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Pompeo to Lebanon: Get Rid of 2nd Iranian Missile Factory or Face US-Backed Israeli Attack

By DEBKAfile

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Lebanon on Wednesday, Sept. 4, that Israel knows about a second, larger Iranian-Hizbullah missile factory and is preparing to bomb it. Pompeo addressed this urgent message directly to Lebanese Foreign Minister Jubran Basil, who is close to Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah, instead of through the usual embassy channels. He sent it on the day after the IDF showed reporters detailed evidence of the existence of a factory at Nebi Shait for arming Hizbullah's surface missiles with precision kits. The Secretary wrote that Israel intelligence is fully apprised that Iran and Hizbullah were building another, more substantial factory in Lebanon, to accommodate their main missile upgrade project. They had hoped to use the Nebi Shait plant as window dressing to throw Israel off the scent. Pompeo directed Lebanon to dismantle this second factory without delay since Israel was in advanced preparations for its destruction. He stressed that Israel would be acting with full American support, whatever the consequences of the operation. Our sources note that the American message did not specify the location of Missile Factory No. 2. In support of the US ultimatum to Beirut, Israel on Wednesday night boosted its air defense array on the Lebanese and Syria borders with extra Patriot missiles. They were deployed in case Hizbullah retaliated for the potential destruction of its main missile project by launching explosive drones into Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's surprise trip to London – this time in his additional capacity as defense minister – fits in with these preparations. In addition to meeting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Netanyahu will meet separately with the US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper. With him is the Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin and head of the IDF Operations Directorate Maj. Gen. Aharon Havilah. They will present Israel's plans of action in Lebanon in the days ahead.

Likud MK to Far-Right Anti-Gay Party: Quit Race and We'll End Non-Orthodox Worship at Western Wall

By YnetNews

Likud MK Miki Zohar met with Noam Party leaders and offered an end to egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, in exchange for the anti-gay party dropping out of the election race. Noam, a far-right religious party is thought unlikely to cross the minimum threshold needed to enter the Knesset and therefore a waste of votes that could potentially go to Likud. Zohar, a leading member of Likud and a close ally of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, arrived at Noam Party offices accompanied by a member of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party, which shares much of Noam's platform on matters of religion.

In addition to canceling any option for non-Orthodox worship at the Western Wall, Zohar also promised its leaders that Likud will support stricter conversion laws if Netanyahu remains in power and offered Noam leaders a non-ministerial role in the next government. Noam is a new and conservative faction in the Religious Zionist community, which has been criticized for its extreme views on women's role in society, the LGBTQ community and religious pluralism. The Likud Party, however, denied Zohar's meeting with the Noam Party leadership was sanctioned by the prime minister or the party. Noam officials said the party intends to stand for elections in the September 17th ballot.

Greenblatt Steps Down as Broker of White House's `Ultimate Deal' on Mideast Peace


Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump's top Middle East peace negotiator, is leaving the White House. Although the "ultimate" deal he helped craft has yet to be fully announced, the Trump administration suggested in the announcement that Greenblatt was leaving now that it had been written. A senior White House official said the plan is done. "The vision is now complete and will be released when appropriate," the official said in an email. Greenblatt said in a statement: "It has been the honor of a lifetime to have worked in the White House for over two and a half years under the leadership of President Trump. I am incredibly grateful to have been part of a team that drafted a vision for peace. This vision has the potential to vastly improve the lives of millions of Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region." Trump thanked Greenblatt on his favored forum, Twitter, noting Greenblatt's prior role as a lawyer for Trump's businesses. "Jason has been a loyal and great friend and fantastic lawyer," Trump said. "His dedication to Israel and to seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians won't be forgotten." Barely mentioned in the statements released by the White House from Greenblatt and his colleagues, including Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who headed the peace team, were the Palestinians. Kushner notably omitted the Palestinians. The low-key rollout of Greenblatt's departure reflects how curtailed the initiative launched by Kushner has become, from Trump's pledges in 2017 to bring about an "ultimate deal" to 2019, when Kushner downgraded "peace plan" to "vision for peace" and Greenblatt appeared to spend much of his time advising Palestinians to curb their enthusiasm. This summer, the Trump administration rolled out the economic portion of the plan, which relied heavily on regional Arab businessmen investing in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials boycotted the rollout in Bahrain, and Israeli officials were not invited to attend. The release of the political portion of the plan has been delayed in part because Trump is sensitive to how its release will affect the electoral prospects of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the world leader to whom Trump is perhaps closest.

The Palestinians, who were enthusiastic initially about the push led by Kushner, were embittered in December 2017 when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. They have since said that the plan is a stalking horse that embraces outcomes favored by hard-liner Israelis and that David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel who has longstanding associations with hard-liners in the settlement movement, appeared to be the preeminent figure on the peace team. Kushner also retreated from the two-state outcome favored by Trump's predecessors, instructing his team not to use the term "two states." Notably, the senior administration official, in listing Greenblatt's accomplishments, did not include anything that might be seen as conciliatory toward the Palestinians. Instead, the official emphasized Greenblatt's advocacy for the recognition of Israel's claims to Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. "Jason was instrumental, together with others in the administration, when the president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights," the official said. The official also alluded to Greenblatt's transition from his first year on the job, carefully listening to multiple parties, to his second and third year, jousting on Twitter with Palestinian officials about U.S. policies. "Jason has also been instrumental in helping to reframe the discussions about the conflict, using the approach that a real peace can only be built on truth," the official said. Greenblatt's resignation, which will come in weeks, also underscores how Trump's Middle East policy is now overwhelmingly dedicated to aligning Israel and America's Sunni Arab allies against Iran. The senior administration official said that Brian Hook, the State Department's top Iran official who has led the charge squeezing that country's finances, will formally join the team. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser and Kushner's wife, also commented on the departure. "The kindness and unique talents of Jason Greenblatt, a dear friend and colleague, will be missed in the White House," she said. "We know he will continue to impact the world for the better." Friedman also weighed in, and like Kushner made no mention of the Palestinians, instead offering an implied dig at the Obama administration and casting Greenblatt's mission as including the improvement of U.S.-Israel relations. "It's been a tremendous privilege to work with Jason these past few years on the critical tasks of repairing and strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and seeking peace and stability within the Middle East," Friedman said.

On `Fear the Walking Dead,' Zombies Attack my Childhood Synagogue

By David A.M. Wilensky (The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) A lone rabbi lights a Havdalah candle in an empty synagogue. He says the blessing over the wine, then the spices, then the distinctive braided candle. Then zombies begin banging on the door of the sanctuary. The rabbi extinguishes the candle in the wine, picks up a bayoneted assault rifle, opens the door and stabs a lone zombie in the head. Outside, he encounters a teenage girl, Charlie, and saves her from more zombies. "I'm Rabbi Jacob Kessner," he says. "Welcome to Temple B'nai Israel." Charlie tells him she was drawn to the synagogue by the sight of an electric light, a rare sight in a world overrun by zombies. "It's the ner tamid," he tells her. "It's the presence of God. She led you here." That's the opening scene of "Ner Tamid," the Sept. 1 episode of "Fear the Walking Dead" on AMC. Now in its fifth season, the show is a spinoff of "The Walking Dead," a TV show based on a comic book of the same name. Charlie, one of the series' main characters, is part of a convoy that has decided its mission is to bring supplies — and hope — to other survivors trying to hold out in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Desperate for a safe place to settle down, Charlie sneaks off and ends up taking shelter in a car in the synagogue's parking lot. Rabbi Kessner is a new character. And Temple B'nai Israel is actually Congregation Beth Israel of Austin, Texas — my childhood synagogue, the place where I attended religious school and had my bar mitzvah, as well as my dad's current workplace. At one point, there is a shot looking down from the synagogue balcony — where my bar mitzvah portrait was taken. The sanctuary is my sanctuary. I can see the row where my family likes to sit. Seeing zombies surround my first spiritual home, a place I know like the back of my hand is surreal and a little disturbing. Jarringly, our synagogue's godawful ner tamid, or eternal light (a twisted, red-stained-glass monstrosity — the eternal lobster, my family calls it), had been replaced by a big silver plot device of a lamp. With an unspoken nod to the miracle of Chanukah, keeping the eternal light on is a constant source of worry for the rabbi. He keeps it connected to a car battery — but he's on his last one. The next morning, after welcoming Charlie inside, Rabbi Kessner takes a Torah from the ark. (Time for a Sunday morning Torah reading? Torah is not read on Sundays, but it is read on Rosh Hodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month, regardless of the day of the week. Luckily the episode actually aired on Rosh Hodesh). "Why do you still do that?" Charlie asks. "Tradition," the rabbi says, quoting pop culture's most famous Jewish line. "Tradition is very important. Now more than ever." Later, though, Kessner admits that he has lost his faith — that the rituals are just "the rhythms of a life I'm trying to hang on to." It's clear he can't keep going the way he has. He's alone, weary (more so than your average rabbi) and his makeshift fortifications are no longer sufficient. After two others from the convoy come looking for Charlie, the rabbi reveals that not only is he trying to keep zombies out, he's also keeping a few of them in. They are his congregants. They holed up there together in the early days of the zombie apocalypse. Kessner can't bear to kill his congregants-turned-walkers, keeping a number of them locked up in Cohen Foyer, where I have often hung out, snacked and schmoozed. In one scene, he says Kaddish for them. I shed a couple of tears for the rabbi. He's not so different in temperament from the synagogue's real rabbi, the rabbi of my youth, Steven Folberg, who also served as a consultant on the episode. Kudos to him for a job well done: There's a lot of Judaism in this episode, rendered with accuracy and sensitivity. A number of nice touches bring verisimilitude to the Jewish moments. One of the convoy heroes hands Kessner a candy bar. The rabbi checks for a K on the back before eating it. He also has a small vineyard in the back where he makes his own wine. "Mogen David isn't so easy to come by anymore," Kessner says. Upon hearing that there are 36 people in the convoy, he jokingly wonders if he's found the 36 tzaddikim, the 36 righteous persons that our tradition imagines living in the world at any given time. And, during Havdalah, he observes the custom of looking at the candlelight reflected in his fingernails. At one point, with dark irony, the rabbi notes the idea of "techiyat hametim," the belief that in the messianic age to come, the souls of the dead will be resurrected. The actor playing Kessner is Peter Jacobson, who is Jewish. He's a great choice for the role, with a strong off-screen Jewish identity. "It's just a part of me that I bring to any role," he told the Jewish Journal in 2016. "Unless I'm told otherwise, I will be Jewish." The thrust of the show is about the search for a promised land, a place to stop wandering and settle down. It's a wonder it took several seasons to introduce a Jew. Charlie wants to stay at the synagogue. She thinks it's the place they've been looking for. "There isn't a water source for miles," one of the group's leaders says. (Actually, the synagogue is on Shoal Creek Boulevard, with the namesake creek just across the street. Not to mention the rainwater that periodically floods the sanctuary.) During the episode's climax, a couple of people are being attacked by zombies in the parking lot. Kessner stands on the bimah, blowing a shofar repeatedly, drawing the walkers inside and away from Charlie's friends. (Loud noises apparently attract zombies.) The Battle of Jericho echoes in my mind — except here, the shofar is a means of escape from home rather than the conquest of a new place to call home. Kessner and Charlie run from the room, most of the zombies now inside the sanctuary. They lock the doors. The zombies stumble around the bimah. One knocks over the treasured car battery. The eternal light goes out. Finally, the rabbi leaves his sanctuary and joins the convoy. With a cabinet full of Judaica — a Torah, a Kiddush cup, the whole megillah (so to speak) — he joins their search for a place to call home.

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