2012: Netanyahu’s shadow war for the GOP begins?

Posted: January 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Israel’s National Security Council calls U.S. President Barak Obama “naïve,” Israel’s pro-Netanyahu daily reports

Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu free tabloid published by Jewish-American gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, published a story today on recent criticism dealt by Israel’s National Security Council of US President Barak Obama’s policy towards Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

U.S. President Barack Obama is “naive” and needs to face up to the threat presented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, Israel’s National Security Council concluded during a strategic discussion several days ago.

The council, responsible for providing the prime minister and cabinet ministers with strategic assessments, said it was concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt, especially in light of the group’s world view and pronouncements from its officials, repeated as recently as this week, that call the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty into question.

As the article states, the NSC is not an independent think-tank but a strategic assessment body, operating under the Prime Minister’s Office. The head of the NSC is retired IDF general Yaakov Amidror, who was a regular contributor for Israel Hayom until his appointment.

According to numerous reports in the Israeli media, Binyamin Netanyahu sees another Obama term as clear political threat to himself, to the point where he is mulling on calling early election in Israel, so that a possible Democratic victory in November doesn’t affect his standing in the polls.

Israel Hayom, which is very supportive of Netanyahu, is likely to throw its weight behind the Republican candidate. The paper has recently launched an English site, with translations of pieces from its Hebrew edition.

The coverage in Israel Hayom of Newt Gingrich’s campaign – who is considered the closest to Netanayhu of all GOP candidates and a personal favorite of Mr. Adelson – is extremely favorable, thought the even paper admitted today that Gingrich’s chances of winning the Iowa caucuses are practically non-existent.

Last year, Israel Hayom’s editor, Amos Regev, conducted a personal interview with Gingrich, in which the former House speaker called a possible Israeli attack on Iran “an act of self defense.” The paper’s response to the candidate’s hostile remarks towards the Palestinians was extremely favorable: One op-ed in Israel Hayom praised Gingrich for his “historical accuracy,” while another was titled “thank you, Mr. Gingrich.”

Sheldon Adelson recently backed Gingrich, saying that calling the Palestinians an “invented people” is correct.

What’s the mysterious story behind the Ofer Brothers’ “Iran-gate”?

Posted: June 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The controversy surrounding business ties of shipping companies owned by Israeli tycoons to Iran took a surprising turn in the Knesset today, leading to a torrent of security-oriented rumors and hints of covert operations

this post was updated.

It’s been several days that the Israeli media is revealing information regarding alleged violations of the economical boycott on Iran by Israel’s richest business tycoons, Sammi and Yuli Ofer. The affair, which was first covered by the business sections of the papers, has come to dominate the news cycle in the last 24 hours, following a bizarre chain of events.

The Ofer Brothers made their fortune mainly in the shipping business. Since the 90′s, when Israel went through rapid privatization of public assets, the Ofer Brothers have become—through their holdings in Israel Corporation—the owners of some of the country’s largest companies, including the Haifa Chemical Plants and Zim, formally the national shipping company.

Today the Ofer Brothers own the world’s largest shipping company. They rank 79 in Fortunes’ list of world billionaires.

Their current troubles began when the US State Department announced it would impose sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group, following sale of one of their ships (through a third company) to Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). The Ofer Brothers claimed they didn’t know the tanker would end up in Iranian hands, but in the last few days, it was also revealed that no less than 13 of their ships—sailing under foreign flags—docked in Iranian ports.

While government ministers—including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu—kept quiet on this issue, the media hasn’t. Pundits and commentators claimed that the Ofer Brothers not only violated Israel’s own law, but more importantly, severely hurt Israel’s demand that the international community tighten sanctions on Tehran.

This week, following claims from representatives of the Ofer family that all their activities were known to Israeli authorities, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office told the media that the state had no knowledge of the docking of Ofer tankers in Iran.

Yesterday, however, the affair took a surprising turn. First, former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, said that the coverage of the Ofer Brothers issue has been “blown out of proportion.”

The daily Yedioth Ahronoth interpreted Dagan’s remarks as a “hint” to the media that the Ofer Brothers’ ships were traveling to Iran with the blessing of Israel’s security establishment. “Dagan’s hint” was the papers’ top headline today; under it a source in the Ofer holding group was quoted as saying: “Israel has used us for national interests more than once.”

Headline of Yedioth Ahronoth daily, May 30: “Dagan’s hint”

Later today, a debate in the Knesset’s economic committee on the activities of the Ofer Brothers was stopped abruptly by the committee’s chairman, Karmel Shama-Hacohen, a hawkish Likud Member, following a mysterious note that was slipped to him from an unknown source. Shama-Hacohen refused to disclose the content of the note, and just said the “it wasn’t political, nor business oriented.”

By this point, every other comment on the internet was some form of speculation about the covert operations of the Ofer family in Iran. In a few short hours, the Ofer family was about to go from villains to national heroes.

So, what was really in the note Shama-Hacohen got? Towards the evening, after several Knesset members demanded to know why the committee meeting was brought to an end in such an unorthodox way, Shama-Hacohen admitted the mysterious note had nothing to do with security (which leaves very few issues that it could have been related to), and the Army Censor issued a rare statement, declaring it had not nothing to do with shutting down the Knesset hearing.

So now, we are back in square one, and the Ofer family will have to come up with a better explanation regarding their activities than the vague hints of special operations. But once again, it was demonstrated how easy it is to spin the debate in Israel—to the point of stopping a formal Knesset hearing—once “national security” is mentioned.

UPDATE: Haaretz is reporting this morning (Wednesday) that the new National Security Advisor, Yaakov Amidror, worked for the Ofer Brothers at the time their alleged deals with Iran were made. Amidror left his job with Zim and Israel Corporate roughly two months ago, when he was appointed as the new NSA.

Sheldon Adelson: Obama’s moves liable to bring the destruction of Israel

Posted: May 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The gambling billionaire, who publishes the pro-Netanyahu “Israel Hayom” tabloid, said he objects to an agreement with any of the current Palestinian leaders

Sheldon Adelson, Israel Hayom publisher (photo: 7th Eye / cc-by-nc-sa)

Sheldon Adelson, Israel Hayom publisher (photo: 7th Eye / cc-by-nc-sa)

Unlike the confrontation between the White House and Jerusalem over the settlements during the administration’s first year, I think that the current rift has more to do with tones and personal mistrust than actual policy differences. More than anything, it seems that President Obama’s Middle East speech was meant to help Israel avoid isolation at the UN, but Netanyahu overreacted, and later decided to play tough, mainly for political reasons. As I wrote yesterday, it worked out for him quite well.

What do people around the prime minister really think of Obama? A good example was given just before Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, in a phone interview Jewish Week’s Gary Rosenblatt conducted with Gambling Billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Apart from being a personal friend of the Netanyahus, Adelson is the publisher of the pro-Netanyahu tabloid Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”), currently the most widely read paper in Israel (speculations held that the paper was started by Adelson to help Netanyahu personally). Many of Netanyahu’s men were on Adelson’s payroll until recently: The head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Nathan Eshel, was a deputy manager at Israel Hayom before joining the Neyanyahu campaign; former National Security Advisor Uzi Arad was part of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Research; the current NSA, Yaakov Amidror, was a pundit for Israel Hayom; the ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was a fellow at Adelson’s conservative think-tank, the Shalem Center.

And what does Adelson think of Obama? Here it goes:

Any of the Republican hopefuls “are going to be 180 degrees” different from President Obama in terms of “what’s good for this country and for Israel,” Adelson said, adding that Obama is “the worst president” for Israel.

“All the steps he’s taken against the state of Israel are liable to bring about the destruction of the state,” he asserted.

Like Netanyahu, Adelson will praise peace, but object to the international community’s definition of the two-state solution:

“Can you make peace with people whose sole mission is to destroy you?” he asked. “You don’t have someone who wants to make peace with you.”

He said that for the Palestinian leadership, “the two-state solution is a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” and he sees no distinction between Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

“They sat with [PLO leader Yassir] Arafat for 40 years,” Adelson said of Abbas and Fayyad. “When he was planning terror, did they recuse themselves and leave the room?”

He said he saw no chance for peace as long as Palestinian children from the age of 3 are taught that “a Jew is a swine and ape” and should be killed.

“I favor peace,” he said, “but to be pro-Israel you also need to have a position vis a vis Israel’s enemies. And no reasonable person would make Israel sign with people pledged to destroy them.”

(h/t rotter.net)