By Jonathan Feldstein

On a clear day I can see from my Judean mountain balcony the skyline of Amman.  It’s the only place in the world from where one can see the capital of two countries: Jordan and Israel. I look across the border and am reminded that more than 3500 years ago, the Jewish people stood there waiting to cross into the Land, and two and a half tribes settled on the east bank of the Jordan River: Reuben and Gad, and half of the tribe of Manassah. I think about relations with our modern neighbors often.

King Abdullah I of Jordan

In July 1951, Jordan’s first king, Abdullah I, was assassinated while visiting the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.  He was accompanied by his teenage grandson, Hussein, who would become King of Jordan about a year later, and reign until his death in 1999. Hussein is the father of the current King Abdullah II

King Abdullah Assassinated (1951)

I was speaking about Jordan and the Hashemite monarchy with a friend this week, saying that it’s in both Israel’s and Jordan’s interests to have close, peaceful relations, and that Israel should want to be supportive of the Hashemite monarchy which, more or less, has provided stability in the region. 

King Abdullah I was known for his efforts to reach some form of peace or coexistence with Israel, before Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and following, although he was assassinated four decades before the formal 1994 peace treaty was finally reached. Unfortunately, while there have been high points of relations between Israeli and Jordanian leaders, the idea of peace with Israel is still not popular on the Jordanian street. There’s often hostility, even among its elected leaders who often make antagonistic, threatening anti-Israel statements.

This is a mistake of the Jordanian (and before that, Egyptian) peace agreements, where there’s been no significant cultural shift or interaction between people. This could be due to lack of vision, or more likely as an outlet to provide a way for the people to vent, against Israel rather than the monarchy.  Consequently, despite the mutual interests to have peace, one rooted in the legacy of King Abdullah I, the relationship even between governments has often been tense, particularly in recent years. 

Abdullah was assassinated by Mustafa Shukri Ashshu, who was associated with the rabidly extremist and antisemitic former Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Husseini was known for sparking riots against Jews in British controlled Mandatory Palestine, and was closely allied (and infamously photographed) with Adolf Hitler during World War II. Husseini inspired his followers to oppose the Hashemite kingdom in general, and King Abdullah in particular, largely because Husseini supported the creation of an independent Arab state, which Abdullah’s annexing and occupying the potential territory thereof (the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria) following the 1948-49 War of Independence would prevent.

17.11.1947- Golda Meir meets King Abdullah I of Jordan, in Jordan, a few months before the declaration of independence of the State of Israel

Both preceding and following the 1948 war, King Abdullah met with Reuven Shiloah, the first director of Israel’s Mossad, and Golda Meir (who would become Prime Minister). There are famous stories of Golda dressing in traditional Arab attire to travel to meet the King so as not to be recognized.

King Abdullah I of Jordan (left) with his younger son, Nayef.

It was reported after his death that Abdullah was scheduled to meet with Shiloah and diplomat Moshe Sasson in Jerusalem the day after he was assassinated.  Avi Shalim, an Israeli-British historian, wrote a biography of King Hussein in which he quoted King Abdullah as telling Sasson:

 “I want to make peace with Israel not because I have become a Zionist or care for Israel’s welfare but because it is in the interest of my people. I am convinced that if we do not make peace with you, there will be another war, and another war, and another war, and another war, and we shall lose all these wars. Hence it is the supreme interest of the Arab nation to make peace with you.”

According to Shalim’s biography, Elias Sasson, Moshe’s father, wrote shortly after Abdullah’s assassination:

King Abdullah was the only Arab statesman who showed an understanding for our national renewal, a sincere desire to come to a settlement with us, and a realistic attitude to most of our demands and arguments… We, as well as some of the Arabs and foreigners are going to feel for a long time to come his absence, and to regret more than a little his removal from our midst.”

The state of Arab Israel relations has changed radically since Abdullah’s assassination. Not only were Egypt and Jordan the first two Arab states to make peace with Israel, recognizing that it was in their interests to do so, but four more followed as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords. In three of them, it appears that some of the mistakes of the cold peace of the first two have not been repeated. There’s not just high-level government-to-government contact between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco, but there’s a unique level of interaction between people, and business ties that are all mutually beneficial.

King Abdullah I and his son crown prince Talal

It’s also noteworthy that references to Abdullah’s assassination have had a modern historical whitewash. Immediately following Abdullah’s death, a British publication reported:

The assassin is reported to have been identified as Mustafa Shukri Ashshu, a 21-year-old tailor in the Old City. During the Arab-Jewish war he was a member of the “dynamite squad” attached to the Arab irregular forces which were associated with the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem and became bitter enemies of Abdullah.” 

King Abdullah I of Jordan with Glubb Pasha, the day before he was assassinated by Mustafa Shukri Ashshu, a21-year-old tailor in the Old City. (Photo credit: GLUBB PASHA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Neither in this segment, nor the whole article, is there a reference to the assassin being a “Palestinian”. It was not a term used in 1951 to describe Arabs. Today however, historical revisionism retroactively brands Mustafa Shukri Ashshu as a “Palestinian”.

History Revealed or Revised? What is revealing about this contemporaneous newspaper report of the assassination of King Abdullahi was the identification of the assassin – as an “Arab” and not as a Palestinian as he is so described today.  

The same Arab/Islamic extremism that was preached by Haj Amin al-Husseini, and which “inspired” King Abdullah’s assassin, is a common enemy of and threat to Israel, Jordan, and the entire Arab Middle East, spilling over around the world. On this anniversary of the assassination of King Abdullah who might have made peace if he had lived, it’s important to revisit his words, that not only is peace important, but where we share common threats, so too it’s important that we unite against these.  

I pray that King Abdullah II will remember and take to heart these words and be guided by the wisdom of his great-grandfather for whom he is named.

The present king of Jordan, Abdullah II, named after his great-grandfather.

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall,, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


President Zelensky  is leaving his mark not only on Ukrainian but world history inspiring all across this fragile planet that sometimes to survive and sustain your humanity, one needs to unify, defy and fight.

It means many will die.

Little wonder the Ukrainian leader has made the 2022 TIME list of 100 most influential people. With relentless determination, Zelensky has galvanized the tailor, the truck driver, the housewife, the schoolteacher, the engineer, hi-tech entrepreneur and greengrocer to become soldiers as they fight for their homes and freedom.

Verbally voyaging into the more intimate battle of wits and values between the two adversaries  – Zelensky and Putin – award-winning South African short story writer, essayist and poet, Charlotte Cohen peels off the layers to reveal the WORD – the word that is a NAME.

(Lay of the Land editor, David E. Kaplan)


By Charlotte Cohen

A single word imprints perception and relativity  

The difference between honour and horror

Between freedom and captivity

Humanity and brutality  

Often deserving of the hatred and anger

Stemming from extortionate cruelty and danger  

Even offering justification for the killing of an abuser

One still earns the egregious classification of  ‘murderer’

But those who brutally and remorselessly

Kill anyone at random – including themselves 

Caused by inveterate irrationality and hatred

With which they have been indoctrinated

– Or even for a gratuity or family security

Are described by what almost gives legitimacy

To fanatical iniquity:  That word is ‘terrorist’

Now often ascribed with a sense of normality

Yet one single person   

Living and languishing in luxury

Never getting his own hands dirty

With no indoctrinated hatred – but rather fixated

On self-love, land acquisition and addictive power 

Can decree the destruction of a country

And order massacre and mass murder

With one word:    


Names also leave an unchanging word image:

And just as Adolf Hitler epitomises evil     

To the diabolic list of heartless and vicious

Persecutors, oppressors , tyrants and villains 

We can now add that of Vladimir Putin.

And to leaders who gained worldwide respect and fame 

Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela ….

`            We can also now attach another name:

Out of Ukraine devastated by Putin

Arose a man of extraordinary talent and diversity

Suddenly thrust with the horrific responsibility

Of a not-sought-for war forced upon him

And though he did not expect it

He never neglected to meet it                                                        

A man of intelligence, conscience, spirit and heart 

Of principle, resolution and tenacity –

He never gave in or gave up

Or abrogated his duty

Volodymyr Zelensky’s name will remain in history

Making commitment and courage his own story

So as a word-name reflects a representation

Of how a mental image will be retained:   

           ‘Putin’– who mistook the word ‘sin’ for ‘win’

 a cruel pitiless despot,  a tyrannical dictator

   ‘Zelensky’ –  a hero, an inspiration

a champion, a protector,  a warrior, a victor

About the Poet:

Charlotte Cohen is an award-winning short story writer, essayist and poet, whose work has appeared in a wide variety of South African publications since the early 1970’s.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Enlisting support against delisting terrorists

By Jonathan Feldstein

[Ed note: At the time of publication of this article, Politico  media reports that President Biden has “finalized his decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on U.S. notorious terrorist blacklist.”]

There have been recent reports that the Biden administration is planning to remove five groups from the US’ foreign terrorist blacklist. Each of these groups is now considered defunct. But it’s strange that if they are defunct anyway, why anyone would worry about delisting them. It’s better to let dead terror groups lie.

The groups include Basque Fatherland and Liberty, Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult; Kach, an Israeli/nationalist Jewish group, and two Islamic groups: the Mujahideen Shura Council in the environs of Jerusalem, and Gama’a al-Islamiyya.

When I read the reports, I asked myself why, and why now?  A Christian friend reached out to me to get an understanding from an Israeli perspective, and whether it was something for which she needs to pray. I explained to my friend that it seems the delisting of these groups is connected with ongoing reports that the Biden administration is considering removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US terror blacklist as part of wooing Iran to renew the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Just to be clear, the IRGC is directly responsible for the killing of some 600 U.S. military and is far from defunct. A group of 46 retired U.S. generals and a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are on record urging the Biden administration not to remove the IRGC from the terrorist blacklist.

In this context, I explained to my friend that not only does it not make sense to delist defunct terror groups but doing so is deliberately dangerous. Typically, when members of a board, alumni of an institution, or other notables pass away, they are not removed but are identified by a note that they are now deceased. Why not just leave the list of terror groups as is, and make a note that they are defunct? Listing those that are no longer active actually shows success in the war on terror.

To Delist or not to Delist? Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meeting with leaders of the IRGC last January. Will the Biden administration remove Iran’s IRGC from terror blacklist? (Photo: Handout via Getty)

I told my friend that delisting the defunct organizations is a smoke screen for plans to delist the very active IRGC. Anyone who cares about the threats of Islamic terror in general, and to Israel in particular, will be uncomfortable with the delisting of two Islamic terror groups.  However, the Biden administration’s machinations appears expedient – like the tossing a bone to placate some in Congress – by the inclusion of the Jewish/nationalist group Kach, creating the pseudo impression that the administration is being equitable.  There’s no reason to delist any of these – including Kach. It’s also offensive to those who were the victims of these and other terror groups.

My friend is a Hispanic pastor. She revealed how the removal at the end of 2021 of Columbia’s FARC off the US list of terrorist organizations proved traumatic for Hispanics who had suffered under the ruthless terrorist and drug trafficking group that raped and destroyed and kidnapped poor Colombians for decades.

FARC Fiends. On May 15, 2000 the Colombian FARC put an explosive collar around the neck of a woman, killing her and a man who tried to neutralize the device. (Photo of FARC soldiers: Pablo de Tarso Luz Meneghel Sparco)

The similarities are astounding. It was reported that the Biden administration’s delisting of the ‘now defunct’ Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group as a “foreign terrorist” organization was to support a tenuous peace agreement in Colombia. As a rule, wooing terrorists with promises of turning a blind eye rather than confronting and defeating them is not good policy.

This applies to FARC in Colombia, and IRGC in Iran.

Clearly what’s behind this is to bring Iran to sign a new or revised nuclear agreement which has become a pilar of US foreign policy.  Seeing the Biden administration’s eagerness to renew an agreement at any cost, the Iranians have used this as a make-or-break negotiating tactic.

The IRGC is on the terrorist list as a central part of Iran’s military. However, it operates far beyond a typical military unit simply preparing for combat. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the IRGC has become a quasi-governmental institution, with vast independent power and actual oversight and control over key elements of Iran’s economy, industry, and energy sectors. It regularly calls for Israel’s destruction, and materially supports other terrorist groups around the world with money, training, and equipment.

Bad Boys. There is overwhelming evidence that the IRGC is the largest and most powerful sponsor of global terrorism, writes Navid Mohebbi in Al Arabiya News. (Stock photo)

While Biden has made a new Iran deal a key pillar of his foreign policy even before coming into office, reports to mitigate the looming disaster of delisting the IRGC, suggest Biden is personally resistant to such delisting. These conflicting agendas suggest a combination of schizophrenia, deliberate disinformation and possible incompetence which I discuss in the interview . Delisting the IRGC might help achieve his key foreign policy goal of an Iranian agreement, but looks weak regarding international terrorism, something that he and other Democrats don’t need as another foreign policy failure.  With the mid-term election in just six months, that’s part of the reason that even some moderate Democrats – already resistant to rejoining a nuclear deal that goes too easy on Iran – are urging Biden to stand firm on keeping the IRGC on the terrorist list.

Right is Might. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) that in his personal opinion, he does not support the delisting of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

These issues will no doubt be top on the agenda when Biden is expected to visit Israel at the end of June, particularly in light of recent reports that Iran may be days away from enough material for one nuclear bomb. With his coalition shaky at best, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cannot afford to appear weak or allow anything to undermine his leadership in protecting Israel from the Iranian threat.

Towering Rage. The IRGC was found liable in 2018 for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 Americans and injured 260. (© AFP/Getty Images)

Is this a good cop, bad cop quasi negotiating tactic with Iran, or just a dress rehearsal for another Biden administration foreign policy failure? The implications of delisting these terror groups now, along with FARC, opens old wounds of their victims, brings Jews, Hispanics and all people of conscience closer together, and makes us all less safe.

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall,, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Killing President Sadat Again

By Jonathan Feldstein

With turmoil in the Middle East, and specifically threats from Iran and its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza, last month’s  anniversary of the signing of the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt on the 26th of March 1979  is something to look back on and celebrate. It would have been unimaginable before that to see Israel opening regular flights to Sinai as it will be doing this month, and Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett flying to Sinai for his second historic meeting with Egyptian President al-Sisi within a period of six months.

Last month’s meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, also joined by Emerati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), was less about celebrating the peace, and more about their resolve against a common enemy. In 1979, who’d have ever imagined that.  Or even in 2019. But with Egypt breaking the ice in 1979, Jordan following in 1994, and then the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan all following suit in 2020, the milestone of Camp David is ever present.

Meeting of Like Minds. (l-r) Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi  and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, held a joint meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh
(photo credit: PMO)

Peace with Egypt was momentous on many levels. Israel was able to breathe a little easier having the largest and one of the most powerful Arab countries as well as sharing one of its longest borders, at peace. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat understood Israel was not going anywhere; that after several bloody wars which it lost, more war was not the answer, and it was in Egyptian interests to make peace.

Largely brokered by US President Jimmy Carter, Camp David was one of if not the single most significant achievements, possibly domestically but surely internationally, during Carter’s one term presidency.  Surely, as a self-avowed Christian, Carter celebrated as he recalled Jesus’ words:

 “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Indeed, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin jointly won the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Hopes of peace breaking out were dashed as Egypt was expelled from the Arab League. Two and a half years later, Sadat would be dead, a victim of his bold statesmanship. The irony of Carter’s single greatest foreign policy success was foiled by his greatest foreign policy failure: the abandonment of the Shah of Iran, the Islamic revolution and rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the 444-day hostage crisis that was just a foreshadowing of the evil to come.

The Three Peacemakers. Today’s Egyptians and Israelis continue to reap the benefits of “No more war” – the cornerstone of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.(l-r) Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the U.S. presidential retreat, Camp David, in rural Maryland.

Four decades later, there are now six Arab countries that have made peace with Israel, and more talking and coordinating with Israel openly. As Sadat understood, Israel is not going anywhere, peace is much more to their advantage than war, and active open alliance with Israel is in their interests. That was clear in Sinai this past March, not as a celebration of Camp David per se, but very much part of its legacy.

What brought Bennett, al-Sisi and MBZ together was discussion of their common enemy and the threats they face.  Indeed, it was Islamists inspired by the Iranian revolution who murdered Sadat in October 1981. Today, a deeper entrenched and more hardline extremist Iran threatens Israel and the rest of the Arab world.  Iran’s nefarious reach today from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as a southern front along with an outpost in Gaza is extremely startling. Israel is not the only target. This week, Iranian missiles were launched at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Parading Power. This handout photo provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official website via SEPAH News on February 7, 2019 showed the “Dezful” missile during its inauguration ceremony at an undisclosed location. (photo credit: SEPAH NEWS/IRAN’S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS WEBSITE/AFP)

As much as President Sadat broke the ice making peace, and paid with his life, now more than ever, the moderate Sunni Arab world recognises Iran as being a real threat and present danger.  That’s why we saw the Israeli, Egyptian and Emirati leaders together in Egypt last month. The Saudis and others were not present in person, but there was no question that they were represented.

Missile attacks like that which took place in Saudi Arabia recently are not new. Israel has been dealing with this threat in Syria and Lebanon for years, and of course is monitoring (and disrupting) the Iranian drive to obtain nuclear weapons. What is new, and one of the likely triggers for the surprise meeting in Sinai, is the US and other world powers seemingly running to reach a new deal with Iran, ostensibly to satiate their nuclear ambitions.  The 2015 (JCPOA) Iran nuclear agreement didn’t stop the Iranian ambition or ability.  It paid the Iranians billions, and paved a path to their ability to achieve a nuclear weapon. The Biden Administration seems to want to reach a new agreement at all costs, preferring to see the world as how they want it to be, rather than how it is. 

Reports about the new agreement are that it will be a bad remake of the poor 2015 original.  An element rumoured to be part of the new agreement’s terms is the delisting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. The idea is so absurd, and dangerous, that President Biden could truly look at himself in the mirror and say, “Come on, man.”   

Israel and the moderate Sunni Arab states know better and look at the world how it is, not how they want it to be.  Three successive US presidents have now pushed Israel and former Arab adversaries together.  One brokered an unprecedented four peace treaties. Two so disenfranchised the Arabs so much that their only course of action and self-interest was to ally with Israel against a common enemy. 

Preparing for the Worst. Where will Biden’s reviving of the Iran nuclear deal lead? Israel and most the Arab countries in the Middle East are stupefied.

Carter didn’t pull the trigger that killed Sadat. But by empowering Iran, he provided the ammunition. As Biden and other world leaders’ run to revive the disastrous 2015 agreement, further emboldening a terrorist state, it’s as if they’re reloading the Iranians with ammunition. They can’t kill Sadat again physically, but the Iranians have many targets in their crosshairs, and someone is likely to pay the price.

Israel, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia know this.  That’s why the March meeting took place in Sinai. But one can rest assured that the legacy of Camp David generated new alliances, and the Iranian threat created the resolve of like-minded countries in the Middle East to stand firm in defense against this existential barbarism.

“Blessed are the peacemakers”. Amen. 

But sometimes enemies posing existential threats need to be defeated.

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall,, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

“Don’t Look Up”

Masters of our own misfortune, the imminent new Iran nuclear deal is a threat to mankind

By David E. Kaplan

The 2021 Oscar nominated American apocalyptic  movie, “Don’t Look Up” tells the story of two astronomers attempting to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy human civilization.

While there are lots of laughs in this black comedy, there are more reasons for tears with the tragic realisation that despite the threat being from outer space, the real threat preventing Armageddon, lies here on earth – human greed, indifference and self-interest.

Coming of the Comet. Poster for the star-studded Netflix satire DON’T LOOK UP,  about scientists desperately attempting to warn a jaded world about the imminent arrival of an extinction-level comet.

Are these not the failings prevailing today having us all wondering what kind of a world we are bequeathing to future generations?

We don’t need imagined threats from ‘out of this world’ to end humanity, we are quite capable of doing it ourselves.

We only have to look at Putin threatening to use his nuclear arsenal and genocidal Iran on a rapid track to acquire them while threatening to obliterate Israel for no rational reason. Iran has less incentive to attack Israel than Will Smith had to get up and belt Chris Rock at the Oscars! Israel does not share a border with Iran and has no designs on its territory in the same way that Russia has with Ukraine! What Iran has, is a fanatical irrational obsession to expunge the Jewish state from the map. Is this a country that should be facilitated – by some crazily convoluted and deeply-flawed agreement – to acquire weapons of mass destruction, despite the constant promises from the Biden administration that “Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon”?


Why do most the countries in the Middle East disagree besides the beneficiary – Iran – which is licking its proverbial lips like the hungry wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. The Mullah leadership understands that the new watered-down deal is not an obstruction but an accelerated path to achieving its nefarious aim.

What’s the Deal? Hands meet but what of their minds as Antony Blinken seeks to reassure Israel and Gulf allies ahead of possible renewal of nuclear deal.

While all kudos to Joe Biden who brought much of the world into a global coalition to impose the most rigorous sanction regime against Russia that is reminiscent of his predecessors – the two Bushes; who masterminded ‘collisions of the willing’ against Iraq – why then a weak, inexplicable cop-out when it comes to Iran?

With Iran on the ropes economically, should not the strategy be to further weaken instead of to resuscitate and then to strengthen?

Why feed the crocodile that will one day eat you!

However here is the conundrum. Why for the Biden administration are sanctions considered an effective strategy against Russia reducing the ruble to rubble – and soliciting support from countries around the world to support it – and yet against genocidal Iran, it proclaims sanctions are ineffective and advocates its removal?

Go figure!

It gets worse and even less compressible.

Over the last two weeks, a fired up President Biden has ramped up his rhetoric against Putin, calling him a “war criminal”, a “murderous dictator”, a “pure thug” and his most recent “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”.

By his choice of words, the American president expresses his clear understanding of “evil” and vents his abhorrence of the Russian leader. By bravely taking on Putin in this side-war of words, why is Biden ready to whitewash Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) delisting it  as a foreign terrorist group?

Cataclysmic Catastrophe? NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, called Putin’s nuclear alert order ‘dangerous rhetoric’ that had made the world ‘much more dangerous’. (Photo: AFP/Kenzo Troibouillard)

Perplexed at Biden’s position on this issue as Washington shifts ever closer to reviving the nuclear agreement with Tehran, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a joint statement, in which they urged the US not to delist Iran’s feared IRGC as a terror organization. They were hardly telling the Americans anything which they did not already know with these following words:

The Revolutionary Guards are a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of people, including Americans. We have a hard time believing that the United States will remove it from the definition of a terrorist organization.”

In the same way as the resistance again Putin’s war in Ukraine was a global concern, Bennett and Lapid reminded the American president that the fight against terror was a global mission:

We believe that the United States will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists.”

Worrying Words. Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami speaking on September 21, 2019 at  an exhibition marking four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution said, “We have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime…This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal.” (Atta Kenare/AFP)

If promises from Putin can so easily be dismissed as “worthless”, why not exercise the same suspicion with regard to Iran?

Continuing in their hard hitting language, Bennett and Lapid reminded the Americans:

 “The Revolutionary Guards took part in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, they destroyed Lebanon, they are engaged in the murderous repression of Iranian civilians. They kill Jews because they are Jews, Christians because they are Christians, and Muslims because they do not surrender to them.

…… Their hands are stained with the blood of thousands of Iranians and the trampling of the soul of Iranian society.”

Their case made; the two Israeli leaders conclude:

 “The attempt to abolish the definition of the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization is an insult to the victims and the erasure of a documented reality, with unequivocal evidence.”

With the IRCG considered one,  if not the most dangerous terrorist group in the world obstructing for decades peace in the Middle East, why reward this terrorist regime with any sort of legitimacy from the U.S. government? If labeling Putin as a “war criminal” and “thug”, why treat the Mullahs in Tehran differently and even rewarding them?

Don’t ‘Fuel’ global Terrorism. The value of Iran’s currency hit record lows in 2019 as a result of the US sanctions as economy falls into a deep recession.

Worst of all, if the world fears a confrontation with Putin because he could unleash his nuclear weaponry, imagine the danger to humanity – never mind Israel – if the fanatically crazed leadership in Tehran were in possession of nuclear weapons.

As I began; we do not have to look up for imminent danger – we need to look down and within.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Calibrating the fallout, Ukraine is a sobering lesson for the entire world

By David E. Kaplan

While Ukrainian cities are being pulvarised, compelling their residents to either fight or flee, there is hardly a country on this planet  – no matter how far removed from the conflict – which is not watching this human tragedy play out with calculating horror and questioning:


Like with Covid, there is no place to hide from the Ukraine fallout effecting every country  – big or small, near or far – in some way or another. You don’t have to follow world events to know that world events follow you when you fill up – and pay more – for gas!

While Putin behaves today like a Godzilla on a vengeful rampage teasing and testing all with his lethal leverage, the world shifts from ‘counting the cost’ from Covid to ‘counting the cost’ from Putin’s war.

Read all about it? War returns to Europe; will it spread beyond?

As countries calibrate the Ukraine impact and position their policies accordingly, the world is morphing into as yet an undefined ‘new age’ that has to settle down before historians give it a name.

What future students of history will baffle to understand, is that during such a ‘smart age’, people could behave so stupidly. Why oh why, after two years of a horrendous pandemic killing millions and still remaining a threat with the fear of future mutations,  Russia engages in a self-destructive brutal war with a no-less appetitive China watching and wondering when to pounce  on its nervous neighbour – Taiwan?

The worst take-away from this war is the likelihood of it leading to nuclear proliferation. This is precisely a direction a wary world would want to avoid. Countries around the world, including the hapless Ukrainians must be wondering, would Russia have dared to attack its neighbour had not:

– the Ukrainians voluntary surrendered its 1700 nuclear warheads back in 1994 in exchange for supposedly-binding promises from Russia and

– the US and the world assuring “peace” and “territorial integrity”.

Promises to Price Paid. Russia-Ukraine war puts spotlight on 1994 agreement when Washington contributed half a billion dollars for Ukraine to pass 5,000 nuclear weapons to Russia to be dismantled after brokering the deal. Seen here are soldiers preparing to destroy a ballistic SS-19 missile in the yard of the largest former Soviet military rocket base in Vakulenchuk, Ukraine.

Following the Soviet Union collapse in 1991, Ukraine emerged a formidable nuclear power controlling one-third of the USSR’s nukes. After bruising negotiations, it relinquished them all for promises – false promises.

For sure, had she not, a recalcitrant Ukraine would have been designated a “rogue” state, but who would argue: “better a rogue state than a dead state”, which is precisely Putin’s plan for Ukraine – a dead state! One can only imagine historically-minded Ukrainian men and women, boys and girls fighting today against Russian tanks with home-made “Molotov cocktail” grenades and thinking:

 “What suckers our leaders were?”

Clearly if Ukraine had nukes today, Russia would have thought twice about swaggering into its neighbour with such unabashed ardour.

Bottles for the Brave. Attacked by a superpower with nuclear weapons, a Ukrainian civilian trains to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, March 1, 2022.  REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

The only reason inhibiting the US and many European countries from providing air cover or air support to Ukraine is the fear of it being construed by Putin as “escalatory” and leading to a nuclear “WWIII” as the US President is oft to caution.

So the country that gave up its nukes and was then thereafter obstructed from joining NATO and enjoying its protection, is now fighting with its proverbial hand tied behind its back.

Ukraine was setup from the start as easy prey – all at the predator’s choosing! Crimea was the hors d’oeuvre  – an early foray for today’s main course.

How many countries are watching the daily carnage and wondering, whether they too will need nukes one day to protect themselves? Clearly some will reason that it offers better protection than “promises”.

It was chilling watching CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interview Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov who repeatedly refused to rule out that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against what Moscow saw as an “existential threat”.

Battling with Bottles. Young local Ukrainians prepare Molotov cocktails, in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, February 27. REUTERS/Serhii Hudak

Clearly this rattled the US who condemned Peskov’s comments as  “dangerous“. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday:

It’s not the way a responsible nuclear power should act.”

Clearly it is not.

I look at my grandchildren and think how sad  that a new generation is being introduced to a nuclear threat.

In a  televised statement in February, Putin was not mincing his words when he threatened in an address following his country’s invasion of Ukraine. “:

I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside.  No matter who tries to stand in our way …. must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

That threat was widely understood in the US and Europe to be a nuclear one. The wording was clear – don’t interfere in Ukraine or we might nuke you!

At the very least, it is not “constructive ambiguity” but destructive ambiguity!

Watching this all unfold are two countries with opposite aims – Israel more determined than ever that Iran should not have nukes and Iran, more determined than ever to have nukes.

Apart from Israel  – that Iran has threatened to annihilate – how many Arab countries in the Middle East threatened by Iran are now thinking, if Iran goes nuke, how can we not follow suite?

After all, who otherwise will protect them?

Armageddon is no longer an “end-of-days” biblical prophecy or the far-fetched stuff  of Hollywood but a real possibility.

Which is why it is baffling that while Iran’s menacing influence in the Middle East region has significantly increased in recent years, the Biden administration is so gung-ho set to conclude a new but water-downed pact with Iran that most certainly would be bad for Israel.

Is Israel, like Ukraine, expected to be placated with “promises”?

Under the new deal, Iran will be monitored only for the next three years and will receive $7bn in released frozen assets, as well as sanctions relief on exports such as oil. On top of this, the Biden administration is considering removing the Islamic Revolutionary  Guard Corps (IRGP) from the US Foreign Terrorist Organisations list in exchange “not to attack Americans in the region”.  Earlier this month, it was reported on the Iranian news outlet Tasnim that IRGC commander-in-chief Hossein Salami, referred to Israel as having an “expiration date“. Addressing IRGC soldiers in Dezful in southwestern Iran, Salami said Israel will have to “endure the bitter taste of missiles if it is not careful.”

Israel and Arab countries in the region were shocked!

Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid in a joint statement expressed that they , hoped that “the US will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists,” while it is understood that  the UAE and Saudi Arabia uncharacteristically showed their displeasure  by “being too busy to take US President Joe Biden’s calls.”   

As an unnamed Israeli security official was reported on Israel’s Channel 13 news to have said, that while Israel considered the original deal to have been bad, the revived accord taking shape is “spectacularly bad”. For one major reason –  it fails to factor in the progress Iran has made since.

Out of Control! Even before the Russia-Ukraine war broke out, there were concerns not only about a spillover in Europe but also across the world from Asia to the Middle East.

Referring to a leaked draft of the imminent accord, the source revealed that Iran will not be required to destroy its advanced centrifuges; that while Tehran will have to reduce its uranium enrichment levels, it has already developed the capability to enrich at high levels. And while Tehran will also be required to cease producing uranium metal – a crucial component of the bomb-making process – the source noted that Iran now has the knowledge to be able to manufacture such materials in the future.

In essence,” the network’s source revealed, “it is an agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”

For the Middle East, this is a horror story.

To allow Iran to acquire weapons of mass destruction would be nothing less than mass insanity!

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Fleeting Moments

Images from Ukraine that are universal and eternal

By David E. Kaplan

Away from the mass reportage in the written media and television, there are those brief ‘events’ – whether in word or deed – that encapsulates the enormity of the tragedy playing out in Ukraine but also reveals that spark in the human spirit to prevail.

Such was that bravery of the Russian woman who  went on live state TV news with a sign protesting the invasion of Ukraine. Marina Ovsyannikova is a name to remember. For those few brief seconds, Marina defied the might of Putin and his aspiring re-run of a Russian empire and achieved more than a fighter plane or tank. An editor on the Russian TV channel Pervyi Kanal (Channel One), this mother of two, boldly ran behind the newsreader and held up a sign during the main evening show, Vremya, that said:

Stop the war! Don’t believe propaganda! They’re lying to you here! Russians against war

It was Homeric heroism at its best! Lesser defiance in Russia’s Soviet past would have been met with a bullet in the back of the head in a dark underground room in Lubyanka or be exiled to a gulag in Siberia. In present Putin’s Russia, there is talk that Marina could be facing 15 years in prison! All for less than 5 seconds of telling the truth, a commodity being denied to her people.

Marina knew the risks but she also knew the need and the urgency. To surprisingly address her duped nation separated from reality, she  was prepared to expose  herself and her family to the wrath of Putin.

Maybe, just maybe,” she must have thought, it could awaken her people to  “stop the carnage.”

Will she be sacrificed like Joan of Arc by her own people or will she inspire that people to challenge their oppressor – Putin?

Russia. First channel. Marina Ovsyannikova. No war! (2022) News of Ukraine


The second image was in the midst of the carnage, another mother of two, Irina Maniukina playing her grand piano for one final time before leaving her bomb stricken home in Bila Tserkva near Kyiv. Before Irana sets about playing Chopin’s Étude Op. 25, No. 1, she dusts off the debris caused by Russian shelling scattered over her Steinway & Sons Essex piano. It may be the last time she will ever see, never mind play, this piano.

The beauty and grace of the music contrasts with the discord and disfigurement of her home captured in the video filmed by the pianist’s daughter, Karina. Melody juxtaposes over mess, as we see a living room  no longer for the living!

To the sounds of Chopin, we gaze in horror at the debris, shattered glass and rubble. The bomb, that landed 30 feet from the home, blew all the windows out and left a huge crater in the ground.

It blew a larger crater in their lives!

It was poignant to discover that the Chopin piece Irina played is also known as “The Shepherd Boy” following a tale that the composer advised a pupil to picture a shepherd boy taking refuge in a grotto to avoid a storm playing the melody on his flute.

To escape this Russian ‘storm’, where will this Ukrainian mother and daughter now take refuge?

The image of music rising from a home reduced to a ‘wasteland’ was reminiscent to this writer of a plant sprouting in an arid desert – the human spirit survives and will thrive again.


The third image is of a president, who has not only risen to the proverbial occasion but quite literally, rises daily from under the rubble. Like Spartacus, the Thracian gladiatorial slave who defied the might of Rome and is revered today more than the generals who opposed him, so to this young Jewish leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, defying the brutality and imperial arrogance of wannabee Tzar Vladimir Putin. Drawing his line in the proverbial sand in his capital Kyiv, this former actor and comedian  – now wartime leader  – is an inspiration to his people and the world.  Whatever befalls the body of the man, the image of this man is secure for all time.

Unlike the Afghan president, Ashraf  Ghani who only seven months ago fled his country as the Taliban approached his capital Kabul, Zelenskyy’s response to the offer of  leaving Ukraine and to set up a government in exile, was markedly different. While Russian troops were storming towards Ukraine’s capital, this president urged his people to “stand firm”. To the surprise of many around the world, he declined help to evacuate, saying on a street to the cellphone camera in what has become one of the most cited lines of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” 

Spartacus could hardly have said it better to inspire his army of slaves over 2000 years ago!

With such Churchillian leadership, no world leader today could get away treating Ukraine the way British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain treated Czechoslovakia in 1938 referring to its existential plight with Nazi Germany as a “quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing”.

On the contrary, Ukraine is country of whom the world today knows everything about – every horrific detail. As Zelenskyy reminded the American Congress in his video address that the people of Ukraine were experiencing a Pearl Harbour and a 9/11 “every day”.

‘Plane’ Truth. With his hand to his chest appealing for either a no-fly zone or planes to protect their skies, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses members of Congress from Kyiv.

Zoning in on the two most iconic attacks on American soil, Zelenskyy’s words and warnings could not fail to resonate on the American soul!

There is a message from the placard holder, the pianist and the President to the people of Russia about its leadership:

If you don’t remove the rubbish, it just piles up.

At some stage, they will be engulfed by the stench.

As I wrote in my last article and needs to be repeated:

Putin will not stop; he needs to be stopped.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s full speech to Congress

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Time is Running Out

With Russia’s invasion testing the boundaries of infamy on a daily basis, humanity cannot depend on anachronistic acronyms

By David E. Kaplan

Freedom is never more than one generation  away from EXTINCTION,” said former US President, Ronald Reagan. His warning resonates more than ever today.

We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream,” he explained, and then cautioned,  “It must be fought for, protected and handed  on for them  to do the same.”

If the world until very recently was troubled about democracy under threat and the loss of “freedom”,  today it is not only our ‘freedom’ in peril but  – if we listen to the warnings of western  leaders –  our very existence!

Russia has brought us – the world – to another low point in human history, where talk of “EXTINCTION” is now not the stuff of far-fetched movies but everyday political parlance. Listening to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby awkwardly squirm at the podium in his unenviable job of trying to furnish credible answers to tough but predictable questions, confirms our worst fears – that one  miscalculation could lead to WWIII – to a nuclear war, or simply stated in one word – ARMEGEDDON!

Neither Plan nor Plane takes off! Closing the door on a proposal to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby explains that the transfer would risk escalating the war and the focus should be on supplying more useful weapons to fend off Russian forces.

Over the last two agonising weeks, the world has shifted from the 20th century  paranoia of a “Brave New World” to the 21st century of a very “Scared New World”.

Irresistibly glued to our TVs, we are paralyzed in disbelief  – and now fear  – as corona abruptly overnight gave way to Ukraine as the daily horror show. Grappling for the right words to describe this uncomfortable phenomena, I feel I’m immersed  in the irresistible observance of a ritual of mass human sacrifice and unable to stop it. Yes, we take some comfort – and pride – where individual people, governments and NGOs do what they can by rescuing refugees, providing humanitarian aid, providing some ‘defensive’  – heaven forbid ‘offensive’ weaponry –  but cannot stop the exorable grind of continuous carnage.

There is a ‘red line’ we are told we cannot cross because any meaningful action will amount to being construed by Mr. Putin as “ESCALOTORY” – the new catchword of the millennium. 

I don’t think I have ever used that word once in all my 70 years, and now I hear it all day by world leaders from Biden to Johnson to Macron and others.

Churchill, who understood  the danger of appeasement,  must be turning in his grave, which is precisely where the brave Jewish Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, will be re-located shortly, if this human tragedy continues to play out on the world stage.

All the once perceived mighty mechanisms conceived to prevent this tragic trajectory – the UN and NATO – are little more than anachronistic acronyms in stopping this daily carnage.


Horrific was the juxtaposition of two items of Breaking News last night – 9 March.

Like millions of others, I was battling to process a report of Russian forces having bombed a maternity and children’s hospital in the beleaguered port of Mariupol in southern Ukraine with pictures of a bleeding pregnant mother been rescued on a stretcher with the shelled hospital in the background.

Scorched Earth. Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman following the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

How do you listen without tearing up when you hear the appeal from President Zelensky in his bunker calling for NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine with these words:

Children are under the wreckage. This is an atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice by ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity,”

All in vain. Maybe more effective might be the “No-Fry Zone” imposed by MacDonalds that are closing all its outlets in Russia.

Plane Speaking. Ukraine’s Zelensky desperately appeals to US for fighter jets.


With a world finding no traction to President Zelensky’s appeal for declaring a ‘no fly zone’ over Ukraine – not even a partial one for humanitarian purposes – the next item of Breaking News was the US dismissal of a Polish plan to provide fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine. The reasoning was, “Okay, if we can’t actively participate ourselves, we can at least send planes to the Ukrainians for them to defend themselves. We are already sending some defensive armaments, why not include planes?”

Oh no!

As reported in The Guardian,:

 “Pentagon says plan for Poles to give Soviet-era jets to US ‘not tenable’

Unable to effectively defend themselves, the Ukrainian people are now expected to die in slow motion before the eyes of the world, because to support them would be perceived by Mr. Putin as “ESCALOTORY”.

A woman walks outside the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. A Russian attack has severely damaged a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Its amazing how words  – even a single word – can kill!

The man in Moscow is holding the gun to the world’s head; except this proverbial gun is a nuclear button!

Now that we understand the price we are forced to pay, including our own moral degradation when leaders with evil intent have nuclear weapons, can the world seriously continue with the dangerously absurd  JCPOA and STOP Iran’s nuclear programme? Having imposed the severest of sanctions on Russia, is the world so crazy as to lift sanctions on a potentially nuclear Iran that strives for the destruction of the state of Israel!

Will the Jewish state of tomorrow, be like the Ukraine of today – EXPENDABLE?

The Putins and mad mullahs of the world cannot be appeased. They will not stop; they need to be stopped.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Ukraine Today, Where Tomorrow?

The threat of a cataclysmic clash on European soil – Again!

By David E. Kaplan

I remember as a kid in the early sixties laughing my head off in a “bioscope” (cinema) in Cape Town, South Africa to the all-star American comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

Chasing the Buck. The poster to the hilarious blockbuster on the sixties starring Spencer Tracy with an all-star cast of comedians.

Years later as a senior,  I sit riveted to a small screen in Israel and still “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” but I’m not laughing. There is nothing comedic in the news’ coverage of a Europe teetering at the edge of an abyss; of again heading headlong to war – an insane unnecessary war that the Washington Post predicts could lead to 50,000 civilian casualties and would trigger, according to Amnesty International, a humanitarian refugee crisis.

There is a cartoon doing the rounds that says it all.

Putin arrives as a casual tourist at passport control on entering an unnamed European country and is asked by the immigration official:


Bucharest” replies Putin

Occupation?” asks the  official.

Of course” replies Putin.

As this real-life Game of Thrones plays out with possible dire and deadly consequences, the world watches, waits and wonders if this is a new pivotal moment in history from which a new world order may emerge. Commentators and historians have been drawing comparisons to the First World War when bombs and blunders thunderously reset the political landscape far beyond the borders of Europe, the consequences of which are still reverberating today.

Whether Putin is playing a skillful game of chess or  a risky game of poker – note that while an invasion looks imminent the Russian media reports of forces leaving the border area designed to obfuscate –  President Biden had it right when he said in his address from the White House that should Putin invade his neighbour that the “needless death and destruction” that he will inflict will be the result of “A WAR OF CHOICE”.

The most significant words here are “he” and “CHOICE”. This “march of folly” is being pursued not by a people but a person – Putin –  and it is his “choice” alone.

Russia faces no existential threats, most certainly not from Ukraine.  On the contrary, it is the Ukraine, Europe and the world  who are facing Russian greed and gangsterism.

The Road to Kyiv? Russian armoured vehicles on route to Ukraine border. What is their final destination?

However Putin may have bitten more than he can chew. He may well have underestimated Biden’s resolve and ability to unify a shaky Europe to stand firm against the Russian bear, reminiscent of  President Bush in the first Gulf War orchestrating an array of nations to join the USA’s lead in a coalition, forming the largest military alliance since World War II. It may be that the current Coalition of the Willing that is prepared to engage in an economic war  with Russia may not have been what its appetitive president expected.

So what is Putin hoping to achieve with his cat and mouse machinations?

My personal view, is that Putin – long set on reclaiming all of Ukraine and boldened by his success of occupying and annexing the Crimea in early 2014 – the gambler in the Kremlin believed he would get away with it, particularly if Trump was still in the White House. 

Contrary to arguments put forward that Putin would not be doing what he is doing if Trump was still in the White House, I believe  the opposite; that Putin had a belief – not unreasonable –  that the former US president, who admires “strong men” autocrats and saw eastern Europe as the Russian’s sphere of influence would turn a blind eye to Russian ambitious shenanigans. In support of this reasoning, Trump did all in his power to undermine and belittle NATO, unsettle the European alliances amplified by his support of Brexit – offering Brittan “good deals”. The Russian bear smacked its lips,  salivating in anticipation of future land grabs!

Possibly, the most disappointed with a Biden presidential victory was Putin, his premier vodka remaining on ice until now – maybe!!!

Biden to Putin. Step back from the brink of war with Ukraine says US President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on the 15 February, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Hopefully it will remain on ice and the Russian forces will leave the borders of the Ukraine and “needless death and destruction” will be averted.

Europe does not need to build on its unenviable reputation as a mass graveyard to the outsized ambitions of autocratic leadership.

Jews on this issue are particularly sensitive. The Holocaust in Ukraine represented the first phase of the Shoah in which an estimated 1.5 million Jews were shot to death at close range in ravines, open fields, and forests. One in every four Jewish victims of the Holocaust was murdered in Ukraine.

With 75,000 Jews thought to be living in Ukraine, we don’t need to add to that  harrowing tally. That Israel is taking the matter seriously was evident in The Jerusalem Post’s Wednesday headline:

Israel prepares to move embassy from Kyiv to Lviv

The article also  reveals plans for providing security to the Jewish community as well preparations for a possible emergency evacuation.

From Frogs to Bears. A portent of things to come?

Recalling another movie  from the writer’s past, this time as a law student was the 1972  horror flick FROGS that had in bold on its poster:

 “Today The Pond! Tomorrow – The World!”

One could paraphrase the movie as BEARS and reword the poster as:

Today Ukraine, Tomorrow the Baltic

We are warned.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

“High Anxiety”

Baffled by bullies, a worried world tittering on the edge still finds time to oppose Israel

By David E. Kaplan

We have children and grandchildren, we don’t want war,” says an understandably terrified Ukrainian woman shop attendant to Clarissa Ward of CNN on assignment in a town near the ‘border’  – misnomer for frontline –  between her country and a poised-to-strike, militarized Russia.

Winds of War. Clarissa Ward (right) reporting on CNN from the Ukraine on the threat of “imminent” Russian invasion.

At the other side of the world, the Taiwanese people are no less living in fear – of an invasion from mainland China. Scenarios reminiscent of the 1930s with allied dictatorial appetitive superpowers  – one in Europe and another in the Far East – are again threatening war in their regions with uncertain dimensions but certain consequences –  human misery.

And all happening during a global pandemic!

If it’s not chilling enough that young children have to see their elders walking around faceless, covered up with masks; that they have to further fear that their seniors are ready to wage senseless wars.

This is insane!

Adding to the theatrics is a global atmosphere of anticipation with dictators playing  politics designed to obfuscate and confound while they bide their time. They playfully dangle diplomacy while massing for war.

Make no mistake this is serious stuff. After all, British Prime Mister, Boris Johnson – noted for his comedic antics and partying during the pandemic  – was not joking when he said:

 “Putin is holding a gun to Ukraine’s head.”

Cunningly coordinated, China is doing the same towards Taiwan.

Preparing to Defend. Taiwanese troops pose after conducting drills in front of the media at Kaohsiung in Taiwan. (Reuters)

And as this ‘theatre of the  absurd’ plays out, commentators speculate that the predators first want the entertainment or circus for the masses – the 2022 Winter Olympics. And who is the host – none other than by one of the two bullies –  China.

The Olympics, which stands for mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play is being hosted by a country that like its Russian counterpart is set to wage UNPROKED war and create chaos.

But before the bullets fly, it will away with a chunk of medals!

Last night I watched movie on streamer with Merle Streep and Leonardo Di Caprio called ‘Don’t Look Up’, which tells the story of two astronomers attempting to warn humanity of an approaching  meteor that will shortly destroy human civilization. The meteor is a metaphor for an impending disaster but what was more disturbing was the apathy of the political leadership, totally absorbed in self-interest.  Rather than trying to destroy or deflect the meteor it chose instead to try harness its potential wealth by mining it! Can this get more absurd?

Yes it can – for Israel.

While the world faces uncertainty and fallout from the actions of duplicitous players, so does Israel this week that was subjected to another false and “bully” report, designed to undermine its legitimacy and turn a world from facing existential threats to one attacking the Jewish state. Failing to ultimately remove Jews from this earth – despite endless efforts – the strategy has shifted to expunging the Jewish state – Israel.

The bully – Amnesty International whose February 1 report falsely accuses Israel of “Apartheid” has come under justifiable condemnation as being “antisemitic”. Even the Biden administration which is determined on drawing closer to the Palestinian Authority that unsurprisingly praised the report, rejected it as “absurd.” Some U.S. lawmakers denounced it as “rooted in historic prejudices and false narratives.”

Law, Lies and Labels. “We call it apartheid, because it is apartheid under international law,”  Agnes Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International (left)  answered Becky Anderson on CNN to a global audience.

Avi Bell, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, told JNS (Jewish National Syndicate) that “the big challenge would be to find any claims by Amnesty that are defensible from a legal point of view.”

According to Bell, the nearly 300-page report is “a compilation of tired propaganda, lies and distortions” and “boils down to a simple message: The world’s largest Jewish community should drop dead.”

For Amnesty International, which apart from calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation” and further calling on all states to “exercise universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators of apartheid crimes to justice”, this NGO bully goes much farther in its declaration of war against Israel.

According to Amnesty:

 “This system of apartheid originated with the creation of Israel in May 1948 and has been built and maintained for decades.”

This reference to 1948 exposes Amnesty’s animus, characterizing Israel as illegitimate since its inception.

From this revelatory platform it launched its global calling for a “comprehensive arms embargo on Israel” and for the UN General Assembly to re-establish the Special Committee against Apartheid in order to investigate Israel.

Telling it as he sees it. President Joe Biden rejected the Amnesty International report  accusing Israel of apartheid as “Absurd”.

While state bullies like Russia and China have designs to absorb Ukraine (the second largest country in Europe) and Taiwan respectively, the NGO bully Amnesty International is banking on the world’s increasing antisemitism to coalesce in the mission:

to dismantle the state of Israel.

Israel however sees through the smokescreens and subterfuges,  and unlike the populace mostly in a state of denial in the movie “Don’t Look Up”, recognizes the meteor falling to earth for what it is and what needs to be done.

Jews haven’t bounced back after 2000 years and not learnt a thing or two!

Ignoring the Truth. Lies, spin, profiteering, bickering, undermining the science, ignoring warnings and doing nothing useful are the themes in this depressing comedy that finds resonance in today’s global politics.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).