When it comes to the dangers that Iran poses to the Middle East, “there is no daylight” between Israel’s government and opposition, Zionist Union chief and opposition leader Isaac Herzog said at the AIPAC Policy Conference on Monday morning.
Herzog added that he frequently meets with world leaders to discuss Iran, a country that he referred to as a “vile empire.” In those meetings, he said, he reiterates that the Iranian issue is a bipartisan concern in Israeli politics.
The opposition leader added that the Iranian threat provided a “rare opportunity” for his country to work with and grow closer to Arab neighbors who share Israel’s concerns. Herzog called on Israel to formally respond to the Arab Peace Initiative in order to kickstart that work as well as spur a process that will allow “separation” between Israel and the Palestinians.
Herzog, the son of former Israeli President and UN Ambassador Chaim Herzog, also praised the work of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in fighting anti-Israel activities and biases.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made similar points when he spoke to the AIPAC plenary via video on Monday morning. Netanyahu stated that the U.S.-Israel alliance entailed “confronting Iran’s aggression in the region, and its terrorism around the world. It means utterly vanquishing ISIS, not partially. It means building alliances with moderates in the region, those moderates who seek to build a better future, and embrace modernity and peace.”
Under the sea--
In preparation for the next round of expected fighting with Israel, Hamas has steadily been upgrading its naval commando unit. Diving training has surged along Gaza’s coast, and the terrorist organization has started its own closed breathing system which allows divers to remain underwater for several kilometers with little chance of being identified.
Israeli naval forces have recorded several incidents in which sailors were used underwater hand grenades following suspicions of Hamas divers approaching ships. The Israel Defense Forces has also deployed several specialized underwater detection systems along the coast, and upgraded the defensive systems of surface vessels.
"The progress of the Hamas commando unit is exponential and nonlinear, but we have a large target bank against them and we know how to destroy their coastal infrastructure if need be," said one senior naval officer.
Hamas has previously taken advantage of relaxed limits on fishing boats and used the vessels to smuggle weapons.
A clear and present danger--
Iran’s ambitions to set up shop in the Golan Heights are no longer a secret, and it has deployed a completely subservient militia to the region to menace Israel, the journalist Huda al Husseini wrote in Al Arabiya Saturday. The Iraqi Shiite militia, called Harakat al-Nujaba (Movement of the Noble) announced the creation of a “Golan Liberation Brigade” earlier this month. This militia has sworn fealty to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and espouses vilayat-e faqih, the governing philosophy of the Iranian regime.
Al Husseini wrote that the militia played a “pivotal role” in the conquest of Aleppo alongside the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and said last year that it and Hezbollah are “twins of resistance.” Its leader, Akram al-Kabi, is particularly close to Khamenei; al Husseini also noted that al-Kabi “bluntly stated that he would oust the Iraqi government if Khamenei seeks to do so.”
The group’s spokesman declared, “Should the Syrian government make the request, we are ready to participate in the liberation of occupied Golan with our allies. We will not permit the soil of Arab countries to remain in the grasps of occupiers.” A video released by the group showed fighters carrying a banner that read “Israel will be destroyed.”
Chagai Tzuriel, the director-general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, said earlier this month, “The most important strategic issue we’re currently facing is the strengthening of the Shiite axis led by Iran in Syria, especially after the fall of Aleppo.” Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, wrote in Haaretz on Monday that it is important to be mindful of the fact that “orders to Hezbollah come from Tehran and thus the Iranian threat and the Hezbollah threat are in the final analysis intimately connected.”
Much to praise--
Sunday marked the start of AIPAC’s annual policy conference held in Washington, with a former UK Prime Minister warning of the Iranian threat to the region at the opening session.
Tony Blair appeared at the opening session of the conference, whilst U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, and President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, the first African leader to appear at the conference, all gave speeches on the first day.
Referring to the role of Iran in the region, Blair said, “If you had a benign regime in Iran, all of the problems of the Middle East would be easier to resolve. That’s the reality. We’ve got to push back hard where their power is being abused, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in the Gulf, in, for example, the work that they try and do with the Palestinians to pull Palestinian factions away from peace.”
Blair also related that when he visits Israel next week, it will be his 178th visit since leaving office in his attempts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He stressed the importance of the regional approach to peacemaking by saying that his approach is built on a “fundamental belief that the key to transforming the Middle East, and therefore to a more peaceful world, is to have a relationship between Israelis and Arabs… in which Israel works closely with Arab states, and in which two states for two peoples can be pursued in a way that guarantees Israel’s security.”
Addressing the conference as this year’s keynote speaker, Vice President Pence revived talk of the possibility of the U.S. moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“After decades of simply talking about it, the president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he stated.
Israeli Ambassador Dermer also warned about the role of Iran in the region after the nuclear deal, and the opening of the shared Israel-U.S. agenda.
“We both recognize that the nuclear deal does not block Iran’s path to a bomb and that Iran’s appetite for aggression and terror has only grown since that deal was signed and since sanctions were removed,” Dermer stated.
Also in DC, Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. special representative for international negotiations, continued meeting prominent Israel figures.
He hosted a Friday night dinner at his home for Tzipi Livni from the Zionist Union. Yesterday he met Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and discussed Israel-U.S. cooperation, the economic situation of the Palestinians and other regional issues. Both Livni and Naftali are due to speak at AIPAC this week. (via BICOM)