You’ll recall a few days ago I posted a tantalizing clue from Haaretz’ Amir Oren which noted that thirty years ago Israel fabricated an alleged terror provocation which it used to launch a military attack (or assassination) of its own. While I haven’t been able to isolate which historical event he’s referring to, given Oren’s track record and journalistic style, I had a strong hunch he was trying to tell his readers something specific about the Deif assassination.
My guess is that he was saying that Israel fabricated the rocket fire which it claimed violated the truce agreement. After it informed the world about Hamas’ violation, it was emboldened to launch the attack on the al Dalou home, where Deif and his family were sheltering. That bombing, which used American-made GBU28 bunker buster bombs delivered by U.S.-made war planes, killed 12 civilians including Deif’s wife and two children. It may’ve also killed Deif, though no one knows for sure.
This false flag operation was clumsily mounted and will easily be exposed. It will further erode what little credibility Israel has in the world community. You remember when Israel cloned passports of citizens of allied nations as part of an assassination plot against Mahmoud al-Mabouh? In doing so, it endangered them and violated the trust and sovereignty of friends (and leading to the expulsion of a number of Mossad station chiefs)? In terms of the effect this will have on Israel’s already tarnished reputation, it’s a similar exercise in chicanery.
Former Israeli attorney general, Michael Ben Yair, confirms IDF false flag operation leading to Deif assassination
Now comes further speculation from Michael Ben Yair, a former Israeli attorney general under both Yitzhak Rabin and Bibi Netanyahu, and former Supreme Court justice, that the IDF did indeed fabricate the truce violation. Under normal circumstances, I might be skeptical of the source. But in this case, Ben Yair is an insider and his views merit attention. He posted on Facebook:
There is no ceasefire [agreement]. There are only renewed acts of hatred. Who’s at fault? Good question–Hamas which wants a deal more or Israel which faked a violation in order to assassinate Mohammed Deif.
This theory, which I believe is solid, makes a mockery of Jodi Rudoren’s reporting in the NY Times:
Hamas is the party that keeps extending this summer’s bloody battle in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly breaking temporary truces…
There have been several important developments regarding Israel’s Mohammed Deif assassination plot. Two Arab publications published stories (English language report in Times of Israel) indicating that during the Cairo ceasefire talks Khaled Meshal determined it was necessary to speak with Mohammed Deif. He called him by phone. In doing so, Israeli intelligence intercepted it and was able to pinpoint Deif’s location. This information was forwarded to the IDF, which planned and executed the assassination plot which ended in the death of 12 Gaza civilians, including Deif’s pregnant wife, a son and daughter and members of the al Dalou family which owned the house.
Jodi Rudoren seems to have overlooked that fact in writing this bit of treacle in the NY Times:
Israel this week deployed its extensive intelligence capabilities and overwhelming firepower in targeted bombings with limited civilian casualties less likely to raise the world’s ire.
Are 12 dead “limited?” I suppose if you compare 12 dead with the 160 Israel massacred after the Rafah tunnel attack, then it is more limited. But is this an ‘acceptable’ number of civilian dead for anyone but the IDF and Jodi Rudoren?
Israel organized the attack as it was supposedly negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas. The go-ahead was given to execute the plan within minutes of rogue elements in Gaza firing three rockets which caused no injuries or damage inside Israel. This broke the ceasefire and enabled Israel to attack. As I noted in a previous post, Amir Oren even hints in his Haaretz article that Israel in the past has orchestrated provocations which it’s exploited to carry out similar such attacks. So there is a distinct possibility that Israel either covertly arranged for the missile attack or manipulated Palestinian forces into firing them.
At any rate, such conniving and deceit on Israel’s part makes a mockery of this Rudoren hasbara-passing-for-journalism:
Hamas is the party that keeps extending this summer’s bloody battle in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly breaking temporary truces…
Let’s look at the record: Israel ransacked the West Bank thus provoking the initial missile barrage. Then Israel produced a fake ceasefire agreement which it wrote and presented to Egypt. The latter lied, claiming Hamas had been consulted and agreed to it, when it hadn’t. Now, Israel exploited ceasefire talks to enable it to try to murder Hamas’ military chief. So who’s “breaking temporary truces?”
I should point out that both Arabic language articles say that when Meshal called Deif, he violated longstanding Hamas security protocols. The reports say that Deif’s bodyguards grew suspicious and hustled him out of his hiding place. Thus his life was spared. There has been no confirmation of his death or survival. Though I reported my Israeli source saying there was a 90% chance Deif had been killed, I wonder why a devout Islamist movement wouldn’t have held a funeral as is required under Islamic (and Jewish) law?
Let’s look at another problematic element of the assassination plot. An Israeli twitter user claiming access to inside security sources, @Gr8_guy was one of the first (early on August 20th) to tweet with specific information about the weaponry used:
The house where the Family of Mohammed Deif was killed & possibly he himself was hit by 5 US made GBU28 laser-guided “bunker busting” bombs
U.S.-made GBU28 bunker buster bomb which may’ve been used by Israel in assassination attempt on Mohammed Deif
Palestinians followed. I read media sources who said Hamas made the same claim. My own Israeli inside source confirmed that U.S. bunker busters were used, but he would not confirm the specific type.
Both Jodi Rudoren and Amos Harel reported, no doubt based on IDF or other Israeli official sources, that Israel used five “one-ton” bombs to destroy the home. The reason this is important is that the GBU28 is a 5,000 lb. (or 2.5 ton) bomb. Claiming a one-ton bomb was used would enable the IDF to claim the weapon was Israeli made since it does produce such a munition (which is itself based on a U.S. design). This is the sort of confusion and diversionary tactic in which Israel specializes. My strong sense is that what Rudoren and Harel were told was a lie.
Further, no matter what bomb was used, the aircraft that delivered the bomb to its target was for certain U.S.-made. So the Obama administration, which recently made a point of suspending Israeli access to Hellfire missiles in protest against the ongoing carnage in Gaza, has yet again gotten a finger in the eye from the Israelis. Netanyahu, someone who minutely calibrates his status vis a vis his political rivals and enemies, would relish the opportunity to assassinate a Hamas leader with a U.S.-made weapon, thus further implicating us in his war.
In other words, the Deif assassination (attempt) has U.S. fingerprints all over it. We bought and paid for it. We enabled it. We are hardly less guilty than the Israeli generals and intelligence agents who planned it or the pilot who dropped it.
In case anyone claims I’m criticizing this act because I have a soft spot for Hamas or Deif: not true. I have little doubt the sort of person he is. Nor do I have much doubt Israel helped make him that way. But the truth is that assassinations are short-cuts that enable you not to have a real policy or approach to your enemy. They enable you to hold him at bay for a time. But they are a dead-end in terms of solving real problems using real solutions. Not to mention that they are extra-judicial executions and state-sponsored terrorism, a violation of international law.
Ironically, the U.S. has little to complain about since we’ve aped Israel’s own counter-terror policy with our drone assassinations. A tactic that Pres. Obama has embraced because he too has no constructive policy of engagement regarding the Arab-Muslim world.
I’ve tried for the past two days to get anyone at the State or Defense Departments to comment on this story, without success. The State Dept. press officer pointed me to a useless transcript of the last media briefing which contained no reference to this subject. When I pointed that out, the PR flack forwarded me to the Political-Military Affaris unit of State, which I e-mailed without success. If anyone from the Pentagon is reading this, Commander Bill Speaks, I left you a message today and didn’t hear back. I’d love to.
I wonder why the U.S. government isn’t taking my calls?
It’s nothing new that Israel sends good-will ambassadors and hasbara operatives to tout Brand Israel to an American audience. But the case of Ohad Elhelo takes this phenomenon to an entirely new level. He’s an IDF intelligence officer who served with the Egoz special forces anti-guerilla combat unit. Two years ago, he came to Boston to study at Brandeis University. He’s now a sophomore. His LinkedIn account says he’s majoring in Economics and plans to develop a “packaging solution” for which he has a patent pending.
Ohad Elhelo, undercover in Israel, a rock-star in Boston, here at an August 7th pro-Israel rally at City Hall (Elan Kawesh/Time of Israel)
Elhelo doesn’t spend his nights hitting the books or writing dull economics papers. Instead, he’s in high demand by the New England pro-Israel community giving speeches and media interviews about his experiences as a combat officer in the IDF. Essentially, his goal is to lie for his country (the ancient definition of the job of a diplomat) and for his army. In the YouTube video featured here, he tells his audience that the Israeli army is the most moral in the world; that it avoids targeting civilians; and even aborts combat missions if they’re endangered. “No other would’ve done a better job” of avoiding civilian deaths. “We were taught at home and in school that every life is precious. There is no Jewish heart that wasn’t broken by the death of each Palestinian child,” he intones. There isn’t terribly much nuance in his views about Gaza: “we say Hamas is the main [sic] responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians and WE ARE RIGHT!”
The real chiddush in Elhelo’s approach, the real innovation is that he doesn’t speak narrowly of Hamas as evil personified. He argues that the enemy isn’t just Hamas, but also poverty and the lack of political rights. He says after tearing down the “infrastructure of terror” Israel must rebuild the rebuild the “infrastructure of hope.” And not just Israel, but “Jews, Arabs, Americans.”
The piece de la resistance is this final affirmation:
As an Israeli, as a Jew, as a soldier, and as a citizen of the world, I will do all that is in my power to prevent mothers, Israeli and Palestinian alike, from crying.
What a fine speech! Let’s just spread the love. Like an optimistic version of Rodney King, “we can get along.” Except for one small problem: he doesn’t believe a word of it. It’s like a catchy riff in a pop song which is otherwise banal bubble-gum music.
In his LinkedIn profile, Elhelo portrays his hasbara campaigning in terms that are fanciful, if not fraudulent:
Ohad administers a collaborative project of Brandeis University and the Consulate General of Israel to New England, whereby Jewish and Arab Israeli students lecture on Israeli coexistence throughout New England. He represents the Brandeis Endowment at alumni and fundraising events and speaks for several Jewish organizations, as well as for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
All of us know what StandWithUs does and how it works. In the video above, he’s speaking to an SWU audience. SWU arranges for Israeli Jews and “Arabs” to speak to audiences about the wonders of Brand Israel. So an Israeli Palestinian, Ashraf Hussein from the village of Sha’ab, becomes his partner in this charade, better known as normalization. The notion that this involves “lecturing on Israeli coexistence” is ludicrous. The only co-existence they tout is Israel as a Jewish state in which Palestinian citizens are happy and content like the “darkies” represented in early 20th century minstrel shows.
All of this might just be a footnote in the history of pro-Israel hasbara, except that Elhelo has been given rock star status (Hebrew) by the Israeli media for his exploits on behalf of his country. The strange thing is that the IDF censor has censored any identification of Elhelo in the linked article. So in the article he is only reserve intelligence officer “O.” But it’s allowed Ynet to include this video in which he is prominently named. If you ever looked to censorship to make any sense, forget it. This guy is not just a public figure in America, the only reason he’s being profiled is because of the supposed bang-up hasbara job he’s doing over here. All this requires grasping the limelight and embracing it. All of which Elhelo is doing with gusto.
So what is the censor afraid of? The only thing I can think of is that possibly they fear Hamas or Hezbollah may read the Israeli papers and put two and two together. This guy lives in Boston. His security won’t be as air-tight as it would in Israel. We’ll take him out in Boston.
What’s nuts about this is that the censor believes Hamas reads Yediot, but that it doesn’t look at YouTube or LinkedIn or any of the thousands of other places touting Elhelo’s hasbara charm.
Finally, Elhelo overwhelms the audience with his ardor, telling them he returned to Israel during Operation Protective Edge even though he had no obligation to do so. He paid for the airfare out of his own pocket till a pro-Israel NGO was able to reimburse him. When he arrived in Israel he went directly to Gaza, where he was assigned to monitor drone surveillance cameras. The Ynet article says he was tasked with preventing Israel from bombing innocent civilians. But that’s not what drone pilots do. They identify targets to kill. Just like an IDF drone today killed five children who were watering their garden. That’s what Elhelo’s real job was. Everything he tells you about himself is a fraud as are all Israel’s justifications for this ongoing massacre.
Ynet describes worshipfully the magical effect Elhelo has on his American audiences including a dentist who approached him after his speech and offered free dental care for life! I swear, it’s like you’re a script reader in a Hollywood agents office and your job is too read every single piece of crap that crosses the transom. This reads like a really bad script. Though the old Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd might’ve made something out of it using their satirical skills.
Al Dalou home after being bombed by U.S. SKU28 bunker buster bombs (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
If you are an American citizen, tonight’s post may be even more disturbing than all my other distressing posts on this Gaza war. Yesterday, I posted that the IDF attempted to assassinate Mohammed Deif in Gaza. Hamas announced that Israel had murdered his 27 year-old pregnant wife and his 7 month-old son along with several other unnamed individuals. The Israeli media buzzed for hours about whether Deif survived this, Israel’s fifth attempt to kill him (previous failed attempts had cost him both legs and possibly an eye).
Then I detected a growing consensus in the media that Deif likely had survived. But my Israeli source, who has excellent contacts among Israeli military and intelligence circles tells me there is a 90% likelihood Deif was killed yesterday. I say all this advisedly, since I know that if the story turns out to be true it will cause perverse rejoicing in the halls of power in Israel. And this is the sort of rejoicing that will destroy Israel in the long run. But I’ve learned by experience that my source is often right, no matter whether I want him to be or not. So I feel it’s important to release this claim and test how it plays out over the coming days.
I read yesterday other claims from Hamas that five U.S.-made 5,000 lb. GBU 28 bunker-buster bombs were used to penetrate the al-Dalou home in which Deif and his family were sheltering. My source confirms that the story is true. The depth of the crater left at the scene indicates only a bunker buster could have produced it.
These are the same weapons used in a similar strike by Israel that failed to assassinate Hassan Nasrallah during the 2006 Lebanon war. The IDF presumably believed the Gaza home had a reinforced safe room or underground bunker in which the victims believed they would be safe.
It’s also important to add that Israel justified the assassination by noting that Palestinian militants had been first to break the ceasefire by shooting three missiles into Israel. Though none reached their intended targets or caused any damage, this was the pretext Israel needed to launch the assassination plan. When I read this passage in a Haaretz story by Amir Oren, my ears immediately perked up:
In the past, more than 30 years ago, there were military and diplomatic Israeli officials who were not averse to staging an incident in order to have an excuse to respond to it, with a pre-planned operation.
Like much Israeli national security reporting, you have to read reporters carefully to understand what they’re saying (or not saying, but inferring). I asked the source mentioned above whether Oren could be referring to a provocation that was deliberately engineered by Israel, thus giving it the justification to launch the Deif murder. His reply was that his own contacts had no comment. Given that I asked if he could confirm or refute my surmise and he offered that rejoinder, naturally it piqued my curiosity even further.
So did Israel itself either launch rockets that it shot down; or did it arrange for Palestinians to fire such rockets knowing where and when they’d be fired so they could be destroyed? Before skeptics run to their keyboards, there are many ways Israel could induce Palestinians to fire rockets without them even realizing Israel was the motivating force in the operation. My strong suspicion is that Israel engaged in fraud in this instance.
Remember that within only a few minutes of the firing of the rockets, Hamas released a statement saying it was not responsible. The fact that Deif was at home with his family instead of in a fortified tunnel underground, meant he too expected no rockets to be fired nor any Israeli military action.
Remember as well, that Islamic Jihad’s leader has praised his group’s stellar relations with the Egyptian military junta. It’s not hard to imagine that Egypt might be angry with Hamas’ stance during the ceasefire talks and seek to teach it a lesson. Thus, after collaborating with Israeli intelligence on the matter, it might induce IJ to launch missiles at Israel. Also, don’t forget my report regarding the first ceasefire attempt, saying that Israel wrote the entire ceasefire proposal and told the Egyptians to present it as their own. Hamas was never consulted, though Egypt claimed it had been. When it comes to scheming and under-handedness, both Israeli agents and Egyptian intelligence officials are more than capable of engineering something as heinous as this.
I don’t offer this as anything more than one possible scenario showing how Israel may’ve “arranged” for a ceasefire violation. There are scores more that are possible and plausible.
Later in the day, the IDF assassinated three senior Hamas commanders in Rafah. It is ratcheting up the killing machine. It’s already destroyed every piece of property and building in Gaza. Now, as Hamas fighters begin emerging from underground, Israel wants to wreak revenge of them for how well they fought in defending their country in this past war.
I heard snippets of Bibi Netanyahu’s press conference today and he was in stellar and typically megalomaniacal form. He pounded tables, waved his arms insistently, all for the purpose of persuading the gathered media that “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.” He’s an expert at this: hijacking whatever terrorist incident is grabbing world headlines (he did it memorably on 9/11) and piggybacking his own obsessions onto it. So with the world’s attention shifting slightly from Gaza to Iraq; and with the beheading of a U.S. journalist by ISIS searing the world’s TV screens, he forcefully guides world attention back to his own agenda: Hamas.
There is no connection at all between ISIS and Hamas. None. Bibi made it all up out of whole cloth. And he doesn’t care. He figures if anyone catches him in a lie he’ll be long gone onto the next lie.
Another doozie Bibi unloaded on the reporters was that Israel was approaching a “new diplomatic horizon.” By which he appeared to mean that with all the Mideast terror going on, Arab and even western states like the UK were opening their eyes to the threats posed by ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. This offered an opportunity for Israel to change the script from harping on dead Gazan babies to rabid jihadi executioners. Those are far better optics for Israel on the world stage. So imagine a Grand Alliance of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraqi Kurds, and Egypt uniting forces against Iran and the above jihadi groups. It’s enough to bring tears to the eyes of any red-blooded Likudist!
But of course this scenario is totally delusional. While the world IS horrified by ISIS atrocities, it isn’t stupid enough to buy the package deal Bibi offers. Israel’s actions will be judged on their own terms and not in the context of ISIS or other Islamist extremists.
Israel grasped an opportunity to assassinate one of Hamas’ top military leaders, Mohammed Deif, last night and instead murdered his pregnant wife and daughter at the Al Dalou home. A Palestinian Twitter user posted this:
AlDalou Family house was targeted by 5 GBU28 bombs. The “Guided Bomb Unit 28″ is a 5,000pound laser-guided “bunker busting” bomb made in USA
— Rajai abuKhalilرجائي (@Rajaiabukhalil) August 20, 2014
Here’s what a U.S. built bunker buster bomb looks like as it slaughters a pregnant mom and her little daughter.
We may now thank the U.S. government for permitting Israel to further escalate the massacre Israel wants us to call Operation Protective Edge. You thought bunker busters might be used against Iranian nuclear sites. You thought they might be used to prevent it from getting WMDs. Little did you know it would be used to kill a mother and her little daughter. Congratulations, U.S. citizen. This is your handiwork. And send further regards to Barack Obama and John Kerry who don’t have the b(&@s to do what has to be done to reign in the psychopaths pursuing this annihilationist strategy against Gaza.
Mohammed Deif, Hamas military mastermind. Yet another IDF assassination attempt failed
Deif, whom Israel has attempted to kill many times, may have survived, though reports say a third unidentified person was killed as well. UPDATE: It appears likely that Deif survived the attack as Israel media are conceding this. The reason why the assassination attempt is especially important is that Israel was supposedly observing a temporary ceasefire and supposedly negotiating in good faith with Egypt and Hamas about a permanent ceasefire.
We can clearly see how genuine Israeli ceasefires and commitments are. When they can drown their enemies in blood, they do so no matter what agreements this may violate.
Over the past few days, I’d been reading about Hamas’ wish list in the talks and Israel’s demands. Given an ounce of good will and willingness to compromise, the demands weren’t mutually contradictory. If Israel had agreed to demilitarize its border with Gaza it could’ve reasonably demanded that Hamas disarm as well. Had Israel been willing to allow either the PA or European specialists to assume control of border crossings and inspections, it might’ve lifted the Gaza siege it’s implemented since 2006. Had Egypt had any genuine interest in securing the peace it might’ve announced an end to its own siege on Gaza pending resolution of any outstanding issues between it and Hamas.
But none of that happened. Israel would never demilitarize anything. Nor would it lift its siege. Israel’s answer to the stall in the talks was to assassinate Deif. Presumably, Bibi Netanyahu and his intelligence apparatus thought delivering such a blow against Hamas would punish it for its recalcitrance. I doubt Israel believed that such a murder would bring Hamas to heel, since any reasonable person would know it’d have the opposite effect. Indeed, the rockets have been flying all day, hitting sites near Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other towns.
Another reason Israel might’ve targeted Deif is yesterday’s announcement by the Shabak that it had foiled a major conspiracy by Hamas in the West Bank to commit coordinated terror attacks inside Israel and the West Bank which would spur a third Intifada and topple Fatah. Israel’s intelligence services highlighted a Hamas leader named the “Deif of the West Bank,” as the mastermind behind the conspiracy.
There are a number of major problems with the story: this “Deif” would have to be insane to believe he could organize multiple, coordinated terror attacks both in Israel and the West Bank. He would be even more insane to believe that such attacks would set off a Third Intifada. Finally, he’d have to be certifiable to believe this would lead to a Hamas coup in which it took control of the West Bank from Fatah.
It is possible that some small portion of this claimed terror plot is true. But due to the aggrandizing of the Shabak we’ll never know, or be able to separate fact from fiction. It’s even possible that Shabak conveniently released this news the day before it already intended to assassinate Deif. Had they succeeded they could’ve (and would’ve) pointed to this 9/11 style terror project as justification for killing him. They would’ve argued that the only way to frustrate such criminal enterprises is by killing the masterminds. Deif would’ve been the poster boy for such a strategy.
Returning to the ceasefire, the U.S. had the right idea in involving Turkey and Qatar in the original talks (which Israel resisted with all its might). Turkey has had, and Qatar still has good relations with Israel and with Hamas. They might’ve acted as honest brokers to resolve the conflict. But Israel sabotaged this effort and froze Kerry out of subsequent ceasefire efforts.
Gaza: “when you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose.”
I marvel that Hamas has even been willing to attend talks brokered by its enemy, the Egyptian junta. I see no way the Muslim-Brotherhood-hating generals can represent anyone’s interests but Israel’s. I suppose it’s possible Hamas felt this was the only diplomatic game in town and if wasn’t seen to be playing it might reflect badly on it. At any rate, I see little or no hope for success in Egypt-brokered talks. There is no party there Hamas trusts.
With this most recent war, Israel refuses to recognize that the game has changed in the Middle East. No longer can Israel impose its will on its Arab enemies. They are increasingly resisting both politically and militarily. Though Israel still maintains a formidable military force that still rules supreme in the region, it can no longer call the tune to which everyone else must dance.
Not to mention that Hamas is an enemy Israel cannot subjugate. Gaza has been virtually levelled to the ground. There is almost nothing left. Yet Hamas refuses to concede. It can still fight. Therefore it has won. One may argue about what exactly it has “won” given the devastation. But Gazans had little before the war, now they have less. Perhaps much less. But “when you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose,” to quote Dylan.
A final word about what is ghoulishly being called Gaza “reconstruction.” It is ludicrous for any nation to attend or pledge to an international fund to rebuild Gaza. Every potential donor must know that whatever they build will be destroyed in two years when the next war occurs. If you want to throw away your petro-dollars, by all means do so. Flatter the vanity of Israel that you will clean up after the mess it makes. Do take Israel off the hook.
When will someone in the world look Israel in the eye and say, to paraphrase Colin Powell: you break it, it’s yours. Make Israel pay. If it won’t then place it under sanctions. If no one will hold Israel accountable for its actions, then it eventually will drag down the entire region as Samson did the Philistine temple just outside what is now Gaza.
It makes my blood boil to hear anonymous Israeli officials claiming they recognize the obligation they have to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. It would have been better had they honored an even more important humanitarian obligation not to kill 1,500 Palestinian civilians, including 450 children.
For Yossi Melman’s “take” on Israel’s assassination is far too mild, but he does raise the question of whether it is effective or even can be effective.
Gil Erdan: leaked top secret military briefing to outflank Bibi’s rightist rivals.
CORRECTION: When I originally wrote this post, my most trusted Israeli source was not accessible. Several commenters in the thread and others noted that another minister, Gil Erdan, has a name closer to “Iran” than Lieberman’s. They were indeed correct. The minister who leaked was Erdan, not Lieberman. Erdan is a devout Bibi loyalist. Though I hadn’t known him as a leaker on a par with Lieberman or Bibi himself (the consummate leakers) till now, which was why I erroneously put my money on Lieberman as the source.
Amir Oren wrote a dramatic story in Haaretz in which he used obscure code to make some astonishing claims: He said that a cabinet minister leaked the content of a secret military briefing provided to the Israeli security cabinet about what it would take to reoccupy Gaza. At that moment IDF losses had risen, Hamas had made significant strides in defending against Israeli invasion and the political opportunists to Bibi’s right were baying for Gazan blood. Ministers like Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman were practically ridiculing Bibi for going soft on Gaza, for not going “all in” and destroying Hamas once and for all. The prime minister, always one to calculate all the angles of any particular political plan (and especially sensitive to outflanking his right-wing rivals), asked the IDF to brief the cabinet about what it would take to retake Gaza.
No doubt, just as the military and intelligence echelons didn’t want to attack Iran, they didn’t want to retake Gaza. They knew it was a swamp and a trap. So they were only to happy to give such a sobering account of what Israel had in store should it take on such a project. But, according to Oren’s story, Bibi wasn’t content merely providing this to his ministers. He wanted the entire nation to know the price that would be paid in blood.
Lieberman and his “pal” in the Kremlin
So he engineered a leak. Of course, Bibi’s fingerprints mustn’t be on the leak, so it came from another minister allied with the PM. Here’s how Oren described what he calls “the mole:”
One branch of the defense establishment suspects that the mole’s last name rhymes with the name of a certain country with which Netanyahu is obsessed.
This requires some serious sleuthing and riddle-solving. The country Bibi is “obsessed” with is probably Iran. Which makes the likely identity of the cabinet minister, Avigdor Lieberman. If this is true, then it makes him a two-faced liar because it was he who was trying to outdo Bennett in calling for Israel to invade and conquer Gaza. It also indicates that despite friction between them, that Bibi and Lieberman retain some sense of alliance and common purpose.
It’s also interesting that Oren uses the term “mole” to describe Lieberman. In a recent post, I noted that he played a key role in negotiating an intelligence collaboration with Russia in which the two countries shared eavesdropping chores against John Kerry. It seems that Lieberman has excellent skills as an intelligence asset and betrayer of Israeli military secrets (along with the prime minister himself).
Oren notes in his article that one of the benefactors of the cabinet leak was the Hamas military wing which was listening to the TV news report that night and knew from it that Israel would not launch a full-scale invasion of Gaza. Both Bibi and Lieberman must’ve calculated that avoiding such a quagmire trumped exposing Israel’s military plans to the enemy.
I’m always amused by the security hawks who shrey about whistleblowers like Anat Kamm or Mordecahi Vanunu who expose state secrets. They damage the security of the state. They endanger our troops. They tell the enemy how to outsmart us. That’s the mantra of the security establishment as it protects its perogatives. But somehow when the figure doing the leaking is a general or a prime minister, then the state somehow relaxes the rules.
Events of the past year or so point increasingly to Israel abandoning, or at least markedly diminishing, its reliance on the U.S. as its sole strategic partner. Despite a massive investment in diplomacy, public advocacy, and funding that is reinforced by the power of the Israel Lobby in manipulating U.S. policy to favor Israel, the latter is moving toward an expanding alliance with a web of Russian and Middle Eastern autocrats.
The reasons for the souring relationship with the U.S. are clear. From the beginning of the Obama administration when it failed in its push for settlement freeze, to the most recent failure of John Kerry’s Israel-Palestine peace talks, the handwriting is on the wall. Bibi and his ideological partners in government detest this administration and the feeling is mutual. The Israelis see the U.S. as weak and ineffectual. Unable to stand up to the west’s real enemies: Islamists, whether they be in Lebanon, Iran or Gaza.
That’s why Netanyahu produced a political ad used by the Romney campaign, a development that would’ve been unheard of for previous Israeli prime ministers. It’s why Bibi’s sugar daddy, Sheldon Adelson, pumped over $100-million into the GOP presidential race (expect double that in the next one).
Now, there are reports that Obama has suspended arms shipments to Israel in light of the massive toll of civilian dead in Gaza. Hellfire missiles requested by Israel have been withheld for a month. It is the first time there’s been such an action in the past thirty years. This after the Israeli did an end-run around the White House and State and simply asked lower-level U.S. officials to release earlier weaponry.
Recently, I reported based on a highly placed Israeli source, that not only was Israel eavesdropping on Secretary of State Kerry’s in-air phone calls, but that Russia was doing so as well. The project was not one in which the two countries pursued their spying separately. Indeed, they did so in tandem and shared the harvested intelligence with each other so that Israel would learn what Kerry was saying about the Israel-Palestine peace talks (and how to counter any moves considered detrimental to the Netanyahu government) and Russia gleaned U.S. plans regarding Ukraine.
In that post, I noted that unlike claims of the Israel Lobby to a “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S. based on shared values and such blather, Israel sees nothing but interests. And as the rightist government in power in Israel gets a hostile reception by this White House, it turns to other powers who are more receptive and conducive to Israel’s right-wing ideology. Those countries are Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Israel has at times earlier in its history had a close relationship with the Soviet Union, which was the first country to recognize the new State in 1948. Russia and its eastern European allies provided a great deal of the weaponry used by the Palmach to defend the new state in the 1948 War.
During the 1960s, 70s and 80s the Russians became increasingly allied with the Arab states. It was during this period (beginning with the 1967 War) that Israel developed its close alliance with the U.S. These alliances were heavily shaped by Cold War political alignments.
So as Netanyahu and Obama have become mutually disenchanted, Israel naturally turned back to the Russians. It’s widely reported in the Israeli media that Avigdor Lieberman, a former Soviet émigré, has facilitated much of the warming of the relationship with Russia, including this particular spy deal. Those inside Israel most opposed to him and his Yisrael Beitenu party have regularly painted him as a Russian asset. Haaretz has also reported the Mossad has refused to brief Lieberman on certain sensitive subjects which might offer Russia access to Israeli secrets.
Another interesting part of this story is something Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer pointed to in a recent column. He asked why there have been so few revelations about Israeli intelligence in the Snowden documents as released by Greenwald and others. Pfeffer suggests that this may be due to Snowden’s refuge in Russia. His delicate situation there has likely led Snowden’s collaborators to pull punches when it comes to releasing embarrassing information about both Russian and Israel intelligence. Russia’s budding collaboration with Israel may’ve given the latter protection from the avalanche of leaks that’s have exposed U.S., UK and other intelligence agencies.
Indeed, the source I referred to above has also confirmed that the price for Russian refuge for Snowden has been access to the full trove of his documents. I realize that Snowden no longer has access to the documents. But he may’ve given the Russians access at a time when he still did. At any rate, I have no way of independently verifying this claim by my source is correct.
IDF intelligence base, Ofrit, in occupied East Jerusalem
But more importantly, my source says Greenwald cannot publish any sensitive data these documents may contain that would damage the interests of Russia or its allies (which includes Israel). That further explains why there have so few shocking revelations about one of the most invasive, aggressive security states in the world in the Snowden archive (at least so far).
As an example, I approached Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and another of their colleagues asking if any of the Snowden documents could confirm the existence of a secret NSA data collection center in the IDF base, Ofrit, located in occupied East Jerusalem. They maintained radio silence. The State Department at least told me this wasn’t a story they could comment on and that no one else anywhere in the government would either.
I’ve also tried numerous times to address questions to Greenwald and associates about my source’s claims that Snowden’s Russian refuge has shaped the release of documents. No response there as well.
I am not publishing this in an attempt to diminish the value of Snowden’s whistle-blowing project, nor his courageous efforts to expose NSA overreaching. But I do think it’s important that we understand all the various influences and factors that may be shaping this amazing story.
As the Arab Spring unfolded, the Israeli leadership became frightened of the potential for anti-Israel sentiment arising from the populist movements in countries like Egypt and Tunisia. Indeed, a mob burned down the Israeli embassy in Cairo, causing a freeze in all Israel-Egypt relations for several months. So when the Egyptian generals toppled the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, Israel saw an opportunity to resume and even intensify the relationship it formerly had with an authoritarian leader like Hosni Mubarak. But the new military junta offered an added benefit to Israel. Unlike Mubarak, who tolerated Hamas, the new Pres. al-Sisi had a visceral hatred of the Brotherhood. Since Hamas is seen as closely allied with the Brotherhood (especially in the eyes of the generals), there is no love lost between the new Egyptian government and Hamas. This can be seen in Egypt’s efforts to broker a Gaza ceasefire which have foundered because Hamas sees Egypt as an Israeli ally rather than an honest broker.
But one important factor to note regarding the current Gaza ceasefire and accompanying talks, Netanyahu has bumped the U.S. out of the process and substituted the Egyptians for the Americans. Despite his hatred for Hamas, al-Sisi is allowing his intelligence chiefs to shepherd the talks. This is probably due to the perceived benefits it offers the junta in the eyes of Israel. Doing a ‘mitzvah’ for Bibi will reap rewards for the generals.
Over the past few years, Israel has built a strong, though tacit alliance with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States. The unifying principle of this multi-nation pact is a deep mistrust of Iran. Israel and the Saudis have had repeated secret high level meetings of their respective intelligence chiefs (at least one in Israel). They’ve jointly threatened the prospect of war against Iran if the U.S. fails to do the job for them. Israel has also opened a secret military liaison office (reported exclusively in this blog) in the United Arab Emirates. The goal is to coordinate the campaign to isolate and subvert Iran and its supposed campaign to manufacture WMD.
The Saudis and Israelis have jumped into each others’ arms due to a joint antipathy toward the Obama administration which both see as vacillating and weak in confronting the Shiite menace posed by Iran.
Will these radical shifts in Israel’s strategic alliances help it to achieve its interests? I’d argue that these new alliances are designed to paper over Israel’s real security problems rather than address them. A malleable anti-Hamas Egypt does little or nothing to resolve the differences Israel has with Hamas. New alliances with the Sunni Gulf States don’t allow Israel to reach any long-term compromise with Iran. It only postpones such an outcome indefinitely. The close relationship with Russia is meant to act as a counter to the U.S. in the same way that Mao turned to Nixon and the U.S., as his former alliance with the Soviet Union fell apart. But I see no way that Russia can serve the same role in support of Israel that the U.S. has over the past 50 years.
By turning toward dictators like Putin, al-Sisi, and the House of Saud, Israel is betraying what little is left of its own democratic heritage. It is throwing in its lot with tyrants, racists, and thugs and allowing the world to see that this is what Israel itself represents in its treatment of the Palestinians. Though the vise-like grip the Lobby has on American Israel-related politics will not allow U.S. governments to entirely abandon Israel, there will be a gradual shift away from the special relationship (see the latest Gallup poll which shows that the youngest cohort polled displayed antipathy toward the Gaza invasion). At that point, when Israel needs resupply of military weapons for its latest adventure in Gaza or Lebanon, Israel better hope one of its new friends can replace the old U.S. role. There may come a time (and it can’t come soon enough) when we will no longer be there.
Israel’s increasing willingness to betray the close ties it’s had with the U.S. should give our administration pause in pondering the direction of future relations. A wise man once said that in politics there are no friends or enemies, only interests. I would add that there are no shared values, only interests. Israel believes this. When will we get with the program?