Top IDF Spokesperson Tells U.S. Jews: Israel Failed to Minimize Gaza Casualties, Hamas Won PR War by Knockout

By Uri Blau

Israeli military’s international spokesman says some Palestinians ‘that weren’t the target’ were hit, but fiercely defended the military’s response

A senior Israeli army spokesman admitted Tuesday that Israel failed to minimize the number of Palestinian casualties during the recent deadly protests on the Gaza border, and that some were hit by mistake. He added that Hamas won the PR war by a “knockout.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the international spokesman and head of social media for the Israel Defense Forces, made the comments during a Jewish community briefing organized by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

The officer fiercely defended the military’s response to the recent protests along the Gaza border, in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands more wounded, most of them by live fire.

skip – IDF spokesman responds to Gaza Strip border scenes

IDF spokesman responds to Gaza Strip border scenes – דלג

Many commentators have said Hamas won a PR victory following the worldwide media coverage given to the bloody scenes, especially following Monday’s juxtaposition of scenes on the Gaza border and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Conricus said Israel hasn’t been able to explain the situation on the border well enough to the international media.

“We haven’t been able to get that message out of how it is from our side, what we are defending – and the ‘winning picture’ overwhelmingly, by a knockout, unfortunately, have been the graphics from the Palestinian side. The amount of casualties has done us a tremendous disservice, unfortunately, and it has been very difficult to tell our story.”

Conricus acknowledged that the IDF had failed to minimize the number of casualties. However, he noted that “Hamas wanted the casualties. Hamas wanted people to die. Hamas wanted the pictures of the wounded and the overflowing hospitals … and they had no problems sending the human shields forward. That is the sad reality of what we have been facing,” he said.

While blaming Hamas for sending “rioters” to the border area and using civilians as human shields, Conricus also conceded that the army snipers didn’t always hit their intended targets.

Palestinian protesters carrying a wounded woman during a protest on the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, May 15, 2018.
Palestinian protesters carrying a wounded woman during a protest on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, May 15, 2018.Khalil Hamra/AP

On the border, he said, the army deploys “combat soldiers, devoted, [who] understand what they are defending,” and are not “trigger-happy, undisciplined.” The soldiers “take orders from their superior officers” and are “executing their missions with discipline, with professionalism and using their weapons proportionately and as they are intented according to the rules of engagement,” Conricus said.

“Now, have there been mistakes? Have there been bullets that missed their target and hit people that weren’t the target?” he continued. “Of course they have. But I can tell you that it is a chaotic environment on the border. There is tear gas. There is smoke from the tires. There is screaming. There is loudspeakers, there’s the sirens from the ambulances and, most importantly, there’s masses of rioters trying to tear down the fence, throwing rocks, throwing molotov cocktails, throwing grenades.”

Conricus said Israel could not afford to let the risk of letting the protesters break through the fence, for fear they might attack kibbutzim and communities that are mere hundreds of meters from the border.

“When the dilemma came to, on one hand, defending the Israeli border and Israeli communities immediately behind the border, or allowing the rioters through and having a lower amount of Palestinian casualties, there’s no dilemma,” Conricus said.

“There is no dilemma for soldiers and commanders in the IDF,” he added. “On the other hand, we have tried to be as accurate, as deliberate and as specific as possible, using only sniper rifles … with standard NATO ammunition … so we have done a lot to try and minimize casualties. Have we been successful at it? Unfortunately, no. ”

Conricus also said a number of IDF investigations into events on the Gaza border were opened in the past few weeks.

“We have a fact-finding mission … with full authority to investigate and question and to flag events that the commander of that team thinks are problematic. And they also have the authority to recommend criminal investigations against Israeli officers and soldiers,” he explained. “That mechanism has been in place for more than four weeks. It has investigated a few events,” he added.

skip – IDF international spokesman’s full briefing to Jewish Federations of North America

In response to this article, the IDF spokesperson’s unit sent a clarification paragraph saying:

“The things partially quoted were taken out of context , distort the broader context in which they were said and do not reflect the spirit of discourse nor the stance of the IDF. This was a conversation with leaders of Jewish organizations in the U.S., a part of the call to action conducted by IDF spokesperson with different elements around the world.”

Israel Said 32 Countries Confirmed They’d Attend U.S. Embassy Gala. Here’s Who Really Came

By Noa Landau

After an initial attendance list was published in Haaretz, several countries – including Serbia, Vietnam, Peru, El Salvador and the Ivory Coast – denied they had confirmed their attendance and said they weren’t planning to come.

Twenty-two foreign envoys attended the Foreign Ministry receptionon Sunday in honor of the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem the following day, according to the final list of participants submitted to Haaretz at its request. Before the event, the ministry had said 32 foreign representatives had confirmed they would attend, of the 86 who were invited.

Besides the four representatives from Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, which bucked the European Union’s stanceagainst the U.S. Embassy move, ambassadors or other representatives attended from the following countries: Guatemala, Paraguay, Honduras, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia , Myanmar, Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania. The other EU nations boycotted the reception.

Also Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority announced it was recalling its ambassadors from Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic because their representatives attended the reception. On Tuesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recalled the Palestinian Authority representative in Washington.


The earlier list of the countries confirming attendance at the Foreign Ministry reception had included Albania, Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Serbia, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam. After the earlier list was published in Haaretz, several of these countries – Serbia, Vietnam, Peru, El Salvador and the Ivory Coast – denied they had confirmed their attendance and said they weren’t planning to come. Bulgaria was also first mentioned as a European planning to attend, but its local representatives denied this. Bosnia had not appeared in the previous list.

Particularly striking was the absence of representatives from Russia, India and Japan, whose leaders recently held widely publicized meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and had made speeches about upgrading relations with Israel. The Foreign Ministry believes the countries that had confirmed attendance but later denied it had been pressured not to participate.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Palestinian leadership would not stand for having Palestinian rights become bargaining chips with the U.S. administration or Israel.

“We have recalled for consultation the ambassadors in Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria, all of them European Union countries,” said Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Amal Jadou. “We are taking this step after the ambassadors of these countries in Tel Aviv attended the Israeli celebrations for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.”

Jadou added, “We cherish our relations with all the countries of the European Union. These relationships are based on a commitment to international law, UN resolutions and human rights. We believe that attending this event contradicts those values. The transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem was not only a hostile step against the Palestinian people mourning the 70 years of the Nakba [when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the War of Independence], but also a violation of international law.”

At the reception held at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said to the foreign envoys: “Do you know how to identify real leadership? It’s when people follow you, and people follow [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump. I call upon all countries to join the United States and transfer their embassies to Jerusalem, which is the right thing to do because it promotes peace.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said at the event, “Everyone gathered here understands that opening the embassy is a recognition of reality that should have already happened.”

The event was attended by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband and Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, along with a delegation of senators and congressmen.

The Israelis in attendance included government ministers, MKs (mostly from the coalition), Foreign Service officials, the Mossad chief, as well as associates of Netanyahu, including Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu’s former adviser Natan Eshel and even Sara Netanyahu’s personal stylist, Sandra Ringler.


Ashamed to Be Jewish’: As Trump Base Celebrates Embassy Move, Horrified U.S. Jews Mourn Gaza Deaths

After being shut out of embassy celebrations by evangelicals and ultra-Orthodox, many mainstream Jews face crisis and anguish over Israeli response to Palestinian protests

Left: A wounded Palestinian demonstrator being evacuated during the protest against the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem; right, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the embassy inauguration, May 14, 2018.
Left: A wounded Palestinian demonstrator being evacuated during the protest against the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem; right, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the embassy inauguration, May 14, 2018.REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, AFP PHOTO / Menahem KAHANA

The opening ceremony for the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was, essentially, an invitation-only Trump campaign rally.

Those in attendance had all sworn loyalty to the president and belonged to one of the groups that has hailed him as a modern-day Cyrus the Great: Orthodox Jews, right-wing Israelis (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) and the pro-Trump Republican base – particularly those in the evangelical community.

This was all on display from the ceremony’s opening blessing, by Texan Baptist megachurch pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress. His eyes squeezed closed in prayer, he thanked God for “our great president, Donald Trump,” lauded how Israel “has blessed this world by pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, her scriptures, and the Messiah,” and praying for Jerusalem “in the name of the spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our lord.”

Standing beside him, also offering prayers in praise of Trump and Netanyahu, was ultra-Orthodox Chabad Rabbi Zalman Wolowik – a personal friend of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Members of IfNotNow and rabbinical school students blocking traffic while protesting the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, Washington, May 14, 2018.
Members of IfNotNow and rabbinical school students blocking traffic while protesting the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, Washington, May 14, 2018.Gili Getz

The ceremony was bookended with a benediction by another Trump stalwart: The televangelist founder of Christians United For Israel, Pastor John Hagee, who noted that “Jerusalem is where [the] Messiah will come and establish a kingdom that will never end,” and led the crowd in a final shout of “Hallelujah!”

In the front row, flanking Netanyahu and his wife Sara, were Jewish first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner – who attend a Chabad synagogue – as well as Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who has just committed $30 million to GOP election races across the country and offered to pay for at least part of the new Jerusalem embassy himself. (His offer was ultimately declined).

Prominent Democratic political leaders – even the long-term, pro-Israel Jewish ones – were nowhere to be found. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who still lives in Israel, was pointedly not invited to the event, despite the fact he went against many of his former colleagues from the Obama White House by supporting and praising the embassy move. No matter: As a non-Orthodox Democrat, he too was persona non grata.

For mainstream American Jewry, being so visibly shut out of an event that many had previously hoped and lobbied for – allied to the event’s dominance by evangelical leaders with controversial views on Jews, Muslims, Mormons and homosexuality – was disturbing enough.

But the fact they were being represented by the likes of Ivanka, Kushner and Adelson, while simultaneously being bombarded with disturbing images of the violence on the Gaza border, triggered a full-on crisis for many.

Sadness and confusion permeated the statements of Jewish leaders, and these sentiments – intensified with anger – exploded across social media

Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said he was “alarmed, concerned, and profoundly saddened by the growing number of Gazan dead and wounded. It does not have to be this way.”

Regarding the embassy ceremony, Jacobs said, “The Trump Administration declared its commitment to promoting a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict by celebrating the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. We also celebrate the opening of the Embassy as an affirmation of the deep and lasting ties between the U.S. and Israel. However, we remain very much aware of the lack of progress toward a long-term just solution for Israelis and Palestinians

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami harshly criticized the timing of the ceremony, saying the decision to hold it to “coincide with both the anniversary of Israeli independence and the Palestinian ‘Naqba’ [sic]” has “thrown more fuel on an already raging fire.” Ben-Ami was referring to the Palestinian term for the establishment of the State of Israel, which means “Catastrophe” in Arabic and is marked yearly on May 15.

Ben-Ami added that “opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and official American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should be a moment of celebration for all of us who feel deeply connected to Jerusalem and recognize its importance to the Jewish people over the millenia [sic]. However, the manner and timing of this move were designed to advance the agenda of right-wing political leaders in the US and Israel, rather than the interest of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians in resolving the conflict.”

He continued: “One only has to observe the campaign rally atmosphere in Jerusalem today to realize that the greatest interest being served is President Trump’s desire to fulfill a campaign promise – and to cater to the views of ‘Greater Israel’ advocates like Ambassador David Friedman, Sheldon Adelson, bigoted pastor Robert Jeffress and their friends in the Israeli government.”

The views of American Jews were expressed in far rawer form on Twitter, with many confessing to feelings of shame about events in Jerusalem and Gaza.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner, meanwhile, were targeted by Jewish celebrities like Chelsea Handler and Bette Midler, who took aim at the couple on Twitter.

Handler wrote, “I’m glad Ivanka and Jared could take time away from their busy schedules of not being qualified to represent the US to go represent the US, and celebrate moving the capital in exchange for the adelson’s donations, while 50+ Palestinians have been killed.” Midler added, “You lose the PR advantage on this one, #MrTrump, with those two images side be [sic] side, Ivanka and Jared yukking it up in Jerusalem while the Palestinians get shot at. Perfect, you moron.”

Ultimately, though, any criticism by American Jews, liberals or the media about the embassy ceremony or distress over U.S. responsibility for the deaths in Gaza was utterly irrelevant, as far as the White House was concerned.

If Adelson was happy enough to continue plowing his millions into Republican campaigns, and if Jeffress, Hagee and the rest of the pro-Trump evangelical base believe the embassy move has brought them one step closer to redemption and will turn out in force for the 2018 midterms – for President Trump, his mission has been accomplished.

The presence and visibility of the evangelical leaders at Monday’s inauguration demonstrated the true source of the political muscle that made the embassy move a reality. Even the banners around Jerusalem in praise of Trump were paid for by Friends of Zion, the brainchild of evangelical leader and Christian Zionist Mike Evans.Conspicuously absent from the stage were any mainstream Orthodox, Conservative or Reform rabbis. In the audience, high-level representatives of the U.S. non-Orthodox Jewish majority were few and far between, though not entirely absent. Anti-Defamation League Director Jonathan Greenblatt was in attendance, for example.A typical tweet came from Christina Duval, who wrote: “I am very proud to be Jewish, but I am completely ashamed of what’s going on in Israel. After all our people suffered, you’d think we’d value human lives a lot more.”


Gaza clashes: Dozens killed as US opens Jerusalem embassy

At least 43 Palestinians have been killed and 2,200 wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

The violence came as the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has infuriated Palestinians.

They see it as clear US backing for Israeli rule over the whole city, whose eastern part Palestinians lay claim to.

But US President Donald Trump hailed the move in a video message.

He said it had been a “long time coming”, adding: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital but for many years we failed to recognise the obvious.”

The US, he added, remained “committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement”.

What happened at the border?

Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres.

The health ministry, run by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, said children were among those killed on Monday.

The Hamas-led demonstrations are part of a six-week protest dubbed the “Great March of Return”.

Emergency services and Palestinians carry a wounded protestor during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabalia on May 14, 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionHundreds of people have been injured, according to Palestinian officials

Israel says the protests are aimed at breaching the border and attacking Israeli communities nearby.

The Israeli military said 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in “violent riots” at 13 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence.

It said the Israeli military had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.

There have also been violent clashes between Israeli police and protesters who raised Palestinian flags outside the new embassy. Several protesters were detained.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has called for “utmost restraint”.

What led to the Gaza protests?

Palestinians have held weekly protests in the run-up to their annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of their people fled their homes or were displaced following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May 1948.

Scores of Palestinians have been killed since the protests began. Thousands more have been wounded.

Hamas, which is in a state of conflict with Israel, had said it would step up protests in the lead-up to Tuesday, the official Nakba commemoration.


It says it wants to draw attention to what Palestinians insist is their right to return to ancestral homes in what became Israel.

“Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever,” a science teacher in Gaza, Ali, told Reuters news agency.

What was opened and who attended?

A small interim embassy will start operating from Monday inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem. A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.

Ivanka Trump at the embassy openingImage copyrightEPA
Image captionIvanka Trump spoke briefly at the embassy’s opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary.

Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner, who are both senior White House advisers, joined US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan for the ceremony.

After Ivanka Trump had unveiled the seal of the embassy, Mr Kushner said in his address: “When President Trump makes a promise he keeps it… We have shown the world that the US can be trusted. We stand with our friends and allies.”

Mr Kushner also referred to Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the “dangerous, flawed and one-sided Iran deal”, drawing applause from the guests.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “What a glorious day. Remember this moment. This is history. President Trump, by recognising history, you have made history. All of us are deeply grateful.”

US Jerusalem embassy map

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday: “With this step, the US administration has cancelled its role in the peace process and has insulted the world, the Palestinian people and the Arab and the Islamic nation and it has created incitement and instability.”

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said it was “shameful to see countries participating with the US and Israel in celebrating the former’s embassy move to occupied Jerusalem in a clear and grave violation of international law”.

Why is the embassy move so controversial?

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is not recognised internationally and, according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war. It effectively annexed the sector, though this was not recognised by any countries until Mr Trump’s declaration in December 2017.

Media captionWhy the ancient city of Jerusalem is so important

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Various countries once had embassies based in Jerusalem but many moved after Israel passed a law in 1980 formally making Jerusalem its capital.

A boost for Netanyahu

By Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor, Jerusalem

The embassy move is the culmination of one of the best weeks in the political life of Mr Netanyahu.

First President Trump kept his promise to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Now the US embassy is moving.

Placards in Jerusalem praise Mr Trump. The local football club, Beitar, infamous for fans who chant “death to Arabs”, has included “Trump” in its name.

The embassy move has been rejected by the main allies of Israel and the US. Palestinians are protesting in their thousands in Gaza.

It is much more low-key in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

The embassy move is good for the Netanyahu government, good for President Trump’s base and makes most Israelis pleased but there is no evidence to back Mr Netanyahu’s claim that it is good for peace.

Macron – „Wir dürfen nicht warten, wir müssen jetzt etwas tun“

Frankreichs Staatschef Macron und Kanzlerin Merkel haben zur Deeskalation im Nahen Osten aufgerufen.
  • Bei der Zeremonie zur Verleihung des Karlspreises sagte Merkel, dass es wahrlich um Krieg und Frieden gehe.
  • Macron rief die Europäer zu Einigkeit und Stärke auf.

Die Lage im Nahen Osten spitzt sich immer weiter zu. Vor dem Hintergrund der Eskalation hat Frankreichs Staatschef Emmanuel Macron die Europäer zu Stärke und Einigkeit aufgerufen. „Wir dürfen nicht warten, wir müssen jetzt etwas tun.“

„Seien wir nicht schwach“, sagte der 40-Jährige am Donnerstag in Aachen. Er bekam dort den Karlspreis für sein europäisches Engagement verliehen.

Europa müsse eine eigene Souveränität aufbauen und dürfe seinen Kurs nicht von anderen Mächten bestimmen lassen. Mit Blick auf die Reaktion großer europäischer Länder auf den Ausstieg der USA aus dem Atomabkommen mit den Iran sagte Macron: „Wir haben uns entschieden, Frieden und Stabilität im Nahen und Mittleren Osten zu schaffen.“

Es geht „wahrlich um Krieg und Frieden“

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) sieht in der neuen Gewalt im Nahen Osteneine Frage von Krieg und Frieden. „Die Eskalationen der vergangenen Stunden zeigen uns, dass es wahrlich um Krieg und Frieden geht“, sagte Merkel in Aachen.

Merkel bezeichnete die gemeinsame europäische Außenpolitik als „existenziell notwendig“ für die EU. „Es ist nicht mehr so, dass die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika uns einfach schützen werden“, sagte Merkel. Europa müsse sein Schicksal selbst in die Hand nehmen. „Das ist die Aufgabe der Zukunft“, fügte die Kanzlerin hinzu, nachdem sie sich erneut zu dem Atomabkommen mit dem Iran bekannte, aus dem US-Präsident Donald Trump jüngst ausstieg. Merkel hatte bereits im vergangenen Jahr angedeutet, dass man sich auf die USA als Partner nicht mehr voll verlassen könne.

Europas Stabilität hänge bei der Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik von der Fähigkeit ab, „gemeinsam zu handeln und mit einer Stimme zu sprechen“, sagte Merkel. Es gebe diesbezüglich zwar Fortschritte. „Aber seien wir ehrlich: Bezüglich der gemeinsamen Außenpolitik steckt Europa noch in den Kinderschuhen.“ Eine gemeinsame Haltung sei wichtig, weil die Art der Konflikte sich seit Ende des Kalten Krieges vollständig geändert habe. Viele fänden vor der Haustür Europas statt.

Sie bezog sich auf die nächtlichen Angriffe der israelischen Armee auf iranische Stellungen in Syrien, die diese nach eigenen Angaben als Reaktion auf iranische Angriffe auf den Golan gestartet hatte.

Erstmals seit Beginn des Krieges in Syrien griffen in der Nacht zu Donnerstag iranische Revolutionsgarden nach israelischen Angaben Armeeposten auf den Golanhöhen an.

Die israelische Luftwaffe reagierte mit massiven Vergeltungsangriffen auf syrische Militäreinrichtungen und iranische Stellungen in dem Nachbarland.

Nach israelischen Armeeangaben feuerten Einheiten der iranischen Revolutionsgarden insgesamt rund 20 Raketen auf israelische Armeeposten entlang der Grenze ab.

Angesichts der zugespitzten Lage riefen Macron und Merkel zur Deeskalation auf. Sie hätten in Aachen miteinander gesprochen und sich besorgt gezeigt, verlautete aus Kreisen des Élyséepalastes mit Blick auf die Militärschläge in Syrien. Ein deutscher Regierungssprecher betonte, beide hätten zu Besonnenheit und Deeskalation in der Region aufgerufen.

If There’s a Trump Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan, Netanyahu Says He Hasn’t Seen It


By Noa Landau

Several Israeli media outlets recently reported that the Trump administration will present their Israeli-Palestinian peace plan after the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Tuesday he has not seen a U.S. peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Several Israeli media outlets have recently reported the alleged intent of President Donald Trump’s administration is to present their Israeli-Palestinian peace plan immediately after the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem on May 14.

According to the reports – some attributed to Israel’s envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, others to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman following his visit to Washington – the White House team headed by envoy Jason Greenblatt is currently finalizing its work ahead of an initial presentation to both sides.

When asked about these reports on Tuesday while briefing reporters in Larnaca airport in Cyprus, Netanyahu said he “hasn’t seen” the aforementioned plan.

In March, a senior White House official told Haaretz the administration was still working on the plan. Yet it has no deadline for its publication. Among the considerations expected to affect the release date are the political climate in Israel, the security status in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and responses in the Arab world to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

The administration still hopes to convince the Palestinian to return to the peace process, but does not rule out the possibility of publishing the plan without direct Palestinian involvement.





Saudi Arabia and Israel in Iran’s Cross-hairs as Trump Weakens U.S. in Middle East, Experts Warn

We are now alone on a more dangerous path with fewer options,’ retired Army general Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of staff

The United States risks greater isolation and unpredictability in its anti-Iran drive after President Donald Trump opted to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal despite warnings from European allies, advisers and even some fellow Republicans, experts tell Reuters.

While Israel has warned of possible retaliation in its border areas with Syria, both as a result of alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria on Iranian targets and Trump’s Tuesday decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord, it is Saudi Arabia that may be the prime target for retaliation.

The U.S. has long accused Iran of escalating the civil war in Yemen and threatening to turn it into a broader regional conflict by supplying advanced weaponry, including missiles, to Houthi rebels who have fired rockets at targets in Saudi Arabia.

>> Trump Pulls Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, What Happens Next? ■ Israel’s preventative actions thwart Iran’s revenge from Syria – for now

A U.S. intelligence official acknowledged concerns that Iran could, with some deniability, further assist the Houthis in Yemen as they target Iran’s arch-rival Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia claimed Wednesday morning to have intercepted missiles fire at its capital from Yemen.


A successful missile strike from Yemen that kills large numbers of Saudis could trigger a major backlash, stoking risks of a broader regional war, experts say.

On the nuclear front, a collapse of the deal could also hasten the risk that Iran covertly attempts to reconstitute a nuclear program that once consumed U.S. intelligence officials and military planners.

Iran denies it has tried to build atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

>> Nixing of nuclear deal turns Rohani into lame duck, empowers conservatives in Tehran | Analysis ■ Trump quits Iran deal: A career-defining moment for Netanyahu that may have a price | Analysis >>

While announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran accord, Trump argued the deal provided Tehran generous sanctions relief without imposing tough enough limits on its nuclear program or other “sinister” activities.

But analysts said the decision could make it harder for the United States to rally European allies and others behind future action against Iran, which extends well beyond the nuclear arena to include threats by Tehran’s proxies in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and even Afghanistan.

The U.S. move also creates a more unpredictable environment in the Middle East, in which Iran could choose to lash out against U.S. interests more openly or keep chipping away at them and extending its regional influence.

“We are now alone on a more dangerous path with fewer options,” retired Army general Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of staff, wrote on Twitter.

Underscoring the tension in the region, the Israeli military went on high alert on Tuesday for a possible flare-up with neighboring Syria, which is allied to Iran.

“It’s going to weaken the United States,” said Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking official under Republican President George W. Bush, saying it would empower Iran’s hardliners, further isolate the United States from Russia and China on Iran policy and vex European allies.


This is going to have a profoundly negative impact on the willingness of the Europeans to work with us in the way that they have been for a very long time.”

One U.S. official noted that a deterioration in the U.S.-Iran relationship would likely have negative effects across the border in neighboring Iraq, where voters are due to elect a new parliament on Saturday.

“As tension goes up in the U.S.-Iran relationship, it’s always bad for the U.S.-Iraq relationship,” said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has accused Iran of “mucking around” in the parliamentary election, in which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking another term after a successful, U.S.-backed war against Islamic State militants.

‘Imperfect agreement’

Mattis, who once spoke publicly of the need to abide by the Iran nuclear deal, has since tempered his remarks and told Congress it was an “imperfect arms control agreement” that needed to be fixed.

But Mattis, in private conversations, has also stressed the need to act with allies, given the threat he believes that Iran poses in the region, one U.S. official familiar with the conversations told Reuters.

In April 26 remarks to Congress, Mattis said: “We need to focus on what is in the best interest of Middle East stability and the threat that Iran poses.” He said that threat extended beyond the nuclear program to “their support for terrorism” as well as their cyber threat.

A Western diplomat doubted the Iranians would retaliate against the United States in Syria because of the risk of Israeli retaliation, or in Iraq, where Tehran’s influence has vastly expanded since the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein.

“They have no interest in destabilizing Iraq. Things are not going so bad for them in Iraq. And in Syria, there is the big, big stick, the Israeli stick, and they feel that the stick is ready to fall,” the diplomat said.

“They are not going to risk a war with Israel … to punish the Americans.”

Israel has traded blows with Iranian forces in Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation could be looming.

The Israeli military said on Tuesday that after identifying “irregular activity” by Iranian forces in Syria, it instructed civic authorities on the Golan Heights to ready bomb shelters, deployed new defenses and mobilized some reservist forces.


Did Israel Really Spoof US Warplanes To Strike Iranian Targets In Syria?


As the U.S. gets more deeply embroiled in the Syrian Civil War and considers pulling out of its nuclear agreement with Iran, the Middle East is being roiled by news that the Israeli air force bombed Iranian-connected military sites in Syria… possibly by masking Israeli aircraft to identify as U.S. warplanes in contested airspace. All this is happening as Israel reportedly prepares for a larger military conflict with Iran.

Here’s what we know so far.

Syrian Munitions Explosion Israel
  • Syria and Iran accused Israel of executing the strike, which destroyed 200 missiles and killed at least a dozen Iranians.
  • Rumors began circulating that Israel masked their attack by flying through Jordan and Iraq and using U.S. “identification friend or foe” (IFF) codes to conceal their aircrafts’ identities.
  • Another unconfirmed rumor states that this was Israel’s first downrange use of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which could theoretically be able to penetrate Syrian airspace directly due to its stealth features.
  • For Israel to pull off a a strike using spoofed transponders, they would have to fool ground radars from Iraq and Jordan, as well as U.S. E-3C Sentry aircraft, who would likely have an established order of battle and tasking list to consult if several F-15s appeared from the direction of the Mediterranean.
  • Also the use of U.S. transponder codes, which are encrypted, would either mean that the Israeli air force has access to or was given U.S. IFF codes. This means it is very unlikely that the Israeli air force could have pulled off such an operation without U.S. support.
  • To date, Israel has lost one F-16I due to Syrian air defenses, despite conducting numerous strikes inside the country. It is likely that Israel utilized traditional airstrikes against the munitions facility with F-15Is or F-16Is. Iran has vowed to retaliate for the Israeli strikes.

Beyond ‘Mowing the Grass’: U.S. and Israeli Strategy in the Middle East

Chuck Freilich and James F. Jeffrey

On April 18, Chuck Freilich and James Jeffrey addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Freilich is a senior fellow in the Belfer Center’s International Security Program and a former Israeli deputy national security advisor. Jeffrey is the Institute’s Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow and a former deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of their remarks.


The most dramatic change in Israel’s strategic circumstances is that it no longer faces the existential threat it did in past decades. David Ben-Gurion once said that if and when the Jewish population in Israel reaches 5 million, the country’s existence would be guaranteed. Today, that figure stands at 6.5 million. The question is no longer if Israel will survive, but rather what kind of Israel will survive?

There is reason for optimism. For one, Arab states want a relationship with Israel, and Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman made history by recognizing the state’s right to exist. Moreover, no superpower is hostile to Israel. It is still somewhat diplomatically isolated, but its foreign connections have never been stronger. And the potential threat from weapons of mass destruction has decreased as work on Iran’s nuclear program has been deferred—at least for now.

Nevertheless, Israel faces serious strategic threats. It is surrounded on all sides by failed states, states in crisis, or states at risk. It also faces a number of adversaries led by Iran, the most advanced opponent it has ever encountered. Israel’s weakest point is its home front, and that is exactly what Iran and its proxies have decided to target by fighting a war of attrition.

How should Israel deal with this opponent? An Iranian-dominated Syria would be the worst possible outcome for Israel, since war with the Islamic Republic could then break out on the northern front at any time—a troubling prospect given that Tehran may be the first adversary Israel cannot defeat outright.

Demographics pose another major problem. In the West Bank and Israel combined, 40 percent of the population is Muslim. Although the Zionist movement never defined what percentage was required for a Jewish state, 60 percent is unquestionably not high enough to merit that label. Israel today is basically maintaining a military occupation.

The delegitimization of Israel abroad is another major problem. In the West, many young people no longer believe in the justifications they have heard for Israel’s existence, let alone in the idea that the state is a success story. Changes in American demographics have likewise altered the bilateral relationship for the worse.

Israel also needs to recognize that while the military is still the basis of its security, the utility of force has diminished. There is no military solution to the Palestinian issue. A military strike on Iran’s nuclear program would only delay its progress for a few years (though if need be, Israel will take that step). The country never truly solved its problems with military force; it simply managed them. Tired of conflict, Jordan and Egypt made peace with Israel; even Syria once held advanced peace talks with its enemy across the Golan. In theory, the Palestinians may one day tire of conflict, but this seems unlikely.

In light of these challenges, several recommendations for Israeli security policy stand out. First, the country should either reach an agreement with the Palestinians or separate unilaterally. An agreement is unlikely anytime soon. In the Arab world, the conflict has often been framed as a battle for rights, so there is little room for compromise. Israel needs to make clear that it is actively pursuing peace, and that if an agreement is not reached, then Palestinian intransigence is to blame. Alternatively, if no agreement is reached in the next few years, Israel should pursue unilateral separation.

Second, Israel should change its electoral system, which is the source of many of its strategic problems. Existing electoral institutions once served the country well, but they are deeply problematic today.

Third, Israel should make its relationship with the United States central to its national security policy. Although the alliance sometimes limits Israel’s freedom of maneuver, it is unclear if the country would survive without American support—at the very least, it would be significantly poorer and weaker. In practical terms, prioritizing the relationship means aligning with American interests whenever humanly possible. A security agreement with Washington could incentivize the Israeli public to make important concessions toward a peace deal with the Palestinians. Moreover, if Iran goes nuclear, the U.S.-Israeli alliance would play an important role in managing a proliferated Middle East.

In the past, a regional security system that included Arab countries, the United States, and Israel was unthinkable—rather, Israel needed the United States to give it a qualitative military edge over its Arab neighbors. Recently, however, such a system has become conceivable, even if Crown Prince Muhammad has not explicitly talked about it.

Finally, Israelis should adopt a fundamentally different mindset toward their security. Many of them still perceive their homeland as a weak, besieged state whose existence is constantly at stake. The reality is that Israel is not weak or in imminent existential danger, so it can act with greater restraint if it so chooses, focusing more on defense and diplomacy. There will be circumstances, however, when it will need to go on the offensive, potentially in the very near future on the northern front.


President Trump’s National Security Strategy and the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy describe the administration’s approach to two broad issues: the American-led international security system it inherited, and the “four-and-a-half challenges” it faces from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and violent Islamist extremism. Currently, eight countries are capable of complementing this American-led system as security producers: Britain, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. These states have historically faced serious security challenges on their borders. In contrast, Russia and China aim to dismantle this global system and enter a nineteenth-century-style security environment.

Yet while the system can be challenged, the United States itself is rarely challenged directly. Washington’s role is to support the security system, but that is a difficult mission to sell to the American public and allied governments. The key is to reiterate how the U.S.-led system has served the world’s best interests—namely, by facilitating widespread peace and extraordinary prosperity since 1945, in terms of trade, the free flow of people and ideas, and collective security.

How does Israel fit into this strategy? Historically, the country has always emphasized its unique bilateral security relationship with the United States. For a long time it was a security and diplomacy consumer, even though it was capable of defending itself. It did not see itself as a major player in any global security system, partly because it is not a NATO state, and also because of its problematic relationship with the UN. For its part, the United States supported Israel not just to save the country, but to maintain the premise of the global security system.

Israel’s position in that system has changed dramatically, however. The country is now a major provider of security in the region. It is militarily engaged in three of its neighboring countries—two with their permission, and a third (Syria) where it is acting against an enemy regime’s interests. It also remains locked in a tense military standoff with Lebanon. More broadly, its military and nuclear deterrence capabilities play a major role in slowing proliferation activity in the region.

Although the United States has become less central to Israel’s security, the American-led security system is absolutely central to it. The main problem facing Israel is Iran. While Syria used to be an independent state allied with the Islamic Republic, it is now entirely reliant on Tehran and can no longer act independently. Israel faces a fundamental threat from this northern coalition, and the American security system has been unable to act effectively against it.

In response, Washington should build a regional security system in which Israel takes part and the United States plays a leading role. For example, the administration could announce that it will treat any attack on Israel as a direct attack on the United States. Meanwhile, Israel could coordinate with other countries against Iranian expansion—not just with the United States, but with other regional powers as well. Since American policymakers are not fully sure of what to do in Syria and the wider Middle East, Israel and other U.S. allies will likely have to coordinate with each other to pull Washington into a regional security system.

This summary was prepared by Samuel Northrup.

تليين عقول الجنرالات المصريين أمر أساسي لإستمرار التعاون مع إسرائيل

هيثم حسنين

زداد التعاون بين مصر وإسرائيل في السنوات الأخيرة ليبلغ مستويات عالية، كما يتضح من التقارير التي صدرت مؤخراً حول التنسيق العسكري في سيناء، غير أن هذا التحالف السري نوعاً ما لم يكن من السهل تقبّله في أوساط بعض الجنرالات المصريين كونهم يميلون إلى زرع فكرة في أذهان المصريين بأن إسرائيل هي العدو رقم 1 من أجل كسب الشرعية والإمساك بزمام السلطة.

وينبع قلقهم من عجزهم عن تعريف العلاقة مع إسرائيل منذ توقيع الدولتين على معاهدة سلام في عام 1979، إذ أن كبار المسؤولين العسكريين يجدون أنفسهم يكافحون من أجل النظر إلى إسرائيل كدولة غير معادية وتغيير عقيدتهم العسكرية وفقاً لذلك.

ومن هنا، انبثقت ثلاث مدارس من الفكر داخل المؤسسة العسكرية خلال العقود الأربعة الماضية.

أوّلها وجهة النظر القائلة إن إسرائيل عدو أبدي. ووفقاً لهذا الرأي، يجب أن تكون مصر في حالة دائمة من العداء مع الدولة اليهودية. ويرفض أولئك الذين يتبنّون هذه النظرة الارتقاء بالعلاقات إلى ما أبعد من إطار معاهدة السلام، ولذلك يرفضون أي مستوى من التطبيع باستثناء التنسيق الأمني في سيناء وفقاً لما تقتضيه [معاهدة السلام]. ويهيمن هذا التصور العدائي في أوساط الضباط العسكريين الذين يتبنون وجهات النظر الناصرية من ستينيات القرن الماضي.

أما الفئة الثانية فلا تعتبر إسرائيل عدواً بحد ذاته، بل تهديداً مزمناً للأمن القومي على حدود مصر الشرقية. وبالنسبة لأصحاب هذا الفكر، ليست إسرائيل دولةً معادية كما أنها ليست صديقة. وينبع هذا النوع من الحذر إزاء الدولة اليهودية من ميّزتها النسبية من ناحية التقدم التكنولوجي والعلمي، إذ إن التفوق التقني الإسرائيلي مهّد الطريق أمام إسرائيل لكي تفرض تفوقها العسكري على العرب. ومن المرجح أن يشعر ضباط الجيش المصري المنضوين تحت هذه الفئة – والذين عادة ما يُعتبرون أشخاص واقعيين – بالتهديد من هذه الثغرة العسكرية.

بالإضافة إلى ذلك، لا يشعر القادة العسكريين المصريين بالإرتياح من العلاقة المميزة التي تربط بين إسرائيل والولايات المتحدة. فحين بادر الرئيس المصري الراحل أنور السادات بمساعٍ دبلوماسية مع الحكومة الأمريكية، والتي شملت اتفاقات كامب ديفيد، ساد أملٌ كبير بين كبار المسؤولين العسكريين ببناء علاقة وثيقة مع الولايات المتحدة. إلّا أن هذا الأمل تلاشى بمرور الوقت، وخاصة بسبب عجز مصر عن دفع ثمن العلاقة المميزة مع الولايات المتحدة. وخلافاً للدول الأخرى في المنطقة مثل الأردن ودول الخليج وإسرائيل، لم تكن مصر مطمئنّة قط لهيكل الأمن الإقليمي بقيادة الولايات المتحدة، بل لجأت إلى قبول نظريات المؤامرة حول اللوبي اليهودي في واشنطن.

وفي المقابل، تدعو الفئة الثالثة إلى معاملة إسرائيل كدولة أوروبية صديقة. ويؤمن أصحاب هذا الفكر في تطوير علاقة تبادلية وعمليّة قائمة على المصالح المتبادلة مع إسرائيل، ولا يميلون إلى رؤية إسرائيل من منظار قوالب الأفكار النمطية المشحونة بالعواطف. ومن هذا المنطلق، إذا احتاجت مصر إلى طائرات إسرائيلية في سيناء لقصف أهداف تنظيم «الدولة الإسلامية»، فهم يؤيدون ذلك.

وقد زاد من تفاقم هذا الوضع  الاعتقاد السائد بأن الإسلام السياسي الذي تجلى في جماعة «الإخوان المسلمين» وقطر وتركيا هو العدو الرئيسي لمصر. وقد تفاقمت هذه النظرة غير المواتية للإسلام السياسي بفعل أحداث “الربيع العربي” ووصول جماعة «الإخوان المسلمين» إلى السلطة، ودعم «حماس» لتنظيم «الدولة الإسلامية» في سيناء. ويمكن القول إن هذه هي الفئة التي ينحدر منها الرئيس المصري عبد الفتاح السيسي كضابط عسكري سابق تولّى السلطة بعد اندلاع احتجاجات جماهيرية مناهضة للحكومة في عام 2013.

وقد تبدو هذه المدارس الفكرية مختلفةً، ولكن هناك قواسم مشتركة بينها – وتقف هذه المعتقدات حجر عثرة أمام العلاقات المصرية-الإسرائيلية.

[ومن المعتاد] أن يختلط التاريخ بالدين. فمن الناحية التاريخية، خاضت مصر أربع حروب ضد إسرائيل على مدى 25 عاماً، ولا تزال هذه الحروب راسخةً في الذاكرة الجماعية للبلاد. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، حشد الخطاب الديني شريحةً كبيرةً من الشعب حول وجهات نظر معادية للسامية تجاه الإسرائيليين، وتفشت هذه الآراء لتطال المؤسسة العسكرية. ونتيجة لذلك، تُعبّر القيادة العسكرية عن آراء سلبية حول اليهود والإسرائيليين.

وهناك قلة فهم فيما يتعلق بإسرائيل، حيث يرى الضباط المصريون أن الإسرائيليين هم مهاجرون أوروبيون بسبب اعتقادهم المتأصل بأن معظم سكان الدولة اليهودية هم من اليهود الذين هاجروا على مر السنين.

وهناك أيضاً اعتقاد عام بأن الأقليات غير العربية وغير المسلمة – مثل الأقباط، أي ما يقدر بنحو 10 في المائة من سكان مصر – لا ينبغي أن يكون لهم الحق في تقرير مصيرهم. ويُعد السماح بتقرير المصير لجماعة أقلية فكرة خطيرة في الشرق الأوسط. وبالنسبة للقادة العسكريين المصريين، على سبيل المثال، فإن الأكراد والجماعات المتشابهة التفكير التي تسعى إلى إقامة دولة قومية لنفسها يتسببون باستمرار الحرب الأهلية. ومن المرجح أن يكون ضباط الجيش المصري أكثر ارتياحاً لفكرة قمع الأقلية تحت شعار الاستقرار وإرساء الأمن في المنطقة.

ومن غير المحتمل أن تتلاشى مشكلة الإرهاب في شبه جزيرة سيناء في المستقبل القريب، الأمر الذي سيُبقي المجال مفتوحاً أمام المزيد من التعاون الأمني والعسكري بين الجيشين المصري والإسرائيلي. ومع ذلك، يُعتبر الحفاظ على هذه العلاقة في شكلها السري نهجاً خاطئاً. ومن شأن تسليط الضوء على التعاون العسكري في سيناء أن يساعد على تحدي وجهات النظر المعيبة تجاه إسرائيل، وإلّا من المرجح أن تستمر الأفكار الخاطئة الجوهرية حول الدولة اليهودية في صفوف الجيش المصري.

هيثم حسنين هو زميل “غليزر” في معهد واشنطن، حيث يركز على العلاقات الاقتصادية بين إسرائيل والدول العربية.

Source: The Washington Institute