By David Hocking.
Netanyahu has been witheringly critical of Kerry’s speech. In a statement released shortly after it was delivered, Netanyahu accused Kerry of bias and said Israel did not need to be lectured to by foreign leaders.
Netanyahu said he looked forward to working with Trump.
Kerry “obsessively dealt with settlements,” Netanyahu said in his response, and barely touched “the root of the conflict – Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries.”
In Israel, Kerry’s speech has played into the hands of Israel’s far-right national-religious movement, led by Naftali Bennett, the education minister, who is in Netanyahu’s cabinet but very critical of Netanyahu and is trying to position himself as a future potential leader.
Bennett’s party, Jewish Home, wants to annex large parts of the West Bank and openly opposes the creation of a Palestinian State. He is advocating for more settlements and the legalization of outpost settlements, which even the Israeli government considers illegal.
“This Administration’s policy has left the Middle East up in flames,” Bennett said after Kerry’s speech. “The one free democracy has been thrown under the bus – and that’s Israel.”
ISRAEL’S CHIEF RABBI: WE DON’T NEED AMERICA, WE HAVE GOD!
Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, gave a divine response to the Obama Administration’s gross betrayal of the Jewish state last week.
Days after US President Barack Obama instructed his representative at the United Nations not to veto a dangerous anti-Israel resolution, Yosef expounded on the bright side of the situation.
“Sometimes, we need to be reminded from above that we can count on no one but our Father who art in heaven,” Yosef told a gathering at the Western Wall. “Even America… forsook us last week at the UN.”
According to the resolution, Jews do not belong in the so-called “West Bank” or on the eastern side of Jerusalem. And that includes the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.
“We mustn’t forget that the hearts of kings and captains are in the hands of the Lord, and we can count on no one but the Lord,” continued Yosef.
WHILE THE WORLD CONDEMNS ISRAEL, PUTIN ADVANCES RUSSIAN’S POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST!
President Vladimir Putin has announced that the Syrian government and rebels have signed a truce deal and are ready to begin peace talks.
The deal excludes the Islamic State (ISIS) the al-Nusra Front and all groups linked to them. Putin has not specified rebel groups that are covered by the ceasefire.
“We have been waiting for this event for a long time and working very hard,” Putin said at a meeting with his foreign and defense ministers. He added that the two sides had signed three documents:
The first document covers the ceasefire; the second is a set of measures to monitor the ceasefire, and the third is a statement of readiness to start peace negotiations on the Syrian settlement.
Putin noted that the Syrian deal was fragile and required special attention and patience and constant contact with the partners.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that his country and Moscow would act as guarantors under the plan. Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in the conflict that has raged for more than five years. If it is true they are guarantors, and if the truce is respected, it could end a six-year civil war that has killed potentially more than 430,000 and forced around 11 million from their homes.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources add: The Russian-Turkish initiative, to which Iran is almost certainly co-opted, brings the Syria war the closest it has ever been to conclusion in more than five years of bloodshed.
Sixteen months ago Vladimir Putin pulled off a gamble by stepping up direct Russian military intervention in Syria’s brutal conflict. Using his air force, he has swung the tide of war in favor of victory for Bashar Assad’s government – which was his endgame.
Whether by coincidence or design, Putin’s announcement of the Syrian truce deal landed on a hectic international stage. On Wednesday, 28 December, US President Barack Obama and a group of senators weighed with a call for fresh sanctions as punishment for alleged Russian hackers’ interference in the presidential election campaign. This, in spite of the fact that many Western cyber experts note the absence of concrete evidence.
At the end of that same day, outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a parting shot against Israel in a one hour, seventeen minute tirade devoted entirely to the elusive matter of Israel-Palestinian peace.
His content and the bitterness of his tone indicated how far the Obama Administration has been out of touch with the latest Middle East developments, especially the ebbing of US influence on major events.
Four important points stand out in the Putin Syrian ceasefire announcement:
- Syria cannot celebrate final peace – or even a total end of hostilities. Even if the 62,000 fighters of the seven main rebel groups and government forces truly lay down arms from the war against the big jihadist groups, the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, the Nusra Front, will go on.
In the face of it, the situation of the jihadist groups has taken a turn for the worst; now the Syrian government army and its backers will now be free to focus on smashing them for good.
On the other hand, some of the fringe rebel groups may reject the truce and peace deal on the table and prefer to carry on fighting in the ranks of the Islamist groups, bringing their arms with them.
- The incoming Trump Administration in Washington is presented with a serious challenge in terms of world influence by the Russian President’s success in halting warfare in all parts of Syria after a breakthrough Russian-backed government victory in Aleppo.
By doing these things, Russia has elevated itself up to a new, enhanced and strategic standing in the Middle East.
Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said on Thursday that Trump’s Administration would be welcome to join the Syrian peace process once he takes office on 20 January.
It was a patronizing invitation. If the US agreed, it would join the historic peace event as just another player, not as a global superpower.
Donald Trump is unlikely to accept the invitation, unless he and Putin come to some quiet arrangement in advance.
- The continued presence of Syrian forces in Syria is an important issue in relation to military forces from other countries that have participated in the war.
Putin indicated that he was amenable to a partial Russian military drawdown when he met with his foreign and defense ministers to confer on the next steps in Syria. Defense Minister Andrew Shoigu is quoted as saying that Russia was ready to begin drawing down its deployment in Syria, which consists of several dozen fixed-wing aircraft, along with helicopters, ships and Special Forces soldiers.
“All conditions have been created for the reduction of the Russian group in Syria,” Shoigu said, without elaborating on how large the force reduction could be, or which forces may be withdrawn.
The Russians were pointing the way for Tehran to start withdrawing its own troops along with Hezbollah and other Shiite forces from Syria. This is something demanded by Turkey as co-guarantor with Russia of the Syrian truce.
Iran is likely to pretend not to hear these messages, at least in the early stages of the process of de-escalating the Syrian war.
- There is now no question that Bashar Assad remains in power in Damascus. Obama’s demand for his removal was never timely or realistic.