Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in Washington, D.C, on Feb. 4, 2014. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Engel calls on Trump to dump Flynn

The top Democrat handling foreign affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives called on President Donald Trump to sack National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after reports emerged Flynn consulted with Russia on sensitive issues before Trump assumed office.

“It’s clear that concerns about General Flynn’s ties to Russia were well warranted,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Friday in a statement.

Democrats have since the campaign been raising questions about Flynn, who in 2015 accepted a fee to speak at the 10th anniversary of RT, the English-language broadcaster widely seen as a Russian government propaganda outlet.

Flynn also has been a booster of closer ties with Russia, whose government, under President Vladimir Putin, has been reviled as repressive and corrupt by Democrats and Republicans.

Obama in December slapped sanctions on Russia because of its alleged spying in the United States and because the U.S. intelligence community expressed a high degree of certainty that Russia attempted to meddle in the U.S. elections.

It was revealed shortly thereafter that Flynn had spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the United States just after Obama imposed sanctions, but Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, the ambassador, said the calls were routine and did not address the sanctions.

On Thursday, the Washington Post quoted nine intelligence officials who were familiar with the calls as saying that sanctions were indeed discussed. Inthe article, Flynn backed away from his earlier denial, leading some Democrats – chief among them Engel – to call for his removal.

“It’s unacceptable that during the transition, General Flynn discussed lifting sanctions with Russia’s ambassador,” Engel said.

According to the reports, Flynn suggested to Kislyak that Trump would roll back the sanctions, making the case to him that Russia should not retaliate against Obama.

“This action would be deeply troubling under any circumstances, but considering Russia’s effort to tip the election toward President Trump, the General’s actions are disqualifying,” Engel said. “And if General Flynn negotiated with Russia to change American policy, he may be in violation of the Logan Act, which bars such conduct. The President must relieve General Flynn immediately.”

The Logan Act is law against unauthorized citizens interfering in U.S. disputes with foreign governments. There has never been a prosecution under the act.

Engel’s district includes parts of the Bronx and Westchester County.

Was it the Russians who tipped the scale in Trump’s favor?

President-elect Donald Trump has finally admitted the possibility of the Russian hacking, so all liberal democrats who now consider the CIA the guardian of democracy and Russia the evil empire can breathe and go back to their seats.

I did not vote for Trump, but I did spend my childhood in communist Romania during the hay day of the evil empire — a background that makes me highly sensitive to hypocritical re-writes of history. Everyone knows that our future president has a flair for drama; still, he isn’t too far off to accuse his opponents of a “political witch hunt” to cover up “their embarrassment over their loss.” Yes the Russians need to be punished, along with all other hackers, through every possible means. But no, it isn’t fair to claim that they determined the election results.

To prove Trump’s point, Friday morning on CNN (1-6-2017) Paul Begala said that “Trump is the beneficiary of a crime; Russia put its finger on the scale and tipped it in his favor.” Gloria Borger, who had been trying to argue that the criminality of the hacking and the results of the election were totally separate matters and should be treated as such, tried but failed to shut her colleague up. Begala succeeded, over her protests, to do exactly what Trump contends his opponents are doing — crediting the Russians for Trump’s victory and Clinton’s defeat.

As much as I wanted Hillary to win, I find this narrative revolting. For in the very close 2016 race, who hurt Hillary the most? The far right? The far-away Russians? If you must blame someone for Hillary’s defeat — other than the massive numbers of Americans who grew disenchanted with Obama and the Democratic party — blame the American far left.

Who should know better than Robby Mook, Hillary’s campaign manager? During the Hillary for President Autopsy report held at The Harvard Institute of Politics on Dec 1, 2016, Mook reported that the precise cause of death was the millennial vote – or failure thereof.  “Yes, you can blame millennials for Hillary Clinton’s loss,” agreed Aaron Blake of The Washington Post on December 2, admitting that at first he was skeptical but realized after “digging into the numbers” that “Mook had a point.” And who poisoned the hearts and minds that had been enamored enough with the Septuagenarian socialist  to abandon lap tops, crowd at rallies and bring Sanders closer to the nomination than a socialist revolutionary might ever have dreamed was possible in America?

The ugly tactics used against Hillary Clinton by Sanders’ supporters were brought up during the Harvard post-mortem discussion.  Mandy Grunwald, a Clinton campaign senior adviser, confessed that a contributing factor to her candidate’s defeat was “the Bernie Bros and the vehemence and the anger and the hideousness and what was said on line; frankly I’ve never seen anything like it.”

What was said on line and on TV and at Bernie Sanders rallies about Hillary Clinton classifies not just as gender warfare – there was a bit of that – but as class warfare.  “Corporate democratic whore” was only one of the sexist revolutionary slurs directed at Hillary. There were many other unisex ones, like “she is in the pocket of Wall Street,” and “the tool” of “evil,” “corrupt,” “criminal”  “corporate America.”  There were  also those ugly, destructive chants at Sanders rallies, and the people sporting “Bernie or Bust” T shirts marching before the start of the Democratic National Convention shouting “Lock Her Up” and calling Hillary Clinton a “witch” and a “bitch.”

Strong-armed by the party’s establishment and wanting to retain maximum influence after Hillary’s victory, Team Sanders negotiated its fee for building the bridge over the troubled waters. And Sanders himself now remains more discreet in public than his supporters who are trying to strong-arm control of the democratic party as they advance the narrative that crooked Hillary cheated honest Sanders out of a presidency their hero could have easily won.  In truth, by the time the presidential race started, Hillary’s reputation – particularly with Bernie’s millennial fans — had already been brutalized in the primaries. The media, Hillary’s supposed best friends, continued to put salt on the wounds.  A second major reason for Hillary’s defeat, Mook explained at the autopsy report, was main stream media’s “not covering what Hillary Clinton was choosing to say” but instead “trying to unearth secrets and reveal the expose.”

“Like hungry school children, American mainstream media feasted on the hacked emails at the Democratic National Convention last summer,” I wrote in my essay “How Should Journalists Treat Stolen Booty.” (December 14,2016. ) But all the pundits thought Trump “was hopeless, and it was fun to torture Hillary and even more fun to guess when the next big batch of stolen property would be distributed.  Finally the John Podesta giant goody bag was pilfered and dumped out for all to feast on, and every major and minor journalist and newscaster rushed to grab his or her tasty treat. They ignored Hillary’s, Podesta’s and Mook’s pleas to stay away from it, not eat or feed anyone any of it,  especially not during the final and most important debate – the stolen goods were procured through an international crime, people!”

How the media raked Secretary Clinton over the coals over daring to attribute the millennials’ revolutionary fervor to the frustration of living in parents’ basements!  “I mean I’m still trying to understand the revolution part,” Hillary was caught saying in the leaked audio tape, followed by laughter from the audience.

Senator Sanders defended her statement at the time. Unlike many of his supporters, he is an honest socialist. He is also a serious socialist, and for him, the subject of revolution is no laughing matter.  Remember what he told the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board on March 23, 2016: No American president “can literally do anything for the American people, unless there is a political revolution” against “the ruling class – that is Wall Street, that is corporate America, that is the wealthy contributors, that is corporate media.”

The extremists in the Democratic Party did everything in their power to push Hillary Clinton as far to the left as possible; still, a socialist revolutionary they could never make out of her. Had she won, there might have been a chance she could have moved the Democratic Party back towards the center, where many of her supporters — like me– believe it belongs.

Instead of blaming the Russians for their hacks, “the movement” should thank mainstream media for the publicity provided every diamond dug out of the pilfered treasure chests. The Democratic Party Grand Robbery and The Podesta Grand Theft have now been used to fuel hatred towards an even bigger class enemy than the millionaire former presidential candidate – the billionaire future President of the United States. From a revolutionary perspective, Hillary Clinton’s defeat is a victory in disguise.

Those of us who are encouraged by Trump’s support for Israel during the last and worst back stab of the Obama administration should  consider trying, like David David Suissa suggested in his latest essays, to hold on to our seats and to give our next administration a chance.  And then there is still the hope that the sizable number of our Congressional leaders who are now standing with Israel in condemnation of the biased Security Council Resolution will also manage to withstand the efforts of the Berniecrats to tip the scale in their favor or bust it altogether.

TV puppet on Trump: “I know a Russian puppet when I see one!”

Since the mid-1950s, the iconic sock puppet Lamb Chop has said whatever’s on her six-year-old mind (as well as the mind of her creator Shari Lewis, and since Shari’s death in 1998, the mind of Shari’s daughter Mallory).

Now the sassy little sheep, who is proud of the fact that nobody’s ever pulled the wool over her eyes, is speaking out about Donald Trump. In her first-ever meme on social media, Lamb Chop states, “I know a Russian puppet when I see one!” followed by the hashtag “notmypresident.”

Trump in response to leak of Russian dossier: ‘Are we living in Nazi Germany?’

President-elect Donald Trump asked “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” in a tweet blaming intelligence agencies for reports that Russia has a dossier with compromising personal and financial information about him.

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ to the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he tweeted Wednesday morning.

The tweet came on the heels of several others in which he called the existence of such a file a “total fabrication” and “utter nonsense.” He also tweeted that he has “nothing to do with Russia,” including “no deals” and “no loans.”

He called reports of the file “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

Intelligence officials reportedly have briefed Trump on the 35-page document, which claims that the Russian government has pursued and collected the personal and financial information on him. President Barack Obama reportedly also was briefed. Journalists and other officials reportedly have been in possession of copies of the files for weeks but have not been able to verify the poorly sourced documents.

Russian officials have denied the report.

“The Kremlin has no compromising dossier on Mr. Trump, such information is not consistent with reality and is nothing but an absolute fantasy,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said at a regular news briefing, The New York Times reported.

A two-page summary of the dossier was attached to a U.S. intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The summary was first reported by CNN.

Memos in the dossier reportedly describe sex videos of Trump and prostitutes at a Moscow hotel in 2013, allegedly recorded for use as leverage against the new U.S. president, according to the Times. The dossier was compiled from information received from Russian informants and others for a Washington political research firm by Trump political rivals, the newspaper reported.

Various news outlets have emphasized that the claims contained in the dossier have not been substantiated.

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, criticized Trump’s reference to Nazi Germany and called for him to retract the tweet.

“It is a despicable insult to Holocaust survivors around the world, and to the nation he is about to lead, that Donald Trump compares America to Nazi Germany,” Goldstein said in a statement. “The President-elect has denigrated our nation and its commitment to freedom on the eve of his inauguration. He must retract his tweet and apologize to survivors and to our entire nation.”

Trump was scheduled to hold his first news conference since before the election on Wednesday.

Trump doubles down on ‘Nazi’ tweet at news conference

President-elect Donald Trump defended a tweet he posted comparing the leak of a dossier containing allegations about him to the actions of Nazi Germany.

At a news conference Wednesday, Trump said leaking such intelligence “is something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”

Reports came out Tuesday claiming Russia has a dossier with compromising personal and financial information about Trump. A two-page summary of the dossier was attached to a U.S. intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The summary was first reported by CNN.

The dossier reportedly includes memos — their credibility has not been substantiated — describing sex videos of Trump and prostitutes at a Moscow hotel in 2013, allegedly recorded for use as leverage against the new U.S. president.

On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that the reports were “fake news” and blamed intelligence agencies for the leak of the documents.

Critics pounced on Trump following the tweet. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement that “it is not only a ridiculous comparison on the merits, but it also coarsens our discourse and diminishes the horror of the Holocaust.”

Trump attacked the report throughout his news conference Wednesday, his first since being elected. He called publications that published the dossier “disgraceful.”

“That should never have been written, never been had and never been released,” Trump said. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen.”

Trump also discussed his vision of relations with Russia, his plans to keep manufacturing in the United States, and his intention to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. An attorney for Trump unveiled the president-elect’s plans to relinquish management of his businesses, but not his ownership, to his sons.

None dare call it treason

In 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson, a man named John A. Stormer self-published a book called, “None Dare Call It Treason.” It accused America’s left-leaning elites of paving the way for a Soviet victory in the Cold War. The book sold seven million copies, but Johnson crushed Goldwater in the election.

Now that the C.I.A. has determined that the Russians intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win, the Cold War politics of left and right have been flipped. If Stormer rewrote his book for 2016, its thesis might go like this:

Beware of Donald Trump. Witlessly or willfully, he’s doing the Kremlin’s bidding. Anyone who enables him – on his payroll or in the press, by sucking up or by silence, out of good will or cowardice – is Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot. This is a national emergency, and treating it like normal is criminally negligent of our duty to American democracy.

Trump as traitor: I can just imagine the reaction from the Tower penthouse. Lying media. Paranoid hyperbole. Partisan libel. Sour grapes. A pathetic bid for clicks. A desperate assault on the will of the people. Sad! (Note to Tweeter-in-Chief: You’re welcome.)

As a kid in a New Jersey household where Adlai Stevenson was worshipped, I thought Stormer was a nut job, so I won’t pretend that accepting the modern inverse of his case is a no-brainer. I’m also not trying to recast my political differences with the president-elect as a national security crisis. Trump won. Elections have consequences. I get that.

I may not like it, but I’m not surprised that Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a crusading climate change denier and an advocate of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, to run the E.P.A., presumably into the ground. Anyone who interpreted Al Gore’s meeting with Trump as a sign of his open-mindedness on climate change got played, just like Gore got played.

Similarly, I’m cynical, but not shocked that Trump’s picks for treasury secretary, National Economic Council and chief adviser – Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon – are alumni of Goldman Sachs. A billionaire managed to hijack Bernie Sanders’ indictment of Wall Street and brand Hillary Clinton as the stooge of Goldman Sachs. The success of that impersonation isn’t on Trump, it’s on us.

I’m infuriated, but not startled that Trump refuses to disclose his tax returns, divest his assets, create a credible blind trust, obey the constitutional prohibition of foreign emoluments or eliminate the conflict between fattening his family fortune and advancing American interests.  That’s not draining the swamp, it’s drinking it.

It’s abysmal that Democrats didn’t have a good enough jobs message to convince enough Rust Belt voters to choose their economic alternative to Trump’s tax cuts for the rich. It’s disgraceful that the media normalized Trump, propagated his lies, monetized his notoriety and lapped up his tweet porn. It’s maddening that the Electoral College apportions ballot power inequitably. But as enervating as any of that is, none of it is as dangerous to democracy as the C.I.A.’s finding that Putin hacked the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Without firing a single shot, the Kremlin is weeks away from installing its puppet in the White House.

Within days, Trump is expected to name Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s CEO, as his secretary of state. Putin bestowed the Order of Friendship, one of Russia’s highest civilian honors, on Tillerson, after Exxon signed a deal with Rosneft, the Russian government-owned oil company, to jointly explore the Black Sea and Arctic. The plan died when the U.S. and E.U. sanctioned Russia for annexing Crimea; Tillerson, whose Exxon shares’ value will skyrocket if sanctions are lifted, favors lifting them.

The Tillerson appointment is the latest dot in the pattern of Trump’s Putinophilia. When 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails, Trump – who’s refused most of his security briefings – rejected their conclusion, claiming at one point that it “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” at another that “it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.” I knew that Trump is a serial fat-shamer, but I didn’t know until now that being a Newarker puts me in his crosshairs, too.

It’s entirely conceivable that Russia has something on Trump. They may hold hundreds of millions of dollars of Trump debt. They may have spousally unsettling video of him – a K.G.B. specialty, and a plausible Trump susceptibility. Surely the Kremlin has mapped his character disorder. In the third debate, when Trump said Putin had no respect for Clinton, and she shot back, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president,” Trump’s interruption – “No puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet, no, you’re the puppet” – sounded like a third-grader. Actually, it was a confession, what clinicians call projective identification. Putin’s psy ops must know every such string on him to play.

Before the election, when both parties’ congressional leaders were secretly informed that Russia had its thumb on the scale for Trump, Republican leader Mitch McConnell torpedoed a bipartisan plan to decry their intervention. Now that the news is out, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunday that the intel “should alarm every American,” and they called for a bipartisan investigation to stop “the grave threats that cyberattacks… pose to our national security.”

Trump’s response? “I think it is ridiculous. It’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”

As we don’t know. Trump’s Electoral College margin will rank 44th among the 54 presidential elections that have been held since the 12th Amendment was ratified.  Nate Silver called Trump’s “landslide” claim “Orwellian.” The Washington Post gave it Four Pinocchios. Why not just call it a lie?

Trump blew off the Kremlin’s intervention in our election the way Putin denied Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Do we call that a lie, too?

Maybe there’s a better word we should dare to use.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at

Many Russian expats expect ‘strong’ Trump leadership

West Hollywood resident Roman Finarovsky was sitting on a bench recently, watching his fellow seniors play chess and dominoes in Plummer Park. Not long before, he had cast his vote for Donald Trump, and now he was thrilled to find out his candidate had won the presidential election.

“Trump is going to be a strong leader,” the 76-year-old Russian Jew said. “He keeps his word. He will do everything in his power for people.”

As shock spread across the United States following a bitter election season that divided the nation, many Russian expats in the Los Angeles area united in their support of Trump.

Steven Windmueller, a professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles who has been studying American Jewish voting patterns for decades, said that while there’s no real data on the issue, his interactions with the community support this conclusion — as did more than a dozen interviews conducted for this story.

“They expressed to me their belief that the nation needed ‘a strong man’ to deal with the external threats to the country,” Windmueller wrote to the Journal in an email. “Several suggested to me that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Trump would work well together, as they marveled at [Putin’s] leadership, and they were hoping that Mr. Trump would emulate that model within this country. They also believed that Donald Trump would be ‘great’ for Israel!”

There are about 500,000 Russian Jews in the U.S., or roughly 10 percent of the American Jewish population, according to a recent study. Approximately 80,000 Russian Jews reside in Los Angeles.

There are numerous reasons cited by members of the Russian Jewish community for supporting Trump and his policies. Many Russian-speaking Jews welcomed Trump’s anti-immigration promises, despite being immigrants or the descendants of recent immigrants.

“Trump is against undocumented immigrants,” said Boris Reitman, a West Hollywood resident who moved from Ukraine 18 years ago. “His polices will target those who are in the country illegally.”

A deeper look at Soviet history might explain why expats — the majority of them Jewish refugees who fled anti-Semitism between 1970 and 1990 — appear so unsympathetic to other refugees and immigrants, said Robert English, director of the USC School of International Relations.

“They see themselves as sort of naturally Americans,” he said. “They are white people and they are from the big country that occupies a whole continent, a former superpower. They look at Latinos, Asians and Muslims and see people who don’t really belong here.”

Putin also was at the center of why a number of Russian Jews supported Trump — although sometimes for opposite reasons.

In some cases, they liked that the Russian leader endorsed Trump on multiple occasions and that Trump said he would get along with Putin. Others, like Finarovsky, said Trump will do a better job than President Barack Obama in keeping the Russian leader in check.

“Unlike Obama, Trump is not going to let Putin do whatever he wants,” he said. “Putin feels weakness and he uses it against people.

In the past few months, relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated over accusations that Putin’s administration hacked the U.S. election and took controversial military actions in Syria and Ukraine. Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., said in September at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., that the relationships between two countries reached “the lowest point since the Cold War.”

Other Russian Jews looked to Israel as a reason behind their vote. Igor Lerman, 66, the owner of a bookstore in West Hollywood who moved to the U.S. 24 years ago from Ukraine, said he admires Trump because of his support of the Jewish community.

“Trump promised to move Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said. “And I respect him for that.”

But not all Russian Jews endorsed Trump. Igor Mikhaylov, an engineer who immigrated to Los Angeles from Ukraine in 1989, said everyone in his family voted for Hillary Clinton.

“Clinton is a strong and experienced leader that puts America’s interests first. She isn’t using the presidency to enrich her own business interests like Trump,” Mikhaylov, 38, said. “Clinton’s secretary of state record speaks of her willingness to stand against Vladimir Putin’s expansionist plans that are dangerous to peace on the European continent and the security of former Soviet republics. Hillary Clinton’s background appeals to me. As an immigrant, it instills hope and exemplifies a quintessential American story of a simple blue-collar family that worked hard to reach the top.”

Some Russian expats refrained from supporting either candidate. Valeriy Yakovlev, a West Hollywood resident who moved from Moscow 11 years ago, said he opted not to vote because neither candidate was worthy.

“Why, out of 300 million people in this country, they didn’t find two decent candidates?” Yakovlev said. “I don’t know.”

Skaters wearing Holocaust costumes perform on Russian television, spark outrage

A Russian state-owned television channel aired a figure-skating performance featuring dancers wearing uniforms worn by Jewish concentration camp inmates.

Actor Andrey Burkovsky and Tatiana Navka, a professional figure skater and wife of a senior Kremlin spokesman, wore striped pajamas with yellow Star of David patches while dancing to a song by an Israeli singer on the Russia-1 channel Saturday night. It was aired as part of “Ice Age,” a popular Russian celebrity ice dancing show similar to “Dancing With the Stars.”

Throughout the four-minute performance, Navka and Burkovsky frolic and play cheerfully with an imaginary infant. Near the end of the routine, a bright light shines on them.

Burkovsky signals to Navka that he must go and gestures for her to take care of the imaginary child before he walks into the light. A loud bang is heard and the stage goes dark but for Navka’s face as she closes her eyes and clutches the imaginary infant with her back turned to Burkovsky.

The act was loosely inspired by Roberto Benigni’s 1997 film “Life is Beautiful,” which tells the story of a Jewish Italian man who attempts to distract his son from the horrors of the Holocaust. Navka and Burkovsky danced to the song “Life is Beautiful,” performed by Israeli singer Noa, from the film’s soundtrack.

The unusual performance prompted criticism on social media.

Navka is married to Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“For a person who knows very little if anything about the Holocaust, the message is this: Put on a striped robe, adorn yourself with a yellow six-pointed Star of David, get an all-included deal at a concentration camp, and your life will be beautiful,” Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, a professor of Jewish studies at Northwestern University, told The New York Times. “I would call it a crime against elementary humanity.”

In second debate, Trump says Syria regime is not worth confronting

Donald Trump said the U.S. focus in Syria should solely be on the Islamic State terrorist group, arguing that the Assad regime is not worth confronting because its allies, Russia and Iran, effectively control the country.

Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, in the second presidential debate held Sunday night at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, turned a question about what he would do to end the carnage in Syria into an extended attack on his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

He said that she had advised President Barack Obama to back down in 2013 from his “line in the sand” threat to attack Syria if it uses chemical weapons and Clinton corrected him, noting that she was no longer secretary of state at the time.

He then described the situation as he saw it in Syria, but offered no specific prescriptions. He suggested that the Bashar Assad regime, principally responsible for the nearly half million lives lost since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, was not all bad because it was targeting the Islamic State terrorist group, along with its allies, Iran and Russia.

“Iran now and Russia are now against us,” he said. “So she wants to fight. She wants to fight for rebels. There’s only one problem. You don’t even know who the rebels are. So what’s the purpose? And one thing I have to say. I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”

One of the moderators, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, pressed him for a policy answer, noting that his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said that if Russia continues to back Assad with air strikes on civilian targets, the United States should hit Assad’s military targets.

“He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree,” Trump said, referring to Pence. “I think you have to knock out ISIS. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran, who she made strong and (Secretary of State John) Kerry and (President Barack) Obama made into a very powerful nation and a very rich nation, very, very quickly, very, very quickly.”

Trump was referring to the sanctions-relief-for-nuclear-rollback deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers led by the United States. Clinton, who set the stage for the deal by helping to set up the sanctions regime that induced Iran to join the talks, says it has effectively kept Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.

Israel is wary of most of the likely outcomes in the Syrian civil war, but one of those it fears most is effectively conceding part of a failed state to Iran, allowing its deadliest enemy in the region to remain indefinitely on its doorstep.

Trump once again accused Clinton of being overly unfriendly to Russia. “I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example,” he said.

Clinton advocated during the debate confronting both ISIS and the Assad regime through training rebels, creating no fly zones and allying with Syrian Kurds. She noted that the Assad regime and its Russian ally have mostly targeted non-ISIS rebel targets.

She aimed fire at Trump as she has in the past, alluding to the mutual admiration he and Russian President Vladimir Putin have expressed for one another, and to U.S. government allegations that Russia is intervening in the U.S. elections by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails related to Clinton’s campaign.

“I want to emphasize that what is at stake here is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia,” she said. “Russia has decided that it’s all in, in Syria. And they’ve also decided who they want to see become president of the United States, too, and it’s not me.

The debate, in a town hall format, was unusually bitter, with Trump at one point threatening to jail Clinton over the controversy of her use of private email while she was secretary of state, should he be elected president.

It came on the heels of a bombshell video released Friday in which a 59-year-old Trump is heard bragging to an entertainment reporter about groping women and getting away with it because he is a “star.” In discussing the tape and the Republican politicians who rescinded their endorsements of Trump in the past 48 hours, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, Clinton said Trump’s campaign was “exploding.”

Netanyahu describes mutual interests in defending ties with Russia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that outreach between Israel and Russia made sense because of shared concerns about militant Islam, a desire to avoid clashes in Syria and Russia’s interest in Israeli technology.

Netanyahu appeared in New York on Sept. 22 to receive the Herman Kahn Award from the conservative Hudson Institute, named for one of the think tank’s founders.

He was pressed by his interviewer, Roger Hertog, a philanthropist who is one of Hudson’s benefactors, to explain why Russian President Vladimir Putin has been seeking closer relations with Israel, given Russia’s military backing for the Assad regime in Syria and its sale of an anti-missile system to Iran.

The “first interest is to make sure that militant Islam doesn’t penetrate and destabilize Russia,” Netanyahu replied. “There are many, many millions of Muslims in Russia, including in greater Moscow; I think it’s up to 2 million. And the concern that Russia has, which many other countries have, is that these populations would be radicalized.”

Another reason is to avoid a clash in airspace bridging Israel and Syria, where Russian combat aircraft are bombing enemies of the regime of Bashar Assad.

“We can coordinate in order not to crash and clash with each other,” Netanyahu said.

Given Russia’s influence in Syria, Netanyahu said, Russia was also a useful conduit to keep Israel’s enemies from being empowered. Notably, another Assad ally is Hezbollah, the Iran-allied Shiite Lebanese militia that has warred frequently with Israel.

“We don’t want to see in the aftermath in Syria, whether with an agreement or without an agreement, we don’t want to see an Iranian military presence, we don’t want to see Shiite militias which Iran is organizing from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, and we certainly don’t want to see Iranian game-changing weapons being transferred through Syrian territory to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the prime minister said.

Another factor was Russian interest in Israeli technology.

Putin is “interested in technology and Israel is a global source of technology in many areas that are of interest to Russia — agriculture, dairy production, you name it, the standard fare,” Netanyahu said.

Finally, Netanyahu said, Israel has a substantial Russian-speaking minority.

“There’s a cultural, a human bridge,” he said. “We have a million Russian speakers in Israel. These and other reasons, I think, inform Russia’s policies. And I think it’s very important that we have this relationship.”

To applause, Netanyahu reasserted that Israel’s main alliance is with the United States.

“With the United States, we certainly have shared interests, but it’s the one alliance we have, and there may be one or two others, but nothing like this, that is based on shared values,” he said.

‘For the Love of Spock’ doc celebrates the life and career of Leonard Nimoy

A Boston-born son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Leonard Nimoy played one of the most iconic TV characters of all time, the ever-logical half-Vulcan Mr. Spock on “Star Trek.” 

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the television series, the recently released documentary “For the Love of Spock” celebrates the sci-fi character’s impact on pop culture while honoring Nimoy’s life and career. More personally, it’s also a candid account of an increasingly strained relationship within a family, as only a son can tell it.

“I was fulfilling a mitzvah to honor my father, and that was very important to me,” filmmaker Adam Nimoy told the Journal. “The film is not a tell-all or exposé. It’s an homage, but it doesn’t sugarcoat. We had bitter disagreements. There are times when I thought, ‘I never want to speak to this guy again.’ In fact, we were estranged for a long time. But he was a mensch. And what he accomplished in life was phenomenal.”

Anticipating the “Star Trek” anniversary, Nimoy asked his father about making a documentary in November 2014. “He was interested right away in doing it. But we didn’t know how fast the clock was ticking,” he said. Leonard Nimoy, a longtime smoker who had quit, died in February 2015 of chronic lung disease. “The damage was done,” Adam said.

The younger Nimoy proceeded nevertheless, poring through what he calls “a voluminous amount of material” from “Star Trek” TV episodes and feature films, and his father’s other projects, photographs and interviews, including archival and newly shot footage with celebrities from the “Star Trek” world and elsewhere. The $662,000 raised via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign paid for licensing video clips, music usage and other costs.

The film also highlights Leonard Nimoy’s career in theater, voicing documentaries and as the author of two autobiographies, the first of which upset fans who misinterpreted its title, “I Am Not Spock,” as disrespect and a desire to distance himself from the character. 

“He insisted on the title, and apologized for it his entire career. ‘Star Trek’ fans were angry. They didn’t lay off him till the first feature film,” Adam said. “It was difficult for him. But if you read the book, it’s nothing but reverential for Spock and the opportunities Spock brought him. He’s always said that if he had one character to play again, it would be Spock.”

Adam told the Journal that his father chose the title simply to make the distinction that he is more than a character. (His second autobiography was titled “I Am Spock.”)

“> for details.

European, Israeli Jews gather undisturbed in predominantly Muslim city in Russia

Hundreds of Israeli and European Jews convened in the capital of the predominantly Muslim Russian state of Tatarstan for an annual Jewish music festival as well as a Jewish learning Limmud FSU conference.

The two events, which coincide with a third — the Sept. 4 European Day of Jewish Culture — kicked off Friday evening on a large stage that city authorities erected on a central pedestrian street in Kazan for concerts by  Simcha, a local klezmer band, and Shouk, an Israeli ensemble that came for the Limmud FSU event.

Since 2012, the city of Kazan 450 miles east of Moscow has held an annual Jewish music festival around Rosh Hashanah. And last year, the city held a series of Jewish-themed events outside the synagogue, including Kazan’s first Limmud FSU Jewish learning conference and a gathering by Chabad rabbis from across the former Soviet Union.

At a time when comparable Jewish events are confined to indoors and heavily guarded spaces across Western Europe for fear of terrorism, Friday’s event was unfenced and unguarded. Thousands of passersby huddled near the stage, paused and danced to the klezmer and Israeli music, including the song “I am Always Jewish” by Simcha, which was founded in 1989 when other Jewish cultural activities invited negative reactions on the part of communist authorities.

The Limmud FSU event this year emphasizes Kazan’s role as a station on the path of the so-called Tehran Children — the name used to refer to a group of Polish Jewish children, mainly orphans, who escaped the Nazi German occupation of Poland via Kazan and Samarkand in what is today Uzbekistan and onto pre-state Israel via Tehran.

The Limmud FSU’s program this year featured a commemoration for Yanush Ben Gal, a survivor from the Tehran Children group who grew up to be one of the Israel Defense Forces’ most highly-esteemed generals for his success in halting the advance of far larger Syrian forces on the Golan Heights. He died in February at the age of 80 and was scheduled to return to Kazan Friday.

Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler and Ben Gal’s widow, Avital, held a commemoration service for him at the Great Synagogue of Kazan Friday. The city currently has 10,000 Jews.

“Beyond being a model for coexistence, one needs to appreciate that Kazan has traditionally been a haven for Jews and still is,” Chesler said of the decision to turn Limmud conference into an annual event here. “This means that we have a commitment to this place.”

Russia uses Iran as base to bomb Syrian militants for first time

Russia used Iran as a base from which to launch air strikes against Syrian militants for the first time on Tuesday, widening its air campaign in Syria and deepening its involvement in the Middle East.

In a move underscoring Moscow's increasingly close ties with Tehran, long-range Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used Iran's Hamadan air base to strike a range of targets in Syria.

It was the first time Russia has used the territory of another nation, apart from Syria itself, to launch such strikes since the Kremlin launched a bombing campaign to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in September last year.

It was also thought to be the first time that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its territory for military operations since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Iranian deployment will boost Russia's image as a central player in the Middle East and allow the Russian air force to cut flight times and increase bombing payloads.

The head of Iran's National Security Council was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying Tehran and Moscow were now sharing facilities to fight against terrorism, calling their cooperation strategic.

Both countries back Assad, and Russia, after a delay, has supplied Iran with its S-300 missile air defense system, evidence of a growing partnership between the pair that has helped turn the tide in Syria's civil war and is testing U.S. influence in the Middle East.

Relations between Tehran and Moscow have grown warmer since Iran reached agreement last year with global powers to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of U.N., EU and U.S. financial sanctions.

President Vladimir Putin visited in November and the two countries regularly discuss military planning for Syria, where Iran has provided ground forces that work with local allies while Russia provides air power.


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday Iraq, which lies between Iran and Syria, had granted Russia permission to use its air space, on the condition the planes use corridors along Iraq’s borders and not fly over Iraqi cities.

Abadi told a press conference the same permission has been given to air forces of a separate U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State flying to Syria from Kuwait.

Russia also gave advanced notice to the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, complying with the terms of a safety agreement meant to avoid an accidental clash in the skies, the U.S. military said.

“They informed us they were coming through and we ensured safety of flight as those bombers passed through the area and toward their target and then when they passed out again,” said U.S. Army Colonel Christopher Garver, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S-led coalition.

“They did not impact coalition operations in either Iraq or Syria.”

The Russian Defence Ministry said its bombers had taken off on Tuesday from the Hamadan air base in north-west Iran.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Russian bombers were believed to have returned to Russia.

The ministry said Tuesday's strikes had targeted Islamic State as well as militants previously known as the Nusra Front in the Aleppo, Idlib and Deir al Zour provinces. It said its Iranian-based bombers had been escorted by fighter jets based at Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria's Latakia Province.

“As a result of the strikes five large arms depots were destroyed … a militant training camp … three command and control points … and a significant number of militants,” the ministry said in a statement.

The destroyed facilities had all been used to support militants in the Aleppo area, it said, where battle for control of the divided city, which had some 2 million people before the war, has intensified in recent weeks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitor, said heavy air strikes on Tuesday had hit many targets in and around Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, killing dozens.

Strikes in the Tariq al-Bab and al-Sakhour districts of northeast Aleppo had killed around 20 people, while air raids in a corridor rebels opened this month into opposition-held eastern parts of the city had killed another nine, the observatory said.

The Russian Defence Ministry says it takes great care to avoid civilian casualties in its air strikes.

Zakaria Malahifi, political officer of an Aleppo-based rebel group, Fastaqim, said he could not confirm if the newly deployed Russian bombers were in use, but said air strikes on Aleppo had intensified in recent days.

“It is much heavier,” he told Reuters. “There is no weapon they have not dropped on Aleppo – cluster bombs, phosphorus bombs, and so on.”

Aleppo, Syria's largest city before the war, is divided into rebel and government-held zones. The government aims to capture full control of it, which would be its biggest victory of the five year conflict.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to be trapped in rebel areas, facing potential siege if the government closes off the corridor linking it with the outside.

Russian media reported on Tuesday that Russia had also requested and received permission to use Iran and Iraq as a route to fire cruise missiles from its Caspian Sea fleet into Syria, as it has done in the past. Russia has built up its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean and the Caspian as part of what it says are planned military exercises.

Russia's state-backed Rossiya 24 channel earlier on Tuesday broadcast uncaptioned images of at least three Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers and a Russian military transport plane inside Iran.

The channel said the Iranian deployment would allow the Russian air force to cut flight times by 60 percent. The Tupolev-22M3 bombers, which before Tuesday had conducted strikes on Syria from their home bases in southern Russia, were too large to be accommodated at Russia's own air base inside Syria, Russian media reported.

Russian synagogue with dark past invites Pokemon hunters to toast its revival

As the Pokemon Go phenomenon grows, some institutions connected to European Jewry’s darkest hour have taken precautions against it.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum in Poland has banned the addictive smartphone game, in which players viewing their environments through their device’s camera run in search of animated figures that the game’s application superimposes on the video feed in real time.

Citing the need to respect the memory of the dead, the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., also asked visitors to refrain from playing the game, which has tens of millions of players since its release this month by the gaming giant Nintendo.

But in Russia, one Jewish institution with a troubled past is taking the opposite approach. In St. Petersburg, the city’s main synagogue and Jewish community center is doing its best to lure players to the building’s majestic interior by offering a bottle of kosher wine to anyone who catches a Pokemon there.

The first winner was Daniel Gurevich, a local Jewish man whose Pokemon hunt last week at the Grand Choral Synagogue of St. Petersburg was the second time he ever visited the place, according to a report Monday by Jewish News Petersburg. Shuttered by communists in 1930 and nearly destroyed by Nazi artillery during the vicious fight for Leningrad during World War II, it was rebuilt in the 1940s but was allowed to function only as a sham shul — a prop in the Soviet Union’s propaganda about its citizens nonexistent freedoms.

Gurevich told the news site that he came to the synagogue after its staff posted an invitation to Pokemon hunters on the synagogue’s Facebook page, which the local media quickly reported.

“I was Rollerblading nearby, I opened the news [on the smartphone] and saw that the synagogue wants me to come and look for Pokemons. Immediately I went and caught one,” he said. “It’s great that our synagogue is on the crest of fashion.”

A spokesperson for the synagogue told the news site that joining the Pokemon craze has roots in Jewish tradition.

“Any more or less knowledgeable person will tell you that the synagogue is no temple, it’s a meeting place where fun is permissible within reason and we see this in the Purim parties and children’s games,” the spokesperson said. “We very much want the youth to know the synagogue is a modern place, not a boring one.”

Unlike some synagogues, the Choral shul complex indeed functions as much as a community center as a house of worship. Completed in 1888 after eight years of construction, it is one of Europe’s largest synagogues, and has many rooms and event halls. The synagogue’s kosher cafeteria, which has a WiFi connection, has many young regulars who work on laptops or meet up at cultural events and Q&A sessions organized for members of the community.

The synagogue was closed down in 1930 for several years under orders from the communist government, which back then had a semi-official policy of anti-Semitism in addition to its restrictive approach to organized religion in general. Famously, KGB agents used to spy on the few Jews who dared go to shul during communism from a building opposite the Choral synagogue, where the KGB had a special window installed to survey the entrance door.

With Euro Cup brawl and Olympics doping scandal, Russia deepens its sense of isolation

In authoritarian political systems, sports take on outsized importance. After all, national greatness is part of the bargain: a measure of democratic freedom is traded for strength and victory, whether on the battlefield or in the stadium. That logic holds for Vladimir Putin’s Russia, too—which is why you could say Putin has had very bad month. In France, at the Euro Cup, the violence of Russian hooligans almost got the national team banned, before a humiliating loss to Wales took care of that, sending the Russians home doubly embarrassed. Days later the International Olympic Committee upheld a ban on Russian track-and-field athletes at the forthcoming Rio Olympics in response to evidence of a widespread, state-sponsored doping project. Seeing as the legitimacy of the Putin system comes less from the ballot box than from the deliverance of national pride and success, it was likely not the most upbeat of weeks inside the Kremlin.

Dating back to the Cold War, Soviet rulers embraced sports as a vehicle to prove Communism’s superiority, at whatever the cost. International sporting events are a way of forcing the West’s acceptance, as Putin achieved in hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics two years ago, and of delivering a sense of national pride by winning. The Russians were so desperate to win we now know they resorted to extensive doping. These days, it seems like international sports deepen Russians’ sense of grievance and isolation from the world. Sports have become a microcosm of Russians’ conflicted desire to gain the respect and validation of an international world order whose legitimacy they question, and seek to undermine. 

Successive generations of Kremlin rulers have tried to project the image of the country as a besieged fortress, alone in the world and surrounded by enemies. For Vladimir Putin and those around him, Russia’s latest tribulations in the world of global sport seem to bear out that worldview. First came the clashes in Marseille, in which Russian soccer fans fought with England supporters during the EuroCup. Some Russian fans shot flare guns towards the English section of the stands and burst into the section as the match ended. Fights spilled out in the streets, as well. More than 30 people were hospitalized, including several with critical brain injuries.

Russian soccer fans are late to international hooliganism, but the Western press and French law enforcement still managed to make it sound like there was something novel and sinister about the Russian version of the problem, calling Russia’s violent fans “well-trained” and organized. Russians, in turn, pointed to the bad press as yet another example of Western institutions’ inherently anti-Russian ideology. 

Similar to how Russian officials have responded to, for example, Western sanctions over Ukraine, they hit back on criticism over fan violence, conceding nothing and instead raising the rhetorical temperature. Vladimir Markin, a top law-enforcement official, suggested that Europeans couldn’t handle Russia's soccer fans because they are more accustomed to gay-pride parades than dealing with “real men.” Igor Lebedev, a deputy in parliament and member of Russia's football union, said, “Nothing wrong with fighting. Keep it up boys!”

With time, however, the tone changed. The Russian team was fined 150,000 Euros and given a suspended disqualification from the tournament—one that proved superfluous after the disastrous 0-3 loss to Wales—which appeared to convince Russian officials that the matter was serious enough not to be laughed away. The ugliness of the violence immediately raised questions about Russia’s ability to host the 2018 World Cup, which will be held in 11 cities across the country. Even before the brutal scenes in France, Russia’s World Cup was already tarnished, marred by the specter of corruption and vote-buying. Putin has been a lonely defender of ousted FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the man who presided over the selection of Russia to host in 2018 and who has since been brought down by allegations of corruption. With an event of such national prestige at stake, officials began to display uncharacteristic contrition. The country’s sports minister, Vitaliy Mutko, said that violent fans in masks “brought shame on their country.” For his part, Putin condemned the attacks in Marseille, calling them a “disgrace.” But Putin couldn’t help himself, adding that “I truly don't understand how 200 of our fans could beat up several thousand English.”

Although some anonymous British officials theorized the Russian hooligans were part of the Kremlin’s strategy of “hybrid war”—using a patchwork of covert, deniable means to undermine the Western security order—that seems an unfounded and paranoid exaggeration.  Over the years, nationalists and football hooligans have periodically been convenient allies of the Kremlin, but ultimately the Putin state is wary of uncontrolled violence, which could one day threaten its own power. The young men who came to France from Russia may have been well prepared for a fight—armed with metal bars and fingerless gloves—but in many respects, their inspiration comes more from the football hooligans of England of the 1970s and 80s than anything homegrown.

Just days after the soccer hooligan controversy, on June 17, the International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body for track and field competitions, banned Russian athletes from the 2016 Rio Olympics for sustained and wide-reaching doping violations. The decision was historic: individual athletes have been barred from international competition for doping, but never entire national teams. Investigations into Russian doping suggested an illicit program with alleged support of the country’s security services. To date, Russia’s response to the allegations, which have gathered in strength and damning detail in recent months, has been to try and cauterize the wound, admitting to a certain degree of malfeasance while denying a deeply rooted culture of doping condoned at the top. After the ban was announced, Putin tried this tactic anew, suggesting doping violations were limited to a few individuals, and that banning the whole track and field team amounted to “collective punishment,” saying it was akin to a prison sentence for “an entire family” if one relative committed a crime.

The International Olympic Committee upheld that ban, while keeping open the possibility that individual Russian athletes who go to extraordinary efforts to prove they are clean could be allowed to compete. Either way, the whole affair casts a far more humiliating note on Russian sporting exploits. It’s possible Russia may turn its back on Rio in a huff. A widely circulated tabloid with Kremlin ties asked the question, “Is it worth Russia going to Rio?” After all, the editorial posited, “They want us to crawl to them on our knees, ask forgiveness, and beg to be let in.”

For Putin and those close to him, efforts to exclude or punish Russia, whether for its annexation of Crimea or support for state-sponsored doping programs, are seen sees as pieces of a larger conspiracy. Today’s Russian elite sees plots against its power and authority everywhere it turns: some of those visions are grounded in actual Western policy, if a distorted understanding of it; others are nothing more than baseless, paranoid fantasy; and, like its poorly performing soccer team or apparently state-run doping program, no small number are problems of Russia’s own making. After the loss to Wales, a fitting joke started to make the rounds, playing Russia’s sporting woes off the geopolitical tensions it has encountered over the years. Echoing a comment that Putin made in 2014, when he said that unidentified soldiers in Crimea weren’t Russian troops but had purchased their military gear in a shop, the joke has Putin saying “those aren’t our soccer players on the field, they just bought their uniforms in a shop.”

Joshua Yaffa is a New America fellow and a contributor to The New Yorker based in Moscow. 

This article originally appeared on Zocalo Public Square.

Netanyahu on way to Russia to meet with Putin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel left Monday on an official visit to Russia to mark the 25th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet Wednesday at the Kremlin. It will be the fourth time that Netanyahu and Putin have met in recent months, including Netanyahu visits to Moscow last September and in April, and a meeting in November during the Paris climate conference.

The leaders will discuss regional issues including the global fight against terrorism; the situation in and around Syria; the diplomatic horizon between Israeli and the Palestinians; bilateral economic and trade cooperation, and the strengthening of cultural and humanitarian ties, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

In other diplomatic actions, a bilateral pensions agreement to restore Russian pensions to immigrants to Israel from the states of the former Soviet Union is scheduled to be signed. The agreement must be ratified by the Russian government. Also, a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in agriculture and dairy technology is set to be signed.

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are scheduled to meet with Russian Jewish leaders such as Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia; Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow, and Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kanner, along with members of the community.

Netanyahu also is scheduled to visit the armored corps museum in Moscow where an Israeli tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during the Lebanon War in 1982 is currently located. Putin recently signed an order to repatriate the tank to Israel.

Russia to return Israeli tank captured by Syria in 1982

Russia said it will return to Israel a tank that Syrian forces captured in 1982 during a battle that ended with 20 Israeli soldiers dead and three missing in action.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order to return the tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the First Lebanon War, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday. The Syrians delivered the tank to the Russian army and it is currently at the armored corps museum in Moscow, the report said.

Netanyahu reported the news to the families of MIAs Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zechariah Baumel, whose fate remains unknown.

An Israeli army delegation is in Moscow preparing the transfer along with the Russian army.

“There has been nothing to remember the boys by and no grave to visit for 34 years now,” Netanyahu said. “The tank is the only evidence of the battle, and now it is coming back to Israel thanks to President Putin’s response to my request.”

The battle took place in Lebanon’s Valley of Tears as an Israeli tank formation found itself surrounded by a larger Syrian force. The force was extracted with heavy artillery. Along with the Israeli soldiers killed, 30 were wounded.

Egyptian officials say terrorism more likely than accident in EgyptAir crash

An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 56 passengers and ten crew crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday, apparently killing everyone on board, and raising fears that it was a terrorist attack. The plane had taken off from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport in France, and apparently crashed soon after it entered Egyptian airspace.

Among the passengers were 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis and one each from several countries including the UK, Belgium, Kuwait and Canada. Signs of possible wreckage were found off the island of Crete, about twelve hours after the crash. The objects were pieces of plastic in white and red and were spotted close to an area where the transponder signal had been emitted.

Egyptian officials said it was too early to tell if the crash was an accident or terrorism, but that terrorism seems more likely. The Airbus A320 was relatively new and known as a safe aircraft.

“If you analysis the situation properly the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical [problem],” Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy told reporters in Cairo.

Fathy also corrected an early report that said that signal was heard two hours after the flight disappeared from radar.

“There was a mistake made by an official somewhere,” he said. “He talked about a signal and then a few minutes after he came back and apologized, and he came back and said ‘sorry there was no signal’. After his first statement we all went to the press and said the signal was received, thereafter we denied that and we admit there was a mistake that happened.”

The head of Russia’s domestic intelligence agency said he believes the plane was brought down by a terror attack “in all likelihood.”

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, called for governments to come together to track down those responsible for the “monstrous attack.”

The crash comes after an Airbus A321 operated by Russia’s Metrojet crashed in the Sinai desert last October killing all 224 people on board. Russia said the plane was most likely brought down by a bomb, and the Islamic State said it had smuggled an explosive device on board.

Reuters later reported that an EgyptAir mechanic, whose cousin joined Islamic State in Syria, was most likely the one who placed the bomb.

In this case, there was no claim of responsibility 12 hours after the plane disappeared. There were no weather disturbances reported, and a British pilot who had been flying in the same area told the BBC that there were no communications problems and the weather was “perfect.”

Even if the crash is eventually ruled an accident, it could have further affect tourism in Egypt. Until the Arab spring protests in 2011, Egypt attracted 15 million visitors a year. That number was down to nine million in 2014, according to Egyptian government figures. So far this year, the numbers are down even further, after the UK and other states warned there was a serious risk of terrorism in Sinai, where the Russian airliner exploded.

“This incident will further damage Egypt’s tourism industry,” Israeli terrorism expert Shlomo Brom of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University told The Media Line. “It will also be a blow to the prestige of EgyptAir as it may show that its security arrangements are not good enough.”

Brom said, however, that as the flight originated in Paris, it is the French government that should be responsible for security.

Russia delays U.N. council condemnation of N.Korea missile tests

A United Nations Security Council condemnation of North Korea's latest missile tests has been delayed by Russian amendments to a statement that had been agreed by the remaining 14 members, including Pyongyang's ally China, diplomats said on Tuesday.

North Korea test-fired what appeared to be two intermediate-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, but both failed. China's U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi, president of the U.N. Security Council last month, said the body was working on a response.

“The Security Council needs to respond swiftly; so we don't understand why Russia is blocking while all other council members, including China, which borders DPRK (North Korea), can agree,” Britain's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Peter Wilson said.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Monday that Moscow had added “some very valuable input” to the draft council statement that the United States was considering “unhappily.”

“We need to call a spade a spade and we think that asking for the interested parties to scale down their military activity in the region is very important,” Churkin said, referring to moves by the United States and South Korea.

Russia and China on Friday called on the United States not to install a new anti-missile system in South Korea, after Washington said it was in talks with Seoul following North Korea's nuclear arms and missile tests.

The North routinely threatens to destroy South Korea and the United States.

Last week's missile tests are the latest in a string of demonstrations of military might that began in January with North Korea's fourth nuclear test and included the launch of a long-range rocket in February.

“North Korea is clearly lashing out in dangerous and provocative ways and every member of the Security Council … is concerned about this except evidently Russia,” said a council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Incredibly Russia proposed amendments that were not aimed at the DPRK (North Korea) but rather at countries seeking to protect themselves from this threat,” said the diplomat.

North Korea's tests have increased tension on the Korean peninsula. North and South Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, rather than a treaty.

In March, the U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on North Korea to starve it of money for its nuclear weapons program. 

NATO weighs four battalions in Eastern states to deter Russia

The NATO alliance is weighing rotating four battalions of troops through Eastern member states, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday, in the latest proposal by allies to guard against aggressive behavior by Russia.

The Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – which joined NATO in 2004, have requested greater presence of the alliance, fearing a threat from Russia after it annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Carter acknowledged NATO deliberations included the deployment of the four battalions to the Baltic states and Poland. The Wall Street Journal said this would likely total about 4,000 troops split between the United States and its allies.

“That's one of the options that's being discussed,” Carter told reporters traveling with him at the start of a three-day trip to Germany, declining to enter into details about the deliberations by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“We're obviously involved in those discussions. I just don’t want to get out in front of where that goes.”

U.S. officials say the goal in Europe is to move increasingly from efforts to reassure allies to broader activity to deter any aggressive moves by Russia.

The United States has already budgeted to sharply boost military training and exercises and last month announced it would deploy continuous rotations of U.S.-based armored brigade combat teams to Europe.

Carter's trip to Germany will include meetings with Army General Curtis Scaparrotti as he takes over as the next NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, succeeding U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove.

Scaparrotti told a Senate hearing last month that a resurgent Russia was displaying “increasingly aggressive behavior that challenges the international norms, often in violation of international law.”

Russian fighter did barrel roll over U.S. reconnaissance plane

A Russian jet fighter intercepted a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane on Friday in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner” over the Baltic Sea, the Pentagon said, and CNN reported the Russian pilot did a barrel roll over the U.S. plane.

The U.S. Air Force RC-135 plane was flying a routine route in international airspace when it was intercepted by the Russian SU-27 fighter, the Pentagon said, in the latest in a series of similar incidents between the U.S. and Russian militaries.

The Russian fighter came within about 100 feet (30 meters) of the American plane as it performed the dangerous, high-speed maneuver, CNN reported, citing two U.S. defense officials in the Baltic Sea region.

“This unsafe and unprofessional air intercept has the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all aircrews involved,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Urban said in a statement.

“More importantly, the unsafe and unprofessional actions of a single pilot have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries,” he said.

Earlier this month, Russian jets buzzed a U.S. guided missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea. A photo released by the Pentagon appears to show the Russian jet passing at an extremely low altitude over the ship's bow.

“There have been repeated incidents over the last year where Russian military aircraft have come close enough to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns, and we are very concerned with any such behavior,” Urban said.

Russia accused the United States of intimidation by sailing the Cook close to Russia's border in the Baltics and warned that the Russian military would respond to any future incidents.

NATO plans its biggest build-up in Eastern Europe since the Cold War to counter what the alliance considers to be a more aggressive Russia.

The Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which joined NATO in 2004, have asked the alliance for a permanent presence of battalion-sized deployments of allied troops in each of their territories. A NATO battalion typically consists of 300 to 800 troops.

Moscow denies any intention to attack the Baltic states.

Iran and Russia move closer but their alliance has limits

When Iran took delivery of the first parts of an advanced Russian air defense system this month, it paraded the anti-aircraft missile launchers sent by Moscow to mark Army Day.

Tehran had cause to celebrate: the Kremlin's decision a year ago to press ahead with the stalled sale of the S-300 system was the first clear evidence of a growing partnership between Russia and Iran that has since turned the tide in Syria's civil war and is testing U.S. influence in the Middle East.

But the delay in implementation of the deal also points to the limitations of a relationship that is forged from a convergence of interests rather than a shared worldview, with Iran's leadership divided over ideology and Russia showing signs of reluctance to let the alliance develop much more, according to diplomats, officials and analysts interviewed by Reuters.

Some Iranian officials want a strategic alliance, a much deeper relationship than now. But the Kremlin refers only to ongoing cooperation with a new dimension because of the conflict in Syria, in which both back Damascus.

“We are continuously developing friendly relations with Iran, but we cannot really talk about a new paradigm in our relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month.

Russia agreed to sell the S-300 system to Iran in 2007 but froze the deal in 2010 after sanctions were imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Moscow lifted the self-imposed ban in April last year as Iran and world powers got closer to the deal that led eventually to the nuclear-related sanctions being lifted in exchange for Tehran curbing its atomic program.

Russia is now weighing the financial and diplomatic benefits of arms sales to Tehran against the risk of upsetting other countries including Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel, or seeing Iran become too powerful.

“There is a military-economic aspect to this alliance which is beneficial to both sides,” said Maziar Behrooz, associate professor of Mideast and Islamic history at San Francisco State University, who has studied Iran's relationship with Russia.

“But on a geopolitical level, Iran and Russia can only form a tactical short-term alliance, not a strategic one. I think the ideological differences between the two are just too deep.”


The relationship, long cordial, appeared to reach a new level last September when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military intervention in Syria in support of Iran's ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran had already deployed its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), who had rallied Assad's troops to check the opposition's momentum. But it took Russian air power to break the stalemate and give Assad the upper hand.

Militarily, the two powers proved complementary. Iran brought disciplined ground troops who worked well with their local allies, while Russia provided the first-rate air power that Iran and Assad lack.

Diplomatically, the joint operations have made Tehran and Moscow central to any discussion about the regional security architecture.

That is important for Putin as he has sought to shore up alliances in the region and increase Moscow's influence since Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, a Russian ally, was killed.

How well Moscow will fare when it comes to winning lucrative business contracts now the nuclear-related sanctions have been lifted is less clear. There is little sign so far of Russian companies making new inroads into Iran.

This is partly for ideological reasons. The Iranian establishment is divided, with President Hassan Rouhani's faction more interested in trading with the West than struggling against it, even if many U.S. policies are still condemned.

Russia has little incentive to join the mostly Shi'ite “Axis of Resistance” to Western interests in the region which is championed by the more conservative Iranian faction as this could ruin its relationships with other Middle Eastern powers such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.


Russia's first big intervention in the Middle East since the Cold War followed months of secret meetings in Moscow between Putin and Iranian officials, including IRGC commanders and Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A close and exclusive alliance with Russia would suit Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure, who has blamed Western influence for Iran's troubles and pushed hard to implement his “Look East” policy.

But it runs contrary to the policy of Iran's government, led by Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who have courted Western delegations on an almost weekly basis since the nuclear deal was reached with world powers last July.

The Western-educated Rouhani is less inclined toward Russia and has an uneasy relationship with Putin. Last November, during his first visit to Tehran in eight years, Putin went straight from the airport to meet Khamenei, rather than seeing Rouhani first as most visitors do.

“Rouhani and Putin don't get along that great,” an Iranian diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Some Iranian officials are also wary of getting too close to Russia, which fought Britain for domination of 19th century Iran and occupied the country during both World Wars.

“Russians have always used us as a tool in their foreign policy. They never stayed committed to their alliance with any country,” Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, who served as spokesman for former President Mohammad Khatami, told Reuters from Tehran.

Putin has worked hard to improve relations with Iran. During the November visit, he presented Khamenei with one of the world's oldest copies of the Koran, which Russia had obtained during its occupation of northern Iran in the 19th century.

The intervention in Syria has served as a distraction from economic problems in Russia, deepened by international sanctions on Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis which have forced Moscow to seek new trade partners.

Trade with Iran was only $1.3 billion in 2015, according to Russian data, though there are signs cooperation could pick up.

Russia says it is ready to start disbursing a $5-billion loan to Tehran for financing infrastructure projects. A deal is also being discussed for Russia to send oil and gas to northern Iran, where supply is scarce, and for Iran to send oil and gas from its southern fields to Russia's customers in the Gulf.

But the prospects for cooperation may be limited, sector analysts say, as, to update its energy sector, Iran mainly needs technology and equipment which Russia is also in need of.

Russia is also in talks to help upgrade Iran's dilapidated air force by selling it Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets but the deal would need the approval of the United Nations Security Council and could further strain Moscow's relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Netanyahu, Putin meet to ‘avoid’ military mishaps over Syria

Amid tension between Israeli and Russian troops around Syria, Benjamin Netanyahu met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss ways to avoid friction.

Israel’s prime minister and Russia’s president met Thursday in Moscow to “tighten security coordination between Israel and Russia to avoid errors,” Netanyahu said in a statement. The commander of the Israel Air Force, Major General Amir Eshel and the prime minister’s military secretary, Eliezer Toledano, will have follow-up meetings with Russian top brass, the statement also said.

The meeting took place following several incidents involving Russian troops in Syria and Israeli military personnel, the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth reported. In one incident, a Russian fighter jet scrambled to meet and escorted an Israel Air Force plane carrying out intelligence missions over Syrian airspace, according to the report. A Kremlin spokesperson on Friday denied the reports, saying they were “far from the truth.”

Russia stepped up its military presence in Syria and made it public last year in a bid to bail out the Syrian government under Bashar Assad, who has lost control of large parts of the country in the course of a bloody civil war that erupted in 2011.

Israeli aircraft regularly fly over Syrian airspace, according to non-Israeli media, and have carried out dozens of strikes in that country and Lebanon to prevent certain weapons from reaching Hezbollah, an ally of Assad, and other militant groups.

During the meeting with Putin, Netanyahu reiterated statements he made earlier this week about the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and effectively annexed in 1981, remaining under Israeli control.

“We will not return to the days when our towns and children were fired upon from up in the Golan,” he was quoted by Ynet as saying in reference to frequent shelling from the Golan before 1967. “So, with an agreement or without it, the Golan will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

Russian protesters demand ban on Chabad movement

Demonstrators protesting the allocation of land to the Jewish community in the Russian city of Perm demanded the outlawing of the Chabad movement.

More than 100 people attended the rally near the area that municipal authorities in Perm, which is located 870 miles east of Moscow, designated for transfer without charge to the local Jewish community that is headed by a Chabad rabbi. They sang a song titled “Holy War,” a patriotic tune widely identified with Russia’s fight against Nazi Germany.

Unrest around the Jewish community of Perm has been brewing for years amid accusations made in 2013 that the local Jewish community made unauthorized use of a local theater. Unidentified individuals that year tried to set fire to the local synagogue.

On Saturday, the protesters showed up with signs reading “Chabad out” and “liberate us Russians from Chabad.” One protester held a placard that read “Chabad settlement is over the line: 1547,” an apparent reference to  the decision that year by Ivan the Terrible, a grand prince of Moscow, to ban Jews from entering or living in his kingdom because they “bring about great evil.”

But participants insisted they are protesting against Chabad specifically and not against Jews in general, the Russian news site Ura reported.

Boruch Gorin, a senior Chabad figure and aide to one of Russia’s two chief rabbis, Berel Lazar, said the 2013 campaign against Chabad in Perm was a thin disguise for anti-Semitism.

“The attempt to present Chabad as one thing and the Jewish community as another is false,” Gorin told JTA.

In Russia, Chabad is the largest Jewish movement with a presence in over 100 cities. Under Vladimir Putin, land has been allocated free of charge to Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith and community organizations, often as restitution of property stolen in Soviet times.

Separately, Putin on Tuesday said that “Russian Jewish organizations are making a substantial contribution in the cause of domestic political stability in Russia, for which we are very grateful” during a meeting in Moscow with Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

On Friday, Lazar urged Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to stamp out anti-Semitism in government, which was a reaction to the April 10 statement on Jews by Vladislav Vikhorev, a candidate for Putin’s United Russia who is running for state lawmaker in the Legislative Assembly of Chelyabinsk Oblast, a federal region located nearly 1,000 miles from Moscow. Lazar credited Putin’s government with doing more than any of its predecessors to curb anti-Semitism.

During a debate in the city of Chelyabinsk, Vikhorev said that Jews in the 1990s were behind a “Jewish revolution that put Russian sovereignty itself on the brink of extinction,” which he said was “a well-planned, well-designed program of destruction of national culture, national education, national production and the national financial system,” according to the news website Apostroph.

Russia jets make ‘simulated attack’ passes near U.S. destroyer

Two Russian warplanes with no visible weaponry flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, a U.S. official said, describing it as one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory.

The repeated flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes, which also flew near the ship a day earlier, were so close they created wake in the water, with 11 passes, the official said.

A Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter also made seven passes around the USS Donald Cook, taking pictures. The nearest Russian territory was about 70 nautical miles away in its enclave of Kaliningrad, which sits between Lithuania and Poland.

“They tried to raise them (the Russian aircraft) on the radio but they did not answer,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding the U.S. ship was in international waters.

The incident came as NATO plans its biggest build-up in eastern Europe since the Cold War to counter what the alliance, and in particular the Baltic states and Poland, consider to be a more aggressive Russia.

The three Baltic states, which joined both NATO and the European Union in 2004, have asked NATO for a permanent presence of battalion-sized deployments of allied troops in each of their territories. A NATO battalion typically consists of 300 to 800 troops.

Moscow denies any intention to attack the Baltic states.

The USS Donald Cook had just wrapped up a port visit in the Polish city of Gdynia on April 11 and then proceeded out to sea with a Polish helicopter on board.

The first incident took place on April 11, when two SU-24 jets flew about 20 passes near the Donald Cook, coming within 1,000 yards (meters) of the ship, at about 100 feet (30 meters) in altitude.

That was followed by even closer passes by the SU-24s the following day and the passes by the Russian helicopter.

The U.S. defense official said the commanding officer of the Donald Cook believed that Tuesday's incident was “unsafe and unprofessional,” but cautioned that a formal U.S. military review of the matter was underway.

Iran says Russia delivers first part of its S-300 defense system

Russia has delivered the first part of an advanced missile defense system to Iran, Iranian media reported on Monday, starting to equip Tehran with technology that was blocked before it signed a deal with world powers on its nuclear programme.

The S-300 surface-to-air system was first deployed at the height of the Cold War in 1979.

In its updated form it is one of the most advanced systems of its kind and, according to British security think tank RUSI, can engage multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles around 150 km (90 miles) away.

Russia's agreement to provide Iran with S-300 has sparked concern in Israel, whose government Iran has said it aims to destroy.

In a recorded transmission, state television showed Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari telling a news conference on Monday: “I announce today that the first phase of this (delayed) contract has been implemented.”

Ansari was replying to reporters' questions about videos on social media showing what appeared to be parts of an S-300 missile system on trucks in northern Iran.

Russia says it cancelled a contract to deliver S-300s to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West. President Vladimir Putin lifted that self-imposed ban in April 2015, after an interim agreement that paved the way for July's full nuclear deal.

The U.S. military has said it has accounted for the possible delivery of the S-300 to Iran in its contingency planning.

Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow on April 21

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 21 to discuss security issues in the Middle East, an Israeli political source said on Tuesday.

Israel and Russia have maintained a hotline to help avoid their aircraft accidentally clashing over Syrian territory. This has allowed Israel to continue to carry out covert strikes to foil suspected Hezbollah or Iranian operations against it on Syrian turf without fear of accidentally clashing with Moscow.

Israeli officials have privately said that Russian forces sent in last year to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide in a five-year-old civil war also served to restrain his anti-Israel allies – Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.

Despite its declared withdrawal of most military forces two weeks ago, Russian forces continue to operate in Syria and jets and helicopters have carried out dozens of strikes daily over Palmyra, helping the Syrian army recapture the historic city from Islamic State militants.

Putin told visiting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin earlier in March that he had agreed to meet Netanyahu to discuss the security situation in the Middle East.

An Israeli official who declined to be named said that during Rivlin's meeting with Putin, he “asked that Russia work to restore UNDOF as part of any long-term arrangement in Syria”, referring to a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Personnel from UNDOF, which monitors the Israeli-Syrian frontier on the Golan Heights, have come under fire and even been kidnapped by militants fighting Assad's forces, prompting peacekeeping contingents from some participating nations to withdraw from the force.

Poll: Trump, Clinton lead among Russian American Jews

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the top choices for president among Russian-speaking American Jews, according to poll data obtained by Jewish Insider.

16.3 percent of Russian American Jews support Trump, and 12.7 percent support Clinton, according to a poll of more than 500 Russian-speaking Jews in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas conducted by Israeli research firm Midgam on behalf of Limmud FSU ahead of the organization’s upcoming conference in Parsippany N.J., April 1-3.

The survey was conducted between January and March 2016.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders received the support of 10.8 percent, while only 5.4 percent picked Texas Senator Ted Cruz as their choice for president. The rest of respondents chose former candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio or hadn’t made up their minds yet.

Sanders topped Clinton (14.3% vs. 13%) among Russian Jews residing in New York. Trump was the choice of 22 percent, while Cruz, who is expected to attend an event in the Russian Brighton Beach neighborhood next month, received a mere 2.6 percent. Among voters in LA, Clinton leads the pack with 12.4 percent.

The poll also showed that 52 percent of Russian-speaking American Jews say they are more concerned about their personal security amid recent terror attacks in Europe and Israel. 19 percent said they were “much more concerned” about their personal safety, and 33 percent said they were “slightly more concerned.”

Respondents were also asked about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel. 67 percent said they believe BDS poses “a strategic threat against the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

In wake of Russia’s planned Syria withdrawal, Putin and Netanyahu to hold security meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet soon in Moscow to discuss regional security and trade.

At a joint news conference Wednesday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin before their meeting in Moscow, Putin announced his plans for the Netanyahu meeting, the Times of Israel reported.

Israeli officials confirmed that a sit-down between the two leaders will happen soon, but did not offer specific dates.

Citing Russian media, the Times of Israel reported Putin saying the two countries “have a large number of questions to discuss linked with the development of bilateral trade and economic relations and questions of the region’s security.”

On Monday, Putin made the surprise announcement that he plans to pull most of his forces out of Syria, which has been entangled in a civil war for five years. The next day, en route to Russia for a two-day trip, Rivlin told the Israeli media that “there is a need for coordination” with Russia on the Syria situation to ensure that Russia’s withdrawal does not result in strengthening Hezbollah and its backer Iran, both sworn enemies of Israel.

“Everyone understands that Islamic State is a danger to the entire world, but the Shiite fundamentalist Islam of Iran is for us no less a threat,” Rivlin said before the trip, according to The Jerusalem Post.

An unidentified senior Israeli official told the Post on Tuesday, “This is not a zero-sum game. Russia has interests similar to ours. They also do not want to see a strong Iran that will spread terror on Russia’s southern border. The Russians also understand that it will not be good if Hezbollah remains and becomes established in Syria.”

In his joint news conference with Rivlin, Putin said, “The ties between our countries are based on friendship and mutual understanding,” noting that Israel has a significant population of Russian emigres and tourism between the two countries is on the rise.

Rivlin said the Jews would always remember Russia’s key role in World War II, noting that “many Holocaust survivors all over the world remember being liberated by the Red Army.”

Merrick Garland’s Jewish family: Matzah, prayer shawls and Democratic Party politics

Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the sudden death last month of Justice Antonin Scalia, is a renowned jurist on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., Circuit, a Harvard Law graduate and a Jew.

Garland’s family fled anti-Semitism in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century and he was raised in Chicago in a Conservative Jewish community. His mother, born Shirley Horowitz, was director of volunteer services at Chicago’s Council for Jewish Elderly, according to “>Samuel Rosenman — Lynn’s grandfather — was born in 1896. Samuel Rosenman was a leading Democratic Party figure in the early 20th century and was one of America’s most prominent Jews at the time.

He fought for the U.S. Army in World War I, graduated from Columbia Law School in 1919, became a Democratic representative in the New York State Assembly in the 1920s, served as a justice for the New York Supreme Court from 1936 to 1943, and was a leading advisor and speechwriter for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He also edited “The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” an invaluable source for historians studying Roosevelt’s New Deal.

A Jewish Telegraphic Agency article from October 1933 portrayed Rosenman’s close relationship with Roosevelt, and described Rosenman as somewhat of a champion for liberal causes in the 1920s while in New York’s legislature for things like renter protection, minimum wage laws and New York’s state park system.

In March 1932, when Roosevelt was New York’s governor, he successfully appointed Rosenman to the state’s Supreme Court and described the act as “cutting off my right arm.”

“During the past three years Mr. Rosenman has been of very intimate and essential help to me personally in the conduct of the administration,” Roosevelt said. “His wide knowledge of the law is combined with a liberal social viewpoint on all problems of modern government.”

Lynn, 55, married Garland at New York’s Harvard Club on Sept. 20, 1987, according to a wedding announcement from The New York Times. She is a graduate of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at the time worked for a defense contractor in a Virginia suburb outside Washington, D.C.

While Garland has climbed even higher on the judicial ladder than his wife’s grandfather, his odds of reaching the Supreme Court during Obama’s term appear slim. Following Scalia’s death last month at a ranch in Texas, Senate Republicans have vowed they will not hold hearings on any Obama nominee, arguing that the fate of the Supreme Court should be left up to voters in November.