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Latest Israel News – 16th June

Israel, Palestinians reject US claim that PA stopped funding terror

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority say Tillerson’s claim that the PA has changed its policy and will stop funding terror is unfounded.

An Israeli diplomatic official on Wednesday rejected assertions made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the previous day that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has ceased its long-held practice of financially supporting and rewarding terrorists and their families.

“Israel is not aware of any such change in the Palestinian policy, which is to continue to pay the families of terrorists,” the official said according to Israeli media. The official went on to emphasize that “the Palestinian Authority continues to praise, incite and encourage terrorism with these payments.”

Later on Monday, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) confirmed that Secretary Tillerson was mistaken.

“(Abbas) told me that he will not give up on the prisoners and the families,” the PLO’s Commission for Prisoners Chairman Essa Qaraqaa told the Jerusalem Post. “He said he will continue the payments.”

While testifying in front of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on the US State Department’s budget, Tillerson claimed that the PA abandoned the policy of finance for terror, stating:

“They have changed their policy – at least I have been informed they’ve changed that policy – and they are, their intent is to cease the payments to the family members of those who have committed murder or violence against others.”

“We have been very clear with them that this [practice of paying terrorists] is simply not acceptable to us,” he added.

It was reported in April that despite a number of proposed cuts in Trump’s budget to the US State Department, Palestinians would receive $215 million, amounting to an increase of 4.6% in foreign aid. Nevertheless, the Trump administration has expressed its displeasure of continued financial rewards from the PA for terrorist activity.

“I told (Mahmoud Abbas), you absolutely must stop making payments to family members of, quote, ‘martyrs,’” Tillerson said, referencing a meeting with the PA Chairman during his visit in Washington, DC last month.

The White House added at the time, “President Trump raised his concerns about payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed terrorist acts, and to their families, and emphasized the need to resolve this issue.”

During his visit to Israel, Trump implicitly condemned the PA’s policy at a joint press conference with Abbas in Bethlehem, in which he said,“peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded.”   (WIN  World Israel News)

PM Netanyahu at Holocaust Museum Site in Thessaloniki

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, together with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, attended the unveiling of a plaque to mark the construction of a Holocaust museum in Thessaloniki.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras noted the common history of Greece and Israel and added that the future museum would enshrine both the memory of the Holocaust and one of the most dramatic periods in the history of Thessaloniki. He remarked that the museum would also serve to impart these memories to the city’s next generation as it presented what happened. He said that he looked forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu back for the dedication of the museum.

Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“I’m delighted to be here with my friend, the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras and my friend, the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades and their delegations, the members of the municipality, our delegation, my wife Sara who comes from a family of a Holocaust survivor. Her father is the only one of a family of almost 100 people who survived and therefore, this visit here is particularly moving for us because Thessaloniki is a famous city in Jewish history and in Greek history and these histories were intertwined from the fourth century B.C. and proceeded obviously to have a change with the infusion of Jews after the expulsion from Spain. My father was a great scholar of the Spanish Inquisition and he often talked to me about where did the Jews go and many of them went here, and of course half this city, half this city, by the beginning of the 20th century, was made of Jewish people.

And then there were two great calamities: one is the fire of 1917 which burned this entire area and burned the Jewish quarter but didn’t destroy the Jews and the second was a greater fire, the Nazi fire. The Nazi fire destroyed about 95% of this extraordinary and proud Jewish community. There were two reasons why they didn’t destroy everyone. The first was heroism of Greeks and this was exemplified in one case that is not sufficiently well-known, the case of the Island of Zakynthos where the German commander said: ‘Give me a list of the Jews’ and the Bishop and the Mayor brought a list of the Jews, their two names. They said: ‘This is our Jews. Take us’. We honor these two great heroes among the righteous among the nations in Yad Vashem, an institution that will work with this museum.

There’s a second reason why they survived and that is in addition to fate. It is a special capacity, the grip of life that is exemplified among the survivors. One of them is Moshe Ha-Elion who is today 93, I believe. He lit a torch. Every year in Jerusalem, in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, we light six torches in memory of the six million. And this year, Moshe Ha-Elion lit one of the torches. And he described how he survived the Holocaust in Thessaloniki, extraordinary heroism, unbelievable, unbelievable story. And I said to him: ‘You know, I’m going to meet my friends in the Tripartite Summit in Thessaloniki. I want you to come with me.’ And he was very, very excited, as we were, and so we agreed.

Yesterday morning, we’re about to fly to Thessaloniki and we hear that he’s in the hospital and the doctor is treating him. He said to the doctor: ‘Please, release me. I have to go to Thessaloniki.’ And the doctor refused to do that. So I called his daughter, Rachel, and his son Eliyahu and I said: ‘Why don’t you come and represent him?’

And if you don’t mind, Alexis, I would like them to join us in unveiling the plaque that will be in the museum to commemorate what happened here for two purposes, commemoration and prevention. We commemorate the loss of these human beings, our fellow Jews, but we also dedicate ourselves to make sure that this horror will never happen again.

This is the purpose and meaning, the first purpose and the first meaning of the State of Israel, but I believe it’s something that should be shared by all humanity. So for these two great goals I want to thank you and I want to thank as well the Government of Germany for supporting this, the members of the Jewish community, and of course all the donors. Thank you all.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife then attended a ceremony in which the son of a survivor, from the island of Cephalonia, of the 1953 earthquake read a letter of gratitude – which was written by survivors – to the State of Israel for the assistance of the Israeli navy. (Israeli navy vessels were among the first to reach the island following the earthquake.)

Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that, “Firefighting aircraft assisted us in extinguishing major fire in northern Israel, and saved part of Haifa, the ‘Thessaloniki of Israel’. And therefore I would like to thank you for the help you provided. Thank you.”

Senator Paul: Arms sold to Saudi Arabia could be used against Israel

Senator Rand Paul has launched stinging criticism of US President Donald Trump’s “landmark agreement” during his recent Saudi Arabia visit – the conclusion of a massive arms deal, valued at $110 billion.

In an op-ed for Fox News on Tuesday, Paul charged the US government with jeopardizing Israel’s security and even initiating a potential arms race in the Middle East by signing the arms deal, described by Trump as “tremendous”.

“It would seem counterproductive to provide weapons that might someday be used against Israel,” wrote Paul.

“If the past is any indication, any time we sell weapons to an adversary of Israel, the Israelis are forced to purchase more and newer weapons which only escalates an arms race in the Middle East.”

Ahead of this week’s Senate vote on his resolution to stop the arms sale, the Republican senator highlighted what he considers considerable hypocrisy on the part of the US government.

“In 2016, Congress overwhelmingly voted to allow the family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia,” Paul recalled.

“So why, less than year later, are we agreeing to sell Saudi Arabia billions of dollars in arms to further escalate a war that has been loudly and repeatedly condemned internationally?”

Paul, urging caution, concluded, “we must also pause and ask ourselves, does providing additional weapons to the Saudis make Israel safer or more dangerous in the long run?”

Israel’s response to the arms deal was notably muted with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making no public remark. After visiting Riyadh, Trump’s next stop on his nine-day foreign tour was Israel.

Among Israeli politicians that did react, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz commented that the deal “really should trouble us,” and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz stressed that “Israel’s qualitative military edge should be maintained.” (Jerusalem Post)

US threatens to replace UN human rights body over anti-Israel stance

The United States has threatened to replace the United Nations Human Rights Council with an alternative group of nations, unless the 47-member body halted its anti-Israel bias and underwent a series of reforms.

“We are either going to reform this thing and make it reflect what it should be reflecting or we will withdraw our support for it,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday in Washington.

Should the US pull out of the UNHRC it would “find other means that we can approach human rights issues on a multi-lateral basis with partners who see it the same way we do,” Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) asked Tillerson about US funding for international organizations in the fiscal 2018 budget, including the Geneva based UNHRC.

“I wish you would reconsider the $10 million you have in there for the UNHRC. That is on top of the $17.5 million that we have spent in the last few years to try to buy friendship with Israel. I will bet you a steak dinner that it is not going to work,” he said.

Tillerson assured that Rooney that his office was examining its engagement with some of those insinuations, specifically the UNHRC, as he issued a number of strong statements about the organization.

“We are looking at those one by one by one and really asking ourselves what is the cost benefit here.  In some areas we are either going to reform those or we are going to withdraw from them,” Tillerson said.

“We are taking a very close look at what do we, the American people, get in return for this investment or this funding that we provide,” Tillerson said.

“That is not a threat, but as a tool to use so they understand, this time this is a serious conversation. We need to get to a serious conclusion.

“If you do not want to change, if you do not want to reform, that is fine, let us know and we will try a different approach.

“The UNHRC is one that we are currently engaged in. [US] Ambassador [to the UN Nikki] Haley is directly engaged in,” Tillerson said.

Haley spoke publicly about the possibility of a US pull out when visiting Geneva last week. Her office also issued a statement about this week after learning the UNHRC might ask the International Court of Justice at The Hague to issue an advisory opinion on alleged Israeli human rights abuses toward Palestinians. She made a clear link between America’s continued involvement in the council and its biased treatment of Israel.

Last week a UNHRC spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that the US has played a very positive role in the UNHRC.

“The United States has been a very valuable and constructive partner in the Human Rights Council having spearhead numerous important initiatives including those on Syria, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Iran, freedom of expression, LGBT rights, broadening space and addressing safety issues for civil society, and many more,” the spokesman said.

“The Council would certainly benefit from such solid engagement in future from the United States,” the spokesman said.

He added that as a result of the US engagement with the council under the former Obama Administration, the body had focused less on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“For example, only one out of 14 special sessions between 2010-2016 was devoted to this conflict in comparison to the six held between 2006-2009,” he said.

It has also spent less time on Agenda Item 7, which is the mandated debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the UNHRC must hold at every session.

“The amount of time spent on Agenda Item 7 debates (occupied Palestinian territory) has also decreased from 15% to 8% over this time frame,” he said.

The UNHRC meets three times a year and is now holding its 35th session. It will hold its Agenda Item debate on Monday. (Jerusalem Post)

The only solution to the ‘right of return’

The invention of eternal ‘refugeeism,’ which is passed on from one generation to another, aims to serve as one of the tools for Israel’s destruction. The Palestinian leadership cannot say it wants peace with Israel while supporting the return of refugees.

by Daniel Friedmann    Ynet News


Some 650,000 Arabs fled the State of Israel’s boundaries in the War of Independence. Some were expelled by the IDF, but most were encouraged to do so by their leaders or escaped out of fear (they were well aware of what happens to Jews who are captured by members of the Arab gangs). Many Arabs, however, remained in Israel, some of those who escaped came back, and Israel even agreed in the past to let a few refugees return.

According to Central Bureau of Statistics figures, the Arab population in Israel on the eve of the recent Independence Day was made up of approximately 1.85 million people (Jerusalem included), a little over 20 percent of Israel’s residents.

When it comes to the legal and moral side of the refugee issue, Israel has decisive answers. The Jews who remained alive in the lands conquered by the Arabs in the War of independence—like Jerusalem’s Old City and Gush Etzion—were forced to leave, and those areas remained “Jew-free.” At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported from Arab states. Most of them were taken in by Israel and did not become eternal refugees.

Furthermore, after World War II, Eastern European countries deported residents of German descent. The number of people expelled exceeded the number of Arab refugees by far. The exiled were absorbed as immigrants in their new country and did not become refugees. The same thing happened when, following the Indo-Pakistani war, millions of people became refugees and were absorbed as immigrants in the places they arrived at within years.

The Arab refugees from the War of Independence are a unique phenomenon. The Arab states they arrived in (apart from Jordan) refused to take them in, held them in refugee camps, which still exist, and convinced the United Nations to create a special agency for those refugees (UNRWA). That led to the creation of a system in which the “refugee” status is passed on from one generation to the next, producing “refugees” who are the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original refugees, and there are millions of them now. They were all raised on hatred to Israel and on their “right” to return to their homes (most of which no longer exist). That is also how the Palestinian refugee diaspora became an inexhaustible source for recruiting fighters to terror organizations.

The invention of eternal “refugeeism,” which is passed on from one generation to another, was aimed of course at provoking Israel and serving as one of the tools for its destruction. These millions of “refugees,” who have learned from their early days that they are “entitled” to return to Israel and are expecting that to happen, have naturally become an obstacle to peace.

As far as Israel is concerned, this is an existential problem. If these “refugees” return into its boundaries, it will lead to Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, this is a basic demand they are unwilling to give up. This creates, however, an internal contradiction: The Palestinian leadership says it wants peace (which means recognizing Israel’s right to exist), yet it keeps supporting the right of return (which will lead to Israel’s destruction). In short, peace with Israel and the right of return cannot live under the same roof.

The “refugee” issue remained unresolved in the Oslo Agreements. The Israeli side must have deluded itself that the Palestinians would give up the right of return. That didn’t happen. We have often wondered how Yasser Arafat turned down Ehud Barak’s peace proposal and why Ehud Olmert’s proposal was met with a similar refusal from Mahmoud Abbas. In my opinion, the refugee issue was their main consideration. They were unwilling to sign a peace agreement, as generous as it may be, which would require them to waive the right of return.

People are now talking about a regional peace agreement, which will include the Sunni states. This kind of peace must involve a solution to the refugee problem and a concession of the “right of return.” In this gradual process, we will have to insist on an initial settlement of the “refugees” in Arab countries, where they will receive all the rights granted to the rest of the residents. This will require economic incentives both for the “refugees” themselves and for the countries that take them in. Trust-building steps in this direction, in addition to trust-building steps on the Israeli side, will create real progress towards peace.

Israel is ‘in our blood,’ outgoing Australian ambassador says

Packing up after four years in Tel Aviv, Dave Sharma reflects on close relationships, lessons learned, and a few ‘difficult conversations’

By Raphael Ahren                 The Times of Israel


Outgoing Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma at a farewell reception in Tel Aviv, June 11, 2017

It’s diplomatic etiquette for ambassadors to say nice things about their host countries before they leave. But at his farewell party Sunday in Tel Aviv, Dave Sharma, the outgoing Australian envoy to Israel, went above and beyond, using an unconventional metaphor to describe his family’s attachment to the Jewish state.

“I can honestly say that Israel will always be in our hearts. Israel will always be in our blood,” he told his guests at the Peres Center for Peace, speaking in Hebrew.

“Maybe it works better in English than it does in Hebrew, I’m not sure. But it basically means that Israel is part of our soul now,” Sharma told The Times of Israel on Wednesday, one day before he, his wife Rachel Lord, and their three young children were set to leave Israel after four years.

“Israel will have had a formative imprint not only on my life but on that of my wife and my children,” the unimposing and affable diplomat said. “That’s something we’ll always take with us — not just the memories from here and the relations and friendships we’ve made here, but also some of the life lessons we’ve drawn from here. In that sense, Israel is in our veins. We’ll carry it with us wherever we go.”

Undeniably, Sharma’s job was made easier by the fact that bilateral relations are consistently excellent. Canberra is one of Jerusalem’s staunchest allies and best friends in the international community. In 2014, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop surprisingly refused to call Israeli settlements illegal, defying international consensus. And when 14 out of 15 members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of an anti-settlements resolution (with the US abstaining) in December, Australia was the only country to publicly say it would have opposed the text.

That is not to say that Australia always sees eye to eye with the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who rejects the oft-made claim that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace.

“We’re opposed to any unilateral move that undermines the viability of the two-state solution. Settlement are one of those,” said Sharma. The issue was brought up during Bishop’s visit to Israel in September and also during Netanyahu’s meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in February in Sydney, during the first-ever visit down under by an Israeli leader.

“We are committed to the two-state solution,” Sharma said. “But we’ve always taken the view that final-status issues, which include borders and the status of Jerusalem and things like that, can and should only be resolved by negotiations between the parties.”

Building new settlements and expanding existing ones is “unhelpful,” the ambassador said, adding that Australia also opposes incitement to violence and Palestinian efforts to gain unilateral statehood recognition in multilateral forums.

Jerusalem and Canberra had other differences as well during his four-year term, Sharma said, though he declined to provide more detail.

“We had a few disagreements during my time here. But in the nature of our strong relations we keep and resolve them in private,” he said. Israelis and Australians are both frank and honest people, and he always found that he could sort out problems easily and in a friendly atmosphere, he noted.

Were there moments when was furious at his Israeli interlocutors? “No,” he replied immediately. He did have some “difficult conversations” with people but they usually took place in the context of good friendship. “I have never felt white-hot fury or anything like that.”

Indeed, Sharma — who has not been assigned to a new posting yet — said Israel-Australia ties today are the “strongest they have been than in a long time, perhaps since the early days of Israel’s founding.”

Even though Australia was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Israel, opening an embassy here in 1949, no sitting Israeli prime minister had visited down under until Netanyahu’s four-day trip to Sydney in late February.

Indeed, several cancellations of planned visits in the past had threatened to cast a pall over the otherwise rosy bilateral relationship. Netanyahu had reportedly considered canceling or postponing this year’s trip, too, but sensing that Canberra would not take it well, he went ahead with it.

“It was very important that the visit happened as a recognition to the strength of the relationship. The fact that there hadn’t been a visit in the past was becoming an irritant in the relationship,” Sharma said. “If the visit hadn’t happened, that irritant would have only grown at the time. It was an overdue but very welcome recognition of the importance of the Australia-Israel relationship and the importance of Australian support for Israel.”

Netanyahu’s visit also had a “forward-looking agenda,” as his talks focused on promoting bilateral cooperation in fields like cybersecurity, high-tech, aviation, research and development, double taxation and others, Sharma said. “It did deliver a substantial agenda and set a pathway for the future of the relationship in the next couple of years.”

Sharma’s replacement, Chris Cannan, is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday and to start working on Monday. Like Sharma, he is a career diplomat and Israel is his first ambassadorial posting.

Sharma’s main advice for Cannan is to be a good listener. “There are a lot of complexities in this part of the world,” he said. “Try to hear as many perspectives and to learn from as many people as you can. It’s quite important to come here and be ready to hear all sides and listen to all arguments. Prepare to hear all views, that’s the key to doing well here.”

Footage shows Israeli security nabbing 3 ISIS teens

Israel’s Shin Bet security service arrested three Arab-Israeli teenagers who swore allegiance to ISIS and constructed a bomb.

Armchair activism can be a good thing!

What’s the most efficient way for a responsible person like you to lend a helping hand? Spoiler: It’s easier than you think. Introducing 4IL