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Latest Israel News – 12th May

BDS urges audience to give ‘zero points to Israel at Eurovision’

Imri Ziv, Israel’s representative in this week’s 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, may “feel alive” as his entry song goes, but a group of Israelis affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is definitely not feeling the love.

The small but vocal group aired its grievances in a Facebook group called “Eurovision boycott of Israel – ZERO points to the song of Israeli Apartheid.

“We are a group of Israeli citizens. This week Europeans (and also Australians) will get a chance to tell Israel what we think of the oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, and to express solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. In the Eurovision Song Contest, we should give Zero Points to the Song of Israeli Apartheid!” demands the group on its Facebook page.

Addressing all 43 participating countries in the song contest, the group tells potential voters that they “would be able to strike a big blow for justice and human dignity at small cost, without leaving your living room.

“If you care about such things as justice, freedom, human rights or simple human decency, you should take part in the Eurovision televoting process. In general, you should rate the various songs as you see fit – but take care to give the Israeli song A BIG FAT ZERO.”

Perhaps admitting that the Israeli entry is quite catchy, the group says that “even if there will appear in Kiev an exquisitely beautiful Israeli song, it will be a beauty covering up a loathsome ugliness – the ugliness of oppression, dispossession and killing.”

Ziv, 25, a former contestant on The Voice Israel and winner of Hakokhav Haba (The Next Star), will perform “I Feel Alive” on Thursday during the second night of semifinals in Kiev. (The final is on Saturday night.) Much to the BDS movement’s dismay, Ziv participated in singing “Because of the Spirit” for an IDF promotional video in 2012.

Israel has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1973. The country has won three times – in 1978, 1979 and 1998.

However, questions have been raised whether this will be Israel’s last year in the contest due to the recent shutdown of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, a member of the European Broadcasting Union.

Watch Imri performing his song in Israel                                        (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli forces thwart Palestinian pipe bomb attack at IDF court in West Bank

A potential security crisis was averted Wednesday morning after Israeli forces caught a Palestinian carrying a pipe bomb outside of a military court in the West Bank near the Palestinian village of Salem.

According to border police, the suspect, a minor from Jenin, attempted to enter the complex via a military checkpoint. When asked by security officials to show identification, the suspect said he did not have any, prompting a search of his person. During the search, soldiers found two pipe bombs in the suspect’s possession.

Initial investigations revealed that he planned to enter the courthouse complex and detonate the explosive devices, targeting security forces inside.

The suspect was taken by security forces for further investigation.

Bomb disposal technicians were called in to neutralize the devices.  (Jerusalem Post)

Hamas plotting major revenge attack, defense officials say

Hamas is stepping up its efforts to carry out a major terrorist attack in Judea and Samaria to avenge the killing of one of its top operatives in the Gaza Strip, defense officials told Israel Hayom Wednesday.

Mazen Faqha was killed in mid-March in what Hamas said was a Mossad assassination. Hamas has vowed to avenge Faqha, even going as far as directly threatening top Israel officials, including Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.

The military and Shin Bet security agency have been following the group’s efforts very closely, and have stepped up their counterterrorism efforts across Judea and Samaria. Israeli authorities have arrested a number of terrorists operating under explicit instructions from Gaza to carry out attacks, mainly abductions and mass-casualty attacks.

Faqha was a close associate of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, and it is believed Sinwar personally instructed the group’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, to increase it efforts to exact revenge on Israel.

Sinwar’s decision to order an attack in Judea and Samaria, rather than executing it from Gaza, is believed to reflect Hamas’ reluctance to provoke an escalation that may spell dire consequences for Gaza.

Israel, for its part, has sent Hamas a clear message that should a major terrorist attack emanate from Judea and Samaria, it will mount a forceful response against Hamas infrastructure in the Strip.

Defense officials expressed concern that a major terrorist attack, coupled with the dire economic situation in Gaza and Hamas’ diplomatic isolation, might prompt a security escalation that could rapidly spiral out of control and lead to another military conflict.

Hamas’ efforts to carry out a major terrorist attack compound existing security tensions, which are expected to escalate further against the backdrop of three coinciding events: The upcoming visit by U.S. President Donald Trump; Jerusalem Day, which this year marks the 50th anniversary of the capital’s reunification; and the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.

While the defense establishment has no concrete intelligence indicating an imminent attack, it is believed that organized groups led by Hamas, as well as terrorists who are not affiliated with any of the Gaza-based terrorist groups, will attempt to target Israelis.

Israeli security forces are collaborating with their Palestinian counterparts and the joint counterterrorism efforts have prevented dozens of attacks over the past few months.

Defense officials predict that if a diplomatic breakthrough is achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during Trump’s visit, terrorists will consequently step up their efforts to carry out attacks.

Meanwhile, senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Wednesday the group’s revised manifesto, published last week, was not a substitute for its founding charter, which advocates Israel’s destruction.

He stressed the political policy document announced in Qatar on May 1 by Hamas’s outgoing chief Khaled Mashaal did not contradict its founding covenant, published in 1988.

“The pledge Hamas made before God was to liberate all of Palestine. The charter is the core of [Hamas’] position and the mechanism of this position is the document,” Zahar said.

Zahar denied that Hamas was trying to align itself with Fatah’s position.

“When people say that Hamas has accepted the 1967 borders, like others, it is an offense to us. We have reaffirmed the unchanging constant principles that we do not recognize Israel; we do not recognize the land occupied in 1948 as belonging to Israel and we do not recognize that the people who came here [Jews] own this land. Therefore, there is no contradiction between what we said in the document and the pledge we have made to God in our [original] charter,” Zahar said.  (Israel Hayom)

PM Netanyahu meets US military chief, lauds defense cooperation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot met with U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford in Jerusalem Tuesday to discuss the deepening of bilateral security ties and the shared challenges the two countries face.

Ahead of their meeting, Netanyahu said, “We have a great alliance between Israel and the United States, and a great alliance between the American military and the IDF. We appreciate it and we know that this alliance is good, not only for security, but also good for peace.”


Dunford thanked Netanyahu for his words and said, “I’m back, as you know, for my third time since I’ve been in this assignment to not only work on our overall relationship, but to work on my personal relationship with Gen. Eizenkot, which is rock solid and probably representative of the broader relationship that we have.”

Netanyahu concurred with Dunford’s sentiment and added, “We look forward to welcoming President [Donald] Trump here very soon.” The U.S. president is scheduled to arrive in Israel on May 22.

Also on Tuesday, Dunford visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he and his wife laid a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance.

Earlier Tuesday, Dunford met with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and was awarded a medal of honor during a ceremony at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.  (Israel Hayom)

Knesset okays changes to new public broadcaster, ending years-long fight

The Knesset overnight Wednesday-Thursday voted to excise the news division from the new public broadcaster and establish a separate news department in its stead, ostensibly ending a years-long saga surrounding the dismantlement of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Forty-three Knesset members supported the proposal in its second and third readings, which took place just after 3 a.m. on Thursday morning, following a nearly six-hour debate. Thirty-three lawmakers opposed it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was behind efforts to remove the centerpiece news division from the new corporation — known as Kan — was not present at the late-night vote.

The vote came hours the legendary IBA-run Israel Radio went off the air after 81 years, and a day after Channel 1’s “Mabat” nightly news broadcast was abruptly shut down by the government after half a century, with just two hours’ notice.

According to the reforms, advanced in marathon legislative activity by the coalition, the new public broadcaster’s programming will officially launch on May 15. However, the news department will be launched separately at a later date, absorb additional Israel Broadcasting Authority employees, and will have managers appointed by a judge-led committee to oversee its operations.

Journalists who had been hired to the Kan news department over the past year had expressed concerns last month they would be laid off as the news department is gutted from the corporation. It was not immediately clear how many of the hired employees would be retained under the new framework.

Thursday’s vote restructuring the new public broadcasting corporation implemented a March compromise reached by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Netanyahu, who was until recently also acting communications minister, oversaw passage of the 2014 law to establish the new corporation but has long been leading an effort to abort it before it goes on the air, complaining of a lack of government control of the corporation’s editorial line, which may be critical of his government.

Kahlon, meanwhile, has fought for the establishment of the new broadcaster, as legislated in 2014, and with reduced government meddling.

IBA employees were in limbo for several years as the government approved the reforms, backtracked, attempted to merge the two entities, before finalizing the Kahlon-Netanyahu agreement that absorbs more workers from the IBA, while laying off hundreds of others.

The IBA was established in 1948 and held a monopoly on TV and radio broadcasting in Israel until the 1990s.  (the Times of Israel)

Indian Navy ships dock in Haifa  port ahead of historical visit by Indian PM

Three Indian Navy warships arrived at Haifa Port on Monday for a three-day visit as part of that nation’s overseas deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and West Coast of Africa.

The ships, from the Mumbai- based Indian Navy Western Naval Command, are: the INS Mumbai, a guided-missile destroyer; INS Trishul, a stealth-missile frigate; and INS Aditya, a tanker.

The task group is headed by R.-Adm. R.B. Pandit, the flag officer commanding the Western Fleet, who is flying his flag on the Mumbai.

The ships arrived on Tuesday and during their stay will engage extensively with the Israel Navy, including both professional and social engagements.

Naval vessels from both countries participated in a joint drill when the Indian ships entered into Israeli waters.

This is the eighth time Indian ships have docked at an Israeli port, with the first in 2000. “The current visit seeks to underscore India’s peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly countries and, in particular, to strengthen the existing friendship between India and Israel,” read a statement by the Indian Embassy in Israel.

Israel and India are celebrating 25 years of bilateral diplomatic ties this year, with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi scheduled for the first visit by an Indian PM to Jerusalem this summer to highlight that growing relationship.

“The India-Israel defense relationship is on a very firm foundation. Geographically we are not close but we have shared interests to countering threats that can come from the maritime domain,” Pandit said aboard the Trishul.

“We have benefited from defense technologies, and a number of significant defense acquisitions have been made from Israel,” referring to the Barak-8, which he said “provides the Indian Navy new and greater air-defense capabilities.”

“The Barak-8 is a strong manifestation of the Israel-India defense partnership and it is a joint venture between our two nations,” Pandit said. “The Barak-8 has been fitted on three Indian Naval ships and is fully operational.”

Bilateral trade and economic relations have progressed rapidly in the past two decades, with a significant increase in the past year.

Defense trade between the two countries has averaged sales of more than $1 billion annually over the last five years, including the long-range surface- to-air missile, or Barak-8 naval air defense system, which was jointly developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries.

Israel has supplied India with various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years, making India one of the largest buyers of Israeli military hardware.

In April, IAI signed a $2b. contract to provide the Indian Army with advanced defense systems, the largest ever for Israel’s defense industry.  (Jerusalem Post)

Go with Trump’s vision

by Zalmon Shoval   Israel Hayom


Preparations for U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to Israel are in full swing, but even more important are the preparations to ensure that the visit is a success both in content and in essence.

Some think the new president’s plan to go to Jerusalem on his first foreign visit is in itself an important diplomatic and symbolic event. Obviously, we cannot expect in-depth discussions, but considering Trump’s personality and his declaration of intent to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians — in addition to his characteristic work methods — we can certainly assume that his visit also has practical goals.

According to reports from Washington, which were highlighted in a long New York Times piece over the weekend, the administration has made efforts over the past two weeks to turn the visit into a first practical accord to promote the steps Trump wants to lead. It may be that the honored guest will want to leverage the 48 hours he will be spending in Israel and the Palestinian Authority to establish diplomatic facts by making various declarations about what the two sides need to do to reach “the ultimate deal,” as he has described it, and how he envisions the peace to which he aspires.

New York Times reporter Ian Fisher wrote this week about “the conflict that will not heal, now 50 years since Israel took control of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem,” ignoring the fact that the conflict has existed for over 100 years, long before Israel took control of these areas in a defensive war. This fact has also eluded many foreign government officials in addressing the conflict, including former U.S. President Barack Obama.

Trump cannot be suspected of holding pre-existing and warped opinions about this matter, but based on various remarks, he may see the problem and the chances of a solution in a way that does not take into account all the complicated aspects of the issue.

The script that characterized previous presidents’ failed attempts to promote peace will inevitably resurface. No president was more involved in these efforts than Bill Clinton, until the conduct of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas (for whom Trump was just an object of his obsequious and deceitful tactics) at Camp David convinced him, as he has admitted, that Israel does not have a partner for peace.

Trump honestly wants to leave the past behind him and write a new script, and for that, he can be praised.

But he must understand that it is Palestinian recalcitrance that is writing the real script: Peace between Jews and Arabs in the Land of Israel is not a function of finding diplomatic formulas, but first and foremost breaking through the wall of Palestinian hostility. They are unwilling to accept the Jewish people’s right to a state and are not willing to compromise on any of the main issues of the conflict.

However, Israel should not call attention to itself by throwing cold water on Trump’s chances of success, because then it will be blamed for any failure. Indeed, we must be partners in his optimism and allow the facts to speak for themselves. We can assume that time will work its magic, and sooner or later, Trump will conclude that instead of aiming at an “ultimate” — as in full and final — deal, it would be better to concentrate on trying to promote temporary, partial arrangements

Ties with Ancient Greeks Prove Historical Legitimacy of Jewish State – Maria Polizoidou (Gatestone Institute)

UNESCO’s latest resolution about Jerusalem, which denies the Jews’ and Israel’s legacy over its historical capital, Jerusalem, not only offends the historical truth and archeology of the Jewish people. It also offends the Greek people, and all Christians, who for thousands of years have also had ties with the area and the nation of Jews. As it also offends the foundations of Greek Orthodox Christianity, the Greek government – to its honor – voted against this hallucinatory resolution.

The King of Sparta, Arius I, who lived in 309-267 BCE, wrote to Onias the First, the High Priest of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem: “It is written about the relations between the Jews and the Spartans that they are brotherly nations and that they originate from Abraham.” It shows that for millennia, the cultural and historical depth of the Jewish people is undeniable.

During the Hellenic years of Alexander the Great’s descendants, many events were documented to prove the Jews’ sovereignty in the city of Jerusalem. Judaism was also a living religion for the Greek Queen, Helen of Adiavinis, who embraced it in the middle of the first century.

In historical terms, the modern Jewish state has greater historical legitimacy than most modern European states – and far more than the Middle Eastern states artificially created out of the 1916 British-French Sykes-Picot agreement: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. In Europe, Germany and France only appeared in the Western world in the 3rd century CE.

If the UN honestly wants peace, it must accept that the modern Jewish state is the tugboat that will pull the whole Middle East into the 21st century. Rejecting the historic Jewish legitimacy in Jerusalem is rejecting the essence of peace, which is friendly coexistence and interaction between different people. With insults and fake history, you cannot build peace, only the next conflict.

The writer is a journalist based in Greece.