RUSSIA’S TAKE ON SYRIA: ISRAEL SHOULD WANT A STRONG ASSAD

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to go to Sochi on Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his fourth visit to Russia in the last 16 months.

For reporters who cover Netanyahu, the drill is well known.

Following the premier’s meeting with Putin, either he or one of his spokesmen will say that during the meeting he stressed Israel’s red lines in Syria: that Jerusalem will not tolerate an Iranian or Hezbollah presence on the Golan border; that Israel will not accept a permanent Iranian presence in Syria; and that Israel will act to ensure that game-changing weapons or capabilities are not transferred from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Netanyahu will be careful to praise the Russian-Israeli bilateral relations, and say that the deconfliction mechanism to Rebel leaders are also calling for the release of thousands of detainees held in government security prisons.

Many mainstream rebel groups have been skeptical about Moscow’s ultimate aims in Syria and cast doubt on its readiness to put genuine pressure on Assad to abide by local truces.

They also worry that these cease-fire deals are a means for Assad’s army and its allies to redeploy in other areas to recover territory by using firepower freed by the truces.

Rebel factions have already accused the army and Iranian-backed militias of cease-fire violations in Eastern Ghouta. The army continues to pound residential areas in rebel-held eastern suburbs of Damascus, witnesses say.

Assad, whose government brands many of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army rebel groups that Moscow has reached truces with as “terrorists,” has said his army retained the right to continue to attack insurgents.

However, Assad has condemned US-inspired “safe zones” which US President Donald Trump earlier this year said he hoped to achieve with Russia, saying such a plan would only “give cover to terrorists.”

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PA FOREIGN MINISTER WELCOMES EGYPT’S WARMER TIES WITH HAMAS

 

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki on Saturday welcomed Egypt’s closer ties with Hamas, calling on the Islamist group to bring an end to the rift between the Palestinian factions.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts in Cairo, Al-Maliki said Egypt was fulfilling its role as a mediator between the group and the Palestinian Authority.

“It is not new or controversial for Egypt to do its part and fulfill its mandate in these negotiations … it must communicate with Hamas in order for the group to mesh with the overall Arab stance,” Al-Maliki said, following a meeting between the three parties to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

For much of the last decade, Egypt had joined Israel in enforcing a land, sea and air blockade of the Gaza Strip, a move to punish Hamas and its armed wing, which seized the territory in 2007 and has controlled it since.

Palestinians attempt to flee Gaza for Egypt at the Rafah crossing.Palestinians attempt to flee Gaza for Egypt at the Rafah crossing.

In recent months, however, Egypt hosted a number of Hamas members including its leader Ismail Haniyeh in a series of meetings that showed improved ties between the country and the group.

After the last round of meetings in Cairo, Hamas cleared land on its side of the border, creating a buffer zone with watchtowers, cameras and barbed-wire fences in a concession to security-conscious Egypt, which has battled an Islamic State-led insurgency in its Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers since 2013.

An Islamist militant killed a Hamas security official on the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt on Thursday, in what was described as the first suicide bombing against Hamas.
Al-Maliki called on Hamas to relinquish control of the Gaza-Strip in order to pave the way for legislative and presidential elections.

POLL: ISRAELIS AMONG HAPPIEST EMPLOYEES (LOL….)

 

There are other factors that rank higher than salary to determine employees’ overall satisfaction with their jobs, according to a survey published on Sunday by the Israeli start-up company Dapulse.

According to the survey, not only did salary rank the lowest on the list of factors contributing to employees’ overall happiness in the workplace, it also suggested that Israelis are among the happiest employees in the world.

The report surveyed some 10,000 Dapulse platform users employed in a variety of some 60 industries including accounting, construction, graphic design, finance, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and technology in 136 countries throughout July.

Dapulse, is known in the hi-tech sector for developing workplace task managing and communications platforms.

Out of the 10,000 responders, a third were from Israel, another third were from the United States and the rest came from the remaining 134 countries.

83% of the responders identified as managers (having at least one person reporting to them). Although only 47% of the total responders defined themselves as happy at their jobs, 59% were optimistic about their professional future.

This survey also revealed that out of those 136 participating countries, Israel tied with the United States on overall happiness of employees at work.

The results showed that the most important thing for employees across the globe was employment in a field the employee is passionate about, followed by working for a company that positively contributes to the world, a sense of personal recognition, working for a prestigious company and an ability to balance work and personal life. Salary considerations were placed at the bottom of this list.

According to Dapulse CEO, Roee Mann: “Israeli workers are in a good place in the world because one of the things that contribute to happiness at work is the ability to express and influence people, and that is something inherent in Israeli culture, unlike other places in the world.”

“Happiness definitely has implications,” he said. “Workers who are happy at work will demonstrate greater motivation and will consequently be more efficient, more loyal, committed to the workplace and serve as corporate ambassadors.”

SYRIA’S ASSAD SAYS WAR STILL NOT WON BUT WEST’S PLOTS FOILED

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday (August 20) that while his country had foiled Western designs to topple him, his army had not won defeated insurgents and the fight was continuing.

He said that:…”the signs of victory are there. But signs are something and winning is something else.”

In a televised address, Assad said that even though there were signs of victory after six-and-a-half years of civil war, the “battle continues, and where we go later and it becomes possible to talk about victory…that’s a different matter”.

He did not elaborate on that point.

However, he said the assistance extended by stalwart allies Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement had enabled the army to make battlefield gains and reduce the burden of war.

“Tthere are chapters that are going to be written about our friends”, he said before naming who these friends are, “ Iran, Imam Khamenei, about Russia and President Putin, about Hezbollah and Sayed Nasrallah.” He said as the crowd around him clapped and applauded.

He said his country welcomed Russian-brokered, regional ceasefire deals that Moscow is seeking to extend elsewhere in Syria as these would end bloodshed and bring an end to insurgency and pardoning of rebels.

Oregon highway overpasses eclipsed by anti-Semitic banners

Signs with anti-Semitic messages were hung on highway overpasses in Oregon, which is welcoming visitors hoping to experience Monday’s rare solar eclipse.

The banners were hung on two northbound highways, which were heavily traveled by California tourists heading to the state to get a better view of the celestial event, according to local reports.

The banners read, “UNJEW HUMANITY,” “Eclipse Whitey,” and “Jewish Financing Available,” the Oregon Statesman Journal reported on Saturday. They were taken down later on Saturday.

Beth Dershowitz of Sacramento told the Oregonian in an email that the banners upset her, her husband Michael, and their children during their family road trip on Saturday. She said her husband took photos of the banners to show state transportation officials.

“I cannot believe that we still have to face this vicious anti-Semitism in such a public place in 2017,” she wrote. “We want to expose this hatred so people stop pretending like it isn’t happening in our own backyards.”

In June, a sign blaming Jews for the September 11 attacks was hung from a pedestrian bridge over an interstate highway in Portland, Oregon.

Michigan man sentenced to probation for threatening to kill children and Jews

A Michigan man who used Twitter to threaten to kill children and Jews in mass shooting attacks was sentenced to two years of probation.

A judge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday gave David Lenio, 29, the probation sentence after giving him credit for the four months he served in jail after his February arrest, which ended after his trial in June.

A jury in June acquitted Lenio of two felonies – aggravated stalking and using a computer to commit a crime, and convicted him on the lesser charge of malicious use of telecommunications. He was released from prison on his own recognizance following the June trial.

In addition to probation, Lenio was ordered to stay away from synagogues and schools and to not use computers, Fox17 in West Michigan reported.

Lenio’s father said his son suffers from mental illness, Fox reported.

He was arrested in 2015 in Montana for making similar threats, and released to his parents in Grand Rapids with the condition that he not use social media.

The threats made on Twitter when he was in Montana included a tweet saying he wanted to execute 30 or more grade school children — to exceed the number killed at Sandy Hook in December 2012.

He also posted tweets about shooting up a synagogue, and that he wanted to put two bullets “in the head” of a rabbi or Jewish leader, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Russian Jews slam Moscow’s exclusion from Holocaust memorial project in Poland

A leader of Russian Jews called on Poland to avoid any exclusion of Russia from an international forum that is responsible for preserving for educational purposes the former Nazi death camp of Sobibor.

Mikhael Mirilashvili, the president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, issued the call Sunday, following claims by Russian officials that Poland barred Russian experts from participating in the work of the International Steering Committee on Sobibor, even though the Russians had been invited to do so by non-Polish members of the committee.

“Russia is a key player in memorializing Holocaust victims, and her participation in this project is vital,” said Mirilashvili, whose organization is an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress and represents Jewish communities from Ukraine to New Zealand.

Poland’s right-wing nationalist government has responded strongly to Russia’s expansionist policies in Ukraine and beyond, issuing threats and imposing sanctions on Russia.

According to Sputnik News, Russia was invited this year to join the work of the steering committee, a body set up in 2013 with commemoration representatives from Poland, Israel, Slovakia and the Netherlands in order to build a commemoration project befitting Sobibor’s key role in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust. About 200,000 Jews were gassed at the camp in eastern Poland, as were non-Jewish Soviet prisoners. However, in July Moscow received an official message from Warsaw that the project would continue without Russia’s participation.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Russia’s exclusion was an “outrageous fact of historical amnesia” and her ministry intends to summon ambassadors from all the countries on the steering committee to offer clarifications.

Earlier this month, Polish Foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski avoided answering a question on Poland’s role in the dis-invitation, telling a RIA Novosti journalist that the steering committee “is an international body” and that Moscow should query all members about the issue if it seeks answers. He later said about the same issue that “Polish authorities did not intend to take care of monuments built in honor of the Red Army,” the Sputnik news agency reported.

In 2015, Polish officials said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not welcome at the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Russian troops. The Poles said no heads of state would attend in a bid to focus attention on survivors. Ultimately, however, the heads of state who attended the event included French President Francois Hollande, his German and Ukrainian counterparts, Joachim Guack and Petro Poroshenko, as well as the Dutch and Belgian premiers, Mark Rutte and Charles Michel, respectively.

According to Sputnik, at least one Israeli on the steering committee agreed to Russia’s exclusion. But a spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry told JTA Sunday that neither Israel nor the Israeli groups represented on the steering committee oppose Russia’s inclusion in the organization’s work.

Avraham Greenzaid, chairman of Israel’s Veterans Union of World War II, said in a statement that his organization welcomes Israel’s positive view of Russia on the committee, and “condemns any attempt to exclude Russia.”

Adelson expresses support for ZOA efforts to depose McMaster

Sheldon Adelson in an email to Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein expresses support for efforts by the ZOA to get National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster removed from his position.

But Adelson added that he is not “looking to get deeply involved in this debate.”

“I don’t know enough about the McMaster case nor do I want to say I know about your attack and that I supported it financially and morally. Up until recent articles, I had no knowledge of anything about McMaster — just what I read in the newspaper,” Adelson said in the email provided to JTA by Klein.

The ZOA issued a report earlier this month alleging that McMaster is anti-Israel and charging that he is undermining Trump’s Middle East agenda and the US-Israel relationship by firing officials supportive of the Jewish state and critical of the Iran nuclear deal.

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster addresses the American Jewish Committee's 2017 Global Forum at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C. on June 4, 2017. (screen capture)

Adelson, a billionaire pro-Israel philanthropist who donates to the ZOA, said that a conversation with Safra Catz, the Israeli-born CEO at Oracle who reportedly had been considered for the positions of US Trade Representative and the Director of National Intelligence in Trump’s Cabinet, about a dinner she had recently with McMaster “certainly enlightened me quite a bit.”

In the email, Adelson praised Klein, saying he “is the strongest Zionist I know and carries on campaigns for what he sincerely and profoundly cares about.”

Adelson concluded: “Politics is your full time job. It’s not my full time job. I can’t get involved in every campaign and every debate. Now that I have talked to somebody with personal experience with McMaster, I support your efforts. Not that I am looking to get deeply involved in this debate.”

Adelson’s email came in response to an email from Klein in which he asked him if a JTA report, citing the Axios news website, was accurate. The Axios report said that Adelson’s representative told the reporter that: “Sheldon Adelson has nothing to do with the ZOA campaign against McMaster. Had no knowledge of it. And has provided zero support, and is perfectly comfortable with the role that McMaster is playing.” JTA’s lead sentence said that Adelson had “disavowed” the ZOA campaign.

5 reported killed as rocket hits Damascus business fair

DAMASCUS, Syria — Rocket fire killed five people Sunday near the entrance to the Damascus International Fair, a key business gathering being held for the first time in five years, a monitor said.

There was no official confirmation of the toll, though state television reported the rocket fire and said it had caused injuries, without specifying further.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rocket by the Damascus International Fair had killed five people and injured around a dozen more.

State television, citing its reporters on the scene, said the rocket hit near the entrance of the exhibition complex where the business fair opened this week.

“We were preparing to receive visitors when I heard an explosion… then I saw smoke so the side of the of the entrance to the exhibition hall,” said Iyad Jaber, 39, a Syrian working at a textile stand.

The Damascus International Fair was once the top event on Syria’s economic calendar, but was last held in the summer of 2011, months after the start of a revolt against President Bashar Assad’s government. This year’s fair opened on Thursday, and was scheduled to last 10 days.

Its general director, Fares al-Kartally, said the decision to hold the fair this year was a result of “the return of calm and stability in most regions” of Syria.

“We want this fair to signal the start of (the country’s) reconstruction,” Kartally told AFP earlier this week.

While Damascus has been insulated from much of the worst violence of the country’s war, several key rebel enclaves remain in the Eastern Ghouta region outside the city. Fighters in the area have regularly fired rockets into the capital, and government warplanes have frequently carried out devastating raids across Eastern Ghouta.

But in recent weeks, much of the area has been quieter after the implementation in July of a “de-escalation zone” covering parts of Eastern Ghouta.

The United States and European countries, which have imposed sanctions on Assad’s government, were not officially invited to participate in the fair, which was first held in 1954. But a handful of European companies are participating on an individual basis in the event.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Syria president rejects security cooperation with West, slams Israel

DAMASCUS — Syrian President Bashar Assad praised allies Iran and Hezbollah and blasted the West, rejecting any security cooperation or reopening of embassies in Damascus before those countries cut relations with opposition groups.

He vowed that the Palestinian cause “is still a key issue from our point of view,” and declared that “Israel is still the enemy that occupies our lands.”

Under his leadership, he said, “Syria still supports all resistance groups in the region.”

Assad’s defiant comments on Sunday come at a time when his troops are gaining ground around the country and many countries have ceased calling for him to step down.

In a speech before dozens of Syrian diplomats in Damascus, Assad praised Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group for supporting his government during his country’s six-year civil war.

He said Syria would look east when it comes to political, economic and cultural relations.

Assad said recent deals to deescalate violence in Syria are good to reduce the bloodletting but vowed not to give the opposition in politics what it failed to gain through arms.