Celebrating at 66

Arlene from Israel

Israel is an ancient nation, celebrating the 66th year of her rebirth.

Credit: Hoops

And there is a great deal to celebrate, my friends.


Ben-Dror Yemini, writing about the paradoxes in how Israel is seen, says (emphasis added):

“…there is one thing [Israel’s founders] definitely didn’t know: That the State of Israel would lead the contribution to humanity and would also become the most hated country by that same humanity.

“For almost a decade now, Israel has been leading, or has been among the leaders, in global surveys about negative contribution to the world…

“When we move from perception surveys to facts, the picture is reversed. Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in developing medications and irrigation and water purification systems (the first place in the world in sewage treatment), in patent applications (first place in the registration of patents of medical developments) and in scientific publications (second place in the world in the three most important journals).

“These achievements are not only a cause for national pride. They are mainly a contribution to humanity.

“There is no index of ‘contribution to humanity per capita.’ But if there were such an index, Israel would likely take the first place. Millions of people owe their lives to the irrigation systems and agricultural products from Israel. Not just the Third World. Even California Governor Jerry Brown recently asked Israel for research and technological aid in order to deal with the severe drought. How does this contribution match the oh-so-negative image? It doesn’t.

“…Israel is far from perfect…But in spite of all the problems, Israel is a miracle. A state founded from 70 Diaspora communities, most of which did not know anything about democracy. A state of poor refugees which became a world power in agriculture and irrigation and water purification and high-tech developments. A state which does not live by the sword, but by research, development and entrepreneurship. A state in which the talks about boycott and suspending investments conceal the fact that it is the most invested country in the world, and in some fields not even just for its size.



With all of the hi-tech and entrepreneurial advances of Israel, it is the humanity of the country that catches my attention.

Israel is known world-wide as an innovator in the field of medical clowns, for example, having developed not only training programs but methods for integrating the clown into the medical team. Now this approach is being expanded successfully to include clowns in the labor room, to help women relax:



As well, the outreach that Israelis do is not only in fields of agriculture and technology – it is also humanitarian. An example here: A team from the NGO IsraAID, in cooperation with other Israeli NGOs, went to South Sudan in 2012 to help establish a social-worker training program on sexual violence.


In the course of the last decade, IsraAID has responded to crises in 22 countries, reached over one million people, and distributed 1,000 tons of relief and medical supplies.


Within our borders we also respond to medical needs of others – including the medical needs of enemies. Who else in the world does this?

You’ve read in my postings about care we’ve provided to Syrians. Here is an article about care given to the grandchild of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who has described Israel as a “cancerous tumor that must be removed and uprooted.” When his one year old granddaughter needed emergency medical treatment recently, the family turned to Israel:

The child was brought to “Schneider Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Israel [which] has been forced by Hamas’ relentless bombing to reinforce its windows and build a rocket shelter in its basement.

“The hospital calls itself a ‘bridge of peace,’ and despite the danger posed by Hamas bombs, it attempts to live up to this self-designation by opening its doors to children from Jordan, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere around the world. Each year, hundreds of children from Gaza seek medical care at Schneider Children’s.”


Who else in the world? No one. And yet we remain on the receiving end of vicious calumnies that defy reason.


Every year, there is a transition here from the mourning of Yom HaZikaron to the joy of Yom Ha’atzmaut. It happens in a flash, at the sounding of a siren, and has always astounded me.

I was particularly taken this year with how Dr. Pamela Peled, writing in the “In Jerusalem” section of the JPost put it:

She speaks of the emotions of solidarity felt for Israel’s soldiers and victims of terror –

“a kind of awe for the sacrifices to ensure Israel’s survival…it seems almost too heavy to bear. And then the sharp transition into barbecues and fluttering flags as Israelis celebrate our miraculous existence and achievements… no wonder we are a nation that always seems a bit on the edge.

“Yet this edginess translates into a vitality that has to be experienced to be understood. It’s an ‘only in Israel’ feeling that is hard to define.”



There is an official ceremony on Har Herzl that marks the transition to Yom Ha’atzmaut. Every year, Israelis representing different segments of society are selected to light torches. This year, 14 women were so honored.

One of those women is Miriam Peretz, whom I have been in awe of for a long time.

Credit: Israelnationalnews

At different times, not one, but two of her sons from the Golani Brigade fell in battle: Uriel Peretz – in Lebanon in 1998, and Eliraz Peretz – in Gaza in 2010.

Singer Yehoram Gaon describes her as a person “imbued with a mission to strengthen the Jewish and Israeli spirit in the nation of Israel…Miriam has chosen to continue with her life. She meets with soldiers, with youths and with bereaved families and conveys messages of hope and faith in the power of man to grow from crises.”

In an interview with the JPost, she says (emphasis added):

“reality brought me to this situation,” but she chose to pick her herself up, out of the pain and bereavement and to build from it a “tower of love – love of Israel, and the human strength to influence your own and other people’s lives.”

When she was informed of the honor that was to be bestowed upon her, she said that she would light the torch “with their [her sons’] spirit, spirit of leadership, faith, love for the country, love for people.”

She explains that the transition from one day to the other has always been difficult for her. “I can’t take the sound of the fireworks,” as with each bang she hears the sound of the explosions that took the lives of her sons.

“But this year I will experience it, and I’m scared to be in this simcha (happiness) after the hardest day. Suddenly, fireworks and dancing.

“Either I will close my ears and lower my eyes to the ground, and be with my sons when the fireworks go off, or I’ll lift my eyes to the sky and I’ll follow a firework and hope it will open the skies and that I’ll see my family – and that they’ll see that they didn’t fall in vain, that a nation is celebrating, that life goes on.”


Awe, my friends. This is Israel. And I count it as a great honor that I am Israeli. I lift my voice to heaven with gratitude.


I close with the really neat Aish video, “Wave Your Flag”:



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Why Hasn’t The U.S. Gone After Gazprom?

Amidst the deepening war of words over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, U.S. President Barack Obama on April 28 added more Russian individuals and companies to a sanctions list that already included influential members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and Bank Rossiya, which has close ties to the Russian leadership. The new list freezes the assets of Igor Sechin, head of Russia’s major oil company, Rosneft, six other individuals and 17 companies.

Significantly, the new U.S. list does not include Alexei Miller, CEO of the Russian natural gas state monopoly, Gazprom.

Although the European Union has imposed its own tough sanctions on 48 Russian individuals, Gazprom is arguably where daylight exists between the Obama administration and the EU on the issue of penalizing Moscow for its actions in Ukraine.

The numbers make it clear why. Russia is the EU’s third-biggest trading partner, after the U.S. and China; in 2012, bilateral EU-Russian trade amounted to almost $370 billion. The same year, U.S. trade with Russia amounted to just $26 billion.

More than half of Russia’s exports go to Europe, and 45 percent of its imports come from Europe, according to the EU EUROSTAT agency. Out of 485 billion cubic meters of gas consumed by the EU annually, Russia supplies about 160 billion cubic meters, or almost one-third the total volume.

Germany, the EU’s economic powerhouse, has been explicit about the costs for the German economy from increased sanctions. Anton Borner, the president of Germany’s main trade group, BGA, warned that more than 6,000 German businesses with $105 billion of turnover are interlinked with Russia and stand to lose if sanctions are ratcheted up.

U.S. Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL), who recently visited Ukraine with a Congressional delegation, has offered the likeliest official explanation for why the White House left Gazprom and CEO Miller untouched in the most recent round of sanctions.

In an April 28 appearance on MSNBC, Frankel said, “I think our president is taking a cautious approach warranted because our European allies are…trade partners with Russia, they depend on Russia’s energy. And so we have [to] be careful because sanctions against Russia also have the good probability of hurting our allies.”

Other members of Congress have shown less willingness to accommodate the EU’s delicate economic position. In recent days, senior members of the U.S. Senate have increased their calls for the White House to move against Gazprom. Carl Levin (D -MI), John McCain (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) want Obama to use an executive order that allows him to punish broad sectors of the Russian economy in response to Russia’s actions in Crimea.

The lawmakers’ statements on the issue have been widely covered in the Ukrainian and Russian press.

In an April 12 letter to Obama, Corker, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “Unless Russia ends its destabilization of eastern Ukraine and drastically reduces troop levels on the Ukrainian border immediately, further sanctions against strategic sectors of the Russian economy, particularly targeting Gazprom and additional important financial institutions, should be imposed within days.”

After the latest round of U.S. sanctions this week, Corker repeated that call in a joint statement with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, in which he said, “Until Putin feels the real pain of sanctions targeting entities like Gazprom, which the Kremlin uses to coerce Ukraine and other neighbors, as well as some significant financial institutions, I don’t think diplomacy will change Russian behavior and de-escalate this crisis.”

During an April 25 visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, Levin told reporters, “The existing authority is sufficient to take very strong sanctioning action against Russian banks that have correspondent accounts in the United States. The authority exists. It should be used, and that includes Gazprom.”

McCain advocated in an April 25 press release, “The United States needs to expand sanctions to major Russian banks, energy companies, and sectors of its economy, such as the arms industry, which serve as instruments of Putin’s foreign policy. NATO needs to move toward a robust and persistent military presence in central Europe and the Baltic countries, including increased missile defense capabilities. We need a transatlantic energy strategy to break Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas,” which would include sanctions against Gazprom, according to his office.

McCain recently suggested he has a broader agenda in mind when he said, “The strategy of the U.S. for saving Ukraine must be built in opposition to Russia’s gas strategy, as this will be the end of Putin and his empire.”

Given Gazprom’s centrality to the Russian economy, it’s unlikely that Putin won’t react if and when the company comes in for Western sanctions. In preparation for that possibility, Gazprom’s subsidiary, Gazprombank, Russia’s third largest, last month transferred nearly $7 billion to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.

Gazprom has already warned that further Western sanctions could disrupt gas exports to Europe.

And Russian Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi has made it explicit that there will be consequences for Western energy firms that comply with sanctions. Speaking on April 24 to journalists in Russia’s far eastern city of Birobidzhan, Donskoi said, “It is obvious that they won’t return in the near future if they sever investment agreements with us, I mean there are consequences as well. Russia is one of the most promising countries in terms of hydrocarbons production. If some contracts are severed here, then, colleagues, you lose a serious lump of your future pie.”

Donskoi also expressed the certainty that if Western firms leave Russia, other foreign energy companies would take their place.

That kind of threatening rhetoric will only make it harder for U.S. officials to sell an already nervous Brussels on the idea of more sanctions, if it comes to that, and on targeting Gazprom, in particular.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Why-Hasnt-The-U.S.-Gone-After-Gazprom.html

By John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com


Hillary Clinton should be worried as Benghazi coverup unravels

***Cross-posted in full and with permission from my long time friend, Kenneth Timmerman.

By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
The New York Post

Hillary Rodham Clinton — Photo: AP

Make it go away!

That was the message of the Obama administration and their friends in the media for the past two years, and now we know why: Benghazi is the scandal they always denied it was.

Thanks to a lawsuit by watchdog group Judicial Watch, the administration last week released correspondence about the terrorist attack in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 that left US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others dead.

One memo, from Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security director for strategic communications, shows how the administration was trying to spin the attack as something other than their own strategic failures.

“Reinforce the president and administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges,” he wrote to UN Ambassador Susan Rice. He instructed her to “underscore” that the events in Benghazi were “protests . . . rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

Beyond the callousness of this message, and the fact that officials already knew this was the work of terrorists, that this document is just coming out now shows the depth of the administration’s cover-up.

The US Consulate in Benghazi in flames after the September 11, 2012 attack that killed 4 Americans, including US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. — Photo: Reuters

Despite numerous subpoenas from Congress, Obama’s people never handed over the e-mail. Make it go away means hiding evidence from the American people.

Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes and National Security Adviser Susan Rice — Photo: AP; Getty Images

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a hearing on Thursday that the whole situation reminded him of Richard Nixon.

“Why aren’t we talking about something else?” whined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Because the Obama administration ignored legal requirements and a pursued a possibly criminal cover-up, they’ve just ensured Congress is going to talk about nothing but. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Friday he’ll be forming a select committee to investigate Benghazi.

He’ll find plenty.

The Rhodes memo is just the beginning. It and other e-mails were obviously selected from a much larger set of internal administration communications on the Benghazi cover-up that remains hidden from the public and from Congress.

The person who should worry most is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For example, until now we have seen zero documentation to explain how Clinton out of the blue concocted the statement she issued on the evening of the attacks, which first raised the notion that the attacks came “as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

In all the material released by the administration to date, there are no notes, e-mails or drafts of Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2012 statement similar to the back-and forth e-mail chain released last year showing how the CIA talking points evolved during three days of inter-agency discussion.

And yet surely such documents exist. We know from the public record that Clinton was getting real-time information on the attacks. She understood — because her own officials were telling her — that there were no protests in Benghazi and that the attacks on the Special Mission Compound and on the Annex were a well-planned terrorist assault.

And yet, after consulting by phone with President Obama at 10 that night, Hillary decided to blame it all on an Internet video.

Obama and Clinton deliver a statement a day after the Benghazi attack. — Photo: Getty Images

Similarly, the administration has released no notes, e-mails or other communications that describe the substance of that phone call, so we still don’t know who first floated the idea of blaming it all on a non-existent video. Nor has the White House revealed, despite repeated requests, what the president was doing that night as he prepared for his fund-raiser the next day in Las Vegas. Dialing for dollars, perhaps?

In testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee on Thursday, Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, the chief of intelligence (J-2) for US Africa Command at the time of the attacks, revealed that his “analysts worked through chat” all night long. None of those documents have been turned over to congressional committees.

Top military officials at Africom headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, told me they watched live video feed from a Predator drone over the Special Mission Compound and later, over the Benghazi airport and the Annex, which clearly showed there were no protests. So far, that footage has not been released.

Inside the US Consulate in Benghazi days after the September 11, 2012 attack. — Photo: AP

We know that orders were issued, then recalled, to deploy a 50-man Special Forces unit from Croatia that could have reached Benghazi within hours. But no documents on who ordered that unit to stand down have yet been released.

The American people deserve the truth. With four Americans returning home in body bags, this scandal is no garden-variety cover-up.

And despite Hillary Clinton’s fervent hope, no, it’s not going to go away.

Investigative reporter Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of “Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi,” forthcoming from Broadside Books. He’s running for lieutenant governor of Maryland.