Friday, October 24, 2014

An interview with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon

Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor at The Washington Post.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, known as a hawk, heightened U.S.-Israeli tensions earlier this year by criticizing John Kerry, saying the U.S. secretary of state had a “misplaced obsession and messianic fervor” about the peace process. On a trip to the United States this past week during which he met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Yaalon spoke with The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth about the threat he sees from Iran, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Excerpts:
Q. You caused quite a stir with your remarks about Secretary Kerry.
A. We overcame that.
Secretary Kerry recently said the lack of resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is leading to street anger and recruitment for the Islamic State. What is your response?
Unfortunately, we find the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dominated by too many misconceptions. We don’t find any linkage between the uprising in Tunisia, the revolution in Egypt, the sectarian conflict in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mainly, these come from the Sunni-Shia conflict, without any connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The core of the conflict is their reluctance to recognize our right to exist as a nation state of the Jewish people — whether it is [Palestinian Authority President] Abu Mazen or his predecessor [Yasser] Arafat. There are many who believe that just having some territorial concessions will conclude it. But I don’t think this is right.
Will territorial concessions bring peace?
No, they would be another stage of the Palestinian conflict, as we experienced in the Gaza Strip. We disengaged from the Gaza Strip to address their territorial grievances. They went on attacking us. The conflict is about the existence of the Jewish state and not about the creation of the Palestinian one. Any territory that was delivered to them after Oslo became a safe haven for terrorists.
Bearing that in mind, to conclude that after the [recent] military operation in Gaza this is a time for another withdrawal from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is irrational. If we withdraw now from Judea and Samaria, we might face another Hamastan.

So you think Hamas would take over the West Bank?
Sure. We just recently intercepted a terror network in the area of Ramallah. We arrested 96 Hamas terrorists.
They were supposed to be staging a coup to overthrow Abu Mazen?
Yes. They were operated and recruited by Saleh al-Arouri from Istanbul. We saved Abu Mazen from them overthrowing him. It might have become a Hamas-governed entity with Iranian arms.
Last summer, you and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu decided to limit the operation in Gaza — not to reoccupy Gaza.
Was that the right decision?
Absolutely. It was the right decision. From the very beginning, we understood it might be a tremendous mistake to send our troops to take over and occupy the Gaza Strip. That’s why we decided to avoid it and to direct our military operation toward the endgame, which was the Egyptian initiative [a cease-fire with no preconditions].
Why did the operation take 51 days?
Hamas is not marginal. It is a well-equipped militia and has 10,000 rockets, and the know-how and indigenous capabilities to produce rockets [which they got] from Iran. This is not just a terror organization.
How do you see the threat from ISIS?
ISIS is a new phenomenon, originating from al-Qaeda. This is not a threat for us. This is a threat to the free world as they actually claim to [want to] defeat all those who are not ready to follow their religious, Islamic way — whether they are Muslims, Christians, Kurds, Alawites, Shias or Jews. The idea to confront them by creating a coalition is an awakening. ... Hopefully the coalition led by the United States will contain them.

Kobane [a Syrian town near the Turkish border] is about to fall. The ground forces seem to be weak.
I hope it is not too late to deal with it. Air superiority is very important.
It is important, but is it enough?
It is not enough. Don’t misunderstand me — I don’t recommend Western troops to be deployed. But the troops on the ground, whether they are Kurds, Iraqi armed forces or Syrian militias that are not extremists, should be supported by the West in order to be able to defeat ISIS.
Is it too late in Syria?
It is never too late. Syria is a microcosm of the region. What we see now is fragmentation, the collapse of the nation-state.
So you see a breakup in Syria?
Yes. We have Alawistan — an Alawite enclave led by President Bashar al-Assad, who controls 25 percent of the Syrian territory. We have Syrian Kurdistan in the northeastern part [of the country]. We have many Sunni enclaves. But the Sunnis are divided — we have Muslim Brotherhood Sunnis, we have ISIS, we have Jabhat al-Nusra. We have the Free Syrian Army, which we believe should be supported.
What is Israel’s strategy in Syria?
We don’t want to be involved. We enjoy a relatively calm situation on the border of the Golan Heights. They understand that if they violate our sovereignty, we immediately respond.
How are you going to ensure that in rebuilding Gaza, Hamas does not build more tunnels?
We believe there is the potential to keep a calm situation along the border with Gaza [since] Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad paid a heavy price [in] our military operation last summer. We understand there is a problem in Gaza — an economic problem, the need for reconstruction.
Part of our interest is to pave the way for the Palestinian Authority to get into the Gaza Strip. I’m not sure Abu Mazen is ready to take responsibility.
Right now doesn’t the Palestinian Authority have responsibility only for the crossings?
Not yet. But the opening of the Rafah crossing point is conditioned on the deployment of the Palestinian Authority troops. We proposed for them to be deployed on the Palestinian side of our crossing points as well.
Do you believe in a two-state solution?
You can call it the new Palestinian empire. We don’t want to govern them, but it is not going to be a regular state for many reasons.
What does that mean — the Palestinian empire?
Autonomy. It is going to be demilitarized.
In Gaza and the West Bank?
It is up to them. According to the agreement, they should be demilitarized. It is up to Abu Mazen if he is able or if he wants to demilitarize Gaza. Otherwise, we are not going to talk about any final settlement.
Is Abu Mazen the best Palestinian leader you’re going to get?
I don’t know, but he is not a partner for the two-state solution. He doesn’t recognize the existence of the Jewish state.
He says he is against violence.
Fine. But this is a tactical consideration. He believes he might get more by what he calls “political resistance” — going to the United Nations or to international bodies to delegitimize us. He prefers it to violence because in his experience, terror doesn’t pay off.
Is that why you said Secretary Kerry should just get a Nobel Prize and go home? Do you think the West just doesn’t get it?
I spoke about misconceptions. It is a misunderstanding, without naming anyone. It might be naivete or wishful thinking — ‘We the Westerners know what is good for the Arabs.’ To believe that you can have democratization with elections ... it is collapsing in front of us. And part of it is ignorance, yes.
Israeli-U.S. relations are in terrible shape. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama had a bad meeting this month. During the Gaza operation, for the first time, missile shipments didn’t go through automatically.
The issue of Hellfire missiles has been solved. It was a bureaucratic issue.
It doesn’t look like an unbreakable bond if, in the middle of a war, the administration decides to review what has always been military-to-military arms transfers.
I can tell you that between the Pentagon and the Israel Defense Forces there is an unbreakable bond.
What about the politicians?
We have disputes.
It seems to be a deep dispute.
With all the disputes, the United States is Israel’s strategic ally.
The Nov. 24 deadline for an Iranian nuclear agreement is approaching. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that no deal is better than a bad deal. What do you hope comes out of these talks?
We are concerned about the potential deal. Because the framework of this deal is about how many centrifuges should this regime have. Why should they have the indigenous capability to enrich uranium? If they need it for civilian purposes, they can get enriched uranium from the United States or from Russia. Why do they insist on having the indigenous capability? Because they still have the aspiration to have a nuclear bomb.
With a bad deal — saying, ‘We will keep this regime from having a bomb for a year or year and a half’ — what does that mean? What about the missile delivery systems, which are not discussed? Why should they have missiles ready to adopt nuclear warheads?
And they do?
Yes, hundreds of them. And what about their being a rogue regime instigating terror all over the Middle East and beyond? They are not involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Yemen to serve American interests. This is not discussed. By rehabilitating the economy, they might feel confident to go on with these rogue activities, and at a certain point decide to break out from the deal and to have a bomb. That’s why our prime minister said that no deal is better than a bad deal.
And you agree with him?
Of course. In a deal they are going to get rid of any pressure. In the end, we should be able to defend ourselves by ourselves.
Does that mean Israel alone would consider using a military option?
It’s enough to say we should be ready to defend ourselves by ourselves.
As long as Benjamin Netanyahu wants to run for office, will you not run for prime minister?
As long as he is going the right way, why should I challenge him?
Do you intend to run for prime minister one day?

Geert Wilders on “The West’s Battle for Freedom.”

In the last three days a 3-month-old baby girl was murdered in Jerusalem, a Canadian soldier was murdered in Ottawa and a police officer attacked with a hatchet in New York City. To every thinking person it is obvious that we have a problem, but governments continue to obfuscate. Not Geert Wilders 

Barack Obama, bewildered bystander

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks to the media about the government’s Ebola response in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

 Opinion writer October 23 at 7:50 PM

The president is upset. Very upset. Frustrated and angry. Seething about the government’s handling of Ebola, said the front-page headline in the
New York Times last Saturday.
There’s only one problem with this pose, so obligingly transcribed for him by the Times. It’s his government. He’s president. Has been for six years. Yet Barack Obama reflexively insists on playing the shocked outsider when something goes wrong within his own administration.
The IRS? “It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” he thundered in May 2013 when the story broke of the agency targeting conservative groups. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS.”
Except that within nine months, Obama had grown far more tolerant, retroactively declaring this to be a phony scandal without “a smidgen of corruption.”
Obamacare rollout? “Nobody is more frustrated by that than I am,” said an aggrieved Obama about the botching of the central element of his signature legislative achievement. “Nobody is madder than me.”
Veterans Affairs scandal? Presidential chief of staff Denis McDonough explained: “Secretary [Eric] Shinseki said yesterday ... that hes mad as hell and the president is madder than hell. A nice touch taking anger to the next level.
The president himself declared: “I will not stand for it.” But since the administration itself said the problem was long-standing, indeed predating Obama, this means he had stood for it for 5½ years.
The one scandal where you could credit the president with genuine anger and obliviousness involves the recent breaches of White House Secret Service protection. The Washington Post described the first lady and president as “angry and upset,” and no doubt they were. But the first Secret Service scandal — the hookers of Cartagena — evinced this from the president: “If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry.” An innovation in ostentatious distancing: future conditional indignation.
These shows of calculated outrage — and thus distance — are becoming not just unconvincing but unamusing. In our system, the president is both head of state and head of government. Obama seems to enjoy the monarchial parts, but when it comes to the actual business of running government, he shows little interest and even less aptitude.
His principal job, after all, is to administer the government and to get the right people to do it. (That’s why we typically send governors rather than senators to the White House.) That’s called management. Obama had never managed anything before running for the biggest management job on earth. It shows.
What makes the problem even more acute is that Obama represents not just the party of government but a grandiose conception of government as the prime mover of social and economic life. The very theme of his presidency is that government can and should be trusted to do great things. And therefore society should be prepared to hand over large chunks of its operations — from health care (one-sixth of the economy) to carbon regulation down to free contraception — to the central administrative state.
But this presupposes a Leviathan not just benign but competent. When it then turns out that vast, faceless bureaucracies tend to be incapable, inadequate, hopelessly inefficient and often corrupt, Obama resorts to expressions of angry surprise.
He must. He’s not simply protecting his own political fortunes. He’s trying to protect faith in the entitlement state by portraying its repeated failures as shocking anomalies.
Unfortunately, the pretense has the opposite effect. It produces not reassurance but anxiety. Obama’s determined detachment conveys the feeling that nobody’s home. No one leading. Not even from behind.
A poll conducted two weeks ago showed that 64 percent of likely voters (in competitive races) think that “things in the U.S. feel like they are out of control.” This is one degree of anxiety beyond thinking the country is on the wrong track. That’s been negative for years, and it’s a reflection of failed policies that in principle can be changed. Regaining control, on the other hand, is a far dicier proposition.
With events in the saddle and a sense of disorder growing — the summer border crisis, Ferguson, the rise of the Islamic State, Ebola — the nation expects from the White House not miracles but competence. At a minimum, mere presence. An observer presidency with its bewildered-bystander pose only adds to the unease.
Read more from Charles Krauthammer’s archivefollow him on Twitteror subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

The bewildered bystander president who does not even lead from behind, yet no one sees this in relation to the greatest threat - Iran  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Moshe Ya'alon on Charlie Rose - 54 min interview

I watched the full interview on Bloomberg TV. In short, it was an exchange between Moshe Ya'alon who understands the Middle East and what jihad is all about,  and Charlie Rose who does not.  The gap in understanding is enormous and fundamental  and  it reflects the gap in understanding between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government as well.

The crux  of the whole interview is this exchange   ~  23 min into the video

Charlie Rose:         a good deal for you is that  they have no...

Moshe Ya'alon:        no indigenous capability to enrich uranium

Charlie Rose:           and  by that meaning no capacity in Iran to enrich uranium

Moshe Ya'alon:       yeah

Charlie Rose:          that's the only thing that

Moshe Ya'alon      that is  the main issue now, of course the delivery systems should be  discussed       

Charlie Rose:         but it is not discussed as you said

Moshe Ya'alon:      yeah, the terror activities generated by Iran is nor discussed, but the main point we should be focused on is full cessation of the fuel cycle  

Charlie Rose:        but  they are not going to do it

Moshe Ya'alon:     so let' wait and see what will happen.  At the end we understand that Israel should be ready  to defend itself by itself

Israel's Moshe Ya'alon on Iran's Nukes (Oct. 20, 2014) | Charlie Rose

Israel's Moshe Ya'alon on a "Two State" Solution (Oct. 20, 2014) | Charlie Rose

Israel's Moshe Ya'alon on "Taking Out" the ISIS Leader (Oct. 20, 2014) | Charlie Rose

Monday, October 20, 2014

‘Step by step’ toward a nuclear Iran

Iran is being allowed to acquire the ability to produce atom bombs, and the West is obsessing over Ebola.

  By RUTHIE BLUM   10/19/2014 21:31 
While Americans began to panic last week about the spread of Ebola in the United States, and Israelis mourned the tragic loss of young hikers in an avalanche in Nepal, something with far more lethal consequences was taking place in Europe that barely elicited a yawn.

Representatives of Iran and the P5+1 countries (Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany) met in Vienna to hold yet another round of talks on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Key players in these negotiations were Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Though this was the eighth such gathering since the beginning of the year aimed at “ironing out” differences between the sides, it was highly significant.

In November, an interim arrangement was reached, according to which a final deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be achieved during the six-month period between January and July.

Iran had no intention of curtailing its nuclear capabilities, but was keen on the easing of sanctions, and it was rewarded for continuing to engage in bogus negotiations, with none of the summits producing results. They did, however, enable the mullah-led regime in Tehran to keep the centrifuges spinning.

When the only progress made by the summer deadline was in uranium enrichment, the parties agreed to an extension of talks until November 24. What this really meant was that Iran was given an additional four months in which to proceed on its course toward regional hegemony and world domination. It also provided Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with the further justification he needed to persuade Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that his stance as a “moderate” was paying off.

With a mere few weeks to go until the new deadline, neither side says it has an interest in prolonging negotiations past November. Rouhani gave a televised address ahead of this week’s talks to tell the Iranian people that reaching a deal by the end of next month would be possible.

Kerry was less committal. “Step by step,” he told reporters on Wednesday, before entering into six hours of talks, described by another State Department official as “about whether Iran is willing to take verifiable actions to show that their program is for peaceful purposes.”

To remove the main obstacle to a final deal, Kerry proposed that Iran could keep its nuclear infrastructure if it would agree to reduce the quantity and quality of uranium enrichment required to create atomic weapons in the near future.

Iran, which denies its nuclear facilities are military in nature, is not happy with that offer.

One party to the talks that may help to break this impasse is Russia, which currently supplies fuel for Iran’s nuclear reactor. Tehran has been discussing the possibility of shipping some of its low-enriched uranium to Moscow for “civilian” use in the future.


It’s interesting that as talks kicked off in Austria on Wednesday, two Russian warships left the northern Iranian port of Anzali, following a three-day Iranian-Russian naval exercise in the Caspian Sea.

Rather than viewing these disturbing developments with trepidation, however, the world is preoccupied with the efforts of the US-led campaign – dubbed “Coherent Resolve” – to defeat Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

In fact, because IS is a Sunni organization, the West now sees the Shi’ite-dominated Iranian regime as a potential ally.

Worse than that, Iran is now being viewed as an up-and-coming destination for business.

Indeed, early last week, The New York Times began to promote a $6,995 tour to Iran, led by writer and former Paris correspondent Elaine Sciolino.

“Journey 2,500 years back in time to discover the ancient secrets of Persia on this 13-day itinerary incorporating some of the most well preserved archaeological sites in the world,” reads the ad, which fails to mention that such a trip could end in imprisonment, torture and death for participants who arouse the ire of the Revolutionary Guards.

On Thursday, as Kerry was pleading with Zarif to illustrate Iranian good faith, hundreds of international investors gathered in London to attend the “1st Europe- Iran Forum.” It was a “meet and greet” the likes of which has not taken place since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that ushered in the Islamists. You know, those who are still in power and declare: “Death to America, Europe and Israel.”

Still, former UK foreign secretary Jack Straw was one of the speakers at the event, whose purpose was for Iranian and European businesspeople to forge connections for investments in the Islamic Republic, as soon as a final diplomatic deal is reached on its nuclear weapons program.

Yes, “step by step,” Iran is being allowed to acquire the ability to produce atom bombs, and the West is obsessing over Ebola.

The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’

Don’t Make a Bad Deal With Iran

The Opinion Pages  | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

 OCT. 19, 2014
JERUSALEM — Israel is deeply concerned about the trajectory of the ongoing negotiations concerning Iran’s nuclear program. The talks are moving in the wrong direction, especially on the core issue of uranium enrichment.
Although Iran has modified its tone recently, there have hardly been any changes of substance since the soft-spoken president, Hassan Rouhani, took over the reins from his aggressive predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Neither administration has budged from the insistence that Iran should retain most of the 9,400 operational centrifuges it deploys to enrich uranium, as well as its nearly completed nuclear reactor in Arak, which could produce plutonium in the future.
Iran has softened its inflammatory anti-Western rhetoric and shown some flexibility on less important issues but we must not be duped by these gestures. President Obama must stand by his declaration that no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal.
Israel also worries that the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State will come at the expense of the critical struggle against Iran's nuclear program.
Fighting the Islamic State is vital and Israel unequivocally supports the global effort to prevent the formation of a new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. But even more important is the imperative to preclude the already existing Islamic Republic of Iran — with its infamous track record of sponsoring terrorist groups, abusing human rights, calling for Israel’s destruction, and lying unabashedly for almost 20 years about its nuclear program — from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
Many experts argue that because a deal with Iran would necessarily include some restrictions on the Iranian nuclear project, an imperfect agreement is better than no agreement. They are wrong.
That’s because Iran has already made considerable progress in its attempt to advance toward nuclear weapons. An agreement that allows Iran to continue circling in a holding pattern will resemble what happened with North Korea after the 2007 agreement left large parts of Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities intact, which enabled the North Koreans to produce several nuclear weapons in the following years. Under such conditions, nothing will stop Iran’s mullahs from landing, sooner or later, at their ultimate destination.
Second, a flawed deal would hand Iran practical advantages in return for almost nothing. In return for an insignificant and temporary reduction of its enrichment capacities, Iran stands to reap $100 billion per year when the sanctions are lifted; gain formal legitimacy for its uranium enrichment activities; and, despite its history of nuclear fraud and concealment, preserve the capability to produce nuclear weapons at a time it deems appropriate. Three factors will determine the breakout time needed for Iran to produce nuclear weapons: the quantity and quality of its remaining operational centrifuges; the amount of 3.5 percent enriched uranium that it is permitted to stockpile; and the final destiny of its remaining centrifuges and their infrastructure. The international community must have full and complete clarity on these fundamental issues.
Finally, a bad deal would pave the road to nuclear proliferation and herald the dawn of a nuclear arms race in the unstable Middle East. Other countries in the region will rush to build equivalent enrichment programs, which the international community will no longer be able to resist in good conscience, and which will drastically increase the risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of radical Islamists.
This actually leaves the negotiators with only two real options at the moment: a bad deal, or no deal at all. Barring a surprising change in Iran’s negotiating stance, there is zero chance of reaching a satisfactory good deal before the Nov. 24 deadline.
Choosing the “no deal” option will very likely produce extra pressure — including some new sanctions — on Iran and, subsequently, might pave the way for a better deal in the near future.
Standing our moral ground will transmit a clear message to the leaders in Tehran that the only way to escape mounting pressure will be through ultimately making the necessary significant compromises.
Not reaching a nuclear deal at this stage must not be considered a failure. It can even be regarded a qualified success, since it would represent the integrity of an international community adhering to its principles rather than sacrificing the future of global security because it is distracted by the worthy fight against Islamic State terrorists.
The 2003 war in Iraq came at the expense of blocking a greater threat: Iran’s nuclear project, which was then only in its embryonic stage. The international community must not repeat this mistake in 2014. The Islamic Republic of Iran remains the world foremost threat. We must guarantee that it never obtains nuclear weapons.

Yuval Steinitz is Israel's minister of intelligence.