* Bret Stephens: “The humiliating denouement to America’s involvement in Yemen came over the weekend, when U.S. Special Forces were forced to evacuate a base from which they had operated against the local branch of al Qaeda. This is the same branch that claimed responsibility for the January attack on Charlie Hebdo and has long been considered to pose the most direct threat to Europe and the United States. So who should Barack Obama be declaring war on in the Middle East other than the state of Israel? His administration is now on better terms with Iran – whose Houthi proxies, with the slogan ‘God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, power to Islam,’ just deposed Yemen’s legitimate president – than it is with Israel.”
* Max Boot: “As a general matter, let us stipulate that allies should minimize the extent to which they spy on each other, if only because such revelations can be embarrassing and damaging. But the reality is that almost everyone does it. The U.S. certainly spies on allies such as France and Germany, as we discovered from Edward Snowden’s leaks. And they spy on the U.S. For that matter the U.S. also spies on Israel. If the U.S. refuses to share what could be life or death information with Israel, the Jewish State will get its information however it can. If it were put in a similar position, the U.S. or any other nation would act in the same way.”
* Fred Fleitz: “What worries me most about this clumsy Obama-administration attack on Netanyahu is how it will feed growing anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments from the left in the United States, especially from the far left. The administration should be standing behind Israel, not generating opposition to it among its radical supporters by leaking stories like this. As a former CIA analyst, I say congratulations and thank you to the Mossad for its outstanding work to help stop the Obama administration’s reckless nuclear diplomacy with Iran.”
* Ron Ben-Yishai: “The accusations from the U.S. over Israeli espionage are unfair and even a little ridiculous. The American administration and the government official who leaked the information are well aware that Israel is capable of obtaining this information in a completely legitimate manner from those party to the negotiations with the Iranians, as well as through other legitimate means within the intelligence community [from the French]. This is not just a political vendetta against Benjamin Netanyahu, but a calculated political move by the Obama administration that was planned long before the Israeli elections.”
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
1. Bibi’s Israeli opposition rally round him as Obama goes on the warpath
2. “The Orwellian Obama Presidency” (By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2015)
3. “Spies who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” (By Max Boot, Commentary, March 24, 2015)
4. “Don’t be shocked that Israel spied on the Iran nuclear talks” (By Fred Fleitz, National Review Online, March 24, 2015)
5. “U.S. accusations of Israeli espionage – why now?” (By Ron Ben-Yishai, Yediot Ahronot, March 24, 2015)
BIBI’S ISRAELI OPPOSITION RALLY ROUND HIM AS OBAMA GOES ON THE WARPATH
[Note by Tom Gross]
For those who don’t follow the Middle East closely, we are now seeing stories leaked, and comments made, on an almost daily basis by President Barack Obama’ senior advisors designed to smear Israel in general and Benjamin Netanyahu in particular. Some have been so malicious that even supporters of the opposition Labor party in Israel are now rallying round Netanyahu, as the New York Times notes in its lead story today. The Times also notes “Israelis have been astonished by the unrelenting White House criticism that has helped sink relations between Washington and Jerusalem to a nadir not seen for more than 25 years.”
One such smear was the claim made to the Wall Street Journal yesterday that Israel spies on America.
In fact, if one you reads the Wall Street Journal article carefully, it says that U.S. officials are not claiming that Israel spied on the U.S. The claim is that Obama believes it is illegitimate for Israel to spy on Iran if the Iranians are communicating with the U.S.: “[Unnamed] current and former U.S. officials said that Israel was as able to learn details about the shifting U.S. and European positions by spying on Iranian and other officials with whom the American negotiators communicated.”
And according to the Journal, Obama administration officials acknowledge two things: the U.S. regularly spies on Israeli policymakers, and the Obama administration has been deliberately hiding the details of its negotiations from both Congress and Israel from the very outset of the talks.
The French, who are as opposed as Israel is to the “catastrophic deal” that Obama is rumored to be willing to sign with the Iranian regime, are also likely to have shared their intelligence with Israel.
Nevertheless (as the Obama spin doctors no doubt would have predicted when they placed their story in the Journal) other media worldwide, from the London Daily Mail (the most read newspaper online in the world) to NPR, claimed in their headlines yesterday that Israel is spying on the U.S. (which is doubtful) and at the same time don’t mention in their stories that the U.S. spies on Israel.
Because of the worldwide reaction, Israel has felt the need to deny the Journal story. Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, said: “Israel does not spy on the United States, period, exclamation mark. Whoever published those false allegations possibly wanted to damage the excellent intelligence cooperation between us and the United States.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected the Journal’s report but acknowledged that Israel could obtain intelligence on the talks based on sources in Iran without spying on the U.S.
Uzi Arad, a former senior Mossad official, said that the criticism from Washington goes beyond an effort to pressure Mr. Netanyahu to fall into line with U.S. policies.
“The current situation is being exploited to carry out a downgrade of the relationship and strategic understandings between ourselves and the U.S.,’’ he told Israel Radio.
A senior official in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement: “These allegations are utterly false. The State of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”
One might also ask why Israel would need to spy on U.S. if the U.S. was really such a close ally of Israel?
In fact, the U.S. has a long history of withholding vital data from Israel. To cite just one example, in 1973 it didn’t let Israel know that the Egyptians were moving SAM missiles to the Suez Canal
One shouldn’t forget either that much of the West’s knowledge about Iranian nuclear facilities derives from Israeli intelligence.
-- Tom Gross
I attach four articles below. Bret Stephens and Max Boot are both longtime subscribers to this list.
For those interested, I was on “Russia Today” yesterday – not usually a channel I would choose to appear on, but I felt it was important to take up their invitation to counterbalance their usual anti-Israel commentators … two minutes into this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V10qnberOBY
RT added the tag line “Jews see Obama as the worst president” – no one actually said that. (RT reaches over 700 million households in more than 100 countries.)
“THE ISRAELIS WILL NEED TO CHART THEIR OWN PATH OF RESISTANCE”
The Orwellian Obama Presidency
By Bret Stephens
Wall Street Journal
March 23, 2015
The humiliating denouement to America’s involvement in Yemen came over the weekend, when U.S. Special Forces were forced to evacuate a base from which they had operated against the local branch of al Qaeda. This is the same branch that claimed responsibility for the January attack on Charlie Hebdo and has long been considered to pose the most direct threat to Europe and the United States.
So who should Barack Obama be declaring war on in the Middle East other than the state of Israel?
There is an upside-down quality to this president’s world view. His administration is now on better terms with Iran – whose Houthi proxies, with the slogan “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, power to Islam,” just deposed Yemen’s legitimate president – than it is with Israel. He claims we are winning the war against Islamic State even as the group continues to extend its reach into Libya, Yemen and Nigeria.
He treats Republicans in the Senate as an enemy when it comes to the Iranian nuclear negotiations, while treating the Russian foreign ministry as a diplomatic partner. He favors the moral legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council to that of the U.S. Congress. He is facilitating Bashar Assad’s war on his own people by targeting ISIS so the Syrian dictator can train his fire on our ostensible allies in the Free Syrian Army.
He was prepared to embrace a Muslim Brother as president of Egypt but maintains an arm’s-length relationship with his popular pro-American successor. He has no problem keeping company with Al Sharpton and tagging an American police department as comprehensively racist but is nothing if not adamant that the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” must on no account ever be conjoined. The deeper that Russian forces advance into Ukraine, the more they violate cease-fires, the weaker the Kiev government becomes, the more insistent he is that his response to Russia is working.
To adapt George Orwell’s motto for Oceania: Under Mr. Obama, friends are enemies, denial is wisdom, capitulation is victory.
The current victim of Mr. Obama’s moral inversions is the recently re-elected Israeli prime minister. Normally a sweeping democratic mandate reflects legitimacy, but not for Mr. Obama. Now we are treated to the astonishing spectacle in which Benjamin Netanyahu has become persona non grata for his comments doubting the current feasibility of a two-state solution. This, while his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas is in the 11th year of his four-year term, without a murmur of protest from the White House.
It is true that Mr. Netanyahu made an ugly election-day remark about Israeli-Arab voters “coming out in droves to the polls,” thereby putting “the right-wing government in danger.” For this he has apologized, in person, to leaders of the Israeli-Arab community.
That’s more than can be said for Mr. Abbas, who last year threatened Israel with a global religious war if Jews were allowed to pray in the Temple Mount’s Al Aqsa mosque. “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated,” the Palestinian Authority president said. The Obama administration insists that Mr. Abbas is “the best interlocutor Israel is ever going to have.”
Maybe that’s true, but if so it only underscores the point Mr. Netanyahu was making in the first place – and for which Mr. Obama now threatens a fundamental reassessment of U.S. relations with Israel. In 2014 Mr. Abbas agreed to a power-sharing agreement with Hamas, a deal breaker for any Israeli interested in peace. In 2010 he used the expiration of a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze as an excuse to abandon bilateral peace efforts. In 2008 he walked away from a statehood offer from then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In 2000 he was with Yasser Arafat at Camp David when the Palestinians turned down a deal from Israel’s Ehud Barak.
And so on. For continuously rejecting good-faith Israeli offers, Mr. Abbas may be about to get his wish: a U.S. vote for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. For tiring of constant Palestinian bad faith – and noting the fact – Israel will now be treated to pariah-nation status by Mr. Obama.
Here is my advice to the Israeli government, along with every other country being treated disdainfully by this crass administration: Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back.
The Saudis figured that out in 2013, after Mr. Obama failed to honor his promises on Syria; they turned down a seat on the Security Council, spoke openly about acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan and tanked the price of oil, mainly as a weapon against Iran. Now Mr. Obama is nothing if not solicitous of the Saudi highnesses.
The Israelis will need to chart their own path of resistance. On the Iranian nuclear deal, they may have to go rogue: Let’s hope their warnings have not been mere bluffs. Israel survived its first 19 years without meaningful U.S. patronage. For now, all it has to do is get through the next 22, admittedly long, months.
“IF IT WERE PUT IN A SIMILAR POSITION, THE U.S. OR ANY OTHER NATION WOULD ACT IN THE SAME WAY”
Spies Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones
By Max Boot
March 24, 2015
The Wall Street Journal rattled some teacups with its article today claiming that Israel is spying on the American team negotiating with Iran and sharing the results with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It should be noted that in the article itself Israeli officials deny that they were spying on the U.S.; they say they got their information from spying on the Iranians and from information freely shared with them by the French, who are more interested in keeping the Israelis informed than the Americans are. Whether the Israeli defense is true or not I don’t know. But either way there is nothing particularly shocking going on here.
As a general matter, let us stipulate that allies should minimize the extent to which they spy on each other, if only because such revelations can be embarrassing and damaging. But the reality is that almost everyone does it. The only notable exception I’m aware of is the “Five Eyes” – the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – which have been closely cooperating in intelligence matters since World War II. The U.S. certainly spies on allies such as France and Germany, as we discovered from Edward Snowden’s leaks. And they spy on us.
For that matter the U.S. also spies on Israel. In fact it was through such spying that the U.S. discovered the alleged Israeli spying. As the Journal notes: “The White House discovered the [Israeli] operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.”
So U.S. officials are in no position to be pointing fingers at Israel. If the Journal account is to be believed, the administration is less upset by the Israeli espionage than by the Israelis sharing what they discovered with legislators: “The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.”
Let me get this straight: The administration believes that it must at all costs keep not only close allies such as Israel in the dark about the negotiations but also lawmakers who have a duty to ratify treaties. The only grounds I can see for the administration stance is that Obama is preparing to reach a generous deal with Iran that he knows will upset lawmakers and allies, and he is trying to keep the terms a secret until it is a fait accompli in the hopes of ramming it through using executive prerogative alone. This is well within the president’s power to do but it is hardly a wise way to proceed with such a momentous agreement.
One suspects that the Israeli espionage may have leaked out now for the same reason that the administration insists on pummeling Prime Minister Netanyahu repeatedly in public: as a way to delegitimize the Israeli position (which also happens to be the majority position of both houses of Congress) in the Iran debate. This is a dangerous game that Obama is playing. At stake is nothing less than Israel’s security as well as that of other American allies located near Iran – to say nothing of US interests in the region.
Is Israel supposed to sit blind, deaf, and dumb while this is going on? While it would be better if Israel didn’t feel compelled to spy on the U.S. (just as it would be better if the US didn’t feel compelled to spy on Israel), this is not an instance such as the Jonathan Pollard case, which was just stupid spying, disrupting the alliance for no good reason. (Pollard was providing “nice to have” information not “must have” information.) This is a matter of survival for the Jewish State. So, while Netanyahu has made some missteps in his dealing with Obama, such as challenging his negotiating position before Congress, this is an instance where Israeli actions are understandable: If the U.S. refuses to share what could be life or death information with Israel, the Jewish State will get its information however it can. If it were put in a similar position, the U.S. or any other nation would act in the same way.
A FORMER CIA ANALYST SAYS “CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU TO THE MOSSAD”
Don’t Be Shocked that Israel Spied on the Iran Nuclear Talks
By Fred Fleitz
National Review Online
March 24, 2015
In what was obviously a targeted press leak by the Obama administration, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Israel spied on the Iran nuclear talks and used the intelligence it gathered to lobby the U.S. Congress against them.
According to the Journal article, Obama officials knew about Israeli spying on the nuclear talks for over a year. This spying reportedly consisted of eavesdropping and acquiring information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants, and diplomatic contacts in Europe, according to the Journal’s sources. Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators and said they acquired their information through other means.
Obama officials and the Democratic members of Congress who probably helped leak this story expressed outrage over Israel’s spying on the nuclear talks. One official told the Journal that “people feel personally sold out.”
Give me a break. Israel and the United States spy on each other constantly. Ironically, according to the story, the Obama administration found out about Israel’s spying on the talks from American spying on Israel.
It’s pretty outrageous that Israel had to resort to spying to discover details of the nuclear talks that the Obama administration was withholding from both Israeli officials and the U.S. Congress.
Why did this story come out now? The reason is obvious. Obama officials know the Iran talks are in trouble and leaked the Israeli-spying story to change the subject. There is growing bipartisan opposition to the huge concessions made by the United States in the negotiations. Many members of Congress believe a final deal with Iran will be a weak, short duration agreement that will legitimize Iran’s nuclear program and increase tensions in the Middle East. Moreover, according to recent press report, Iran is pushing for more concessions while France is trying to toughen a final deal.
According to article, President Obama decided to keep Prime Minister Netanyahu in the dark about the Iran nuclear talks because he was concerned about leaks. This was an unacceptable way to treat one of our closest allies on negotiations with profound implications for its security. Now that we know President Obama stiffed Netanyahu by refusing to keep him informed about the Iran talks, U.S. officials should stop whining about Netanyahu breaking protocol by addressing Congress and lobbying it against a nuclear agreement with Iran.
What worries me most about this clumsy Obama-administration attack on Netanyahu is how it will feed growing anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments from the left in the United States, especially from the far left. The administration should be standing behind Israel, not generating opposition to it among its radical supporters by leaking stories like this.
Israeli spying on the nuclear talks was nothing unusual. And although Israel’s reported decision to use the intelligence it gathered from this spying to lobby Congress was unexpected, I believe this decision was justified given the way the Israeli government was treated by the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s fear that the nuclear talks were on track to produce an agreement that would seriously endanger Israeli and regional security.
As a former CIA analyst, I say congratulations and thank you to the Mossad for its outstanding work to help stop the Obama administration’s reckless nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
OBAMA SQUEEZES ISRAEL
U.S. accusations of Israeli espionage – why now?
Analysis: The Obama administration has launched a media blitz against Netanyahu, fearing a narrow right-wing government that could be a potential ‘nightmare’ for the US.
By Ron Ben-Yishai
March 24, 2015
The accusations from the US over Israeli espionage, published Monday in The Wall Street Journal, are unfair and even a little ridiculous.
The American administration and the government official who leaked the information are well aware that Israel is capable of obtaining this information in a completely legitimate manner from those party to the negotiations with the Iranians, as well as through other legitimate means within the intelligence community. It is no secret that Israel has its ways of knowing what is happening in Iran and in the talks Iran and its representative abroad are conducting.
What is unacceptable for Israel should also be unacceptable for the US. The article specifically states that the United States intercepted Israeli transmissions and from there decided that Israel supposedly “spied” on the US. Is it acceptable for the Americans, who do not face direct security threats, to spy on a Middle Eastern ally? And can the ally, Israel, which does face a direct security threat from Iran, therefore not take a closer look at what the US is doing behind its back?
But beyond the question of fairness and morality, it is important to understand that the reports of alleged Israeli espionage are part of a campaign waged by the United States, with a clear political purpose. This is not just a political vendetta against Benjamin Netanyahu, but a calculated political move by the Obama administration that was planned long before the Israeli elections, in case Netanyahu won.
Netanyahu is facing a media blitz against him being managed by the White House. His speech to Congress, the announcement there would be no Palestinian state during his tenure (that he has that he has since walked back), and his comments against Israeli Arabs, for which he apologized on Monday, all provide the administration with ammunition to discredit Netanyahu, and insult him as the US president was insulted when the prime minister defied him and went to speak in Washington.
Behind this media campaign, the administration is hiding deep concerns regarding two issues: the danger that Israel will torpedo the nuclear agreement with Iran and the fear that a narrow right-wing government in Israel will lead to an even larger and more violent conflict with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza.
The US is worried that a defiant right-wing Israeli government will push it to veto all kinds of resolutions at the UN as well as those by American allies in Europe, and, even worse, spark a conflict with many American Jews. Senior Democratic Party officials have warned Obama not to allow Netanyahu to cause a rift with the Jews who will support the party in the next presidential elections in 2016.
So what is the Obama administration aiming to achieve through its diplomatic and media campaigns? Firstly, the Americans want to lower the flames of the steadily developing conflict between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. To achieve this, the US administration wants to influence the composition of the next Israeli government.
In Washington they are saying that if possible, they will prevent the establishment of a narrow right-wing government, and if such a government is formed, ensure that the key ministerial posts are given to relative “moderates”. Naftali Bennett in the Foreign Ministry, for example, would be a “nightmare” for the Americans.
In addition, the government is trying to influence the political platform of the next Israeli government. The administration wants it to be explicitly stated in the government’s basic guidelines that Israel adheres to a two-state solution and will do everything possible to bring it to fruition now, rather than in the distant future.
Washington would also prefer to see a unity government in Israel, and is exerting pressure to achieve this end. The US government is also trying to pressure Netanyahu to end a freeze on the transfer of tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
This is what the US means when it says it is interested in deeds rather than words from Israel. Furthermore, the Obama administration is threatening to support a UN resolution against the settlements, with the aim of getting Israel to declare a construction freeze in settlement blocs that will not remain under Israeli rule in a final peace agreement.
The accusations of spying made against Israel are primarily designed to limit the ability of Republican lawmakers in Congress to act against the agreement with Iran. Any member of Congress, Republican or Democratic, who uses the information received from Israel to vote against the agreement with Iran, is actually guilty of a form of treason as he or she made use of material obtained through alleged espionage against the United States.
In the battle for hearts and minds, Obama is waging war on Netanyahu not only out of revenge, but also as a way of setting a strategic policy, before the Israeli government is formed and before it is too late.