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The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history Ė to Israel Ė was a win for both sides.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8bn Ė a 22 per cent increase Ė for a decade starting in 2019.

Mr Netanyahu has presented this as a rebuff to those who accuse him of jeopardising Israeli security interests with his governmentís repeated affronts to the White House.

In the past weeks alone, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has compared last yearís nuclear deal between Washington and Iran with the 1938 Munich pact, which bolstered Hitler; and Mr Netanyahu has implied that US opposition to settlement expansion is the same as support for the ďethnic cleansingĒ of Jews.

American president Barack Obama, meanwhile, hopes to stifle his own critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel. The deal should serve as a fillip too for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic partyís candidate to succeed Mr Obama in Novemberís election.

In reality, however, the Obama administration has quietly punished Mr Netanyahu for his misbehaviour. Israeli expectations of a $4.5bn-a-year deal were whittled down after Mr Netanyahu stalled negotiations last year as he sought to recruit Congress to his battle against the Iran deal.

In fact, Israel already receives roughly $3.8bn Ė if Congressís assistance on developing missile defence programmes is factored in. Notably, Israel has been forced to promise not to approach Congress for extra funds.

The deal takes into account neither inflation nor the dollarís depreciation against the shekel.

A bigger blow still is the White Houseís demand to phase out a special exemption that allowed Israel to spend nearly 40 per cent of aid locally on weapon and fuel purchases. Israel will soon have to buy all its armaments from the US, ending what amounted to a subsidy to its own arms industry.

Nonetheless, Washingtonís renewed military largesse Ė in the face of almost continual insults Ė inevitably fuels claims that the Israeli tail is wagging the US dog. Even The New York Times has described the aid package as ďtoo bigĒ.

Since the 1973 war, Israel has received at least $100bn in military aid, with more assistance hidden from view. Back in the 1970s, Washington paid half of Israelís military budget. Today it still foots a fifth of the bill, despite Israelís economic success.

But the US expects a return on its massive investment. As the late Israeli politician-general Ariel Sharon once observed, ≠Israel has been a US ďaircraft carrierĒ in the Middle East, acting as the regional bully and carrying out operations that benefit Washington.

Almost no one blames the US for Israeli attacks that wiped out Iraqís and Syriaís nuclear programmes. A nuclear-armed Iraq or Syria would have deterred later US-backed moves at regime overthrow, as well as countering the strategic advantage Israel derives from its own nuclear arsenal.

In addition, Israelís US-sponsored military prowess is a triple boon to the US weapons industry, the countryís most powerful lobby. Public funds are siphoned off to let Israel buy goodies from American arms makers. That, in turn, serves as a shop window for other customers and spurs an endless and lucrative game of catch-up in the rest of the Middle East.

The first F-35 fighter jets to arrive in Israel in December Ė their various components produced in 46 US states Ė will increase the clamour for the cutting-edge warplane.

Israel is also a ďfront-line laboratoryĒ, as former Israeli army negotiator Eival Gilady admitted at the weekend, that develops and field-tests new technology Washington can later use itself.

The US is planning to buy back the missile interception system Iron Dome Ė which neutralises battlefield threats of retaliation Ė it largely paid for. Israel works closely too with the US in developing cyber≠warfare, such as the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iranís civilian nuclear programme.

But the clearest message from Israelís new aid package is one delivered to the Palestinians: Washington sees no pressing strategic interest in ending the occupation. It stood up to Mr Netanyahu over the Iran deal but will not risk a damaging clash over Palestinian statehood.

Some believe that Mr Obama signed the aid package to win the credibility necessary to overcome his domestic Israel lobby and pull a rabbit from the hat: an initiative, unveiled shortly before he leaves office, that corners Mr Netanyahu into making peace.

Hopes have been raised by an expected meeting at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. But their first talks in 10 months are planned only to demonstrate unity to confound critics of the aid deal.

If Mr Obama really wanted to pressure Mr Netanyahu, he would have used the aid agreement as leverage. Now Mr Netanyahu need not fear US financial retaliation, even as he intensifies effective annexation of the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu has drawn the right lesson from the aid deal Ė he can act against the Palestinians with continuing US impunity.

- See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2016-09-19/palestinians-lose-in-us-military-aid-deal-with-israel/#sthash.fL4Eq28N.dpuf

Erdogan Is Out of Touch With Reality

By President Bashar al-Assad

November 15, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - Damascus, SANA-President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to RTP TV channel.

Following is the full text;

Question 1: Mr. President, letís start with Aleppo if you donít mind. There are still thousands of civilians trapped, trying to survive in a sort of sub-human conditions in the middle of a deluge of bombs. Why do you think that they refused to get out?

President Assad: The part that you mention in Aleppo, what they call it the eastern part, is occupied by the terrorists for the last three years, and they have been using the civilians as human shields. From our side, from our part as government, we have two missions: the first one is to fight those terrorists to liberate that area and the civilians from those terrorists, and at the same time to try to find a solution to evacuate that area from those terrorists if they accept, letís say, what you call it reconciliation option, in which they either give up their armaments for amnesty, or they leave that area. The other thing we did as government is to open gates for the civilians to leave that area, and at the same time for the humanitarian convoys and help to go through those gates inside that part of Aleppo, but the terrorists publicly refused any solution, so they wanted to keep the situation as it is.

Question 2: But Mr. President, arenít you using the jihadists to discredit all the oppositions at the eyes of the national and international public opinion, and in the end to try to wipe them all out?

President Assad: No, we cannot do that for a very simple reason: because weíve been dealing with this kind of terrorism since the fifties, since the Muslim Brotherhood came to Syria at that time, and we learned that lesson very well, especially in the eighties, that terrorists cannot be used as a political card, you cannot put it in your pocket, because itís like a scorpion; it will bite you someday. So, we cannot use jihadists because itís like shooting yourself in the foot. Theyíre going to be against you sooner or later. This is in a pragmatic way, but if you think as value, we wouldnít do it. Using terrorism or jihadists or extremists for any political agenda is immoral.

Question 3: But Mr. President, the people, the civilians inside Aleppo, couldnít we assume that they probably donít trust the government, they donít trust the army, that they just want democracy, dignity, freedom? Can you give that to them?

President Assad: Letís talk about this point, regarding the reality; since the beginning of the crisis, since the terrorists started to control some areas within Syria, the majority of the Syrian civilians left that areas to join the government areas, not vice versa. If the majority of the Syrians donít trust the government, they should go the other way.

Let me tell you another example, which is a starker example. You were in Daraya, al-Muadamiya, a few days ago, when you came here, and the terrorists and militants who left that area to Idleb in the northern part of Syria to join their fellow terrorists, they left their families under the supervision of the government, and you can go and visit them now, if you want.

Question 4: Mr. President, Iíve been here first four years ago, and now. Are you winning the war, this war in Syria?

President Assad: We can say, you can win the war only when you restore stability in Syria. You cannot talk about winning the war as long as thereís killing and destruction on daily basis. That doesnít mean we are losing the war; the army is making good advancement on daily basis against the terrorists. Of course, they still have the support of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and some Western countries including the United States, but the only option that we have in that regard is to win. If you donít win and the terrorists win, Syria wouldnít exist anymore.

Question 5: But would you have done that also without Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia?

President Assad: They are here because they could offer very essential and important help, because the situation that we are facing now is not only about a few terrorists from within Syria; itís like international war against Syria. Those terrorists have been supported by tens of foreign countries, so Syria alone wouldnít be able to face this kind of war without the help of its friends. Thatís why their existence and their support was very essential.

Question 6: Isnít Mr. Putin your most important ally?

President Assad: Russia is very important, Iran is very important, Hezbollah is very important. All of them are important. Each one made important achievements against the terrorists in Syria, so itís difficult to say who is more important than the other.

Journalist: But whatís the role of Russia in Syria nowadays?

President Assad: The most important part of their support is the aerial support, which is very essential, they have very strong firepower, and at the same time they are the main supply of our army for more than sixty years, so our army depends on the Russian support in different military domains.

Question 7: But are you free to decide the future of Syria, or are you dependent on Vladimir Putinís strategies?

President Assad: No, first of all, we are fully free, not partially, fully free, in everything related to the future of Syria. Second, which is more important or as important as the first part or the first factor, that the Russians always base their policies on values, and these values are the sovereignty of other countries, the international law, respecting other people, other cultures, so they donít interfere in whatever is related to the future of Syria or the Syrian people.

Question 8: But they have helped you quite a few times in the United Nations. They have vetoed a few resolutions condemning your government, and the Syrian Army. There are several reports regarding Syria for use of chemical weapons, human right abuses, war crimes. All of this in the framework of the United Nations.

President Assad: And many ask ďwhat for?Ē I mean, whatís in return, what did they ask in return, thatís the question, actually, thatís the content of your question, because we heard it many times, whether in the media or directly. Actually, first of all, for their values, because in these values that Iím talking about, the value of international law, and they have their interest as well. I mean, fighting the terrorists in Syria is not only in the interest of Syria or the Syrian people; in the interest of the Middle East, of Europe itself Ė something that many officials in the West donít see or donít realize or donít acknowledge Ė and in the interest of the Russian people, because they have been facing terrorists for decades now. So, the Russians are fighting for us, for the world, and for their self.

Question 9: But when you speak about values, democracy is a value.

President Assad: Of course.

Journalist: Freedom is a value.

President Assad: Of course.

Question 10: Can you say that Syria is a democracy, like the Western standards?

President Assad: The only one who can fight for these values like democracy and freedoms are the people of any country or any society, not the foreigners. Foreigners cannot bring freedom, cannot bring democracy, because this is related to the culture, to the different factors that affect or influence that society. You cannot bring it, you cannot import it. You cannot import anything from outside your country regarding the future of your country.

Question 11: But would you define Syria as a democracy?

President Assad: No, we were on the way to democracy. We didnít say that we are fully democratic, we were on the way, we were moving forward. Slowly or fast, thatís subjective, cannot be objective, thatís always subjective. But weíre moving forward in that regard, of course. But the criteria or the paradigm for us is not the West, not the Western paradigm, because the West has its own culture, we have our own culture, they have their own reality, we have our own reality. So, our democracy should reflect our culture and our habits and our customs and our reality at the same time.

Question 12: Iím sure that you know that there is a new Secretary-General of the United Nations. How do you look at him, Mr. Guterres, taking into the account his well-known humanitarian approach to the situation?

President Assad: Of course, I agree about the headline of this approach. I say ďheadlineĒ because you always Ė under the headline, you have many sub-headlines or different titles. When you talk about humanitarian, it doesnít only mean to offer the people the help, the food, their necessary needs for their life. The first thing, if you ask the Syrian refugees, for example, the first thing they want is to go back to their country. The first thing they want is to be able to live within Syria. That means help, humanitarian help, the way we understand it, food, medical care, any other, letís say, basics for the daily life. The second one is to have stability and to have security, which means humanitarian equals fighting terrorists. You cannot talk about humanitarian aid and supporting the terrorists at the same time. You cannot, you have to choose. And of course, Iím not talking about him; Iím talking about the countries that go to support his plan, because he needs the support of other countries, he cannot achieve that plan while many countries in the world are still supporting the terrorists in Syria. So, of course we support it, whether helping the people to live, to go back to their country, and to live in security without terrorists.

Question 13: He said already that peace in Syria is a priority. Are you available to talk with him, to work with him, for that purpose?

President Assad: Definitely, of course. Itís his priority, and of course itís our priority, thatís self-evident. Itís not only our priority; itís a Middle Eastern priority, and when the Middle East is stable, the rest of the world is stable, because the Middle East is the heart of the world geographically and geopolitically, and Syria is the heart of the Middle East geographically and geopolitically. We are the fault line; if you donít deal with this fault line, youíre going to have an earthquake, thatís what we always said. Thatís why this priority is a hundred percent correct from our point of view, and we are ready to cooperate in any way to achieve stability in Syria, of course taking into consideration the interest of the country, and the will of the Syrian people.

Question 14: You said when we spoke that the United Nations are biased. You think with Mr. Guterres that can change a little bit?

President Assad: Everybody knows that the United Nations is not the Secretary-General; he has an important position, but the United Nations is the states within this organization, and to be frank, most of the people say only the five permanent members; this is the United Nations because they have the veto, they can do whatever they want and they can refuse whatever they want, and if thereís a reform that is very much needed for this organization, they can make veto or they can move forward in that regard. But at the same time, the way he presented himself as Secretary-General is very important. If you ask me ďwhat do you expect from such a new official in that important position,Ē I would say I need two things: the first one is to be objective in every statement he could make regarding any conflict around the world, including Syria. The second one, which is related and complimentary with the first one, is not to turn his office into a part or branch of the State Department of the United States. Thatís what we expect now. Of course, when heís objective, he can play an important role in dealing with different officials in the United Nations in order to bring the policies of the different states Ė mainly Russia and the United States Ė toward more cooperation and more stability regarding Syria.

Question 15: But regarding Syria, there are a lot agendas: Qatar, Turkey, Russia, United States, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. How is it possible to try to find that peace process with so many agendas?

President Assad: Without bringing all those countries and the different factors in one direction, of course itís going to be difficult. Thatís why I always say the Syrian problem as isolated case, as Syrian case, is not very complicated. What makes it complicated is the interference from the outside, especially the Western interference because itís against the will of the Syrian government, while the intervention of the Russians, Iranians, and Hezbollah is because of the invitation of the Syrian government. So, his role as Secretary-General in bringing all these powers together is very essential` and we hope he can succeed, itís not easy of course.

Question 16: Let me pick out Turkey; their army is in your country, their President said last week that their interests lies beyond the natural borders; he referred to Mosul and Aleppo. Do you accept this?

President Assad: Of course not. Youíre talking about sick person; heís megalomaniac President, he is not stable. He lives during the Ottoman era, he doesnít live in the current time. Heís out of touch with the reality.

Question 17: But how you are going to do with their army inside your country?

President Assad: Itís our right to defend it; itís invasion. Itís our right to defend our country against any kind of invasion. But letís be realistic, every terrorist came to Syria, he came through Turkey with the support of Erdogan. So, fighting those terrorists is like fighting the army of Erdogan, not the Turkish army, the army of Erdogan.

Question 18: But itís a NATO country, are you aware of that?

President Assad: Yeah, of course. Whether it is a NATO country or not, it doesnít have the right to invade any other country according to the international law or to any other moral value.

Question 19: Mr. President, Americaís new elected President, what do you expect of Donald J. Trump?

President Assad: We donít have a lot of expectations because the American administration is not only about the President; itís about different powers within this administration, the different lobbies that they are going to influence any President. So, we have to wait and see when he embarks his new mission, letís say, or position within this administration as President in two monthsí time. But we always say we have wishful thinking that the Unites States would be unbiased, respect the international law, doesnít interfere in other countries around the world, and of course to stop supporting terrorists in Syria.

Question 20: But he said in an interview that he seems to be ready to work with you in the fight against the Islamic State or ISIL, are you ready for such a move?

President Assad: Of course, I would say this is promising, but can he deliver? Can he go in that regard? What about the countervailing forces within the administration, the mainstream media that were against him? How can he deal with it? Thatís why for us itís still dubious whether he can do or live up to his promises or not. Thatís why we are very cautious in judging him, especially as he wasnít in a political position before. So, we cannot tell anything about what heís going to do, but if, letís say if he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries who wanted to defeat the terrorists.

Question 21: So, you will cooperate with the Americans in the fight against terrorists?

President Assad: Of course, definitely, if they are genuine, if they have the will, and if they have the ability, of course we are the first ones to fight the terrorists because we suffered more than any other one in this world from terrorists.

Question 22: So, cooperate with the Americans that are now supporting the Kurds, the YPG that are trying to get into Raqqa?

President Assad: When you talk about cooperation, it means cooperation between two legal governments, not cooperation between foreign government and any faction within Syria. Any cooperation that doesnít go through the Syrian government is not legal. If itís not legal, we cannot cooperate with, and we donít recognize and we donít accept.

Question 23: Anyway, the Vice President, Mr. Pence, said that he has admitted the use of military force to prevent your military force from a humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, how do you look at it?

President Assad: This is against the international law again, and thatís the problem with the American position; they think that they are the police of the world. They think they are the judge of the world; theyíre not. They are sovereign country, they are an independent country, but this is their limit; they donít have to interfere in any other country. Because of this interference for the last fifty years, thatís why they are very good only in creating problems, not in solving problems. Thatís the problem with the American role. Thatís why I said we donít pin a lot of hopes of changing administrations because that context has been going on for more than fifty years now, and thatís expected. If they want to continue in the same position of the United States creating problems around the world, thatís what they have to do: only interfering in the matters of other nations.

Question 24: But returning to what the President, the newly elected American President said about cooperating with your government in the fight against Islamic State, do you expect a change also within European countries?

President Assad: Regarding fighting terrorism, we are ready to cooperate with anyone in this world with no conditions. Thatís crux of our policy, not today, not yesterday; for years, even before the war on Syria, we always said that. In the eighties, we asked for international coalition against terrorism after the Muslim Brotherhood crisis in Syria when they started killing, of course they were defeated at that time. We asked for the same thing. So, this is a long-term policy that we base our policy on for years now.

Question 25: One last question. Mr. President, I need really to ask you this, because after all these years, do you still reject any responsibility for what happened in your country?

President Assad: No, I never rejected any responsibility, but that depends on the decision. When you talk about responsibility, you ask yourself what are the decisions that you take in order to deal with the crisis. Did the President order anyone to kill civilians, did he order the destruction, did he order supporting terrorism in his country? Of course not. My decision was, and the decision of the different institutions, and the decision of the different officials in Syria Ė Iím on top of them Ė was to have dialogue, to fight terrorists, and to reform as a response at the very beginning, response to the allegations, letís say, at that time, that they needed reform in Syria, we responded. So, thatís the decision that I took. Would you say, or would anyone say that fighting terrorism is wrong? Making dialogue is wrong? Making reform is wrong? Protecting the civilians and liberating areas from terrorists is wrong? Of course not. So, thereís a difference between responsibility of the policy and responsibility of the practice. In any practice, you have malpractice, thatís another issue. When you talk about state and President, you always talk about the decisions and the policy.

Journalist: Thank you for being with RTP Mr. President.

President Assad: Thanks for you.

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