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 10:04 - Monday morning in Israel: Air raid sirens suddenly wail across the country sending hundreds of thousands of Israeli school children and kindergarten toddlers to their bomb shelters. There is no panic but some of the smaller children cry as their teachers or day care minders lead them to their underground havens. This time it was the annual drill - a dry run for the real thing that has become part of daily life in Israel. How many countries in the world have to face such a mortal threat to their children? Six decades after the Holocaust, Jewish children are again under mortal threat. And after the horrors of the current bloodbath in Syria, would anyone doubt their fate, if there is a terrible miscalculation over Israel's security needs.

 No Syrian arms to Hezbollah, no Israeli air strikes...

 In the north, Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, has deployed thousands of missiles near the Israeli border in scores of Lebanese villages. They are targeted at Israeli cities, towns, and villages. The latest manifestation of this danger was the Israeli air strike on another truck convoy transporting Syrian missiles to Hezbollah. According to Time Magazine and Arab reports, Israeli jets bombed the convoy while it was traveling on the Syrian-Lebanese border. If true, it was the sixth Israeli air strike on Syrian arms shipments over the past thirteen months. The feeling in Israel is that Syria has stepped up its supplies of advanced missiles to Hezbollah, in return for the fighters that Hezbollah has sent to fight for President Bashar Assad in the country's civil war. Just hours before the air strike, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz disclosed, “We monitor the transfer of arms shipments and this is a very bad and sensitive issue. There is no sector where Iran is not involved - it supplies ammunition, rockets, and manpower. When the situation gets very tense, things can happen.” When asked if Israel had carried out the air strike, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu replied: "We do what is needed to protect Israeli civilians."

 On the other hand, Israel has stepped up its humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians on the Golan Heights near the Israeli border. Many have been wounded in the crossfire between the warring parties, as well as cut off from food, water, and medicine from time to time. Hundreds of Syrian men, women, and children have been transported across the frontier for vital medical care in Israeli hospitals, and the IDF has even set up a field hospital near the Syrian border. The humanitarian supplies being sent across the border also include Israeli made baby food. However, a senior IDF officer has stated categorically that Israel is steering clear of any military involvement in the Syrian civil war that has now entered its fourth year. The Israeli air strikes are not aimed at backing the rebels in their war against Assad's army and his Hezbollah and Iranian allies, but should be viewed as a preventative action to stop advanced weapons reaching Hezbollah forces in Lebanon for future use against Israel. In other words, if Syria stops trying to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, there will be no Israeli air attacks to intercept them. For its part, Hezbollah has warned it will retaliate against Israel at a time and place of its choosing. However, this would be counter-productive as Hezbollah is up to its neck inside Syria fighting against the rebels. If it were to retaliate from inside Lebanon against Israel, the IDF would hit back hard at a time that Hezbollah is licking its wounds after already suffering hundreds of casualties in Syria.

 An estimated 140,000 people have been killed, while another 2,400,000 have been forced to flee their homes. No end is in sight, and as predicted, the recent negotiations have hit a dead end. Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah are backing Assad, while Saudi Arabia has been supporting the rebels. After remaining on the sidelines, some Western countries have reportedly decided to back the Free Syrian Army, while also fearful that any military aid could fall into the hands of al Qaeda (in particular anti-aircraft missiles). What does all this mean for Israel? In a Machiavellian sense, the best thing would be for the civil war to continue indefinitely. The Syrian Army and Hezbollah have been taking heavy losses and are too busy to threaten Israel. But on the other hand, the appearance of al Qaeda and other radical forces in Syria could pose a danger to Israel if the rebels oust Assad and al Qaeda sweeps in to take control along Israel's northern border.


 Almost zero chance for nuclear negotiations…

Iran's supreme dictator Ayatollah Khameini

 In the south, Hamas leaders brag they will again target Tel Aviv when the time is ripe. And looming over all else, the Iranian nuclear threat. Despite the ongoing charm campaign by President Hassan Rouhani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his military commanders have vowed they will never dismantle any of their nuclear facilities that have been designed for one purpose only - to build atomic bombs. In other words, the Iranian decision to cut back on its production of enriched uranium is only a temporary ploy to ease the international sanctions that have crippled the country's economy. What are the chances for the West's current nuclear negotiations with Iran? 'Almost zero chance of success' according to Dr. Gary Samore, a former nuclear weapons adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama. In a Bloomberg interview, Samore estimated that the U.S. strategy was designed to buy time: "Talks could continue for two or three years and then the Iranians could decide they're strong enough to walk away." And this was what could be expected to be the Iranians current game plan: "The best scenario for them is to build secret plants, secret enrichment facilities and produce a couple of nuclear weapons and when they test one, they've got a few to back up what they have. They've tried to do this twice already, with the formerly secret facilities at Natanz and Qom. Both times we caught them."


 Social worker Sherman takes on Iran after appeasing North Korea...

Wendy Sherman

 It gets worse. Wendy Sherman, who has a master's degree in social work, is head of the U.S. team to the nuclear talks with Iran. Sherman was the Clinton Administration's policy coordinator for North Korea, which is widely believed to have developed a nuclear weapons capacity. In 2001, in a New York Times op-ed, Sherman contended that the only way the U.S. could deal with North Korea's disputed programs and prevent them from achieving a nuclear capability was through diplomacy. Sherman concluded that King Jong Il now “appears ready to make landmark commitments.”

 According to Wikipedia, James Baker criticized her team's negotiating strategy with North Korea as 'appeasement' - that was rewarding the North Korean regime for minimal concessions, and he said that as a result they would fail to prevent their nuclear program. In 2011, John Bolton said Wendy Sherman had been central in forming a policy on North Korea that was 'nothing less than appeasement'. At a briefing with Israeli reporters in Jerusalem, Sherman was asked about Dr. Samore's prediction of 'almost zero chance of success' for the Iranian nuclear talks she is now conducting. The American diplomat reportedly replied: "The point I took from his interview was whether there will be sufficient incentives and deterrents on the table in order to achieve an agreement." On another issue, Sherman was asked about Prime Minister Netanyahu's demand that Iran be banned from enriching more uranium. Sherman replied: "I also want a lot of things in life, that doesn't mean I'll get them.” Question: What kind of message does that send to Iran, which Sherman's own State Department has branded as the world's greatest exporter of state terrorism? Does it not smack of the same mindset of appeasement referred to by Baker and Bolton that led to the North Korean nuclear threat? Hopefully that is not the case and Sherman has learned something from her failure with North Korea.


 Angela Merkel - nuclear Iran is a threat to Europe...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

 At a news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem, Netanyahu stated categorically that he is not alone when it comes to barring Iran from enriching more uranium. (Iran already has a stockpile of an estimated seven to eight tons of enriched uranium, far more than it requires for peaceful purposes.) The Israeli leader said: "I know that every single leader in the Middle East is opposed to Iran enriching more uranium! " Standing by his side, Merkel added: "A nuclear Iran would pose a danger for Europe". On the Palestinian issue, the German Chancellor took issue with Israel's settlement building on the West Bank, saying it harmed the prospect of a two state solution, and here she stipulated one Jewish and one Palestinian. In a peace agreement, the Palestinians must give up their demand for a return of the refugees to Israel. Israel's state President Shimon Peres presented Merkel with Israel's highest award, praising her leadership and moral support for Israel.


 Ultra-orthodox plan to lay siege of Jerusalem...

 In reaction to the new law to draft ultra-orthodox men starting in 2017, the Haredim (God-fearing) are planning a huge demonstration in Jerusalem. They plan on massing tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Haredim at the entrance to the capital to protest their being drafted into the IDF. They are so incensed by the recruiting law that the different Sephardic and Ashkenazi factions have, for the first time ever, dropped their internal differences and formed a common front to man the barricades. In effect, that is exactly what will happen. Tens of thousands of Haredim converging on Jerusalem will mean that Israel's capital will be under siege. Question: How come Haredim in New York, Toronto, London, and Paris go to work and support their families, but only in Israel do they use their combined political power to live on government handouts and refuse to serve in the IDF like their fellow citizens? On the contrary, in Israel, the religious Jews known as the 'knitted skullcaps' are known for their service in combat units, but also find the time to study Torah. They are the salt of the earth, but in the eyes of the Haredim they are not considered to be good religious Jews. Suggestion: The young Israeli men and women who do serve several years in the IDF receive a monthly pittance, equivalent to $100 to $150. In fact, the soldiers' families have to augment this ridiculously low payment throughout their years of service. Is it not mind boggling that Haredim draft dodgers receive far more in grants for studying in Yeshiva seminaries? If the Haredim do paralyze Jerusalem with their immoral demonstration, we suggest that the government cut the special grants to the Haredim and use the money to pay a decent salary to IDF recruits!


 David Essing

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