Daily Archives: May 16, 2013
The NYTimes ran a piece yesterday in which it directly quoted a “senior Israeli official” — who according to the JPost had contacted the Times (emphasis added):
“Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region.
“If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”
There was no response to this report from the prime minister’s office, but I will tell you that these are not just idle words: Israel’s government is absolutely determined to prevent sophisticated, game-changing weapons from reaching Hezbollah. The official hinted that more strikes such as the ones we (presumably) just saw may be in the planning.
Author Avigdor Haselkorn, writing in the JPost today, in “The war over preemption,” has provided one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen yet as to the dynamics involved — and why Israel ain’t just foolin’ here (emphasis is added):
Hezbollah — allegedly already in possession of some 50,000 rockets and missiles capable of reaching Israeli population centers — does not need more of the same to hit Israeli cities, says Haselkorn.
“The solid-fuel, highly accurate, long-range (300 km) Fateh-110 missiles, armed with half-ton warheads, which was reportedly targeted by the IAF in the latest strike in Syria were not meant to attack Israeli cities. The Fateh-110 is a counter-force weapon designed to attack high value, pinpoint military and strategic targets. Indeed, it is all but certain that the provision of such missiles by Iran to Hezbollah is another step in the undeclared Israeli- Iranian war over preemption already underway.
“…by equipping Hezbollah with the latest version of Fateh-110 – the MOD 4 – Iran is hoping to accomplish three strategic goals: First, to deter Israel from launching a preemptive strike on its nuclear facilities by holding hostage Israel’s Dimona reactor as well as other strategic installations identified in the foreign press as housing the Israeli nuclear arsenal and/or its delivery platforms…
“As well, Tehran is signaling Washington that any thought of a surgical strike on Iranian facilities is a dangerous hallucination as the outcome would be a nuclear catastrophe in the Middle East, given Iran’s ability to accurately attack Israeli nuclear installations via Hezbollah’s upgraded missiles…
“Second, by providing its Lebanese proxies with highly accurate missiles the Iranians are attempting to turn the tables on Israel – they are developing their own capability to launch a preemptive strike against Israeli strategic facilities. Iranian leaders have already threatened to undertake such action…
“Third, by boosting Hezbollah’s stock of highly accurate missiles Tehran is seeking to enable its proxy to launch heavier salvos, perhaps in conjunction with the Syrian-provided Scud-D missiles reportedly already in Hezbollah’s arsenal. The aim is to assure hits on key strategic targets despite Israel’s missile defenses. Clearly, irrespective of its pooh-poohing of its capabilities, Tehran is worried by the recent stellar performance of the Iron Dome system.
“The bottom line is that Iran is laboring hard to prevent an Israeli preemption while developing its own option – via Hezbollah – of launching a preemptive attack on Israel’s most vital strategic assets.
“It should be noted that the Iranian effort is being pursued despite repeated Israeli warnings and forceful action to stop it. Some in Israel have interpreted this Iranian determination as forced by growing fears of the mullahs and their Hezbollah brethren that…they will not be able to make use of the Tehran-Damascus-Beirut corridor much longer to transport arms and fighters. However, a more important reason is Iran’s fear of an imminent Israeli preemptive attack. In spite of Iran’s public ridicule, it appears it views with mounting concern Israeli statements that 2013 would be a year of decision.
“For its part, Israel, by acting to destroy new additions to Hezbollah’s counter-force capabilities and the means to defend them…signaled its determination to keep its preemptive option open. Further, the operational successes of the IDF’s recent military undertakings in Syria communicate to Tehran the credibility of Israel’s intentions and capabilities in this regard. Thus, as long it races toward the bomb, Iran is likely to persist if not escalate its efforts to block and/or counter the Israeli preemptive option.
“The ongoing conflict over preemption has produced two paradoxes. First, even before any military strike had been unleashed against a nuclear facility, armed conflict has erupted. The Israeli threat to use force as a last resort to stop Iran’s nuclear march had the effect of forcing Jerusalem to exert its military muscle without delay, ostensibly to preserve the final option…”
So it’s going to get tougher before it’s over, but in point of fact, Israel is already at war with Iran.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu took action of another sort in an attempt to prevent an escalation of the situation in Syria with a potential shift in the balance of power: On Tuesday morning he flew to the Black Sea city of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with regard to the announced intention of Russia to sell state-of-the-art anti-aircraft S-300 missiles to Damascus.
Netanyahu was accompanied by National Security Council Head Ya’akov Amidror, Head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a native Russian speaker. Press was not permitted to participate. Kochavi is believed to have provided Putin with intelligence regarding the situation in Russia.
All we have from that meeting is a joint press conference during which they declared their intention to keep in touch, both personally and between special services.
As for Putin, it is clear — and this is hardly new — that he is motivated at least in part by a desire to subvert Western, and particularly, American involvement in the area. We might say that he gave the old one-two to Obama with the announcement of intention to sell those missiles, which followed almost immediately an announcement about Russia and the US working together to address the crisis in Syria:
Last week Moscow and Washington had announced an agreement to facilitate political dialogue between the Assad regime and rebels, and to facilitate an international conference on Syria.
(A reflection of the tenuous relationship between Russia and the US can be found in the arrest on Tuesday by the Russians of CIA agent Ryan Christopher Fogle, who was working in the American Embassy in Moscow and was caught in a sting operation when trying to recruit Russian double-agents.)
The placement of those anti-aircraft missiles in Syrian hands would be no small matter for Israel, and worse still should they be transferred to Hezbollah.
I have picked up reports — unconfirmed, for example from Al-Quds Al-Arabi — that the missiles may already be in Syria. In one version, it was said that only Russian technicians were managing them, in another, there was indication that Syrian technicians were already trained.
For the first time this morning, mortar shells fired from Syria hit Mount Hermon in the Golan. There were no casualties.
And, for the first time it is clear that the mortars didn’t cross the border with Syria accidentally, during the course of fighting between Assad’s troops and rebels.
This time, a group by the name of (are you ready?) Shahid Brigades of the Abd al-Kajr al-Husseini Jihad Brigades which is part of the “Free Palestine Movement” took credit via a video it released. It said that the mortars were fired for “Nakba Day,” which was just observed by Palestinian Arabs as a day of mourning that marks Israel’s founding.: “We tell the Zionists that we are opening a campaign of revenge.””
I have no information about the source of fire being identified and destroyed. IDF patrols in the area have increased and the IDF is now re-evaluating the earlier determination that the other mortars hit Israeli soil by accident.
It was announced just days ago that the Civil Administration (which means the administration of Judea and Samaria that works under the Ministry of Defense) was working diligently to establish a new Palestinian Arab city near Jericho, reportedly to be called Nu’aimah, which would house tens of thousands of residents and require the transfer of almost 2,000 dunam (500 acres) of land from the Jordan Valley Regional Council to the PA for the project.
The Yesha Council responded to this insanity immediately:
“The state of Israel is advancing programs for thousands of dwelling units in Area C [which is under full Israeli control] while there are wide sections of Areas A and B [under full and partial PA control] where they can be settled and they are stopping the tenders for building for Israeli settlement in Area C.”
Before I had the opportunity to write about this, came the announcement that Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon has frozen the project. According to Israel National News:
“MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi), who heads a subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee which deals with issues pertaining to Judea and Samaria, contacted Yaalon…asking for details about the project. According to Ma’ariv, Yaalon told Yogev that upon learning of the plan he ordered that it be immediately stopped.
“An Israeli defense official confirmed the details, telling Ma’ariv that the Defense Minister is interested in learning the details of the plan and any consequences that may result from its application, and has asked that it be delayed until he can formulate a position on the issue.”
Well then, a small sigh of relief and a tentative “bravo” to Minister Ya’alon. Now we’ll have to wait to see what position he formulates.
If truth be told, actions by the government are so schizoid that it’s difficult to determine precisely what policy truly is — or, for that matter, where our prime minister stands.
Here we have some very good news with an announcement that the State is seeking to authorize four communities — called outposts — in Judea and Samaria. The announcement came in a statement to the High Court submitted on Tuesday with regard to a Peace Now petition with regard to six communities. Good old Peace Now had demanded removal of them all.
The four communities: Givat Assaf, in the Binyamin region of Samaria; Givat Haroeh, one of the largest unauthorized communities, in the Shomron; Maale Rekhavam, in the Gush Etzion region; and Mitzpe Lakhish, in the South Hebron Hills.
Three had been determined to have been built on State land, so there was no legal barrier to their authorization.
Some portion of the fourth, Givat Assaf (pictured here), was built on what had been privately owned Arab land, but residents of this community — some 30 families — had told the court that they had purchased that land.
Now the State has accepted the residents claims. According to the JPost, orders had come from the “upper political echelon” to the Civil Administration to “weigh the possibility of legalizing Givat Assaf.”
Credit: Flash 90
The State is working out compromises for the other two communities mentioned in the Peace Now petition, as well: In Mitzpe Yitzhar, near Yitzhar in the hills of the Shomron, two homes built on private Palestinian Arab property have been taken down and a third home will also be demolished; the implication here is that ultimately authorization may be possible for this community as well.
In the case of Ramat Gilad, some of its homes are on State land and an agreement has been reached with its residents for many of the homes to be moved to a different part of its hilltop location.
Contrast the upbeat position by the government, above, with this shameful action. I had mentioned the issue of an Israeli failure to assert sovereignty the other day, and here we are:
A plan had been set in place to bring Jewish children to the Temple Mount today, as an educational follow-up to Shavuot, which was a time when first fruits were brought to the Temple.
In response to chatter on Islamic websites that the children would be met by rioters, police closed entry to the Temple Mount to all non-Muslims, out of concern for “public safety.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t care how many police or soldiers would have had to have been called out to protect the children, it should have been done. To cave before threats of violence, so that Jewish rights are denied, is a bad move.
What is more, Jews who made it to the Mount over Shavuot (yesterday) and the day prior were severely harassed by Muslims and received scant police protection. At one point Jewish entry at the Mughrabi Gate was blocked by Muslims. When a riot broke out, the Jews were removed from the Mount.
I am ashamed to write this, but I must. What is ours must be claimed as ours, and our rights made clear.
Obama Fires IRS Commissioner as Scandal Grows
By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
The scandal involving the politicization of the IRS under the Obama administration continues to grow. Congressmen briefed by IRS officials say that instead of 300 groups that received closer scrutiny, the number has climbed to 471. More drip, drip, drip. But in an effort to stop the bleeding, President Obama has fired the acting commissioner, Steven Miller, who is said to have become aware in May of last year that the IRS was targeting conservative groups. He failed to tell Congress when he testified before an oversight committee in July. Whether Miller is a sacrificial lamb, a scapegoat or the true culprit remains to be seen. Charles Krauthammer, on Fox News, called the firing “a holding operation,” and “the absolute minimum he could have done.”
Now that Tea Party, Patriot, and other conservative groups know that they aren’t alone in receiving prejudicial treatment by the IRS, they are coming forward and providing more details about the reprehensible conduct of this agency. Conservative groups have told the media that the IRS asked for donor lists, Facebook conversations, copies of minutes and notes, and even lists of meeting participants.
“A Politico review of documents from 11 tea party and conservative groups that the IRS scrutinized in 2012 shows the agency wanted to know everything—in some cases, it even seemed curious what members were thinking,” write David Nather, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau for Politico. “The review included interviews with groups or their representatives from Hawaii, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere.”
“Several of the groups were asked for résumés of top officers and descriptions of interviews with the media. One group was asked to provide ‘minutes of all board meetings since your creation’” (emphasis added). For small groups, such data may not even exist.
“When a Tennessee lawyer asked the IRS for tax-exempt status for a mentoring group that trained high school and college students about conservative political philosophy, the agency responded with a list of 95 questions in 31 parts, including an ultimatum for a list of everyone the group had trained, or planned to train,” reports David Martosko for the UK Daily Mail.
“It ‘should send chills through your spine that the government would ask me to identify those I teach, and to provide details of what I teach them,’” the Founder of Linchpins of Liberty, Kevin Kookogey, told the Daily Mail.
Asking for such comprehensive data from small groups such as Linchpins for Liberty accomplishes several political goals: it discourages donors, it discourages organizations, and ultimately, may cause the organization in question to fold. “Some groups even gave up in the face of the IRS questions,” reports Martosko.
“… Kookogey said a $30,000 grant was canceled as a result of the IRS’s months-long radio silence, when he couldn’t tell his donor that Linchpins had earned its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status,” writes Martosko. “That money would have made a significant difference to the group, judging from its public filings in Tennessee. In 2011, Linchpins of Liberty reported collecting just $3,460 in contributions, and spending $7,328 on its programs.” Even for larger, established groups, $30,000 in donations can make a significant difference.
Kookogey doesn’t even consider his group a Tea Party or Patriot group. “‘I’m not a Tea Party group. I’m not a Patriot group by name,’ he told NewsChannel 5 in Nashville.”
“One reason that [the IRS is] apologizing right now is that they know the investigative arm is about to take them to task—and there are whistleblowers, too, who know that this has been wrong,” Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) asserted in an interview for Newsmax.
The IRS’ abuses are far reaching and extensive. USA Today reporter Gregory Korte went so far as to state that a “Tea Party moratorium” was in effect for 27 months. “In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked,” writes Korte. “That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months.”
“For the 296 total political campaign intervention applications TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration] reviewed as of December 17, 2012, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some for more than three years and crossing two election cycles),” states the IRS report issued Tuesday.
During this time period, IRS official Lois Lerner approved the tax-exempt status for Barack Obama’s half-brother’s Barack H. Obama Foundation in a single month. “Lerner granted the organization a 501(c) determination and even gave it a retroactive tax exemption dating back to December 2008,” reports the Daily Caller.
This is not an outlier. “In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA Today review of IRS data shows,” writes Korte.
Yet the Administration maintains that their actions were not politically motivated. “The selection of these cases where they used the names was not a partisan selection,” said Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations, reports USA Today. “She said progressive groups were also selected for greater scrutiny based on their names, but did not provide details.”
While the media have found at least three such groups targeted for extra scrutiny, this does not offset the purposeful targeting of conservative groups. As Accuracy in Media earlier reported, 85 of the original 300 such groups contained the words “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” or “9/12” in their names. Those numbers will change now that the total number of such groups is up to 471.
Korte writes that groups such as the following were granted 501c(4) status during the “moratorium:” Bus for Progress, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, and Progress Florida.
So what exactly happens to this intrusive data once it is collected? This is the same IRS that gave investigative journalism ProPublica access to nine confidential applications of conservative groups still waiting for the exempt status to be approved. “The commendable admission [by ProPublica] lends further evidence to the lengths the IRS went to during an election cycle to silence tea party and limited government voices,” writes Wynton Hall for Breitbart.com.
Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the FBI to investigate this matter. “A federal official who has been briefed on the matter said the investigation could focus on potential violations of civil rights law, including targeting groups based on political affiliation and infringing free speech,” writes Korte for USA Today. “The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said authorities could consider possible violations of the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of government workers.”
“At a bare minimum, those involved with this deeply offensive use of government power have committed a violation of the public trust that has already had a profoundly chilling effect on free speech,” wrote Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Rubio had called for Commissioner Miller to lose his job.
It seems that for this scandal, there is bipartisan outrage. Vernon Jordan, a close adviser to President Bill Clinton, said that “He [President Obama] needs to fire somebody. He needs action, not conversation.” Obama was apparently listening to Rubio and Jordan when he fired the commissioner, but it may not be enough.
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at [email protected].