Friday, November 16, 2018

CIA Reportedly Concludes Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Khashoggi Killing in Istanbul

The CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist and Saudi government critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. The Washington Post reports, according to people familiar with the matter, that CIA officials have a high degree of confidence in the conclusion. 

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said the country is seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in the murder of Khashoggi, in a case that has strained the kingdom's ties with key Western allies.

He said the Washington Post columnist was murdered after "negotiations" for his return to the kingdom failed and that the person who ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team that was sent to repatriate Khashoggi.
The whereabouts of Khashoggi's body remain unknown, he said.
Riyadh had offered numerous contradictory explanations for Khashoggi's disappearance before saying he was killed in a rogue operation, in a case that has sparked a global outcry, opened the kingdom to possible sanctions and tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Read Article)

Bennett: I'll make Israel win again

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett said that he wants to succeed Avigdor Liberman as defense minister in order to revamp Israel's security establishment.
 
Following Liberman's resignation, Bennett has told Prime Minister Netanyahu that his Jewish Home faction will leave the coalition if he is not appointed defense minister.
 
Speaking at an Education Ministry conference in Ramat Gan on Thursday, Bennett alleged that Israel's defense establishment suffers from a defeatist attitude and promised to institute a paradigm shift upon becoming defense minister in order to stop Israel's deterrence from eroding.
 
"The most dangerous thing for the State of Israel is that we began to think that there is no solution to terrorism, terrorists, missiles, that there is nothing to do, that there is no way to win," said Bennett.
 
"Yesterday I went to the prime minister to ask him to appoint me defense minister so that Israel will go back to winning" Bennett continued. "Without taking responsibility for security and without dramatic change, Israel's deterrence will continue to erode, Hamas will continue not to be afraid of us."
 
"As defense minister, I intend to bring innovation, creativity and a spirit of fighting, to break a decades-long mental state," contended Bennett. "I am willing to take responsibility."
 
Bennett currently serves as Education Minister and Minister for Diaspora Affairs.
 
The coalition's future appears shaky after both Kiulanu Chairman Moshe Kahlon and Shas head Aryeh Deri called for new elections on Thursday.
 
Jewish Home officials said Wednesday that despite warnings that Liberman’s resignation would likely spell the end of the current government and the 20th Knesset, a narrow coalition could be kept in place into 2019.
 
The Netanyahu government currently holds a 66-seat majority in the 120 member Knesset. With Yisrael Beytenu’s departure, that majority will be reduced to just 61 seats.
 
If the Jewish Home does not receive the Defense Ministry portfolio, however, lawmakers say the party could join Yisrael Beytenu in pushing for new elections.

'Trump peace plan will never happen under Abbas'

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely responded to the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman Thursday.
 
"This is one of the cynical political moves that have been seen here," Hotovely told Arutz Sheva. "A political maneuver to exonerate itself in an election year over a campaign that is currently under way. I think we have never suspected Liberman of being an ethical person, but I feel this is a new record of cynicism, of preferring personal interests over the national."
"Since this is the situation, I think we should be happy that the defense minister has vacated his seat, and with the help of God, I hope there will be a more worthy person there, and I have no doubt that anyone who will replace him at this time will come from a more national place that gives more weight to state considerations.
 
"We are in a very sensitive period and I think there is a point in continuing this government if we really all unite and understand that there will be another significant period in which to achieve achievements.
 
Hotovely expressed her desire to assume the position of Immigration Minister in the next government. "I see myself as someone who wants to be a partner in the government and also to take on a significant role, the immigration and absorption portfolio, which is now a case that is being vacated by Yisrael Beytenu's retirement, and I can see myself as a minister. But we really will continue in this story only if everyone accepts responsibility and understands that we have to continue until November, but if the business is going to break down very quickly then perhaps we should all go to elections, but as I said the national interest is to continue until the original election date." READ MORE

ANALYSIS: What's behind Netanyahu's decision not to invade Gaza

After 460 missiles were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Monday and Tuesday with the Israeli air force responding by bombing 160 terrorist-related targets in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and the Israeli government finally agreed to a new ceasefire late Tuesday afternoon.
The decision not to launch a new ground offensive against Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza led to great anger among the Israeli public and enraged the residents of villages and towns in the Gaza belt in particular.
 
A poll which was published by TV Channel 2 in Israel on Wednesday evening showed that three-quarters of the Israeli public felt that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had mishandled the new crisis in southern Israel.
 
At the same time, residents of the Israeli communities, towns and cities in the area around Gaza staged demonstrations during which car tires were burned while demonstrators demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
 
The protesters said they were fed up with living under the constant threat of missiles and other terrorist activity which has virtually ruined their lives.
 
On social media in Israel, meanwhile, all kinds of sarcastic jokes were circulating in which the Prime Minister was portrayed as a coward and as a leader who constantly postpones important decisions.
 
At the same time, members of the Israeli security cabinet, who discussed the security situation in southern Israel for more than six hours on Tuesday, tried to distance themselves from the decision not to enter into a new ground offensive against the terrorist organizations in Gaza.
 
The political crisis was aggravated on Wednesday when Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation and justified his step by claiming Netanyahu's decision was a "capitulation to terror".READ MORE

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Report: Iran Ready to Teach ‘Chronic Sadist’ John Bolton ‘a Lesson’

President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton was described by an Iran foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday as a “chronic sadist” with an anti-Iran grudge who deserves to be taught “a lesson.”
Bahram Qassemi delivered his attack after Mr. Bolton said the U.S. will  “squeeze” Iran “until the pips squeak” through the tough new round of trade sanctions now in force.
“We think the government is under real pressure and it’s our intention to squeeze them very hard,” Mr. Bolton said.  “As the British say, squeeze them until the pips squeak.
“We are also going to significantly increase the enforcement of sanctions.”
The tone and language used by Mr Bolton was decried by the Iranian representative Bahram Qassemi, reports the semi-official Iranian ISNA newsagency.
“Time, history and the Iranian culture have always been able to teach the necessary lessons to scoundrels who make excessive demands and who rave and rant, and [have been able] to easily tame insane, recalcitrant and unruly individuals,” Qassemi said in a Wednesday statement.
“The cheap remarks by John Bolton, which indicate his bellicose nature and spiteful personality in dealing with Iranian people, are nothing new and remarkable,” he added.
“As he has shown since long ago, he has a long-standing grudge against Iranians. He has abnormal behaviour and suffers from chronic sadism against Iran,” Qassemi continued, before decrying the “undiplomatic” language used by Mr. Bolton.
Qassemi delivered a thinly-veiled threat that Iran fully intends to push back and that Mr. Bolton, “will certainly find the chance to understand the capability, vigilance and prudence of the Iranian nation and to get familiar with their history and culture.”
This is not the first time the Iranian regime has personally attacked Mr. Bolton.
In April, Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani, said it was “shameful” that the United States, which he described as a “seemingly superpower country,” had appointed a national security adviser who received “a salary from a terrorist sect,” referring to Mr. Bolton.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in July also accused him of being affiliated with terrorists, referring to the exiled Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK) Iranian opposition group.

Caroline Glick: Iran Opens a War Against Israel from Gaza

A Kornet anti-tank missile hit a civilian bus transporting Israeli soldiers adjacent to Israel’s border with Gaza at 4:30 in the afternoon on Monday.
According to the bus driver, 50 Israeli soldiers had alighted the bus just moments before it was hit by the missile. The missile struck while the bus was moving slowly towards a parking lot. One soldier, who was standing next to the bus, was critically wounded in the blast.
Immediately after the missile strike against the bus, Hamas and its partner, Islamic Jihad, initiated the largest bombardment of Israel they had ever undertaken from Gaza. By late Tuesday morning, the two terror groups had fired more than 400 projectiles into Israel. Fifty Israelis were wounded in the onslaught. One person was killed when a mortar hit an apartment building in Ashkelon. Hundreds of mortars and rockets and missiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile batteries. And the government announced it was rushing more Iron Dome batteries to the area.
In the hours following the joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad assault, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (who stepped down Wednesday) ordered the Israel Air Force (IAF) to carry out a large-scale air assault against Hamas command posts and other facilities in the Gaza Strip.
In a media briefing, a senior Air Force commander said the IAF strikes since Monday night have been the most far-reaching raids Israel has ever conducted in Gaza. More than a hundred targets were hit in under two hours, he said. READ MORE

Chief of Staff instructs to 'maintain readiness' in the south

Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot on Wednesday held a situational assessment in the Gaza Division regarding the activities of the division in the last few days.

The assessment was attended by the Commander of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Commander of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, the Commander of the 162nd Division, Brig. Gen. Oded Basyuk and other commanders.

The Chief of the General Staff expressed his appreciation to the commanders and to the forces for their activities in the past period.
 
As part of the assessment, the defensive and offensive activities of the forces were presented and various aspects of the use of force were discussed. As part of the assessment, it was agreed to maintain the readiness of the forces and the increased military presence in the division's area.

'Israel failed to properly deal with Hamas'

Brigadier General (ret.) Yechiam Sasson, formerly the head of the Counter Terrorism Bureau, told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas was the result of misguided activity by Israel over the past two years.
 
"It was the long-term conduct in Gaza that brought us to the bad reality of the defense establishment's recommendation of a ceasefire. For a very long time we have been taking loans on the black market of Islamic terror and now we are paying a murderous interest," Sasson said.
 
He opined that the very fact that Israel agreed to a ceasefire is “a result of the helplessness and improper action against Hamas."
 
Hamas, Sasson continued, must be attacked consistently - and not just as a response to rocket fire. "When we react to their actions when they are already hiding underground, we only cause damage to real estate. The trick against terrorism is to fight in a continuous and consistent manner, not as a reaction to its actions,” he stressed.
 
Sasson said he believes that there are ways to act against Hamas without conquering Gaza.
 
"I think that the IDF's activity should include incessant attacks from the air, via the sea, and on the ground. I do not mean conquering Gaza, because that will not bring about results. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to carry out targeted killings [of Hamas officials],” he said.

'Liberman's resignation far from being a victory for Hamas'

Professor Avraham Diskin, an Israeli political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, talks about Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's resignation.
 
"The latest trigger was the ceasefire with Hamas and Liberman believed that it's too early and the Hamas will not deter, on the contrary, and I am sure that he also had questions of popularity in Israel in mind, but it seems that generally speaking he was not sincere," says Diskin.
 
He thinks also that early elections were really a major consideration in Liberman's desicion. "I am sure that it was on his mind. But we will see what happens. What we've seen from the Israeli media for instance and also on the internet is some criticism against Netanyahu for being too soft on Hamas."
 

Netanyahu will meet with Bennett over his demand

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office say that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with Minister Naftali Bennett today, Thursday, and discuss with him the demand to receive the defense portfolio.

According to the officials, Netanyahu will meet today with all the heads of the coalition factions in order to decide whether to continue the coalition or advance elections.

On Wednesday, the Jewish Home faction convened in the wake of the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, during which the faction unanimously voted in favor of the decision to demand the defense portfolio.
 
“A government without deterrence is not a right-wing government. Without taking responsibility for the national task of changing the security situation together with the prime minister, there is no point in continuing the government's existence," the faction said.
In addition, the faction empowered the party chairman, Minister Naftali Bennett, to independently make any decision on this issue.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lieberman steps down as defense minister, says govt kowtows to terrorists

Avigdor Lieberman resigned as Israel’s defense minister on Wednesday, Nov. 14 over two issues: Israel’s assent to the transfer of $15m to Gaza, and the Gaza ceasefire after nearly 500 missiles were fired into Israel. Lieberman found both decisions unacceptable and accused the government of failing to fight terror, citing “threats from the north, the south and the west” as  pretexts,  but were tantamount to “capitulating and kowtowing to terrorists.”
He called for an agreed date for a general election as soon as possible, after withdrawing his Yisrael Beitenu (Jewish Home) party from the government coalition.
 
Answering reporters’ question at the Knesset, Lieberman laid out in detail the reasons for his resignation. The cash payment to Hamas and the ceasefire were no better than an attempt to buy short term peace and quiet at the expense of long-term national security. He disclosed that Hamas allocated the first sums of the $15m of Qatari cash to the families of its agents killed in border clashes with Israel troops on the Gaza Strip, which meant that Israel was helping to fund terrorist actions.
 
Orders in writing from the prime minister at times forced him to act against his convictions, he said and cited the fuel deliveries fuel permitted for Gaza without making any demands of Hamas. Lieberman stressed that humanitarian aid to the population should be subject to the termination of terrorist operations, the return of the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers and two hostages held by Hamas, and a Hamas commitment to halt the mob assaults on Israeli troops guarding the Gaza border fence.

DEBKAfile reported earlier that during the security cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the defense minister was overruled in his demand for a major military operation against the Palestinian terrorist organizations led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad for subjecting southern Israel to a savage rocket assault. He discovered that Netanyahu and the army chiefs had already decided that Israel could not afford to simultaneously take on Hamas and the pressing threat from the North, and therefore Israel must accept Egyptian and UN efforts for a ceasefire. While cabinet ministers were discussing the Gaza issue, Netanyahu was running a parallel diplomatic track with international and Arab contacts outside the room. That is why he ended the critical cabinet session with a vague communique: “IDF attacks on Gaza will continue as required.”
The defense minister and his other cabinet members had the sense that the prime minister had cast them in the role of film extras while pursuing the real action, totally at odds with his views, somewhere else. He had moreover cut the defense minister off from the military chiefs over whom he had charge.

Lieberman is the third defense minister to opt out of a government led by Netanyahu. His predecessors, Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon, have become the prime minister’s bitterest critics. Netanyahu will need to appoint a new defense minister without delay, given the urgent security challenges confronting the country. Rather than a cabinet shakeup, he may decide to call a snap general election and meanwhile appoint a temporary stand-in as minister of defense.
 

US places bounty on Hamas, Hezbollah leaders

The US State Department is offering millions of dollars in exchange for tips leading to the tracking down of terrorist leaders affiliated with Hamas and Hezbollah.
 
On Tuesday, the State Department designated the son of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Jawad Nasrallah, as a terrorist, linking him with a string of terror attacks against Israeli targets, Reuters reported.
 
The State Department on Tuesday also designated the Al-Mujahidin Brigades (AMB) as a terrorist group, describing it as a Hezbollah affiliate group and tying it to attacks on Israeli targets from bases in Judea and Samaria.
 
“Today’s designations seek to deny Nasrallah and AMB the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” the State Department announced.
 
The Department’s Rewards for Justice program offered $5 million rewards to anyone able to provide information leading to the tracking down of three terrorist leaders linked with Hamas and Hezbollah.
 
The terrorists include Salih al-Aruri of the Gaza-based Hamas terror group, Khalil Yusif Mahmoud Harb, who has been linked with Hezbollah, and Haytham Ali Tabatabaei, who is also tied to Hezbollah.
 
The Treasury Department also leveled sanctions on four Hezbollah officials on Tuesday, and joined the State Department in recognizing Jawad Nasrallah as an international terrorist.

Jewish Home ultimatum: Bennett as Defense Minister - or we bolt

With Avigdor Liberman’s sudden departure from the Defense Ministry and the Netanyahu government, the Jewish Home is looking to secure party chief Naftali Bennett as Liberman’s successor.
 
Senior officials in the Jewish Home party told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday following Liberman’s announcement regarding his planned resignation that the faction will also leave the coalition if Bennett is not tapped to replace Liberman in the Defense Ministry.
 
On Wednesday morning, Liberman called a press conference following a special meeting of Yisrael Beytenu party members, fueling speculation he was preparing to quit as Defense Minister.
 
Liberman later confirmed that he was indeed planning to tender his resignation, and called for early elections.
"I'm here to announce my resignation as Defense Minister for the State of Israel,” Liberman told reporters at a press conference.
 
Even before Liberman formally announced his plans, however, leaders of the Jewish Home faction began lobbying to secure party chief Naftali Bennett’s place as Liberman’s successor at the Defense Ministry.
 
Bennett currently serves as Education Minister and Minister for Diaspora Affairs.
Jewish Home officials said Wednesday that despite warnings that Liberman’s resignationwould likely spell the end of the current government and the 20th Knesset, a narrow coalition could be kept in place into 2019.
 
The Netanyahu government currently holds a 66-seat majority in the 120 member Knesset. With Yisrael Beytenu’s departure, that majority will be reduced to just 61 seats.
 
If the Jewish Home does not receive the Defense Ministry portfolio, however, lawmakers say the party could join Yisrael Beytenu in pushing for new elections.
 
“Now is the time to demand the Defense Ministry portfolio be given to Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home,” tweeted MK Shuli Muallem.
 
“Without the Defense portfolio, the Jewish Home won’t remain a partner in the government.”