The “Deal of the Century”

Shalom all,

The long-awaited Peace Plan (“the Plan) of President Donald Trump was revealed this evening (7:00 p.m. Israel time). President Trump was accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as both men entered the hall and delivered their presentations to repeated applause and standing ovations. There was a lot of name recognition, position recognition and nation recognition, as part and parcel of the introductory and closing remarks of both President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the course of his presentation, Trump stated to a very receptive audience: I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.”  

The Plan itself is a multi-page document, which is attached. It appears to be presented in the form of a business agreement, stating how each side would benefit from it and what are the requirements, particularly from the “Palestinian” side, to establishing statehood and receiving recognition and support from the United States. It contains territorial division maps and a lot of historical and social explanation, as well as what could pass for an economic business plan. The essential content and terms, referred to by both Trump and Netanyahu in their speeches, are to be found in different locations and some of them are expressed plainly. That does not mean that all that glitters is gold. In the rush to “make a deal”, we may not fully apprehend what are the short-term and long-term pitfalls that are hidden in the document.Trump’s Peace Plan

Trump expressed that it is the best plan that was ever presented in an attempt to bring about an end to the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict. Netanyahu said he is willing to embrace it and enter into peace negotiations with the “Palestinians” on the basis of that Plan.

A lot was said, some points were laid out, others remain to be read, interpreted, argued over and worked out. The aspects of the plan that were expressed are clear. The written language will take some time to understand, to digest and, if accepted, to implement. Acceptance and implementation are the two problem areas. Opposition has already been expressed by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the President of the “Palestinian” Authority (P.A.), as well as by the leadership of Hamas. Within an hour of the conclusion of the Plan’s presentation, Abu Mazen said to his advisors: “I never pushed myself to die, but I am prepared to die for my nation.” Earlier, he said that “Jerusalem is not for sale, the conspiracy will fail.” In one of Israel’s Hebrew dailies today, Abu Mazen was quoted as saying that in the few remaining years of his life, he would not want to be considered a traitor. That is, he would not depart from the ways of his predecessors, who refused to come to terms with the State of Israel that would necessitate a recognition of it. He would rather die as a martyr than be remembered as a traitor. In typical fashion, his threats are like clouds without water. However, there is widespread outrage within the P.A. over the terms and conditions of the Plan, which was rejected by the P.A. long before the details were released. Demonstrations have already started in the streets of Gaza and Ramallah, and ambulances arrived at different places to treat some of those who were injured while taking part in the demonstrations. In addition, before the television broadcast was over, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a security alert and travel advisory.

The major points include some of the following, that is part of the proposed two-state resolution of the conflict:

1. Jerusalem will continue to be the undivided (emphasized by Trump) capital of the State of Israel;

2. Israel will agree to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state, whose capital will be in parts of East Jerusalem and whose area size will be approximately double its present size;

3. Establishment of the “Palestinian” state is conditioned on guarantees of security conditions for Israel;

4. The various parts of the “Palestinian” state will be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels;

5. The establishment of the “Palestinian” state is conditioned on the “Palestinians” ending their terrorist activities and taking steps towards self-government, including recognising man’s dignity and human rights, freedom of the press and setting up reliable institutions without corruption;

6. The Hamas terrorist organization is to be disarmed and Gaza is to be completely demilitarized. This is a non-starter, as the very basis of its existence is to eliminate the State of Israel;

7. The “Palestinian” refugee problem is to be resolved “outside the State of Israel”;

8. The P.A. is to cease brain-washing school children and teaching them to hate. This is like asking the leopard to change its spots;

9. All of the settlements in Judea and Samaria will be annexed by, and made part of, Israel;

10. Israel will freeze new, settlement construction for a period of four years, in exchange for the U.S. recognizing all of the settlements in Judea and Samaria;

11. The Jordan Valley will be annexed by Israel, giving the country complete security control west of the Jordan River. This will not sit well with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and could jeopardise the “peace treaty” that exists between Israel and Jordan;

12. Religious sites are to remain accessible to all faiths;

13. The status quo is to remain regarding the Temple Mount.

There are, of course, other aspects to the Plan, which will not be discussed at this time, including financial considerations that are intended to be beneficial to the “Palestinians”.

The Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, one of Iran’s proxies, wasted no time in denouncing the Plan, calling it both “aggressive” and “nonsense”, adding: “The ‘Palestinians’ will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain a ‘Palestinian’ land.” 

The Israeli cabinet will also meet this coming Sunday to vote on applying Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in Judea and Samaria.

There is no denying that President Trump’s presentation was very pro-Israel. This was clear when he stated, in part: “It is time for the Muslim world to correct the mistake they made in 1948 when they chose to attack and not recognize the State of Israel.” However, he took time to express concern for the “Palestinian” people and indicated that the Plan is designed to help them achieve their potential. The Plan and the way it was presented goes far to remove the incentive of the “Palestinians” to refuse its terms. But, as in the past, the likelihood is that the “Palestinians” will pull out all the stops to cause the Plan to fail. Somewhere along the line, there will be an attempt to twist what was offered to them into an accusation against Israel.

There is reaction to the Plan on the Israel side, as well. Some ministers object to the establishment of a terror state in the heart of the country and to the giving away of Israeli territory. One Member of Knesset said that the Plan is “light and darkness mixed up”.

When it was Netanyahu’s turn to speak, he was all smiles and thankful to Trump and everyone else who was involved in the preparation of the Plan. His presentation was overly “schmaltzy” (excessively complimentary) and he bent over backwards to say how much he was in favor of the Plan and would work to implement some of it immediately. His statement that he was willing to negotiate with the ‘Palestinians” on the basis of that Plan goes contrary to his earlier promises that a “Palestinian” state would not be established on his watch.

What is clear is that the “Deal of the Century” needs to be carefully studied and its implications fully understood. This will not be an easy task. In the final analysis, I am doubtful that the Plan in its present form will be fully acceptable to any of the parties involved. For Israel, there are dangers in allowing a “Palestinian” state, or any enemy state, to exist in its midst. A simple glance at the map of Israel and the proposed division should speak for itself. Some things are so evident that trying to make the obvious explicit will only confuse matters.

Then there is the aspect of Prime Minister Netanyahu being willing to give away what has been entrusted to the nation of Israel by the One who has established us as a people. (Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:7-8; Deut. 1:8). There will be a serious accounting for dividing God’s land (see Joel 3:2).

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7) If this is true on an individual level, how much more true would it be on a national level? Woe to us if our ways are NOT pleasing to the LORD. A piece of paper, however lengthy and detailed it may be, will not create the conditions for a lasting peace. Only a changed heart will accomplish that.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Seventy-five years ago…

Shalom all.

Seventy-five years ago, the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was liberated. With each passing year, the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles. In a handful of years, there will be no more survivors. Our responsibility to the future: Remember the past and learn from it!

Last week, an impressive list of world leaders gathered at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, in Jerusalem, as part of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum. In addition to representatives from Israel, the participants included U.S. Vice-President, Mike Pence, and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prince Charles of Great Britain, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Council President Charles Michelas, as well as the presidents of Bulgaria, Romania, Finland, Georgia, Cyprus and Bosnia and Herzegovina, just to name a few.

Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, spoke to the world leaders at a special reception and urged them to “stand united in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and extremism, in defending democracy and democratic values. This is the call of our time. This is our challenge. This is our choice.” The words are inspiring and the encouragement is absolutely necessary. Is our generation able to learn from the past? Does it want to learn from the past? Or will we put our hands over our ears, our mouths and our eyes, symbolically saying we will “hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil”? When our hands are removed, will we again allow evil to reign supreme and continue to tear our world apart?

During the past year, so-called “hate crimes” have increased world-wide. Incidents of anti-semitism have become daily events. The historical record exists. The Holocaust happened. Six million Jews were killed as part of the Nazi plan to rid the world of all Jews. Amazingly, in our day, some still try to blame the Jew for every evil under the sun. And along with that, hatred increases, anti-Semitism increases, violence increases and there are widespread attempts to deny that the Holocaust happened. For others who acknowledge the Holocaust, there is an attempt to downplay the role that nations played in cooperating with the Nazis. Poland enacted laws making it a crime to accuse that country of active involvement in the murder of Jews during World War II. That created a political rift between Israel and Poland – a rift that still exists and is not easily healed. 

Nevertheless, at a ceremony at the notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp marking the 75th anniversary of its liberation, Israeli President Rivlin made it very clear that while many Poles fought against the Nazis, it is also true that “many … aided in the murder of Jews.” Polish President Andrzej Duda also spoke, stating, in part: “Distorting the history of World War II, denying the crimes of genocide and the Holocaust as well as an instrumental use of Auschwitz to attain any given goal is tantamount to desecration of the memory of the victims whose ashes are scattered here…The truth about the Holocaust must not die.” He did not try to deny what happened, but he did try to avoid Poland’s responsibility for it, keeping with the present Polish narrative that the genocide against the Jewish people was “perpetrated here [in Poland] by the functionaries of the Nazi Third Reich”, which also targeted Poles, as well as Jews and others and that Poles were forced by the Nazis to carry out crimes against the Jews. 

Respectfully addressing the responsibility of Poland during the war, Rivlin appropriately said: “Nazi Germany was the one who initiated, planned and carried out the genocide of the Jewish people in Poland, as well as in other places, and it bears full responsibility for its actions … [adding] We also remember, in great horror, that it received significant aid in its murderous actions throughout all of Europe, and this too requires accepting responsibility.”

During my recent trip to Poland this past September, I was specifically asked whether I blieved that Poland also bore responsibility for the deaths of Jews during the Holocaust. When I answered “yes”, it generated a number of discussions and attempts by locals to negate that many Poles acted voluntarily and wilfully in aiding the Nazis. I mentioned, as a case in point, what the Poles did to the Jews in Jedwabne  including the incidents mentioned in the book “Neighbors“, which is also available on Amazon.

Speaking at the gathering at Yad Vashem last week, Germany’s President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier again publicly acknowledged Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust, stating, in part: “Germany’s historical responsibility will not expire…We want to live up to it — and you should judge us on it.” He added: “I wish I could say that we Germans have learned from our history once and for all, but I cannot say that when hatred is spreading…I stand before you and wish I could say that our remembrance has made us immune to evil…Yes, we Germans remember. But sometimes it seems as if we understand the past better than the present.” 

His admission and confession gave impetus to the historic apology yesterday (Sunday) of Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, on behalf of the Dutch government, saying “Too little protection. Too little help. Too little acknowledgement.” He was referring to Holland’s failure to protect her Jewish citizens from Nazi persecution. He added that officials of the Dutch government willingly carried out orders of the German occupiers and failed to act when “a group of fellow citizens was singled out, excluded, and dehumanized under a murderous regime.”

I am all in favor of apologies for wrongs committed. If one messes up in public, he should “fess up” in public. But, if the apology is not followed by action and behavior that gives meaning and significance to the apology, then it is nothing more than a verbal attempt at public appeasement. Countries and organizations have apologized for their actions and shortcomings towards the Jews, both during and after WWII. And now, we are seeing, and experiencing, an ugly re-emergence of Jew hatred and anti-Semitism (which never disappeared), even within the halls of different governments. Their mouths remain unchecked. Their behavior remains unpunished and their deadly poison continues to spread. How much is “enough”?  History is being perverted by individuals and organizations that deny the Holocaust, an effort that is “a vile assault on the memory of the six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany and its accomplices, a depraved twisting of the anti-Semitic knife. We must be unstinting in our efforts to keep the memory of our lost relatives – and the historical record – alive.”

If you are offended by what appears in the social media, say so. But, first ask yourself why you are offended by it. If you are offended by gross distortions of facts by public officials, whose salaries are paid by the public, say so. If historical truth is important to you, say so. But, make the effort not to offend in return.

The classic text attributed to Martin Niemöller is still valid today:  

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs from before Me”, declares the LORD, “then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:35-36)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Can one missile change a nation’s thinking over night?

Shalom all.

Can a country change its “national perspective” overnight? On the surface, it appears that it can happen, at least in part. Take Iran, for example. Less than a week ago, the multitudes poured out in the streets of Kerman, where Qasem Soleimani was buried. Countless others filled the streets of Tehran and other cities of Iran, revering him, mourning his death and shouting “Death to the United States” and “Death to Israel”. 

And then, almost as if the curtain to Act One was coming down, the curtain to Act Two was beginning to rise. Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, en route to Kyiv, was shot down near Imam Khamenei Airport, in Tehran, shortly after take-off, killing all 176 passengers and crew members aboard. The incident took place a few short hours after Iran fired missiles at two bases in Iraq that housed U.S. forces, in response to the assassination of Soleimani. The plane carried Iranians, Canadians, Ukrainians, Swedes, Britons, Germans and Afghanis. Iranian officials claimed that the cause of the crash was engine failure. The downward flight of the plane from the time it began to be in trouble until it crashed was captured on film. The Ukraine originally accepted Iran’s explanation that the plane crashed due to engine failure, but later said that it was too early to determine the actual cause of the crash, expecting that Iran would cooperate in the investigation. Difficulties began to emerge when Iran’s civil aviation authority refused to turn over the “black boxes” to the investigators from Boeing, who would usually be the one to examine and analyze the data, or to any other investigative body. The initial refusal of Iran to cooperate with others in the investigation of the plane crash fostered widespread speculation that the plane was shot down by Iran. Only several hours prior to the crash, the Ukraine withdrew its membership in the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the “Palestinian” People, which committee was established in 1975 and which, historically, supported anti-Israel resolutions. Of course, that move was applauded by the Israel Foreign Ministry and it urged other committee members to follow the Ukraine’s lead in this regard.

Supreme Mistake-11Jan20
The Dry Bones Blog 11January2020

After several days of excuses at the highest levels, and following accusations from different countries, including the U.S. and Canada, of causing the downing of the Ukrainian plane, Iran finally admitted, three days after the event, that it was responsible for the crash … by mistake! It was alleged that a missile operator acted independently and mistook the plane for a “cruise missile”. Almost ironically, it was reported that the Iranian military fired a Russian Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, referred to by NATO as the Gauntlet.

And then it happened. At first, hundreds of protesters took to the street in Tehran and very vocally condemned the lies of Iran’s public officials for denying for days that Iran shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane. It started peacefully enough, with university students gathering together to pay their respects to the victims of the crash. Then, the gatherings turned into angry protests, with chants against the government leaders and even tearing up pictures and posters of Soleimani, who only a day earlier had been the reason for national mourning. The students called for the prosecution of those responsible for the downing of the plane, and for those who had covered up the action. Then they began to shout “Commander-in-Chief resign”, a clear reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as “death to liars”. This was the golden opportunity for the U.S. to step in and encourage the protesters and to warn the government of Iran that “The world is watching” and that it should not kill peaceful protesters.

The anti-government protests grew and the attitude and language of the protesters changed. “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here” and “Death to the dictator”, again referring to Khamenei. One site stated that along with it those chants, the removal of posters of Soleimani almost became a national sport   and a sudden respect for the flags of the U.S. AND Israel. Note in the link that the university students are walking carefully in line, being sure not to walk on the flags of either country, which, apparently, had been a stomping ground for them only a day or two earlier. Now they tell the individuals who are walking on the flags to be careful where they are walking (translation from Hebrew). Another site said: “The people do not disrespect the flag of USA and Israel. They say all over Iran: We are not the enemy of the USA and Israel.  Our enemy is the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” See Iran Protests.

Criticism of Iranian authorities is nothing new, but such criticism usually stayed within “acceptable” boundaries. When they exceeded those boundaries, the government clamped down, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilian protesters, even as recently as last November. Now, the actions of the government are referred to as “shameful”,  even “unforgivable”. And, as expected, when push came to shove, the protesters were fired upon and blood was shed. Yes, the world may be watching, but Iran has done what it wanted to do in the past and there is no reason to believe that this time will be any different.

Does this signal the beginning of the end of the Islamic revolution in Iran? Far from it. Iran still has its goal of regional Shiite hegemony. It is also clear from the massive turnout for the funeral of Soleimani that considerable numbers of  Iranians continue to be supportive of the clerically-led government. Iran needs to “regain face” in the Middle East. It needs to be careful how it will do so, while staying true to its oft-repeated warnings and promises of avenging the death of Soleimani, which should not be ignored. Iran’s policy has usually been to act when its territory has been violated. It related to Soleimani’s killing, even though it took place in Iraq, as if it took place in an extension of its territory. Usually, it gives orders to one or more of its proxies to act on its behalf, so that Iran itself cannot be blamed for the dirty work performed by one of its dependent, terrorist organisations.

Not an equal footing.png
Credit:  Noam Bennett -A Window to the Renewing Middle East 12January2020

It would be foolish, indeed, for the West to think that the retaliation for Soleimani’s elimination came to an end with a soft-touch (slap) missile attack on two, almost empty U.S. bases in Iraq. His assassination, as welcome as it was, increased an already tense situation in this area of the world and it generated a new reality regarding conflict, both territorial, as well as religious, and those who are on the playing field. The difference in the military capability of the U.S., as compared with that of Iran, is aptly demonstrated in the attached illustration. The boot is a symbol of belittlement; it is something we use to walk on dirt and ground.

Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah terrorist organization based in Iran, just urged Iran’s allies to begin working to retaliate for Soleimani’s killing and, particularly, to get the U.S. out of Iraq and the Middle East. Those allies include the government of Syria, the various paramilitary groups that were established in Iraq with the support of Iran, as well as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, in Gaza. Yemen should also be included in this grouping. The Hezbollah was established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, that was headed up by Soleimani, and is an inseparable part of the “axis of resistance” led by Tehran. Nasrallah said that it was “time for the axis of resistance to start working”. He added that retaliation could happen in the “coming days, weeks and months”. Some things are said openly, others are spoken in closed quarters, away from listening ears. Countries in the Middle East have long memories. When an enemy has over a 100,000 missiles at its disposal and threatens to use them, we should not be foolish and ignore the threat. 

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

[My] God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. (2 Samuel 22:3)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Will Iran “stand down”? Hardly!

Shalom all.

What was left of Qasem Soleimani after his assassination by the United States was buried yesterday (Tuesday) in the city of Kerman, where he was born. His was the largest funeral in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. U.S. Kills SoleimaniEstimates of those involved in the procession range from several hundreds of thousands to millions. The streets were too narrow to accommodate everyone and some dozens of people were reported to be trampled to death, with a multitude of others being wounded. The leader of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said during the funeral that Iran would take revenge and “set ablaze” places supported by the United States, which drew shouts of “Death to Israel” from the throngs who were present. He added that as a “martyr”, Soleimani represents a greater threat to Iran’s enemies now than when he was alive and that Iran would revenge and burn “their important places”. His remarks reflected the demands of Supreme Leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran President Hassan Ruhani.

According to a report in the NY Times, Khamenei cried at the funeral service and directed that the response against the U.S. be measured and direct and not through its Islamic allies, as it usually does. The U.S. military was put on high alert and prepared for a revenge attack, in the belief that Iran would seek to retaliate against a senior military offier of the U.S., as part of  “an eye for an eye” response. According to one Hebrew media source, Washington expected a “significant” attack within a day or two.

The response came in the middle of the night (between Tuesday and Wednesday), as Iran launched around 15 missiles towards two U.S. bases in Iraq. The attack, labeled “Marytr Soleimani”, that was said to be moderate, was launched from inside Iran at 01:30 a.m., the same time that Soleimani was killed last week. US military based in Iraq attackedThe missiles were tracked by U.S. radar and because they came from Iran, instead of from Iraq, there was sufficient time for the personnel on the base to take cover before the missiles hit. When informed of the attack and that no American lives were lost, President Trump said “All is well….We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.” The missile barrage was the most direct attack by Tehran against Washington since the takeover of the American Embassy in 1979. It could be that both sides will see the attack as a sufficient reprisal to the death of Soleimani, at least for the moment. But, that is not realistic.

Khamenei said that the attack was “a success” and that it was a “slap in the face” of the United States.

Khamenei-We slapped the American on the face last night
We slapped America in the face

He said that “80 American terrorists” were killed in the attack and that the damage was “severe”, which included helicopters and military equipment. He called on the U.S. to withdraw its forces from the region and negated any possibility of discussions regarding a proposed, revised nuclear deal. In his words, “Soleimani’s killing shows that the Islamic revolution is still alive” and added that the U.S. is acting against the Hezbollah (i.e., the terrorist organization in Lebanon), whom he referred to as “the eyes and hands of Lebanon”, in order to help Israel. Tehran further reported that Iran has a “hundred additional targets”, if the U.S. chooses to respond to the attack, while a spokesman for Khamenei said that the attack on the American bases was the “weakest” in their arsenal. 

Israel didn’t reply directly to the events of last night, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this morning,, in response to Iran’s threats against Israel, that whoever will attack Israel will suffer a “crushing blow”. He added that Israel stands behind the U.S. and supports the decision of President Trump to eliminate Qasem Soleimani.

In his speech to the nation this morning (U.S. time), President Trump said that Iran “appears to be standing down” following the missile strikes and, contrary to the claims of Khamenei,  that the attack resulted in “no casualties”. However, the thought that Iran would “stand down” could be more “wishful thinking” than reality. According to one report, just hours after the burial of Soleimani, Khamenei stated: “Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region … Today Iran is well equipped … More people will join the movement and it will spread outside Iran … The US thought they defeated Iraq … Faith allows us to move mountains … Faith and honour are as important as the military … Solemani was brave and wise, he had a vision.” In an article in the NY Times, it was reported that Khamenei said to a group of imams and others: “What matters is that the presence of America, which is a source of corruption in this region, should come to an end …This region does not accept the US. presence.” The response of the crowd to which he was speaking was “Death to America!” “Death to Israel!” 

These statements should be considered along with that of Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Soleimani as Commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. following the elimination of Soleimani, who threatened: “Everyone should be patient a little to see the bodies of American soldiers all over the Middle East.”

Anyone who is familiar with the mentality of this region, and with the events of the last two to three decades that were instigated by Iran and his now-deceased right-hand man, Qasem Soleimani, could not conclude that Iran would wind down its efforts to establish Shiite hegemony over the entire Middle East. Quite the opposite is the case.

It is, or should be, clear that the next confrontation between the U.S. and Iran is just a matter of time. And when it does happen, no one in this area of the world will be immune from the potential fallout. For Iran, a time of “standing down” means it can try to catch its breath from the sudden elimination of Soleimani, to regroup, to  reevaluate its strategies and its future moves. We’ve seen it time and time again from Hamas, one of Iran’s terror proxies that Soleimani helped to establish and strengthen in Gaza, that is dedicated to the destruction and elimination of the State of Israel.

Soleimani's daughter threatens
Khamenei; Soleiman’s Daughter and Ismail Haniyeh

It should come as no surprise that Ismail Haniyeh, the senior political leader of the Hamas terrorist organization, was one of the speakers at Soleimani’s funeral, where he referred to him (at 2:36 minutes into the clip) as “the martyr of Jerusalem”. His speech followed immediately after that of Soleimani’s daughter, who continued the threats of retaliation.

And, in case it wasn’t reported on your local TV station, Iran raised a red flag over an ancient mosque, a flag that symbolizes a call for vengeance. According to Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, the meaning of the red flag is that Iran intends “to sink their enemies in a sea of blood.”

So, for the moment, setting the region ablaze will have to wait for a new match. But, we should keep in mind that Iran can switch hot and cold in a moment. So, we should always be prepared to expect the unexpected.

Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. (Psalm 5:9)

Destruction is in her midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets (Psalm 55:11)

Like flying birds so the LORD of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it. (Isaiah 31:5)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

Iran threatens to retaliate … against Israel

Shalom all.

A war of words, threats and counter-threats followed closely on the heels of the targeted assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. As reported two days ago, the United States rid the world of this Iranian arch-terrorist, along with the deputy commander of the Iran-backed militias, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and a number of others. Iran swore revenge, not just against the U.S., but against Israel as well. It doesn’t seem to matter much whether we were actively involved, passively involved, or not involved at all. Iran’s goals have always included the destruction and total elimination of Israel, a goal that Soleimani spear-headed and pursued for the Iranian Ayatollahs with cunning strategy and zeal. 

Over the last two days, the position that Soleimani held in Iran became more and more clear.  See, for example the report published by Fox News: At one stroke, the U.S. president has decapitated the Iranian regime’s chief terror arm and its most prominent extension in Iraq, where the U.S. Embassy was set on fire last week. Strategically, the killing of Osama bin Laden and, more recently, of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, pale by comparison. In addition to being responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. soldiers during the Iraq War, Soleimani directed a larger state project, which has shaped the geopolitics of the region. It is worth reading the entire article.

It also is reported that Israel was “on the verge” of assassinating Soleimani back in 2015, but its plans were thwarted when details of the plan were leaked to Iran by the administration of then President Barack Obama. The leftist-leaning newspaper, Haaretz, published a report of the leak, citing a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida. The same news source claimed that Israel was given a green light by the Trump administration to take out Soleimani, a move that was eventually taken by the U.S. a few days ago.

In addition to leaking the information about Israel’s tracking of Soleimani and his possible elimination, the Obama administration is also reported to have transferred anywhere from $400 million to $150 billion to Iran (the exact amount, which included a cash payout, is still not clear), as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal that the U.S. signed with Iran in 2015. See this report.

As a result of the actions of the Obama administration, Soleimani was given an additional four plus years to exert Iran’s influence in the Middle East and beyond, an influence that could have continued for years to come and would only have gotten worse, if he continued to live.

There are a number of consequences that flow from Soleimani’s assassination. Some are obvious, others are not. The not-so-obvious result is the effect that his sudden removal would have on the Iranian regime. Speculation would undoubtedly be high in Iran that something went seriously wrong with its security system. The rule of the Ayatollahs is not warmly received by many Iranians and it doesn’t take much to conclude that the United States was “assisted” in its plans to assassinate Soleimani by “insiders” who were able to provide the information needed to effectuate the strike. This will cause an internal shake-up that could result in the execution of dozens of suspected informants, if not more. Protection of the powers that be will take priority over almost everything else.

An obvious consequence is that Soleimani will become a political issue in the U.S. The left will condemn the elimination of Soleimani as a dangerous move that could drag the country into another Middle East war.

The Iranian Mullahs Last Hope-05012020
The Dry Bones Blog   January 5, 2020

The right will exalt the move as being an ideal act of patriotism, intended to protect American lives. Israel will, of course, side with the Trump administration, a move that could result in a further loss of support from U.S. Democrats.

What needs to be understood here is that Iran does not act in accordance with the rational understanding of “the West”. It has over 80 million people and, in its mindset, if it loses half of its population in a war, but the other half is able to survive and continue to function, it will claim victory. If it doesn’t lose, it wins. And, it must claim victory in order to save face, which is crucial in this part of the world. This, in turn, would enable Iran to have the respect of the Islamic community, as well as to continue to pursue its goal of establishing a ruling Shiite Moslem caliphate, with the Supreme Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, as the ruling Imam.

Another result of Soleimani’s elimination is that the world sat up and took notice of the fact that when the present U.S. administration sets a red line, the one who crosses it does so at his peril.How to Draw a Red Line.jpeg The U.S. has now shown that unlike the previous administration, the present one is not to be trifled with. But, none of this seems to have made an impact on the leadership in Iran. In a speech given in Tehran today, Muhsan Razai, a former Revolutionary Guards Commander, now a senior Iranian official, said that the response against the United States would be severe, leading to the conclusion that Iran will attack U.S. targets, both individuals and installations. Another Iranian military leader said that the U.S. doesn’t have the courage to go to war against Iran. It appears that the present leadership in Iran is not exactly the brightest star in the firmament. The number two person in Iran’s military-political system was just eliminated and leaders in Iran are ignoring America’s resolve to act against those who who attack a U.S. Embassy and pose a threat to its citizens.

Internal and external doubts regarding Iran’s ability to bounce back from Soleimani’s assassination will need to be dealt with quickly in order for Iran to portray that it is still able to act powerfully and decisively as a leader in the Middle East. Therefore, another very real consequence is that Iran would attempt to retaliate against the U.S., by attacking America’s main Middle East ally, Israel. This was already expressed immediately following Soleimani’s assassination, where Iran blamed Israel along with the U.S. If there was any doubt whether Iran was only sparring with words, today’s report out of Iran would appear to make things crystal clear. The Walla (Hebrew) news site referred to the comments of Muhsan Razai (mentioned above), who said that Iran would respond with a serious offensive against Haifa (where I happen to live) and against Israeli military bases. 

It may be that Iran intends to carry out its threat through its “affiliates” in the region, particularly the Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon, which is Iran’s major proxy in the Middle East. This would appear to be the case from a broadcast address given earlier today by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah. In his speech, he said that responding to Soleimani’s killing was not the responsibility of Iran only, but also the responsibility of Iran’s allies in the region. This is a veiled threat that needs to be considered along with the claim of an Iranian military commander that in addition to U.S. targets in the Middle East, Tel Aviv was also within range of Tehran’s missiles.

Needless to say, Israel is taking appropriate defensive measures. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s this: If your enemy says he’s going to kill you, the threat should be taken seriously.

May God strengthen the arms of those who serve by day and by night to protect us, as watchmen on the walls of our land.

In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them…. (The Scroll of Esther 8:11)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this, I shall be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper” (Isaiah 54:17)

Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. (Zech. 4:6)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

As we begin a new year …

Shalom all.

It’s a new year and the beginning of a new decade. It has already started off with a bang. But, before dealing with the latest event making headlines around the world, including in Israel, just a few words to consider some of the positive events that marked the last decade for Israel. The 10 items listed are not in chronological order.

1. We celebrated our 70th year of Independence. Yay!

2. The U.S. Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was way over due.

3. The App “Waze” that helps drivers avoid traffic jams and provides alerts to events on the road (car stalled, police ahead or speed camera), accumulated close to 50 million users worldwide.

4. Mobileye – the leader of advanced driver assistance systems and car technologies – was sold to Intel for a record-breaking 15 Billion (yes, billion!!) Dollars. Talk about making an “exit”.

5. Israeli star Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman, the highest grossing superhero film worldwide. I still haven’t seen it.

6. The “light rail” transportation system was introduced in Jerusalem. A modern addition to an ancient city.

7. Two Israeli TV series, Fauda and Shtisel, gained a worldwide audience through Netflix. On my list of things to see at some point.

8. An Israeli won the prestigious Fields Medal award for outstanding discoveries in mathematics.

9. An Israeli was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals

10. Israel opened its second international airport, just north of the southern City of Eilat.

There were, of course, other matters, including a multitude of discoveries in medicine, science and technology that make our lives a little less stressful, that were generated in Israel during the past decade. Most of these discoveries and inventions are used even by our enemies and supporters of the BDS movement (but, of course, they won’t admit it).

So, we entered the year 2020 with hope and with prayers that it will be the beginning of a decade of life, peace and prosperity.

Qassem SoleimaniBut then, we had the events of last night, when the United States eliminated Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to exaggerate the considerable influence that Soleimani had in the Iranian regime and in the entire area of the Middle East. In the same vein, it may be impossible at this time to state with clarity or certainty the full repercussions of his targeted assassination, which was accomplished by a U.S. drone near the international airport in Baghdad, Iraq.

Without doubt, Soleimani’s position, power and prestige were second only to Iranian Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was not only the symbol of power in Iran, but very practically the guiding force of Iran’s terror machine throughout the region. 

Soleimani was the one responsible for Iran’s expansion in the Middle East over the past decade. His involvements and encouragements affected armies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. He was the one who worked to connect and turn all the Arab countries into a Shiite army. He was unquestionably the single most important political-military person in Iran and the significance of his elimination cannot, and should not, be underestimated. It raised the level of potential Middle East confrontations by several notches. He was confident of his position and did not think that his assassination was on the drawing board. So he did not take measures to protect himself.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu supported the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to eliminate Soleimani, stating: “Trump acted swiftly, forcefully and decisively … [adding that Israel] stands by the U.S.” He further stated: “Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right. Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the deaths of US citizens and many other innocents. He was planning more such attacks, and President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense.”

The action by the U.S. followed a week of increasing tensions with Iran, which included air strikes against Hezbollah militants in Iraq, followed by Iraqi militants laying siege to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. President Trump blamed Iran for organizing the protests. Iran denied the charge. The U.S. sent armed troops to the the Middle East and Trump said that Iran would pay a “big price” for the attack on the embassy, although adding that he didn’t believe that a war with Iran was around the corner.

The Pentagon issued a statement following the take out of Soleimani, including: “At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” 

Iran was quick to respond, blaming both the U.S. AND Israel for Soleimani’s death. Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, said: “The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis [deputy commander of Iran-backed militias] and Qassem Soleimani.”

Following the verification of Soleimani’s elimination, Tehran vowed a “crushing revenge” against the U.S. AND Israel.

The Ayatollah Khamenei called for three days of national mourning, stating: “All enemies should know that the jihad of resistance will continue with a doubled motivation, and a definite victory awaits the fighters in the holy war.” Iranian President Hassan Rohani referred to Soleimani’s death as martyrdom, which would result in strengthening Iran’s determination to defend its Islamic values, adding: “With no doubt, Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge.”

Indeed, there can be little doubt that Iran is considering how, when and where to carry out its retaliation for the assassinations. Soleimani was considered the king pin in Iran’s Middle East agenda. Israel has repeatedly accused him of being responsible for the deaths of Israelis and of being the instigator of regional terror. 

The issue of Iran’s response against the U.S., when, not if, it comes, is an open question. The U.S. is far from being a small country and, under its present leadership, it is not afraid of confrontation with Iran, even though it does not seek it. So, how things will develop will be initially in the ballpark of Iran. It’s a wait-and-see situation. But, the obvious goal will be to test the resolve and secondary response of the U.S. and to see how far it is willing to go. It would be foolhardy for the U.S. to think that Iran has learned a hard lesson and will not attempt to retaliate. That retaliation, however, may take a little time, as Iran needs to regroup and regain its strength in the light of its unexpected loss.

On the other hand, it is reasonable to anticipate that israel will be on Iran’s hit list. We are also in a wait-and-see kind of situation and we are already preparing for that event. Soleimani’s influence extended to Syria, Lebanon and, of course, Iraq, as well as Yemen and elsewhere. All are potential allies in any plan of retaliation that could be played out against Israel. Iran is presently reeling from the shock of Soleimani’s sudden departure and it will need to plan its strategy carefully. Right now, it is licking its wounds. Although its wounds were serious, Iran was not mortally wounded. It is geographically located close to Israel by its presence in Syria and, of course, it has been the prime mover of the actions of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon, as well as its proxies, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in Gaza. Iran will pick and choose its opportunity. And then, Israel will pick and choose its response.

And so, we begin a new year and a new decade with increased tensions and the possibility of regional confrontation. Of course, we still have a third national election that is scheduled for March 2, 2020, which adds to the tension and the suspense.

May God be pleased to grant us wisdom upon wisdom and grace upon grace. “Behold, the Keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” (Psalm 122:4) “He is [our] defence; [we] shall not be moved.” (Psalm 62:6)

May the new civil year bring with it abundant good health for you all, with joy that overflows from deep down within you. May your going out and coming in always be in peace.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

A Witness in Uniform

Shalom all,

The past month has been a seemingly never-ending series of political rhetoric, promises that politicians would be hard pressed to fulfil and attempts to create a unity government that were stymied and doomed to failure from the outset. Still, the politicos went through the motions. When it was all over, the country came to the unpleasant realization that it will soon be facing a third round of elections, with no guarantee that the end result of round three will be much different from the end results of rounds one and two. The only difference is that our Prime Minister is now facing a criminal indictment, which undoubtedly will influence some of the voting public. In the meantime, we still have an interim government that is powerless to pass needed legislation and we could be facing administrative shut down if a national budget is not passed by January, 2020 at the latest. But, that should be the subject of a separate post.

Putting politics aside for the moment, I want to share a letter that was written in the shadow of a the Auschwitz-Birkenow concentration camp in Poland last week. The writer is a young Israeli officer in the IDF. He was part of a special delegation of IDF officers to visit various places in Poland as part of a program called “Edeem b’Mahdeem” (Witnesses in Uniform).

Photo outside of Auschwitz-11:2019

Prior to the delegation leaving Israel only a week ago, the parents of the officers were asked to write a special letter of encouragement, which would be given to the soldiers before they complete the five-day tour of camps and various other places. After receiving the letters from the parents, the soldiers found a place apart from the others, where they could read what their parents wrote. From the different reports received, officers wept and did not try to hide their tears from one another. Then, while still dealing with the emotion of the moment, they were instructed to write a reply to their parents. The following is one such reply, written on IDF stationery, by someone very special to us, our youngest son (translated from Hebrew):

“Dear Family,

“How can I begin to reply to you, when I am here on the ground of Poland, less than an hour from Auschwitz, as a free Jew, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces and Messianic?

“I was exposed to horrors here that cannot be expressed and words are not enough to explain what happened here.

“I am less than an hour away from where dozens of members of our family were murdered and the question that kept coming to my mind is: “We will not forget and will not forgive. Is it so to be?”

“You have educated me on the foundations of the Messiah, and when I am here I cannot help but remember that the Son of God, the Creator, the King of the Universe, who came in the flesh, suffered, was beaten, scorned and disgraced, went to the cross and died for me. But He, Who suffered and died, in His mercy forgave those who led Him away, cursed and beat Him. And He forgave me, despite my trespasses and sins!

He who forgave me was willing to die for me and He was also willing to die for the whole world. He forgave and calls us to forgive. Should we? Can we?

“I’m not saying we should forget what was done, but if the Lord forgives when we repent and ask forgiveness, then how much more should we do likewise, when those who sin against us repent and ask for forgiveness..

“It is my privilege as a Messianic Jewish Officer, a free man and one who belongs to the Messiah, to be a representative here, not only on behalf of the army but as the representative of our whole family!

“At the final ceremony here in Auschwitz, before the singing of “HaTikva” (“The Hope”, the national anthem), the shofar was sounded. It resonated throughout the camp and into the forests nearby. And as the shofar was blown, I closed my eyes and imagined the sounding of the great shofar, and I saw in my mind’s eye, how those who had became ashes and dust, literally, were rising to the sky and I held to the hope in the promise that we have that we, too, shall rise heavenward!

“So thank you, thank you for your love and your labors and above all, thank you for guiding me to the Truth from Whom nothing can separate me.

“Love now and forever,

“Your son Aviad

“Witnesses in Uniform Delegation,” November 2019

Forgiveness and hope in the One Who forgives fully and completely. Are the two humanly compatible? Indeed, nothing is impossible with God. He has His witnesses everywhere, even in the concentration camps.

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice.” (John 5:28)

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Yeshua. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin