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Latest Israel News – 16th March

Female assailant shot during suspected car-ramming attempt

A Palestinian teenager allegedly attempted to ram her car into a bus stop at the Etzion Junction in the central West Bank on Wednesday, prompting Israeli security forces to shoot and wound her, the army said.

No Israelis were seriously injured in the incident, though a 28-year-old Israeli woman in “advanced stages of pregnancy” was taken to the hospital after experiencing a panic attack, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

The 16-year-old Palestinian driver was critically injured from the crash and IDF gunfire, according to Arab media.

She received medical treatment from the Israel Defense Forces and was taken to the hospital, MDA said.

She was identified by Arabic media as Fatemah Taqatqa from Beit Fajjar, a Palestinian town south of Bethlehem.

The incident occurred shortly before 4:00 p.m.

Surveillance footage from the scene, first posted on social media and later released by the IDF, showed the car veer across multiple lands of traffic and crash into the metal bollards surrounding the bus stop.

According to the military, the teenager specifically targeted the troops stationed at the junction, but both soldiers and civilians could be seen standing at the bus stop.

Local Bethlehem media reported that the driver’s cousin, Amjad Taqatqa, was arrested shortly after the attack. The IDF could not immediately confirm the report.

The Etzion Junction’s bus stop and hitchhiking post has been the scene of a number of terror attacks in late 2015 and early 2016, including both car-rammings and shootings.

The busy junction sits at a major crossroads in the Etzion settlement bloc between Jerusalem and Hebron.

The vehicular attacks forced the government to install metal poles around the junction’s bus stop in order to prevent attacks, which have waned over the past year.

Though a marked drop has been recorded by security officials in recent months, 40 Israelis, two Americans, a Palestinian and an Eritrean national have been killed in the spate of stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks that began a year and a half ago.

According to AFP figures, some 250 Palestinians, a Jordanian and a Sudanese migrant have also been killed, most of them in the course of carrying out attacks, Israel says, and many of the others in clashes with troops in the West Bank and at the Gaza border, as well as in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks.

The spate of Palestinian attacks that began in October 2015 was dubbed the “lone wolf” intifada, as many of the attacks were carried out by individuals who were not connected to any terror group.

The attacks were at first attributed to tensions over Palestinian fears that Israel was seeking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a charge Israel has repeatedly and vehemently denied. Palestinian leaders have argued that the primary cause for attacks during this period was despair caused by Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank.

The Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, continues to refer to each attack as a part of a “Jerusalem Intifada.”                           (the Times of Israel)

PM: No agreements on settlements in talks with Trump adviser

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday evening that talks with US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, did not yield an agreement for a coordinated US-Israeli position on West Bank settlements, but described the meeting as “good” and “honest.”

“I have to say that I had good conversations, in-depth ones. I can’t say we finished or came to an agreement,” he told reporters at a press conference.

“We’re in a process, but it’s a process of mutual dialogue, authentic and honest in the positive sense,” Netanyahu said. That process, he added, is “not yet visible to media.”

Netanyahu and Greenblatt met for over five hours on Monday. During the meeting, Trump’s public appeal to the prime minister to rein in settlement building was raised.

Netanyahu sought US approval to build a new West Bank settlement as compensation for the residents of the evacuated outpost of Amona during the talks. He had promised Amona residents a new settlement in exchange for a peaceful evacuation of the illegally built community.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday said the two men discussed Israeli settlement policy “in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security.”

Greenblatt took to Twitter later on Monday to say that he and Netanyahu “discussed [the] regional situation, how progress towards peace with Palestinians can be made & settlements.”

Greenblatt met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday.

Many on the Israeli right had anticipated that Trump would be more supportive of the settlement enterprise than his predecessor Barack Obama. However, last month, Trump publicly asked the prime minister to “hold back on settlements a little bit.” He also said that Israeli settlements “don’t help” in negotiating a peace agreement.

Netanyahu was seeking Washington’s approval for unfettered building in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and within “city limits” of West Bank settlements, Army Radio reported on Tuesday morning, but the Prime Minister’s Office denied this.

The Trump administration’s assent to building in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem annexed by Israel would represent a change in position from the Obama years; the previous administration routinely criticized all building beyond the pre-1967 Green Line. The administration of George W. Bush reached understandings with the government of Ariel Sharon to the effect that Israel would not return to the pre-1967 lines in any permanent peace accord, and recognizing the major settlement blocs, and some analysts believe that the Trump administration might revive such understandings.

Greenblatt’s visit marks the first major attempt by the new US administration to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after two months that have seen officials dither on support for the two-state solution, the location of the US Embassy and building in settlements.  (the Times of Israel)

Palestinian Sources: 4 Conditions to Return to Peace Negotiations

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to meet on Tuesday with US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, in Ramallah, to discuss the means to launch the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Well-informed Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the Palestinian Authority was ready to engage in a fresh round of negotiations with Israel based on four conditions, which include halting illegal settlements, releasing a number of old prisoners, discussing the demarcation of the 1967 borders while guaranteeing the establishment of a Palestinian state within those borders, and determining a timeframe for the end of negotiations.

The sources added that the Palestinian Authority’s new conditions have shown its acceptance to a US mediating role and direct negotiations with Israel, contrary to its previous stance on the need to have an international mechanism as the basis for launching the peace talks.

Trump’s Middle East envoy will meet with Abbas on Tuesday, following a meeting Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sources said that the new US administration was seeking to restart the peace talks, which have been frozen since 2014. They added that the date of an expected visit of Abbas to the White House to meet with Trump would be determined following the Palestinian leader’s meeting with the US envoy.

Greenblatt would discuss with the Israeli side US views on the building of settlements, while he would focus with the Palestinian leadership on the issue of violence incitement, according to sources from the envoy’s accompanying delegation.

On Friday, Trump spoke to Abbas and invited him to the White House. It was the first phone call between the two leaders since Trump took office.

The White House said Trump told Abbas that he believes a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians must be negotiated directly by the both sides.  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

Middle East Expert: In Dramatic Shift From Obama, Trump Appears to Be Adopting ‘Bottom-Up’ Approach to Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking

The Trump administration seems to be adopting a “bottom-up” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking that represents a dramatic shift from that held by the Obama administration over the past eight years, a former State Department Middle East negotiator told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

“I think it is too early to tell about the details, but if you look at the elements of what Trump is trying to do, they are fundamentally different from what Obama tried to do,” Aaron David Miller — a vice president at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, DC and a CNN global affairs analyst — said. “However, whether or not they end up in the same place is another matter.”

The Trump administration’s apparent goal, in Miller’s view, is not to reach a comprehensive peace deal now, but rather lay the groundwork for a potential future one — “by working with the Israelis on a set of confidence-builders on one hand, and trying to engage the Arabs states on the other, to get them to press the Palestinians and offer the Israelis incentives to go farther.”

One difference between the Trump and Obama administrations, Miller noted, is that “there is no effort [by the Trump administration] to box the Israelis in and create a public frame of reference on settlement activity…[Instead] they are trying to reach some sort of private agreement with the Israelis on where and what kind of settlement building is permitted.”

Furthermore, Miller said, the Trump administration “seems to be less solicitous of Palestinian needs and requirements.”

“Yet,” he continued, “clearly the president’s phone call with [Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud] Abbas on Friday and Jason Greenblatt’s efforts to engage the Palestinians today in Ramallah suggests to me that at least they realize that this isn’t one hand clapping and they’ve got to somehow deal with both sides.”

On Monday, Greenblatt — Trump’s special representative for international negotiations — met for more than five hours with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. According to a statement released by Netanyahu’s office, the two “reaffirmed the joint commitment of both Israel and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians that strengthens the security of Israel and enhances stability in the region.”

Netanyahu and Greenblatt, the statement said, also worked on reaching an understanding on settlement construction “that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security.”

At a joint White House press conference last month, Trump asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” — a request that surprised Israel.

On this matter, Miller said, the first questions are: “What is Mr. Netanyahu able to do on settlements that will pass the political test in Israel? And what is he going to get for it that he can use to make sure his coalition survives?”

“And the even bigger questions,” he went on to say, “are will it [an US-Israel settlement understanding] accomplish anything? In other words, will the Palestinians and the Arabs buy it and in turn pay something for it?”

“Whatever they agree on settlements has got to be, in my judgment, part of a broader package,” he stated. “If you want to achieve anything, it’s got to somehow be pre-layered. You remember what happened with the 10-month [settlement construction] freeze [in 2009-10]? Nothing.” (the Algemeiner)

US makes 1st extradition request for Hamas terrorist who killed Americans

The US Department of Justice announced on Tuesday its first ever extradition request to try a Hamas terrorist who murdered Americans during the Second Intifada.

Prior to US President Donald Trump taking office, the only legal proceedings against such terrorists have been criminal proceedings in Israeli courts or civil wrongful death proceedings brought by the families of victim, not by the US government, in US courts.

The request is addressed to Jordan to extradite Ahlam Tamimi, who was in Israeli jails for multiple murders connected to the August 9, 2001 Sbarro Pizza suicide bombing, but was released in the 2011 Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange.

15 civilians were killed in the midday attack, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, and 130 were wounded. Tamimi scouted for a target before leading the bomber, Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, to the restaurant.Interview with convicted terrorist Ahlam Tamimi. Credit: Palestinian Media Watch

They arrived just before 2:00 p.m., when the restaurant was filled with customers and pedestrian traffic outside was at its peak.

Tamimi departed before Masri, thought to be carrying a rigged guitar case or wearing an explosive vest weighing 5 to 10 kilograms full of explosives, nails, nuts and bolts, detonated his bomb.

She is currently a television host in Jordan, has hosted Hamas member Saleh Arouri (who ordered the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in June 2014), bragged of her involvement in other murders of Israelis and is considered as a symbol of the Palestinians fight.

Jordan will have to decide between honoring its strong alliance to the US, and trying to avoid offending its majority Palestinian population and an anti-extradition trend in its court system, according to Shurat Hadin which is representing the family of the victim Chana Nachenberg who was grievously wounded in the bombing and remains in Israel to this day in a coma.

According to Shurat Hadin President Nitsana Darshan- Leitner: “We are glad that the US Department of Justice has decided to move forward against this notorious mass murderer. We have been requesting for a long time that this unrepentant Palestinian terrorist be rearrested, extradited and prosecuted by American law enforcement officials.

“It was outrageous that Israel released this criminal with so much innocent blood on her hands and who has publicly rejoiced that she killed 8 Jewish children. For too long Jordan has become a safe haven for Palestinian terrorists and, hopefully, this is a change of policy for the new Trump administration, to start to pursue the numerous Palestinians who have killed US citizens in Israel,” she said.

Nachenberg’s father, Yitzhak Bennett Finer, responded to the news: “We applaud the efforts of the Department of Justice in trying to bring Tamimi to justice and we hope they’ll be successful.

Our daughter Chana Nachenberg had the prime of her life taken from her… as a result of this inhuman act of the heinous bombing… Her daughter Sarah has grown up without a mother and her husband David without the love of his wife.”

Recently, a delegation of Department of Justice prosecutors visited Israel to meet with law enforcement officials and American families of the terrorist victims as part of efforts to promote the case. (Jerusalem Post)

US demands UN pull report accusing Israel of apartheid

The United States on Wednesday demanded that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres withdraw a report by a UN body accusing Israel of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians and of racially dominating them.

Guterres distanced himself from the report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) but US Ambassador Nikki Haley said it should be scrapped altogether.

“The United States is outraged by the report,” said Haley in a statement. “The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”

Based in Beirut, ESCWA is comprised of 18 Arab countries, according to its website, which lists the state of Palestine as a full member, and works to strengthen cooperation and promote development.

“That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” said Haley.

Haley has accused the United Nations of being biased against Israel and has vowed as President Donald Trump’s envoy to staunchly defend Israel at the world body.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said “the report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general” and was done without consultations with the UN secretariat.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon earlier slammed the commission for releasing the report which accuses Israel of establishing “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”

Danon said the report was an “attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie”

“It comes as no surprise that an organization headed by an individual who has called for boycotts against Israel, and compared our democracy to the most terrible regimes of the twentieth century, would publish such a report. We call on the Secretary-General to disassociate the UN from this biased and deceitful report,” he said in reference to ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian national.

The report published Wednesday, titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” says that “available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.”

The Beirut-based commission slammed Israel’s Law of Return, “conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country,” as a policy of “demographic engineering” meant to uphold Israel’s status as the Jewish state.

The report further accuses Israel of “practices” that have fragmented Palestinians, arguing that it is the “principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime.”

“This fragmentation operates to stabilize the Israeli regime of racial domination over the Palestinians and to weaken the will and capacity of the Palestinian people to mount a unified and effective resistance,” the report reads.

The report was compiled by Richard Falk, a Princeton professor emeritus with a long track record of vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric who previously was the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine, and by Virginia Tilley, an American political scientist who authored the book “The One-State Solution” in 2005.

Haley described Falk as “a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories.” (the Times of Israel)

How many of these Israeli companies do you know?

Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye is only the latest in a rich history of lucrative exits by Israeli companies.

Here are the top 10 most successful ones to date, according to the IVC Research Center, ISRAEL21c and the No Camels website.

  • NDS: Acquired by Cisco for approximately $5 billion in 2012 but established in 1988, one of the first Israeli start-ups to do software development.
  • Chromatis: Acquired by Lucent for $4.5 billion in 2000.

Chromatis Networks was an Israeli start-up company that developed next-generation transport solutions.

  • Waze: Israel’s world-famous community-based mapping, traffic and navigation application was acquired by Google for $966 million in 2013.
  • EZ Chip: Acquired by Mellanox for $811 million in 2016.

EZchip provides high-performance processing solutions for carrier and data center networks.

  • Trusteer: The global leader in end-point cyber crime prevention was acquired by IBM for $800 million in 2013.
  • Retalix: Acquired by NCR for $800 million in 2013. Retalix SCM develops and supports software applications for retailers and distributors of fast-moving consumer goods, mainly in the supermarket and food service industry.
  • Objet: 3D printer manufacturer Objet Geometries merged with US rival Stratasys in 2012 for $634 million to became the largest 3D printing company in the world.
  • MediaMind Technologies: The global provider of digital advertising campaign management solutions for ad agencies and advertisers was acquired by DG for $517 million in 2011.
  • Zoran Corporation: Acquired by CSR for $484 million in 2011.

Zoran develops integrated circuits and embedded software used in digital videodisc (DVD) players, digital video recorders, digital cameras and HD television sets.

  • XtremIO: The storage system company that developed a purpose- built all-flash system was acquired by EMC for $450 million in 2012. (Jerusalem Post)

Trump the change agent looks positively traditional on Mideast peace

‘On the issue of Israel and Palestinians they have been probably more cautious and more responsible than on almost any other issue,’ says former US envoy Dan Shapiro

by Ron Kampeas                 The Times of Israel/JTA


Trump administration rhetoric about Israeli-Palestinian peace is typical of a president who would make everything great: President Donald Trump is going to bring about a “historic” deal, the White House has said, one that would “reverberate positively throughout the region and the world.”

What isn’t typical, at least for a president who has shattered conventions in so many other sectors, is how typically Trump is going about reviving talks.

Jason Greenblatt, a real estate lawyer and trusted longtime adviser to Trump, is in the region drumming up interest in new talks, and he’s partying like its 1989:

Except for the hyperbole, the statements emerging from Greenblatt’s “listening” tour of the region this week could have been lifted from boilerplate dating back to the administration of George H. W. Bush, the first president to get Israelis and Palestinians into the same room, and through his successors, including Bill Clinton, Bush’s son and Barack Obama.

“I have a lot of differences with this administration on a lot of issues, but on the issue of Israel and Palestinians they have been probably more cautious and more responsible than on almost any other issue,” Dan Shapiro, who was the Obama administration envoy to the region from 2011 until January, said in an interview.

“It’s striking to hear quite similar language in describing their approach, their goals, their understanding of the relationship between the issue of settlements and prospects for success in negotiations,” said Shapiro, who is now a senior visiting fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Trump’s pro-Israel supporters hailed his election as an opportunity to reset the relationship between the two countries. Israel’s right crowed after his victory, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett saying it was a chance for Israel to “retract the notion of a Palestinian state.”

Settlements were a key bone of contention between the Obama administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, culminating in December when the US allowed the UN Security Council to pass an anti-settlements resolution.

Nothing quite so contentious has emerged yet in the Trump-Netanyahu relationship, but it hasn’t disappeared, either. Trump straight out asked Netanyahu to hold off on settlement building for a while when they met at a White House summit last month, and Greenblatt raised the issue in his five-hour meeting Monday with Netanyahu.

“With respect to settlements, we see them as a challenge that needs to be addressed at some point,” Marc Toner, the State Department spokesman, said this week.

Other differences in tone and emphasis are emerging between the Trump and Netanyahu governments.

After Greenblatt met Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a readout of the meeting from the US consulate in Jerusalem said they “reaffirmed the commitment of both the Palestinian Authority and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Notably, Netanyahu — who has made no secret of his preference for Trump over Obama – has spent the three years since the collapse of the last round of talks saying Abbas appears anything but committed to advancing peace.

Jewish officials who favor the new administration’s Israel posture say they see a difference in how Trump and his team emphasize the need for Abbas to tamp down Palestinian incitement, particularly the payments handed out by the Palestinian Authority to families of imprisoned or killed terrorists.

“President Abbas committed to preventing inflammatory rhetoric and incitement,” the meeting readout said.

But the notion that Obama downplayed incitement was always something of a myth. Obama and his top officials repeatedly decried incitement, as recently as his farewell speech to the United Nations in September. Those calls, however, tended to receive less media coverage than his tensions with Netanyahu.

There are some differences of tone – most dramatically in how Trump has retreated from explicitly endorsing the two-state solution.

Danielle Pletka, the vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, said that should be seen less as a rejection of the two-state outcome than a means of returning the ball to the court of the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“All that Donald Trump said” to Netanyahu “was ‘if you’re comfortable with it, I’m comfortable with it,’” Pletka said. “And Netanyahu is comfortable with it. What he didn’t say was ‘here’s a two-state solution, it will look like this.’”

The Obama administration grated on Israel by prescribing the outlines of the two states – although even that pressure had diminished after the last round of talks collapsed in 2014.

Pletka said one reason for the lack of surprises from Trump on the Middle East was his focus on other areas of security and foreign policy, where he is trying to bring about real and dramatic change, including limiting the intake of immigrants and refugees, pulling out of multilateral trade deals, recalibrating ties with China and raising the stakes in the fight with the Islamic State.

“Those are issues he deeply cares about,” she said. Another factor was the administration’s slowness in filling second and third tier jobs in national security and foreign policy, which would inhibit the advancement of dramatic policy changes.

Shapiro said Trump and his team were learning that ideological postures taken during a campaign bang up against reality after the election.

Combating incitement, limiting settlement expansion, seeking a broader buy-in to peace by Israel’s Sunni Arab neighbors and advancing two states “are structural US interests, they are not ideological fixations of one administration or another, one that any administration interested in US interests in the region will coalesce around,” Shapiro said.

Tamara Cofman Wittes, who directs the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, said Trump – who is meeting with an array of Arab leaders in coming weeks – is seeking Arab investment in his bid to crush the Islamic State.

“Every administration comes into office, they confront the array of American interests and partners in the Middle East, and it makes it hard for them to do what they want to do if Arab-Israeli conflict is at risk of becoming an Arab-Israeli conflagration,” said Wittes, who was a senior Middle East policy official in Obama’s first term.

“One of the things Arabs always ask a new administration is ‘Please avoid doing things on the Arab-Israeli issue – and tell the Israelis not to do things that would create a crisis,’” she said. “That, which would be a normal thing for Arab governments to do, is magnified by the anti-ISIS imperative,” she said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Jeff Ballabon, a Republican with deep ties in the Orthodox Jewish community who advocated for Trump, said the narrative of same-old, same-old was deceptive.

“I have tremendous faith in the president as a negotiating prodigy,” he said, referring to Trump’s decades as a real estate dealmaker. “They clearly have America’s and Israel’s best interests at heart. We finally have a team that’s realistic and isn’t beholden to any failed past policies.

Dennis Prager on the Middle East Conflict