the Gaza Strip were heading to the Arab country to buttress rebel forces trying to topple Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

British leaders failed in their attempts to get the European Union to allow EU weapons to flow to the rebel forces. However, EU leaders did approve other measures during the month designed to back the opposition fighters. Reports said Britain and the United States have drawn up plans to seize Syrian chemical weapons if and when the regime appears to be near imminent collapse.

Meanwhile Iranian leaders vowed revenge against Israel after a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander was killed in an Israeli air strike upon a Syrian convoy carrying heavy weapons to Hizbullah forces in Lebanon. Earlier regional media reports said that many Iranian Shiite Muslim fighters had perished when Israeli warplanes bombed a chemical weapons site outside of Damascus. The United Nations reported in late February that Iran is installing advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear production site, which was termed a “very grave” development by PM Netanyahu.
Violent clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinian demonstrators during the month, centered on the continuing hunger strikes by dozens of Palestinian prisoners being detained in Israeli jails. This came after PA leader Mahmoud Abbas indicated he would cancel planned parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year. The decision was due to strong opposition by the Muslim fundamentalist Hamas movement to the vote, which the radical group said would not be allowed to take place in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The tussle over the planned elections added new fuel to the bitter rivalry between the two Palestinian factions, with reconciliation talks making little progress during February.

Opinion surveys in Israel had forecast last Autumn that Benjamin Netanyahu¡ªdubbed “King of Israel” by Time magazine last year because of his apparently strong grip over the Israeli political scene would capture at least one-third of the 120 Knesset seats in elections scheduled for January of this year. This would have been greater than the combined total of seats that he and his new political partner, then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party, held in the last Knesset. However in the end, the Premier and his new partner won only one-fourth of the Knesset seats, significantly less than their combined sum in the last Knesset. Analysts said this outcome was due to several important factors. Chief among them was Lieberman’s sudden resignation from the government after he was indicted on criminal charges last December. Another factor was the unexpected popularity of Yair Lapid’s new “There is a Future” party, which captured 19 seats in the national ballot. As a result of the near stalemate between right and left-leaning parties in the January election, the veteran Premier has been finding it very difficult to knit together a viable coalition government, which by law must have the support of at least 61 Knesset members. As of this writing over one month after the final election results were announced, Netanyahu only has his own joint party and one other small party committed to his continuing rule, giving him a meager total so far of just 37 seats. Ironically, it was one of the least expected coalition partners that signed the first agreement to participate in a Likud-led government, Tzipi Livni. She had vowed during the campaign never to join such a coalition, although she claimed after doing so on February 18 that she had not made such a pledge. “I did not say I would not be there, but I promised voters one thing; that I would never betray their trust.” However many of her supporters immediately cried foul, even though Livni was promised control over the prestigious Justice Ministry and a major role in any future peace talks with the Palestinians. Indeed, Netanyahu reportedly promised her that she would be the leading government player in the struggling peace process, holding more sway than the new Foreign Minister. Analysts said this was another indication that the PM seriously intends to promote the peace process if he is able to form a broad coalition government, as he has vowed to do.
The announcement of the first coalition accord created immediate tremors in both the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu party and Livni’s Hatnuah party. Many Likud politicians protested the fact that the Premier chose to reach out to Livni before holding coalition talks with his current political partners like Shas and other rightwing and religious parties. Many said this revealed that Netanyahu intends to build a centrist government that would leave many of his “natural allies” in the dust. However several Likud Knesset members said the PM had demonstrated great political skill in reaching out to his most unlikely partner first before turning to his rightwing partners, who basically have nowhere else to go if they want to participate in the next government.

Livni unveiled her pact with Netanyahu at a tense Hatnuah party meeting on February 19. Former Haifa mayor and Labor party member Amram Mitzna refused to even shake hands with his new party colleague, former Labor leader Amir Peretz. This came after press reports surfaced that Livni had promised Peretz that he would be appointed her party’s second cabinet minister instead of Mitzna. Speaking to reporters just before she convened her five Knesset members to present her coalition pact with the Premier, Livni maintained that, “All the conditions (to enter the new coalition) were not only fully met, but even more. We received management of the peace talks. The Justice Ministry will help us promote our worldview and prevent the radicalism we saw in the previous Knesset.” On the burning question of who should be her number two minister, she stated it was “not a matter of a portfolio or position, but rather about our ability to fulfill our philosophy.”

Another statement that Tzipi Livni made to reporters was deeply related to one of the main headaches facing Benjamin Netanyahu as he attempts to hobble a new coalition government together. “The test before us concerns equality in bearing the national service burden.” Like Yair Lapid and new Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich, Livni had made the inclusion of Orthodox Israeli Jews in some form of mandatory national service a major plank in her election campaign. All three party leaders vowed they would never join any government that did not share this long sought after goal. Netanyahu himself has stated several times that he is not opposed in principal to such a controversial, but widely popular move, as long as it does not in any way denigrate religious Jews in Israeli society.

Before the election, it had been widely reported in the Israeli media that the rising star of the campaign was the highly successful businessman turned rightwing politician, Natafali Bennett, who heads the Beit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, which won 12 seats in the new Knesset. Of course in the end, it was former television star Yair Lapid who rocked the country’s political world, not the anglophile Bennett whose parents hail from San Francisco.

After Livni’s inclusion in the government was announced, Bennett indicated it was “less likely” that his party would join any coalition with the former Kadima party leader participating in it. Having been backed by a large majority of Jewish voters living in the disputed territories north and south of Jerusalem, many of them observant Jews, analysts say Bennett would find it very hard to support a government that was actively promoting a final peace deal with the Palestinian Authority. However they added that Bennett realizes the chances any real peace negotiations will get off the ground anytime soon are near zero, given that the PA constantly demands that before peace talks can resume, there must be a total Israeli building freeze in the contested areas, including in many parts of Jerusalem. The latter is on land that Netanyahu has often made clear will never be open to discussion, meaning a construction freeze will never occur in the holy city under his watch. On top of that, Netanyahu has frequently stated that his top priority is halting Iran’s threatening nuclear development program, not a final peace deal with the Palestinians, who anyway remain deeply divided between PLO Fatah and Hamas supporters.

Probably the main reason why PM Netanyahu is finding it so difficult to form a viable coalition government is the fact that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party captured 19 Knesset seats, which was considerably more than opinion polls had predicted. Indeed, many pundits are calling the handsome and charismatic 49-year-old former television news anchorman and talk show host the new kingmaker of Israel, if not yet its actual new monarch. Two opinion surveys released in late February agreed that if fresh elections were held in the coming months, Lapid’s party would become the dominant one in the Knesset. According to the polls, conducted by the Knesset television channel and the Jerusalem Post newspaper, Yesh Atid would end up with 30 seats, just one less than the current total held by the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu party. Both surveys also forecast that the Premier’s party would slip from 31 seats to just 22, meaning Lapid would probably be asked by President Shimon Peres to attempt to form the next government.

However many political analysts said the survey results will probably serve to strengthen Netanyahu’s hand as he negotiates with his current rightwing and religious allies to join his coalition alliance, given that none of them wants to see Lapid seated in the Prime Minister’s chair. The polls also showed that Tzipi Zivni would lose two of her new seats, meaning she has even more reason to adhere to her recent coalition accord with Netanyahu. Another loser would be Labor, also slipping back two seats to a total of 13.

According to the law, Benjamin Netanyahu has only until the first of March to form a government. However, a two-week extension period is also allowed, and usually utilized, by the man or woman attempting to stitch a coalition quilt together. It is widely anticipated in Israel that the sitting Premier will indeed succeed in meeting the mid-March final deadline, but will not have the “broad coalition” that he pledged to build in the wake of the January 22 election. Instead, it will contain his own 31 Knesset member party, along with the fourth largest party in the new Knesset, Jewish Home, the religious Shas party which ranks number five in the new Knesset with 11 seats, the seven-seat United Torah Judaism party, and Livni’s six-seat party. This would give the Premier a fairly comfortable Knesset base of 67 seats, meaning that even if Livni were to later pull out of the government, it would still have a majority in parliament, but of only one seat.

Analysts point out the coalition spelled out above would grant the rightwing and religious parties a major say in Netanyahu’s new government, meaning that an IDF military strike upon Iran’s nuclear production sites would become more likely in the coming months. They add that peace talks with the Palestinians would definitely be off the table, along with the various proposals to induct all Orthodox Jews into some form of national service.

As PM Netanyahu was busy trying to form a new government while also making preparations for President Obama’s state visit in March, violent clashes broke out in several parts of the disputed territories before also spreading to Jerusalem. The fresh unrest is linked to an ongoing hunger strike by a number of Palestinian prisoners who are demanding better living conditions in Israeli jails. Most of the prisoners were incarcerated for security offenses, including carrying out terrorist attacks upon Israeli civilians and soldiers. One prisoner has refused to eat any solid food for over 200 days. Palestinian officials have been warning that widespread violence could break out if any of the prisoners die.
Israeli security forces were placed on high alert on February 24 after one prisoner perished in an Israeli jail. However the 30-year-old Arab detainee had not been on a hunger strike, but reportedly died of a heart attack. The Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs immediately charged that the inmate had not actually lost his life due to cardiac arrest, but was killed by his Israeli interrogators. He had entered the Israeli security prison just a few days before after being apprehended for throwing rocks at Israeli civilians.

Just a few days before his death, heavy clashes erupted at another prison near the unofficial Palestinian capital city of Ramallah, north of Jerusalem. Hundreds of Palestinian protestors had gathered there to support the hunger strikers. Three well-known Israeli television journalists were wounded by Palestinian stone-throwers while covering the clashes. Pictures of one of them, Yoram Cohen of Channel One, were shown on the evening news, with blood covering his wounded face. Israeli security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the rioters, wounding several dozen Palestinians. The following day, clashes broke out on the Temple Mount and other places in and around Jerusalem. An Israeli police spokesman denied Palestinian claims that live bullets had been used to quell the demonstrations. Clashes later also spread to Hebron, south of Jerusalem. The violence came amid calls by Hamas and other Palestinian groups for a new intifada uprising. Overall Hamas leader Khalad Maashal and other radical leaders proclaimed during February that the peace process was dead and buried, urging the Palestinian Authority to join them in a new round of widespread violence against “the Zionist enemy.” Israeli analysts warned the calls might be heeded if PM Netanyahu can only form a narrow rightwing coalition, as now seems almost inevitable. However an opinion poll carried out by the Arab World for Research and Development group mid-month found that 65% of the Palestinian public do not support a new uprising. It also showed that 42% back the Fatah party, which runs the Palestinian Authority, with only 18% saying they support Hamas. This was a sharp drop for the extremist Iranian-backed Islamic group, which surged in popularity after hundreds of Hamas rockets were fired at Israeli cities in November.

In the race for Palestinian President, the survey revealed that 58% back the current PA leader, Mahmoud Abbas. However that support may not matter since Hamas has announced that it will not allow Palestinian elections to take place in the Gaza Strip, meaning around one-third of all voters would not participate in the vote. That prompted Abbas to counter that he will not allow any elections at all if Gaza residents are not permitted to cast their ballots. The opinion poll revealed that 95% of Gaza residents want to partake in the proposed elections, indicating many might vote for Fatah over Hamas.

Israel became directly involved in the escalating conflict in neighboring Syria for the first time when Israeli Air Force jets bombed a chemical weapons development complex on the outskirts of Damascus then end of January. The complex is located just eight miles from the main presidential palace where the besieged dictator Bashar Assad and many of his cronies are holed up. Syrian officials claimed that only two people were killed in the air strike. However several Arab media outlets reported that many more perished in the bombing, including members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who are in the country to support the crumbling regime.

On the same day that the Israeli air strike took place, IAF jets also hit a Syrian weapons convoy that was transporting Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft rockets and other heavy weapons to Hizbullah militia forces in nearby Lebanon. PM Netanyahu had earlier joined American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other international officials in warning the Syrian regime not to attempt to smuggle such weapons out of the war-torn country. However it later emerged that the real target of the operation may have been an Iranian Revolutionary Guard General who was reportedly killed in the attack. Iranian leaders subsequently issued a threatening statement warning that Israel would “pay a heavy price” for his demise. Hizbullah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, echoed this warning soon after Bulgarian leaders announced that the radical Lebanese Shiite group had been behind last July’s terrorist bus bombing in the country, which left the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israeli tourists dead. The revelation prompted renewed calls for the European Union to place Hizbullah on its list of terrorist groups – a move Germany and France have been resisting in apparent concern it would only spark further Hizbullah attacks in EU countries. This came as Nigerian officials announced they had uncovered a Hizbullah cell in their West African country that was plotting attacks upon Israeli and American targets.

The fighting in Syria intensified in and around the capital city, Damascus, with rebel forces even striking one of President Assad’s personal homes. A massive car bomb killed over 50 people near the ruling Baath party headquarters, shattering windows in the nearby Russian embassy. The attack, which some Syrian officials blamed on Israeli agents, came as the Kremlin stepped up evacuation of its citizens living in Syria. This was seen as an apparent sign that Russia believes Assad may soon be ousted from power. The dictator has vowed he will not go down without a final blow to his enemies, including Israel.
Meanwhile a classified UN Atomic Energy Agency report was leaked to the media in late February, saying Assad’s main ally, Iran, has stepped up its uranium enrichment program, adding 180 highly advanced centrifuges to its existing stockpile. PM Netanyahu called the report “very grave,” adding that Iran must be stopped before it reaches a “red line” he had earlier said could be achieved by sometime this coming Spring.


Monday, February 25th, 2013

by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva News)

An op-ed by longtime Arutz Sheva contributor Mark Langfan has been picked up by Breitbart News.

Langfan’s op-ed, which was posted to Arutz Sheva on Saturday, exposed that former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, co-authored a 2009 report that called for U.S. troops to lead a peacekeeping force that would patrol the future borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.

The report also suggested that peace could be imposed from outside by the U.S., describing arguments to the contrary as “invalid.” Breitbart published an article on the report Sunday, noting that it was previously referenced in Arutz Sheva.

The report, co-authored by Hagel with Carter administration Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski and former George H.W. Bush adviser Brent Scowcroft, among others, was produced in an effort to influence Obama administration policy in the President’s first term.

It called upon the new President to make resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) a top priority “early in his presidency” and to override “certain domestic constituencies.”

The report called for the U.S. military to be deployed as part of its suggested plan for peace, which calls for a “non-militarized Palestinian state, together with security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty, and a U.S.- led multinational force to ensure a peaceful transitional security period. This coalition peacekeeping structure, under UN mandate, would feature American leadership of a NATO force supplemented by Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis. We can envision a five-year, renewable mandate with the objective of achieving full Palestinian domination of security affairs on the Palestine side of the line within 15 years.”

In addition, the report called for the U.S. to encourage Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations, and to take a “more pragmatic approach” to the Hamas terror organization in control of Gaza.

Breitbart noted that elements of the report seem to have found their way into President Obama’s policy.

It recommends, for example, the appointment of a Special Envoy to pressure the two sides to achieve piece. Obama named former Sen. George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East in 2009; he resigned two years later after failing to move talks forward.

Another part of the report may have made its way into Obama’s controversial speech in Cairo in June of 2009. The report declares, “A significant achievement – the creation and sustaining of a democratic Jewish State in the wake of the Holocaust – was accompanied by considerable and ongoing Palestinian suffering.”

It fails to mention that Jews developed many of Israel’s institutions prior to the Holocaust, and that the UN also called for a Palestinian state alongside Israel in 1947, which the Arab world rejected. The Arab states chose instead to attack Israel.

Likewise, in his Cairo speech Obama portrayed the creation of Israel as solely resulting from the Holocaust, and compared Jewish suffering in Europe to the suffering of PA Arabs for lack of a state, noted Breitbart.

Those comments drew criticism from some Jewish leaders, including Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who reported concerns even among Obama’s Jewish supporters.

Hagel was not asked in his confirmation hearing about whether he still believes U.S. troops should be used as peacekeepers in what remains a dangerous and volatile part of the world, noted Breitbart.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, along with countless others, has cited a long list of Hagel’s anti-Israel policies, asserting that his nomination would “be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”

Hagel, however, recently claimed that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel.”

Nevertheless, reports about countless statements he has made against Israel over the years have surfaced in recent weeks.

Last week, a publication of Hagel’s statements from a 2010 meeting with university students showed yet another anti-Israel statement.

Hagel reportedly said that Israel is becoming an “apartheid state,” and dismissed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as “a radical.”

Hagel’s statements were revealed by a student who was present at the event. Former student Kenneth Wagner shared an email he wrote during Hagel’s talk with the Washington Free Beacon.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has warned fellow Republicans they will be held accountable if they vote to end an ongoing Senate filibuster over Hagel’s nomination.

“Make no mistake; a vote for cloture is a vote to confirm Sen. Hagel as Secretary of Defense,” Inhofe wrote in a strongly worded letter to his Republican colleagues on Thursday.

Several of the Republicans have indicated in recent days that they would vote to end debate on Hagel’s nomination, paving the way for his confirmation.

Hagel’s nomination stalled on February 14 when Senate Democrats could not muster the 60-votes needed to end a Republican filibuster of the nomination.


Sunday, February 24th, 2013

by Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)

As the clash between the regime and the opposition shows no signs of abating, can the military remain indifferent to the country’s slow degradation?

Never has Egypt been so close to civil war and today it seems that only the army can prevent the worse from happening.

The Muslim Brothers and the opposition are both doing their utmost to bring the army to their side, with little success so far: Field Marshal Abd el-Fattah El-Sisi, the defense minister, never loses an opportunity to state that the army is taking no part in the political struggle and devotes its energy to protecting the country – while adding that it will not let it plunge into chaos. The opposition, in contrast, feels that only the army can bring back order – the way they want. During last Friday’s demonstrations people called on the army to “Get out of the barracks and make President Mohamed Morsi resign and call for new presidential elections.”

That state of affairs leaves the Brotherhood and Morsi with mixed feelings. In the course of the past few weeks they have became painfully aware of the fact that the army will not protect the regime should it lose its legitimacy and try to resort to force to stay in power. Last week the rumor that Morsi intended to fire the defense minister spread like wildfire, prompting an “unnamed military source” to warn that it would be “political suicide” for the President since the army – soldiers and officers alike – are angry with the regime. One of the President’s representatives hastened to placate army commanders and the army in turn distanced itself from the “unnamed source.”

Three days later Morsi declared that he had full confidence in the army and “the deepest appreciation” for the defense minister; the declaration was duly published in the media next to a photo of El- Sisi sitting opposite Morsi in the President’s office. The rumor may have been a trial balloon launched by the Brothers who wanted to gauge what kind of reaction could be expected to such a radical move. However the incident can also be seen as part of a wider series of clashes between the army and the Brotherhood.

Morsi first became aware of the problem last November during the violent demonstrations led by the opposition to protest the new Islamic constitution and the presidential declaration granting the President legislative power and full immunity for his decisions.

The army issued a call for dialogue between “both sides” while stressing “the legitimacy of the people.”

Suddenly the army was acting as an independent force distinct from the regime while asserting that legitimacy was vested in the people and not in the rulers, even though they had been democratically elected in free elections. There were some hasty – and secret – talks and the army shelved its call. However the Brothers will not forget that the army did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the elected President.

Especially since the Port Said riots last month between opposing demonstrators and security forces which leaving 60 dead, El-Sisi stated that the army was ready to intervene “to prevent the collapse of the country should no political solution be found.” Shortly afterward El-Sisi was quoted as allegedly having said that he would not let the Muslim Brotherhood take over the army.

There was an angry reaction from the Brotherhood and its Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie condemned “the widespread corruption of the army.” It was the turn of the army to protest and Badie apologized.

Maj.-Gen. Sedki Sobhi, commander in chief of the army, added fuel to the fire by saying that “the army does not intervene in politics but it will take to the streets if the people need it.” Deeds followed words.

When Morsi declared a state of emergency in the Suez canal zone following the Port Said clashes and imposed a curfew, the army refused to supervise it and Morsi had no choice but to cancel the state of emergency.

El-Sisi took Morsi by surprise and embarrassed him greatly by issuing on December 23, 2012 a ministerial decree turning the eastern border of Egypt with Israel and the Gaza Strip into a closed military zone five km. deep, Rafah city excluded.

Selling or renting land there was forbidden because it was a strategic area of military importance. The decree was issued days after the Egyptian government, in an attempt to promote better relations with Sinai Beduin and improve their lot, had informed them that they could sell or rent land in the peninsula.

El-Sisi had acted in order to tighten control over the border zone where the army is trying to prevent infiltration of jihadi operatives into Egypt from Gaza, and attacks on Israel from the Egyptian side while keeping a close watch on the contraband tunnels. However, he had apparently “forgotten” to consult with the President when he issued his decree – something well within his ministerial prerogatives.

The decree led to a renewed wave of anger from the Beduin who are threatening a civil disobedience campaign if it is not rescinded. The army has entered into negotiations with them with no result so far, and the situation remains volatile in the extreme.

Then it became known that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been meeting from time to time to discuss the situation in the country – without informing the President who is officially the head of the council. The meetings were described as “informal” which does not make them more palatable to Morsi.

Tensions between the army and the Brotherhood are a source of deep concern for the regime. Morsi had gotten rid of the former army commanders swiftly and unexpectedly a few weeks after his election, naming in their stead El-Sisi and Sobhi who were seen as devout Muslims; it was rumored that El-Sisi was a member of the Brotherhood.

However it soon transpired that though his wife wears the veil, El-Sisi is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, high-ranking elements in the Justice and Freedom Party tried to have him fired and the official party paper ignored him completely for weeks until Morsi himself explained to the Brotherhood that there was no use trying to reverse the situation.

However, Muslim Brothers are suddenly remembering that the army has always been against their movement – from Nasser to Mubarak – and that it was Islamic terrorists raised on their doctrine who assassinated Sadat.

There are widespread rumors to the effect that the Brotherhood is forming a clandestine militia while setting up listening posts to monitor the army, to be ready to confront the army should it become necessary.

And while the clash between the regime and the opposition shows no signs of abating, the President has called for parliamentary elections to be held over an unprecedented period of two months starting in late April.

Morsi will do all he can to achieve the complete takeover of the country before the new parliament can be convened in July. The opposition is up in arms threatening to boycott the elections if a new national unity government is not formed to ensure that they are free and fair, the large Coptic minority is outraged since polling will be held on their holy Easter week – and the country’s economy is still spiraling out of control.

What will the army do, if anything? On the one hand, the new constitution grants it powers beyond its wildest dreams. On the other hand, the army, for so long the symbol of Egypt’s greatness, cannot remain indifferent to the country’s slow degradation.


Sunday, February 24th, 2013

(Israel Today Staff)

Rocket barrage hits southern Israel
Terrorists targeting Israelis, Americans abroad
Heavy machine gun fire out of Gaza

Israel has a new government (or will soon) and a new minister in charge of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but Israel’s military chiefs expect anything but peace in the near term. In fact, they are preparing for war.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer from the Central Command told Army Radio on Thursday that a new analysis of the situation suggests it is far more likely the Palestinians will launch a new wave of terrorism than return to the negotiating table.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been rebuffing peace overtures from Israel for the past two years. The officer stated that if US President Barack Obama is unable in his upcoming visit to strong-arm Israel into meeting Abbas’ preconditions for talks, it is anticipated the Palestinians will turn to violence.

That is precisely the way the second intifada (or Oslo War) began in 2000, after Yasser Arafat did not receive 100 percent of what he demanded from the Israelis at Camp David.

The officer said a new uprising could also be sparked by renewed cross-border attacks on Israel from either Gaza or Lebanon.

In preparation for this, Israeli troops are currently undergoing regular training for brief, intense bouts of terrorist violence in urban settings.


Friday, February 22nd, 2013

(Virtual Jerusalem)

Syrian rebels downed a warplane over Hammuriyeh on Wednesday, shortly after an air strike killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more in the Damascus province town, a watchdog and activists said, according to AFP.

Amateur video shot by activists and distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed a warplane firing from the sky and then going down in flames after apparently being hit.

“It’s gone up in flames! Allahu akbar The Free Syrian Army air defense battalions have hit a MiG warplane!” cried the cameraman filming the video, according to AFP.

Lacking sophisticated weaponry, rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have frequently used heavy machineguns to shoot down warplanes deployed to strike insurgent enclaves across the country.

“The shelling and bombardment in Eastern Ghuta province on Wednesday was fierce,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that the warplane was shot down as it was bombarding the town.

The air strike killed 12 men, a woman and a child, said the Britain-based watchdog which relies on a network of activists, medics and lawyers on the ground for its information.

A video filmed by activists in Hammuriyeh and distributed on Facebook showed residents in the aftermath of the strike pouring water on a burning corpse on the ground, and another two in destroyed vehicles.

Elsewhere, AFP reported, clashes raged between rebels and troops in the northern province of Aleppo, days after rebels launched an assault to seize the international airport and other air bases in the region.

“The clashes around Kwayris military airport were fierce today, and there were also intermittent battles around Aleppo international airport and Nayrab military air base,” said Abdel Rahman.

Activists say the rebels’ assault is aimed at stopping warplanes from taking off, and at seizing ammunition, while rebels say it is part of a bid to expel troops from the north.

In the past week, rebels have captured air bases at Al-Jarrah, Hassel and Base 80, as well as an important checkpoint near the international airport.

“When the Free Syrian Army manages to free all the border crossings in the north and the airports in Aleppo, the area will fall completely out of regime control,” rebel commander in the northern province, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, told AFP.

“But as you saw on Monday night, the army is keen to take revenge against the Syrian people,” he added, referring to a powerful missile strike on the Aleppo district of Jabal Badro that killed at least 33 people, according to the latest Observatory count.

According to a preliminary toll by the Observatory at least 107 people were killed in violence across Syria on Wednesday, among them 54 civilians.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Free Syrian Army threatened to shell positions of Hizbullah in neighboring Lebanon after accusing it of firing across the border into territory it controls.

“In the past week… Hizbullah has been shelling into villages around Qusayr from Lebanese territory, and that we cannot accept,” General Selim Idriss, the FSA’s chief of staff, told AFP on the phone, adding that the rebels have given Hizbullah a 48-hour deadline to stop the attacks.

Lebanon is sharply divided over the Syrian conflict, with the Sunni-led March 14 movement supporting the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad and the Shiite Hizbullah and its allies backing the regime.

On Saturday, Lebanon’s Future bloc MP Khaled Daher charged that his country is supplying the armed forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with explosives.

Daher revealed at a news conference that trucks have been carrying tons of explosives across the country’s eastern border to Syria for months.
Assad told a Jordanian delegation that met him recently that he is “not a monster” as the rebels have portrayed him.

“All those who talk about me and Syria forget that I am human, made of flesh and blood, and I have feelings. They forget that I am a doctor and I am pained by scenes of blood and death,” he said.

Assad told the activists that he adamantly refuses to resign from the presidency. He insisted that he will run for President again when his present term expires in 2014.

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