Elul 17, 5775 / Tuesday, Sep. 01 '15

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Headlines

  1. Jewish Israeli Man Attempted to Join ISIS
  2. Obama: It 'Hurts' when I'm Accused of Being Anti-Semitic
  3. Soldier Wounded by 'Friendly Fire' in Jenin
  4. UK Labor Front-Runner Campaigned to Free Israel Embassy Bombers
  5. UK Pro-Israel Orgs Kvelling over New Ambassador
  6. Matisyahu to Perform this Week in Jerusalem
  7. Top Iranian Cleric: US Still Iran's 'Number One Enemy'
  8. Watch: Iranian Speaker Leaves UN Plenum During Edelstein Speech


1. Jewish Israeli Man Attempted to Join ISIS

by Nitsan Keidar

The Israeli Foreign Ministry and Interpol Israel apparently succeeded in stopping an Israeli from joining ISIS, after his family informed authorities of the situation. The man, aged 21, was arrested with the assistance of the Turkish government.

On Thursday, the man's family contacted the Foreign Ministry and said that he had flown to Crete in order to reach Syria. Based on e-mail messages from the man, the family had reason to believe that he intended to join ISIS forces in Syria.

Despite his age, the man's family were registered as his legal guardians, raising the possibility he may not be mentally stable.

The man flew from Crete to Izmir in Turkey, and from there to Adana. He then continued by road to Iskenderun, a city near the Syrian border.

The Turkish government instructed local police to find him and they did so, handing him over to his relatives, who arrived at Iskenderun for that purpose. The man returned Tuesday to Israel with his family.

Foreign Ministry official Ilana Ravid said that the case is “complex and worrisome, but thanks to the diplomatic work of Israeli representatives in Turkey, and the goodwill of the Turkish authorities, the story had a good ending.”

The coordinated effort between Israeli and Turkish authorities comes as Jerusalem and Ankara are reportedly working to repair relations badly damaged over the past several years.



2. Obama: It 'Hurts' when I'm Accused of Being Anti-Semitic

by Elad Benari

President Barack Obama says it hurts him personally when he is accused of being anti-Semitic.

Speaking to the Forward, Obama answered “Oh, of course” when asked if those accusations hurt him.

“And there’s not a smidgen of evidence for it, other than the fact that there have been times where I’ve disagreed with a particular Israeli government’s position on a particular issue,” he continued.

“And I’ve said before, and I will continue to say, that if you care deeply about Israel, then you have an obligation to be honest about what you think, the same way you would with any friend. And we don’t do anybody, any friend, a service by just rubber-stamping whatever decisions they make, even if we think that they’re damaging in some fashion,” said Obama.

“[T]he good news,” he continued, “is that the people I’m close to, the people who know me, including people who disagree with me on this issue, would never even think about making those statements. I get probably more offended when I hear members of my administration who themselves are Jewish being attacked.”

Obama was asked by interviewer Jane Eisner how the Iran deal would prevent the Islamic Republic to use some of its sanction relief to fund terrorism in the Middle East.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the reason that Iran came to the table to negotiate a ‘no nuclear weapons’ pledge was because of unprecedented sanctions that we were able to structure,” he replied. “Congressional sanctions have been on the books for years. They have not been effective in changing Iranian behavior. What was effective was, when I came into office, our ability to mobilize vigorous multilateral support for sanctions and very vigorous enforcement of sanctions. And as a consequence, the Iranian economy really cratered. And obviously, that’s now been compounded by the severe drop in oil prices.”

“So,” he continued “by definition, they were going to get some of their own money back as part of a deal. That was their incentive to engage with the world community in the first place. It’s estimated they’ll get about $50 billion. But as we’ve said repeatedly, the bulk of those dollars they are going to have to use for propping up their economy and getting it back on an even keel.”

He admitted that with the sanctions being lifted, Iran’s economy will improve and it would work to build its military capability.

“But,” Obama added, “as I pointed out repeatedly, Iran’s annual defense budget is about $15 billion. The Gulf States, combined, spend about eight times that amount. Israel’s conventional military capacity far exceeds any Iranian capability, and you can’t compare the U.S. military to Iran. So the goal of this deal is to make sure that the one real game-changer — nuclear weapons — is taken off the table.”

“We now have a regional power that is good at asymmetric and unconventional and proxy aggression, and that’s something that we, together, can confront and stop,” he said, adding, “This is why I had Gulf countries up to Camp David to start coordinating more effectively to interdict arms shipments, to improve intelligence sharing, to support coordination of ballistic missile defense systems. And as soon as this debate is over, we will, I think, be able to invigorate what has been an ongoing conversation with the Israelis about how we can do even more to enhance the unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation that we have with them, and to see, are there additional capabilities that Israel may be able to use to prevent Hezbollah, for example, from getting missiles.”

Obama added that “the sanctions have been so effective that even with that $56 billion, even with their economy potentially improving modestly as they see sanctions suspended, it’s going to take, we estimate, till 2022 for their economy to get back to where it was, where it would have been had sanctions not been imposed.”

“The reason I make this point is, is that their economy is and will continue to be in a significant hole even after sanctions relief occurs. And that’s part of the reason that we have confidence that if we work effectively with Israel and our other allies in the region that we can counteract whatever additional resources they may have militarily,” he added.

Asked whether it wouldn’t be easier to use the military option against Iran now that it is still relatively weak rather than 10 to 15 years from now, he replied, “Well, keep in mind that under the terms of this agreement, we have great confidence that not only will we have shut off the various pathways to a nuclear weapon, but we will also have installed an unprecedented verification and inspection mechanism that helps us to understand the entire nuclear production chain inside of Iran. IAEA inspectors will be there on a regular basis reporting what will be conducted on a regular basis. And we will, for the first 10 years, have maintained a one-year breakout time so that if they cheat, we’ll have ample time to catch them and call them to account. And that’s a significantly longer breakout time than exists right now, and certainly a longer breakout time than will exist if we — if Congress rejected the deal.”

“Around year 10, 11, 12, that breakout time starts shrinking again and we’re back to a situation in which they could theoretically try to dash for a bomb. But under the terms of the agreement, they will still be prohibited from having a nuclear weapon, so they would be violating international law if they dash for a bomb 15 years from now. They would still be subject to what’s called the additional protocol — a whole range of inspection mechanisms that are in place so that we would know if they were dashing for a bomb. And they will still be a military power that is far weaker than the United States — and for that matter, will be weaker than Israel,” he added.

And so, in 15 years’ time, whoever is occupying my chair here in the White House will have more information about their nuclear program, will have greater international legitimacy in the event that the President needs to initiate a strike against Iran’s nuclear program, will have the justification of them explicitly having violated international agreements that they entered into,” claimed Obama.

He rejected a question that relations between the United States and Israel has “grown toxic”, saying, “There are always going to be arguments within families and among friends. And Israel isn’t just an ally, it’s not just a friend — it’s family. The relationships between our peoples, the shared values, the shared commitment to democracy — those things are so deep that they have survived arguments in the past and they will survive this argument.”

“I think a testament to how sturdy the relationship is, is that despite this very significant policy disagreement, all the military, security, commercial, cultural cooperation that existed before this debate came up has continued unabated and will continue unabated,” he continued.

“We had already begun a discussion about how we lock in our long-term security assistance to Israel under a memorandum of understanding, and those discussions need to continue. I already mentioned that as much intelligence cooperation and sharing as we’re already doing, we need to do better if we want to stop Hezbollah from continuing to get missiles that can be trained on Tel Aviv,” said Obama.

The interview with Obama took place on Friday, the same day that Obama addressed Jewish communities throughout North America about the Iran deal and said the deal is “our best way to make sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. That should be our number one priority.”

Congress continues to review the deal ahead of a vote on September 17. Momentum appears to be growing in support of the deal, with Senate Democrat Tom Carper announcing Friday that he supports it, putting the pro-Obama camp at 30.  

The Democrats need 34 supporters in the Senate to uphold Obama's expected veto.

So far, only two Senate Democrats — New York's Chuck Schumer and New Jersey's Bob Menendez — have announced that they will vote against the deal, though several key Democratic senators have yet to announce their position.

Republican Bob Menendez, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and is a leading voice against the deal, acknowledged last week that the White House lobbying campaign for the Iran nuclear deal has generated results, and said he doesn't know if opponents of the deal can prevail.



3. Soldier Wounded by 'Friendly Fire' in Jenin

by Elad Benari and Kobi Finkler

A fighter from the Yamam counterterrorist unit was moderately wounded on Monday night during an operation to arrest wanted terrorists in Jenin.

It was initially reported that the troops came under fire from the terrorists they were trying to apprehend, but upon further investigation it was discovered that the soldier was wounded by "friendly fire". He was airlifted to the Rambam Hospital in Haifa and underwent surgery.

Palestinian Arab sources said that several wanted terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire. The terrorist that the forces were planning to arrest reportedly barricaded himself in his home.

The incident took place near the home of senior Islamic Jihad terrorist Bassam Saadi, who was released from an Israeli prison in 2011 and near the home of the Abu al-Hija family, which is affiliated with Hamas’s “military wing” in Judea and Samaria.

Two members of the family, Majdi Abu Al-Hija and his brother, were reportedly arrested after their home was surrounded.



4. UK Labor Front-Runner Campaigned to Free Israel Embassy Bombers

by Ari Soffer

The man likely to be elected head of the UK's major opposition party, Labor MP Jeremy Corbyn, campaigned in support of two terrorists convicted for bombing Jewish and Israeli targets in London, it has been revealed.

It is just the latest disturbing revelation of the Labor front runner's connection to extremists, including terrorists and virulent anti-Semites.

Corbyn led the campaign to release Palestinian terrorists Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami, who were convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for bombing the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish charity headquarters in 1994. 

14 people were injured in the embassy attack, while six were wounded in the attack on the offices of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) just one day later. Both attacks involved car bombs packed with high explosives.

Botmeh and Alami were found in possession of five pounds of explosives, which investigators say were were used to make the bombs, and a sizable cache of guns. But while they admitted possession of the arms the convicted terrorists protested their innocence, saying they weren't intended for use in the UK. Botmeh even claimed Israel had bombed the sites themselves to gain sympathy.

But a 2001 appeal against their conviction was rejected, with the prosecution noting the "overwhelming" evidence of their involvement in the plot - though their suspected accomplices have never been caught.

Undeterred, Corbyn took up their cause in 2002, signing five early day motions in Parliament between 2002-2006 and calling for their parole, according to the Jewish Chronicle. He called for the pair's release repeatedly, and in 2003 questioned then-Home Secretary David Blunkett over the investigation, suggesting the men had been framed.

His support for the bombers continued after their release from prison as well.

In 2013, five years after Botmeh was released, Corbyn campaigned for him to be elected to the Board of Governors at London's Metropolitan University.

Corbyn's campaign has been dogged by seemingly endless revelations of extremist ties and controversial comments.

Most recently, he came under fire in the British press for comments he made in 2011 describing Osama Bin Laden's assassination as "a tragedy." He has also been slammed for supporting Belgian Islamist Dyab Abou Jahjah, who said he "consider[s] every death of an American, British or Dutch soldier as a victory."

The Jewish community in particular has grown increasingly concerned over Corbyn's relationship with a wide range of vile anti-Semites and anti-Israel terrorist groups.

Among other things, in 2009 he famously called Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends," after inviting members of the terrorist groups to speak at the British Parliament.

He has also voiced strong support for anti-Semitic Israeli Islamist cleric Sheikh Raed Salah, and was recently revealed to have disturbing ties to several well-known holocaust deniers, and similarly for an anti-Semitic Christian cleric who was censured by the Church of England for promulgating hate-speech online.

Despite all that his campaign is still leading in the polls, making it very likely he will win the September 10 leadership elections and stand as Labor's candidate for Prime Minister at the next general elections.

His success has been attributed at least in part to surge in new membership applications to the Labor party, primarily coming from young, radical-left voters whose support for Corbyn is only buoyed with each revelation. Many more mainstream Labor members fear his appointment as head would make the party utterly unelectable.



5. UK Pro-Israel Orgs Kvelling over New Ambassador

by Ari Soffer

UK pro-Israel organizations are enthusiastically welcoming the Israeli Foreign Ministry's appointment as new Ambassador to the country, former Prime Minister's Office spokesman Mark Regev.

Regev was tapped to replace Daniel Taub, soon after his departure at the end of July, but the Foreign Ministry only officially confirmed the appointment on Tuesday.

The UK Zionist Federation was quick to welcome Regev's appointment as illustration of the growing strength of UK-Israel relations.

"The departure of Daniel Taub left a very big pair of shoes to fill," ZF Director Aryeh Miller said of the highly-popular previous envoy. "However, in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the Israeli government has once again shown how highly it prizes the special relationship between our two countries.

"As spokesperson for the Prime Minister of Israel, Mark Regev has time and time again made the case for Israel, often in the most trying of situations. We look forward to working as closely with this new Ambassador as we have with previous, working together for the people and the State of Israel."

Regev as born in Melbourne, Australia, and joined the Foreign Ministry in 1990, first serving as spokesman for Israeli embassies in the US and China, before taking the post as Foreign Ministry spokesman in 2004.

In 2007, he was appointed chief spokesman for the Prime Minister's office, under then-PM Ehud Olmert.

He rose to prominence for his calm but firm demeanor, and his skillful ability to present Israel's position during even the most hostile interviews.



6. Matisyahu to Perform this Week in Jerusalem

by Arutz Sheva Staff

Jewish American reggae artist Matisyahu will be performing as the closing act for the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival this Friday, organizers have announced.

The surprise appearance is scheduled for the end of his European tour, which saw him make headlines after a hate campaign by the anti-Israel BDS movement saw his invitation to a Spanish reggae festival temporarily retracted.

"The Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival is happy to announce that famed singer Matisyahu is coming especially from the end of his European Tour to join us for the celebratory finale of the festival on Friday afternoon, September 4," festival organizers said in a statement.

The festival, now in its fifth year, seeks to transcend sectarian tensions in the holy city through music, and has proven popular, with people flocking from across the country to attend.

Matisyahu will join the festival’s final celebration in order to sing with local musicians of all religions songs from Jerusalem. Songs that believe in the power of music to unite humanity. Songs that broadcast and support the right of all peoples and faiths to come to Jerusalem and celebrate," the statement added. "Songs that turn Jerusalem into a place where togetherness is offered the chance, if only for a week, to burst through the city’s daily routine."

"The Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival is proof that music should and can always transcend politics," Matisyahu said, in response to the invitation. "It is proof that people all over the world have more in common than what divides them, and seek acceptance and oneness with each other. It is proof that music can express freedom without boarders.

"The festival’s vision fills me with the hope and belief that from Jerusalem we can answer those who choose conflict with the unifying call of music for all people regardless of faith or politics," he added.

Watch: Matisyahu faces down BDS haters in Spain:

[youtube:2007131]

Earlier this week, Matisyahu recounted his feelings facing off against dozens of hostile protesters who pushed their way to the front of the crowd during his performance at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Spain.

The festival had re-invited him following a global backlash over its decision to cancel, which critics said smacked of blatant anti-Semitism.

The Jewish singer struck a defiant tone during the performance, where he also featured as one of the closing acts, singing his hit single "Jerusalem" and apparently unfazed by the attempts to intimidate him. 

But he admitted afterwards that he had felt nervous, saying it was the first time he had ever faced open anti-Semitism at a performance.

“People were standing on each other’s shoulders with flags giving me the middle finger. It was intense. It was not peaceful. It was like ‘F*** you,Matisyahu.’ I’ve never had the experience of anything like that, as a Jew or anything in my life.”

He said that the performance was one of the only times he’s ever felt unsafe onstage.



7. Top Iranian Cleric: US Still Iran's 'Number One Enemy'

by Arutz Sheva Staff

The United States remains Iran's "number one enemy" despite a recent nuclear deal with world powers, the chief of Tehran's top clerical body said Tuesday, Iranian media reported.

The Assembly of Experts is among Iran's most influential institutions, comprising 86 elected clerics who appoint and can dismiss the country's supreme leader, led by ultraconservative Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi.

The nuclear agreement should not "change our foreign policy" of opposition to the United States, "our number one enemy, whose crimes are uncountable," Yazdi said in a speech opening the annual two-day assembly meeting.

"The US and Israel are the source of the situation in the region and (their) goal is to protect the Zionist regime in the Middle East," he was quoted as saying, blaming the two countries for the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, who as a cleric is also a member of the Assembly of Experts, took office in 2013 and has since sought to undo sanctions imposed by western countries over Tehran's nuclear program.

The nuclear agreement reached on July 14 with six world powers - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany - has helped revive Iran's political stating with the European countries, and opened the doors to billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Several high-level European delegations have visited Tehran since the deal.

But despite the nuclear talks and the intricate role US Secretary of State John Kerry played in getting the deal across the line, there is currently little prospect of normalization between Iran and the United States.

The two severed ties in 1980 after the hostage taking of US diplomats by Islamist students.

Iran currently stands as the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

The statement Tuesday follows an affirmation by a senior Iranian official that the Islamic Republic still remains committed to the destruction of Israel, a key US ally. 

"Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan,"  Iranian Parliament Speaker's Adviser for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslam said last week.

AFP contributed to this report.



8. Watch: Iranian Speaker Leaves UN Plenum During Edelstein Speech

by Elad Benari

Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein on Monday paid a visit to the United Nations and made a speech at the UN plenum, but not everyone was interested in hearing what he had to say.

The speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, was caught on camera as he got up and left when Edelstein was speaking:

[youtube:2007377]

Edelstein, who is at the UN for a global conference of speakers of parliament, on Friday met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the latter's office.

During their meeting, Edelstein told Ban about Israel's concern over the recent Iran nuclear agreement. "As a member of the Jewish people that experienced the Holocaust, I believe someone when he says he wants to destroy me," said Edelstein. "No one has to love Israel. It is fine and necessary to express criticism, but you cannot threaten to destroy us."

The Secretary-General countered by stressing that he believes the deal is beneficial, even if it is not ideal: "There are no perfect agreements. I believe that the long negotiations brought about a good deal. In any case, I advise you to rely on the statement by President Reagan, to 'believe but verify' that the conditions are held to."



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