Egged on by the official European-funded Palestinian Authority media, terror attacks on Israeli civilians continue: A woman in her 80s, who was out shopping, is in serious condition after she and two other Israelis were stabbed by a Palestinian Jihadist in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion, this afternoon.
[Notes by Tom Gross]
* Israeli Channel 2 reports that Israeli Military Intelligence has sent a letter to all Israeli officers and soldiers to be aware of recruitment attempts by the CIA. The advisory called on soldiers to “remain alert and report any unusual incidences.”
* Israeli Military Intelligence often warns soldiers to be careful about what they post on Facebook or discuss on non-encrypted phone lines. However, it is highly unusual for a letter to be sent to the entire army, concerning recruiting attempts by the spy agency of a friendly nation.
* Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot: Since 2012, an increasing number of young post-army Israelis (who will still do regular army reserve duty), upon arrival for vacation in the United States, have been taken in for extensive questioning lasting many hours by American authorities in an attempt to recruit them for the CIA.
* Source: IDF chose to issue the warning now, following the latest leaks by the Obama administration aimed at damaging Israeli interests.
* In contrast to U.S. President Obama’s frostiness to Israel, Russian President Putin continues his charm offensive. Isi Leibler: “Putin has ruthlessly suppressed violent anti-Semitism. He has gone out of his way to attend Jewish functions, such as the opening of a Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, to which he contributed $50 million of state funds and even symbolically personally donated a month’s salary. He also attended Hanukkah celebrations and conveyed warm messages of praise and goodwill to Jews on the advent of the Jewish New Year -- utterly unprecedented, especially from a nationalist Russian leader.”
* Leibler: “Putin has determinedly kept the channels to Israel open, making a point to personally visit Israel and in June 2012, Israel was the first country he visited after his election. He frequently speaks warmly about the Jewish state, expressing pride that it contains the largest diaspora of former Russian citizens. At the Western Wall, accompanied by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, he donned a kippah, which would undoubtedly have made his Bolshevik predecessors turn in their graves. He also seemed quite indifferent to the rage this created among his Arab allies.”
* Ehud Ya’ari, the leading Mideast expert on Israel Channel 2: “The Russians have allocated a future role for Israel in their area of influence by offering to buy a substantial chunk of Israel’s newly discovered gas fields and provide military guarantees against Hizbullah attacks on the offshore locations.”
ISRAEL STRIKES AGAINST HIZBULLAH ADVANCED WEAPONS
* Lebanese and Syrian media: Six Israeli warplanes targeted Hizbullah weapons convoys in Syria on Saturday. These are the first Israeli strikes since the Russian air force began its involvement in the Syrian civil war. Hizbullah aims to acquire even more deadly weapons to fire at Israeli civilians.
* Source: Israel gave Russia advance warning so as to avoid any accidental clash between air forces.
* Israel’s defense establishment refused to confirm or deny the reports, but in the past Israel has warned that it will not permit the Iranian-controlled Hizbullah terrorist group to obtain what it calls “game-changing” advanced weaponry.
* Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, after meeting with Putin in Moscow last month: “My goal was to prevent misunderstandings between IDF forces and Russian forces. We have established a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings. This is very important for Israel’s security… Israel will not tolerate Tehran’s efforts to arm Israel’s enemies in the region, and that Jerusalem has taken and will continue to take action against any such attempts. This is our right and also our duty.”
* Iran intensifies use of ground troops in Syria: 29 senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Officers killed in Syria in the past two weeks alone, according to Iranian press reports.
* Iran’s official Fars news agency: Iranian navy to send warships to Atlantic Ocean.
* On Saturday, Russia and Egypt accepted Israeli offers of aerial surveillance in efforts to locate parts of the Russian civilian airplane that crashed over the Sinai Peninsula.
* Israeli media: Bill Clinton, who gave a speech on Saturday at the Rabin Memorial Rally in Tel Aviv, was in Israel primarily because he was paid to go to Israel by Noble Energy to lobby on their behalf about their stake in Israel’s off shore gas.
I attach two articles below. The first, by Amir Rapaport concerning U.S. spying on Israel, appears in Israel Defense magazine and was published at the end of last week, before the latest revelations about CIA attempts to increase its recruitment efforts in Israel.
The second, by Isi Leibler in today’s Jerusalem Post, deals with Putin’s charm offensive to Israel.
It should also be noted that it is not only Israel that Russia is more friendly towards: Russia has concluded a multibillion-dollar arms sale with Egypt, sold nuclear reactors to Jordan and Egypt and may cooperate on building 16 reactors with Saudi Arabia. By the end of this year, the kings of six Sunni Arab states, including Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, will have visited Putin in Moscow in 2015.
-- Tom Gross\
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
U.S. SPY GAMES
Spy Games: The latest leaks by the US government regarding Israel were intended, presumably, to embarrass the Israeli Minister of Defense and Prime Minister. The tension between the Obama administration and Netanyahu continues and meanwhile, in Syria, the Russians are moving ahead with their military operation to re-consolidate the Assad regime.
By Amir Rapaport
Israel Defense magazine
October 30, 2015
Since 2012, hundreds of employees of the Israeli defense establishment encountered a strange phenomenon: the staff of the US embassy in Israel refused to grant them visas to enter the USA.
The applicants included IDF servicemen and employees of IMOD, Israeli defense industries and such intelligence agencies as ISA and Mossad. Numerous testimonies indicated that the US embassy had a list of Israeli defense operatives, and entrance was denied to many of them despite the fact that they never encountered problems obtaining a visa in the past.
According to those testimonies, since 2012, some of the applicants received visas for just a few weeks after they had been ‘given the runaround’, while others were questioned upon their arrival in the USA. Some absurd situations arose. For example, members of the Israeli delegation to the USA were forced to leave the USA for Canada and have their visas renewed in that country, since their visas for staying on US soil had been renewed only for very short periods of time, again and again (or refused).
At the time, the US embassy in Israel refused to provide any explanations regarding this “Visa Refusal Policy”, not even in response to a question submitted to the embassy by this writer, but the reason is being clarified in the last few days: a revelation by the Wall Street Journal last weekend maintains that the USA initiated a massive effort to obtain information from employees of the Israeli defense establishment in an attempt to find out whether Israel intended to attack the nuclear facilities in Iran. One of the methods being mentioned was an attempt to extract the information from Israelis seeking visas to enter the USA, and the questioning officials were not employees of USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) but investigators of the CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) working undercover.
The story published by the Wall Street Journal has further revealed that an Israeli aircraft had entered and exited the territory of Iran sometime in 2012, possibly as a trial run in the context of the preparations for a possible attack against the Iranian nuclear facility in Fordu. These claims were supported by quotes of officials in Washington.
According to the same officials, the objective of the flight was to practice the airlifting and landing of IDF commando forces in the area of the nuclear facility for the purpose of capturing it. These officials base their claim on an intercepted transmission out of which the information regarding the Israeli trial was obtained.
The Wall Street Journal revelation about the efforts made by the USA to uncover Israel’s intentions regarding an attack against Iran well in advance is based on leaks from official US sources. The US government has an extensive resume of leaking sensitive defense information pertaining to Israel. Even the information attributing to Israel the attack against the Syrian nuclear reactor in Arak in September 2007 had come from Washington.
On the other hand, Israel has a record of failing to inform the USA in advance of significant military moves. For example, Israel went to such great lengths trying to keep the attack against the Iraqi nuclear reactor (mainly in June 1981) that the commander of IAF, Major-General David Ivry, spent the day prior to the attack with American colleagues in Naples, Italy, just to “put them to sleep”. A message was sent to the USA only after the IAF strike aircraft had completed their mission (at least before the operation was reported in the media).
According to all of the estimates in Israel, the latest report by the Wall Street Journal was intended to embarrass Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon before his recent visit to the USA, which began on Monday and ended on Thursday (earlier than planned, owing to the tense situation in Israel) as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who will travel to Washington in early November.
This article conveys the impression that the USA does not trust the Israeli judgment, which could have led to a serious deterioration of the situation in the entire Middle East (and even beyond this region).
It is important to understand, however, that the story, titled “US espionage in Israel”, does not amount to actual espionage but conforms to a more moderate professional term – collection of information. Admittedly, the methods employed in order to collect information in Israel, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, were extremely unusual, but the Israeli defense establishment has assumed anyway, for years now, that the Americans are gathering any information they can lay their hands on. They employ the world’s most extensive monitoring network, code named Echelon, and use supercomputers to sort every sliver of information passing through the Internet in order to obtain the coveted ‘golden nuggets’ of information
The relations between the Israeli and US defense establishments have already experienced more severe espionage scandals, or even suspicions of “intensified collection of information”, not just in the context of the case of Jonathan Pollard, who is expected to be released from prison after 30 years.
Lieutenant-Colonel (res.) Gideon Mitchnik, who had served at the executive office of the Defense Minister during the previous decade and subsequently served as the official historian of the IDF Intelligence Directorate, has reminded us that the Americans had accused Israel, more than a decade ago, of spying in the context of a less well-known affair known as the “AIPAC Espionage Scandal”. In that case, the FBI arrested Lawrence Franklin, a senior employee at the executive office of the US Secretary of Defense and a former USAF officer, and accused him of spying for Israel within the US government. It was alleged that Franklin supplied sensitive information to two AIPAC officials – Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman.
Naor Gilon, an Israeli diplomat in charge of relations with the US Congress at the Israeli embassy in Washington, was also implicated in the suspicions. The affair eventually came to nothing after five years, but only after Franklin had paid a hefty personal price. This is only an example of the fact that both parties assume that the effort to collect information never ceases.
The new “espionage scandal” revealed recently is a late manifestation of the heightened US-Israeli tensions surrounding the “Iranian Issue”, which led to a profound rift between leaders Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu (that is not expected to be mended during their forthcoming meeting).
The Americans did everything they could to obtain information about Israel’s intentions, while employing the “carrot and stick” method. On the positive side, they made an unprecedented attempt to establish warm relations with the IDF Chief of Staff in the years when an attack against Iran was regarded as imminent: until 2011, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, had met IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi not less than 13 times, showering the Israeli general with warmth and goodwill. When Ashkenazi’s replacement, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, came to Washington for the first time as IDF Chief of Staff, a special band played all his favorite songs (presumably, the Americans had foreknowledge of Gantz’s musical taste…).
On the less pleasant side, the Americans focused on the questioning of former members of IDF special operations units, and according to recent reports (by Yediot Aharonot), in one case Israel submitted an official protest to the USA pursuant to a less-than-innocent questioning of an Israeli citizen at a US airport that lasted not less than ten hours. In the past, it was reported that the USA deployed on the roof of the US embassy in Tel-Aviv covert monitoring installations the likes of which were seen on the roofs of other US embassies around the world.
A matter of timing: whether this recent affair is about espionage or just about ‘collection of information’, these reports did not really cloud Ya’alon’s visit to the USA this week. The visit went ahead as planned and according to the reports – the atmosphere was very pleasant. Senior Israeli defense officials claim that the relations between the defense establishments of Israel and the USA are closer today than ever before, as opposed to the hostile wind blowing toward Israel out of the White House and State Department (where the leak to the Wall Street Journal must have originated).
Meanwhile, back in Israel, the bar of violence in the territories seemed to have dropped significantly and violence among Israeli Arabs has subsided almost completely. However, estimates maintain that tranquility is still a far-off prospect and that the terrorist attacks will continue for a long time, with occasional “peaks” – renewed waves of surging violence.
A lot of attention has been paid to occurrences in Syria: while Israel and the USA conducted strategic discussions in Washington, a historic event took place when the Russian Air Force coordinated its strikes with the IAF. The understandings regarding that coordination were achieved last month, during the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to Moscow, on which he was accompanied by the IDF Chief of Staff and Head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate.
At the same time, Israeli and US operations associated with Syria were coordinated, too. The world press has reported this week that the Russians employed high-power electronic transmitters out of a submarine in the Mediterranean. These reports seem to be accurate and the Russian submarine was probably detected by Israel. The electronic warfare systems were probably employed by the Russians in order to defend their new bases in Syria as well as their aircraft in the air over Syria. Apparently, the state-of-the-art capabilities demonstrated by the Russians this week have taken intelligence circles in the West by surprise.
PUTIN’S CHARM OFFENSIVE
Putin’s Russia and Israel: A tenuous relationship
By Isi Leibler
November 2, 2015
For over 30 years, my principal public occupation in the global Jewish arena was to promote the struggle for liberation of Soviet Jewry. This brought me into direct contact with Soviet ministers, officials and apparatchiks, enabling me to appreciate firsthand the obsessive anti-Semitism underlying the Kremlin’s policy toward Israel and the Jews.
This contrasts starkly with current Russian President Vladimir Putin’s positive attitude to Jews in general, despite the fact that he was a former officer of the Soviet secret police agency, the KGB, a body notorious for its anti-Semitism. This is even more extraordinary taking into account the fact that Putin today exploits nationalism as a major element to rally public support. And it was Russian nationalism, from the time of the czars and heavily reinforced by the Soviets, that has operated in tandem with a feral anti-Semitism.
There are no rational explanations for Putin’s extraordinary attitude toward Jews, which some have gone as far as to describe as being motivated by philo-Semitism. Some say he was influenced as a youngster by his Jewish German teacher, Mina Yuditskaya, now living in Israel, whom he invited for a social chat to the King David Hotel during his last visit. He may also be highly sophisticated and pragmatic, and having seen the outcome of Soviet anti-Semitism, may have come to a realization that Jewish support would represent an asset at many levels.
Putin has ruthlessly suppressed violent anti-Semitism. He has gone out of his way to attend Jewish functions, such as the opening of a Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, to which he contributed $50 million of state funds and even symbolically personally donated a month’s salary. He also attended Hanukkah celebrations and conveyed warm messages of praise and goodwill to Jews on the advent of the Jewish New Year -- utterly unprecedented, especially from a nationalist Russian leader.
It is also astonishing that, despite his strategic involvement and alliance with the Syrians and Iranians, Putin has determinedly kept the channels to Israel open, making a point to personally visit Israel and in June 2012, Israel was the first country he visited after his election. He frequently speaks warmly about the Jewish state, expressing pride that it contains the largest diaspora of former Russian citizens. At the Western Wall, accompanied by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, he donned a kippah, which would undoubtedly have made his Bolshevik predecessors turn in their graves. He also seemed quite indifferent to the rage this created among his Arab allies.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has deftly steered a delicate diplomatic balancing act seeking to retain a good relationship with the Russians without antagonizing the Americans in relation to both Ukraine and Georgia. No Israeli minister has criticized Putin despite his alliance with Syria and Iran.
Indeed, until recently, Netanyahu managed to persuade Putin to postpone providing the Syrians with the S-300 air defense system, whose deployment would make it far more difficult for Israel to penetrate Syrian air space in the event of a military confrontation.
However, due to U.S. President Barack Obama’s incredible mismanagement, Putin’s major geopolitical breakthrough has transformed Russia overnight into a dominant power in the Middle East with greater influence in the region than even at its peak during the Cold War. Even Egypt has been alienated by U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood to such an extent that it too has moved closer to the Russian camp.
The U.S. has effectively enabled an economically weak Russia to seal an alliance with the Shiites, purportedly to combat ISIS but in reality concentrating on rescuing Assad, who, despite massive support from Iran and Hezbollah, was close to collapse.
Putin mocked the Americans for trying to promote “democracy” and in so doing created the vacuum that was rapidly filled by ISIS. At the U.N. General Assembly, Putin, speaking about Western support for the so-called Arab Spring, said, “Do you realize what you have done? ... Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster – and nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.”
In contrast to a bumbling Obama, he emerged as a shrewd and tough strategist who can be relied upon to stand by his allies and confront his enemies.
As a consequence, the situation has become immensely more complicated for Israel and there are logical grounds for concern that Russia’s ongoing confrontation with the U.S. will override Putin’s emotional philo-Semitism. His recent meeting in which he expressed solidarity with Assad in Moscow was hardly reassuring.
But the situation remains far from black and white. Immediately after announcing Russia’s intervention, Putin agreed to a three-hour summit meeting with Netanyahu, who flew to Moscow where parameters were drawn in order to minimize any possible military overlap and try to protect some of Israel’s security concerns. Coordination has been maintained at the very highest military levels between both countries, with Russia operating a direct hotline with Yossi Cohen, Israel’s national security adviser, informing him in advance of Russia bombing targets in Syria.
Furthermore, according to Ehud Yaari of Channel 2, the Russians have allocated a future role for Israel in their area of influence by offering to buy a substantial chunk of Israel’s newly discovered gas fields and provide military guarantees against Hezbollah attacks on the offshore locations. It is also proposing to export this gas to Europe.
But Israel remains the meat in the sandwich. It must walk on eggshells to avoid alienating the U.S. Congress, which is bitterly opposed to Putin’s global expansionism.
Some predict that Putin is merely taking advantage of establishing Russia as a Mediterranean Great Power. He is most unlikely to involve his ground forces after its ordeal in Afghanistan. Realizing that a complete victory is not in the cards, Putin may secure Assad, settle on a divided Syria and leverage Assad’s retirement in return for U.S. concessions such as easing sanctions relating to Ukraine.
Profoundly conscious of the Iranian regime’s messianic aspirations to wipe Israel off the face of the planet, optimists consider the possibility that the Russians will inhibit the Iranians from directly attacking Israel. They argue that Shiite fundamentalists like the Iranians also pose long-term threats to the Kremlin with Russia’s growing and increasingly aggressive Muslim minority which is also being affected by ISIS -- a large proportion of whose fighters originate from Russia and former Soviet countries.
The Netanyahu government is to be commended for its efforts to isolate itself from the conflict. But the situation is volatile and could unravel in the course of intensified superpower confrontations in this region. Israel is also cognizant of potential confrontations with the Russians should they continue to intervene when Iranians seek to transfer advanced missiles to Hezbollah.
However, it is a consolation that all things being even, Putin would prefer not to confront Israel and does not aspire to bring about its destruction, as did the Bolsheviks. However, that could change if Putin were to conclude that Israel represents a major barrier to his objective of creating a new Middle East.
It remains somewhat surrealistic for me to juxtapose Putin’s positive attitude with my experiences with Soviet anti-Semites. Neither I nor any of the refuseniks would have remotely dreamed that, living in Israel, we would witness the visit of a former KGB officer as president of Russia who displays friendship rather than malevolence to the Jewish people. We must pray that this will not be swept aside by realpolitik.