‘There won’t be equal burden, but rather a reduction in inequality’

MK Ayelet Shaked is pinning her hopes on integrating the ultra-Orthodox community into the workforce • “Whoever talks about equalizing the burden is wrong — enlisting in the military is a privilege, not a burden.”

Ayelet Shaked from Habayit Hayehudi

Ayelet Shaked from Habayit Hayehudi

Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, the head of the Knesset’s Special Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden, responded on Tuesday to criticism committee’s bill.

Shaked said the bill would not bring about complete equal sharing of the burden. “It is not a law of equality, but it is meant to reduce the inequality,” Shaked told Israel Hayom in an interview.

Shaked said targets for enlisting ultra-Orthodox men into military and civil service — some 5,200 men according to proposals in the new law — are no different than what is actually happening in reality. “If the state would budget ultra-Orthodox enlistment, and the army would take the situation seriously like it did last year — the new law would be unnecessary and there would be no need to replace the Tal Law.

“Whoever talks about equalizing the burden is wrong. There isn’t equality, there is a reduction in the gap of inequality, and there is no burden because serving in the army is a privilege. Our goal is to make sure the ultra-Orthodox sector will integrate into the workforce, which is a very important goal.”

Shaked said she had asked the army to look into alternatives to extending women’s military service, and that she would not give up on shortening the time for men.

Discussions continued Tuesday as the committee argued over the military service of Zionist yeshiva students. Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community, MKs Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush, and Ariel Atias actually came to the defense of the Zionist yeshiva students who serve in the army, after learning that the new law allows them to study until the age of 23 before enlisting.

“You want to destroy the rabbinate and the judgeship. If they enlist in the Israel Defense Forces at age 23, they won’t have rabbis and teachers at an advanced level. Why not let them continue studying?” MK Gafni said.

“If you pass this law, we will not obey it,” Porush said.

On the other hand, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said he has great respect for Zionist yeshiva students because 80 to 85 percent of them serve in combat units.

After a heated debate, the committee approved the clause that would allow yeshiva students to defer their military service, and continue studying, until the age of 23 — with the exception of 300 students that can delay their service until age 26.

The committee also discussed the enrollment of Chabad men. “Every year, dozens of Chabad students evade the military by going abroad at age 17 or 18 for a few years. Those who come back are sentenced and forced to serve,” the Israel Defense Force representative, Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon said.

The committee decided to vote some time next week on further reservations to integrating yeshiva students in the IDF.

“After cancelling the Tal Law that was not equal, we are heading towards an agreement which is even less equal. What is being done here is in legal doubt,” said Professor Yedidia Z. Stern, Israel Democracy Institute vice president of research, adding that talks of criminal penalties can’t hide the fact that next year there will be fewer haredim enlisting.

At a graduation ceremony for the IDF Ground Forces officer training course on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I want to see on this parade ground a more equal representation of all parts of our society. This is true and correct for everyone and we are currently working in this direction.”

Iran threatens U.S, Israel

Chief of staff warns Tehran’s enemies and regional states against military action, calling American threats ‘political bluff’

In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.

He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.

Washington has many military bases in the region, including in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said late last month that if diplomacy with Iran fails, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.”

But Firouzabadi accused the US of bluffing.

“Over the past decade, they brought their forces but came to the conclusion that they can’t attack us, and left,” he said, dismissing the US military threat as nothing but a “political bluff.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the West should not have any delusions about using a military option.

“I say explicitly, if some have delusions of having any threats against Iran on their tables, they need to wear new glasses. There is no military option against Iran on any table in the world,” he said.

On Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi said the US knows that its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf would be sunk if it launched a military strike on Iran.

“The Americans can sense by all means how their warships will be sunk with 5,000 crews and forces in combat against Iran and how they should find its hulk in the depths of the sea,” said Fadavi, according to Fars news agency.

“They cannot hide themselves in the sea since the entire Middle East region, Western Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz are monitored by us and there is no place for them to hide.”

Also Sunday, Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan touted the Iranian military’s ability to respond to an American attack, Fars reported.

“The Iranian Armed Forces are an intertwined and coherent complex that can give a decisive response to any threat at any level and any place under the command of the commander-in-chief,” Dehqan said in a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the revolution that brought the current Islamic regime to power.

“The enemy can never assess and think of the range of the response given by the powerful and mighty Armed Forces of the Islamic Iran,” he added.

The bellicose rhetoric follows Saturday’s announcement by an Iranian admiral that Iran had dispatched warships to the North Atlantic, while Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the Americans as liars who, while professing to be friends of Tehran, would bring down his regime if they could. He also said it was “amusing” that the US thought Iran would reduce its “defensive capabilities.”

On Friday, Iranian state TV ran a documentary featuring a computerized video of Iran’s drones and missiles bombing Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben-Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor in a simulated retaliation for a hypothetical Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic.

Iran is due to resume talks on Monday in Vienna with the P5+1 — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — aimed at reaching a comprehensive nuclear accord following a landmark interim agreement struck in November.

Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, if diplomacy fails.

Strike inevitable as Iran mocks World Powers

With an interim agreement reached and signed in Geneva between the P-5+1 and Iran on Saturday, the US Government seems content while subsequent events clearly indicate Iran is not planning on keeping its end of the bargain leaving Netanyahu no option but to order a strike.

A couple of quick pen strokes signaled the sealing of the (interim) agreement in the early hours of Sunday after four long days of negotiations. Soon thereafter, near-euphoric headlines emerged around the world notifying the international community of this happening. Yet there is little to rejoice about.

Read the rest of the article at:

blogs.timesofisrael.com/strike-inevitable-as-iran-mocks-world-powers/

US shelves drone sale to Turkey over exposing Mossad spy ring

Turkish outlet Daily Taraf says Turkish military intelligence chief Hakan Fidan’s disdain for the Mossad was apparent after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident • Turkish official: U.S. angry over $4 billion weapons contract it lost to a Chinese competitor.

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The U.S. has canceled a shipment of 10 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to Turkey, following that country’s exposure of an Iranian spy network that worked with the Mossad, Turkish media outlet Daily Taraf reported on Monday.

The shipment of drones was reportedly shelved due to U.S. frustration with Turkish military intelligence chief Hakan Fidan ‘s intelligence cooperation with Iran.

According to the report, Fidan’s disdain for the Mossad had already been noted earlier, following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turkish nationals were killed and several Israeli soldiers wounded when Israel Defense Forces commandos seized a ship that was attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Turkish intelligence reportedly halted cooperation with the Mossad a year later, and then proceeded to provide Iran with information on the Israeli spy agency.

A Turkish government official was quoted as saying that the U.S. chose to announce Fidan’s role in exposing the spy ring because Turkey recently rejected a U.S. missile defense system $4 billion proposal in favor of a Chinese competitor’s.

IDF destroys Syrian mortar after two soldiers wounded

The incident marks the first time Israeli troops are wounded by spillover from Syrian fighting • IDF says shells were stray rounds, files complaint with U.N. forces in the area • Army has noted multiple instances of spillover along the border in past month.

IDF troops at the Golan Heights, Wednesday

IDF troops at the Golan Heights, Wednesday

The Israel Defense Forces destroyed a Syrian mortar used to launch shells that wounded two Israeli soldiers in the northern Golan Heights on Wednesday.

Army Radio reported that the IDF fired a Tammuz missile at the Syrian mortar and confirmed its destruction.

The two soldiers were wounded by shrapnel when two mortar shells exploded Wednesday, marking the first time Israeli troops on the Syrian border have been wounded from spillover from the fighting in Syria. The army stated that the mortar rounds were strays fired during fighting on the Syrian side of the border between rebels and the Syrian military, and that a complaint was filed with the U.N. forces in the area.

The IDF has noted increased fighting near the Syrian border recently, citing multiple instances of spillover in the past month. Last Tuesday, workers constructing a security barrier near an IDF fortification on the Golan Heights were fired upon. No one was wounded in the incident, though the gunfire caused a fire. In September, an IDF vehicle sustained fire from the Syrian side of the border. Soldiers fired back at the source of the shooting, and there were no injuries in the incident.

In August, an errant Syrian artillery shell exploded on the Golan Heights. The IDF returned fire with a Tammuz missile and destroyed the Syrian position. In July, seven mortar rounds exploded in Israel during skirmishes between the Syrian regime and rebel forces.

Rouhani, on Iranian TV in May, detailed how he broke nuclear pledge

Candidate’s interview from just before his election gets fresh attention as West seeks to judge Iran’s credibility ahead of new negotiations

n a video clip now gaining fresh attention as the international community seeks to assess his credibility, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani bragged on Iranian state television just four months ago that he and the regime utterly flouted a 2003 agreement with the IAEA in which it promised to suspend all uranium enrichment and certain other nuclear activities.

Rouhani, who was being interviewed by Iran’s state IRIB TV (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) on May 27, less than three weeks before he won the June 14 presidential elections, was provoked by the interviewer’s assertion that, as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003-5, “everything was suspended” on the nuclear program under his watch.

Smiling but evidently highly irritated by the suggestion, Rouhani called it “a lie” that only “the illiterate” would believe, and said that “whoever is talking to you in your earpiece” was feeding false information. He proceeded to detail how Iran, in fact, had flagrantly breached the October 2003 “Tehran Declaration,” which he said “was supposed to outline how everything should be suspended.”

Although Iran issued a joint statement with visiting EU ministers in October 2003 setting out its pledged obligations under the Tehran Declaration, in practice, Rouhani said in the interview, “We did not let that happen!”

The interview, conducted by Hassan Abedini, was one in a series of shows in which the presidential candidates were questioned by the widely watched channel. The TV station is closely controlled by loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Rouhani clearly felt the imperative to underline that he was no Western pushover.

Far from honoring the commitment, in which Iran said “it has decided voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities,” Rouhani told the interviewer that all Iran did was merely suspend “ten centrifuges” in the Natanz enrichment facility. “And not a total suspension. Just reduced the yield.”

Unimpressed, interviewer Abedini asserted that work had been suspended at the UCF — the Uranium Enrichment Facility at Isfahan. Quite the contrary, Rouhani countered, detailing the completion of various phases of work at Isfahan under his watch in 2004 and 2005. He went on to state proudly that the Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak was also developed under his watch, in 2004.

“Do you know when we developed yellowcake? Winter 2004,” Rouhani went on. “Do you know when the number of centrifuges reached 3,000? Winter 2004.”

Incredulous at the notion that Iran had bowed to international pressure and halted nuclear activities in that period, Rouhani asked the interviewer, “We halted the nuclear program? We were the ones to complete it! We completed the technology.”

He clarified that this was not his solo success, but was rather thanks to the work of “our valuable nuclear scientists. Our beloved ones. We kiss their hands.” But he stressed, “We were the first to initiate this. By ‘we,’ I mean the whole government, not Hassan Rouhani. By we, I mean the supreme leader. We were all hand in hand. That is why the supreme leader in his speech of November 11, 2003, said that in those negotiations, the conspiracy of Washington and Israel was shattered.”

Iran had taken “the correct stance [in the nuclear talks], without submission and coercion,” he said.

Rouhani then again attacked the interviewer, and “the guy who talks into your earpiece” for allegedly misleading viewers, to which Abedini replied: “I have read your book from cover to cover, twice.”

“Good job,” retorted Rouhani. “Then read it for a third time, Mr. Abedini. This is how we completed the nuclear enrichment program.”

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, and in a succession of other statements and inteviews, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has alleged that Rouhani, in his current outreach to the West, is misleading it by professing a willingness to negotiate over the nuclear program. Netanyahu warned the international community not to be “fooled” by Rouhani as it enters new diplomatic negotiations set to start next week.

As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, Netanyahu said at the UN, Rouhani “masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.”

Netanyahu then quoted from Rouhani’s 2011 book, in which he wrote, “‘While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.’ Now, for those of you who don’t know,” Netanyahu explained, “the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote, ‘By creating a calm environment — a calm environment — we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.’ He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.”

In Rouhani’s address to the UN, on September 24, the president said “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” and offered “to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks” over the nuclear program, “to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.” At the same time, he warned, “Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale. It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.”

Netanyahu says he would consider meeting with Rouhani

Two days after excoriating Hassan Rouhani as a wolf in sheep’s clothing who lies about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and 10 days after he instructed Israel’s UN delegation to leave the General Assembly hall rather than hear Rouhani speak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would “consider” meeting the Iranian president, in comments published early Friday.

Netanyahu, speaking to National Public Radio as part of a media blitz while in the US, said he would question Rouhani on Tehran’s nuclear program, which the Israeli leader has called to be completely shut down.

“I don’t care about the meeting. I don’t have a problem with the diplomatic process,” Netanyahu said to NPR’s Steve Inskeep.

“I haven’t been offered. If I’m offered, I’d consider it, but it’s not an issue,” he clarified. “If I meet with these people I’d stick this question in their face: Are you prepared to dismantle your program completely? Because you can’t stay with the [nuclear] enrichment.”

He also called Rouhani, considered a relative moderate, the “least bad” candidate of those who were allowed to run in Iran’s June presidential elections.

Netanyahu told NPR that Iran’s overtures toward a deal with the West to curb its uranium enrichment were “hogwash,” but said he would be “delighted” by a “real” deal, according to excerpts published by NPR. The full interview was to air on Morning Edition later Friday.

In his speech to the UN on Tuesday, Netanyahu had depicted Rouhani in withering terms, and set out what he said was the Iranian president’s strategy: “First, smile a lot. Smiling never hurts. Second, pay lip service to peace, democracy and tolerance. Third, offer meaningless concessions in exchange for lifting sanctions. And fourth, and the most important, ensure that Iran retains sufficient nuclear material and sufficient nuclear infrastructure to race to the bomb at a time it chooses to do so. You know why Rouhani thinks he can get away with this? I mean, this is a ruse. It’s a ploy… Because he’s gotten away with it before, because his strategy of talking a lot and doing little has worked for him in the past.”

A week earlier, the prime minister instructed the Israeli delegation to exit the General Assembly hall before Rouhani addressed the forum — the only country to do so. Later, facing criticism at home, including from inside his own coalition, Netanyahu said he was vindicated. To have the Israeli representatives in the hall listening to Rouhani’s speech, he said, “would have given legitimacy to a regime that does not accept that the Holocaust happened and publicly declares its desire to wipe Israel off the map.” As Israel’s prime minister, he said, “I won’t allow the Israeli delegation to be part of a cynical public relations charade by a regime that denies that Holocaust and calls for our destruction.”

Aides to Netanyahu had no comment on the prime minister’s remarks about meeting Rouhani. Those around Netanyahu said that the question about a meeting was hypothetical, and stressed that the prime minister’s stance on Iran, its ambition to destroy Israel, and the duplicity of its outreach to the West was unchanged.

Meanwhile Thursday, Netanyahu made his first effort at direct outreach to the Iranians, giving an interview to BBC Persian peppered with Farsi sayings.

In the BBC interview, he said the ayatollahs’ regime was responsible for the harsh sanctions and socioeconomic situation they are enduring.

“I would welcome a genuine rapprochement, a genuine effort to stop the nuclear program, not a fake one, not harf-e pootch [‘nonsense’ in Farsi]. We are not sadeh-lowe [‘suckers’ in Farsi],” said the prime minister.

Jerusalem, which enjoyed friendly relations with Tehran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has made efforts to avoid any contact with the Iranians, with Netanyahu ordering the Israeli delegation to leave the United Nations plenum when Rouhani spoke there on September 24.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu warned the United Nations General Assembly about Rouhani who, he said, was trying to charm the West while nuclear enrichment, widely believed to be for military purposes, continued in Iran as it did under his predecessor.

“[Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the eyes — the wool over the eyes of the international community,” he said.

Israel sees an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat and has lobbied the world to keep pressure on Tehran, though the US has recently made moves to open negotiations for lifting sanctions in exchange for concessions on the nuclear program.

Attempts at detente between the US and Iran, which cut off relations in 1980 following the Islamic Revolution and hostage crisis, reached fever pitch late last month, with US President Barack Obama speaking to Rouhani in a historic phone call. Rouhani rejected requests by Obama for a meeting, though, with officials saying the Iranian leader’s schedule did not allow for it.

On Wednesday, Rouhani responded unequivocally to Netanyahu’s UN speech, promising to continue what Iran insists is a peaceful nuclear program with “full power.”

“Israel is upset to see that its sword has gone blunt and Iran grows more powerful day by day,” Rouhani told reporters in Tehran, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Since the speech, Netanyahu has been engaged in a PR offensive, giving interviews to a number of Western news outlets designed to present Israel’s position on Iran.

Speaking to NBC Wednesday, Netanyahu dismissed the notion that Rouhani was freely elected, saying Iranians would topple the regime if they could.

“These people, the Iranian people, the majority of them are actually pro-Western,” he stated, adding, “But they don’t have that. They’re governed not by Rouhani, they’re governed by Ayatollah Khamenei. He heads a cult. That cult is wild in its ambitions and its aggression.”

On Wednesday night, meanwhile, Netanyahu spoke to American Jewish leaders at a closed media event, telling his audience that Rouhani’s charm offensive was not proving as successful as many observers assume.

Netanyahu said press coverage of the Iranian leader’s efforts to woo the West — notably in a UN speech 10 days ago, and a series of media interviews — might have exaggerated the effect it had on the public.

The prime minister also rejected critics who said his policies on Iran and the Palestinians isolated Israel, and said his stance on Iran is closer than many might imagine to that of many worried Arab states in the region.

Israel’s Channel 2 reported Wednesday that Netanyahu was presiding over “intensive contacts” with unnamed Arab and Gulf leaders to form a new alliance against Iran, amid fears that the US would be duped by Tehran in the nascent diplomatic process.