Netanyahu: Israel will not allow ‘drizzle’ of rocket fire from enemies
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday reiterated his warning that Israel will not allow any “drizzle” of rocket fire on its territory from enemy entities.
“We respond to all fire at our territory; thus we did today and as such we will do in the future,” the premier underscored hours after a projectile launched by terrorists exploded in an open field in southern Israel overnight.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that while Israel has no intention of initiating any military action in Gaza, “we have no intention to continue to absorb drizzles (of rockets out of the Strip).”
“We will not get into a ping-pong situation of fire and counter-fire. I suggest Hamas take responsibility, impose order and calm down,” Lieberman said in public remarks to legislators of his Yisrael Beytenu party in Jerusalem.
No group immediately laid claim to the rocket attack. However, in retaliation to the strike, the IDF struck multiple Hamas terror targets in Gaza as the military holds the Palestinian terror group responsible for any fire originating from the Strip.
Netanyahu warns Hamas after weekend of rocket fire from Gaza [March 2016]
Taking to Twitter, Hamas evaded responsibility for the rocket launching and accused the IDF of escalating tensions with Gaza.
There were no injuries or damage in Sunday’s rocket attack on Israel.
There have been several rockets launched at southern Israel in February, including two incidents in which the Islamic State group in the Sinai fired a barrage of rockets towards the southern city of Eilat. Three of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile system while a fourth landed in open territory.
Two weeks ago, following a previous rocket attack, Netanyahu told reporters in London that his directives are to respond with force to every missile attack.
“The two-and-a-half years since Operation Protective Edge were the two quietest years since the Six Day War,” he said, adding that Israel will be steadfast in responding to every attack, and not permit a “drizzle” of missile attacks that go without a response. (Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu strikes back at comptroller: Ministers updated more than ever
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended himself from an impending state comptroller’s report that is set to be released Tuesday, telling his Likud faction Monday that his security cabinet was briefed sufficiently ahead of Operation Protective Edge.
The report is expected to criticize Netanyahu’s handling of the security cabinet ahead of and during the 2014 operation in Gaza, especially regarding the issue of terror tunnels dug by Hamas.
“No security cabinet in the history of the state has been updated more,” Netanyahu said. “When entering the security cabinet, one is supposed to leave his cellular phone and his narrow, personal political interests outside.”
Netanyahu accused State Comptroller Joseph Shapira of being too harsh on the IDF and intelligence agecies in the report.
“Unlike the comptroller’s repoirt, I support the heads of the IDF, Shin-Bet and defense establishment who protected and continue to protect the citizens of Israel. Our soldiers and officers fought with all their souls and the people of Israel are proud of them.”
Netanyahu boasted that in the operation “we gave Hamas the harshest blow it has endured in its history.” He said the operation’s key lessons were not in the report and were being implemented quietly and consistently.
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog said the comptroller would convict the prime minister in the report for poor strategic handling of the country and decision-making during the operation. He said Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid could also not avoid blame, because he was a member of the security cabinet during the operation and did not have enough of an influence.
Lapid said he would not call upon Netanyahu to quit due to the mistakes he made during and since the operation but he expected him to take action to correct them.
“The IDF did the right thing in starting to fix its mistakes the day after the war, but the prime minister has done the opposite,” Lapid said. “Mistakes happen. What bothers me is that there are political spins. This is not how a country is run. If a single soldier can be saved in the next war, the government has an obligation to take action. The prime minister must go before the public, say he made mistakes, and start fixing them.” (Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu: Still no agreement on settlements with Trump
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told MKs from his ruling Likud party on Mondaythat he still has not reached an agreement with US President Donald Trump regarding the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements.
Netanyahu said that although he is working with the White House to establish a “mechanism” for coordinating settlement construction, “things are not as simple as you think they are,” unnamed participants in the Likud faction meeting told the Haaretz daily.
Trump’s presidency “is a historic opportunity, but [we] need to know the limits of this opportunity,” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying.
Netanyahu’s comments were reportedly made during a heated argument between Likud lawmakers who support annexing large swaths of the West Bank and those in favor of separating from the Palestinians while still maintaining security control over the area.
Although Netanyahu has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has refrained from voicing support for a two-state solution of late, as MKs from both Likud and the right-wing Jewish Home party — upon whose support Netanyahu’s coalition depends — have called on him to renounce the two-state solution.
However, during his visit to Washington Netanyahu said “I don’t want to annex close to 2.5 millions Palestinians to Israel I do not want them to be our subjects,” while also telling Australian Foreign Minister last week while in Australia that Israel will never relinquish security control over the West Bank.
While many on the right celebrated Trump’s election as an opportunity to move ahead with large scale construction in West Bank settlements, the US president told Netanyahu during a joint press conference at the White House that “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Just days before the prime minister’s visit, Trump also told the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily that “I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace,” as “every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”
Immediately following the prime minister’s visit to Washington, a senior Israeli official said that although the two sides have yet to reach an agreement on new settlement construction, they will work to establish a “mechanism” for discussing the issue upon Netanyahu’s arrival in Israel following his trip to Singapore and Australia, from which he returned on Sunday. (the Times of Israel)
After foreign trips, Netanyahu says Israel is ‘rising global power’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his recent foreign trips to the UK, US, Australia and Singapore have strengthened Israel’s position in the world and prove the country is “a rising global power.”
Speaking to the Likud weekly faction meeting — his first in three weeks due to the trips — Netanyahu said his travels had bolstered Israel’s security and economy.
Citing further upcoming trips to Russia and China and a scheduled visit to Israel by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Netanyahu said the Jewish state was experiencing a turnaround in its global standing.
“Everywhere I went I was met with great sympathy for the State of Israel. I say sympathy, and often admiration. I saw this with leaders and I saw this with people on the streets.
“Israel is a nation sought after by many,” he declared.
Netanyahu said many countries were interested in forging alliances and pacts with the Jewish state, and insisted it had earned this respect by refusing to back down from its diplomatic positions.
“All this is happening not because we yield, or fold, or pander. The opposite it true: It’s because we stand firm on the rights of the Israeli people and the interests of the State of Israel,” he said. “Alliances and agreements are made with the strong, not the weak.”
Israel under his leadership, he asserted, “is strong — militarily, technologically, economically. And that is why we are also growing stronger diplomatically.”
Israel has recently come under intense international criticism for its passage of the Regulation Law, which would retroactively legalize Israeli West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian land.
The law has been widely censured by world powers, including the United Nations, the European Union, France, Britain, Turkey and others. Germany said its confidence in Jerusalem had been shaken and reportedly cancelled a planned summit with he Israeli government. Even some Israeli right-wingers opposed the law, including members of the governing coalition who voted in favor of it, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
The international community has also expressed great alarm at Israel’s possible withdrawal of support for the two-state solution.
The ostensible change in Jerusalem’s policy is likely the result of US President Donald Trump’s statement during his meeting with Netanyahu this month that he could live with either a two-state or a one-state solution. Netanyahu has since conspicuously avoided any public statement of support for two states.
During his five-day trip to Australia that ended Sunday, Netanyahu met with multiple national leaders, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Besides agreements on business and travel links between the two countries, the conflict with the Palestinians arose in each meeting, and Netanyahu’s travels in Sydney were greeted on occasion by pro-Palestinian protesters.
Earlier in Singapore, the premier met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan Keng Yam. Lee said that Israel was the second-largest contributor of foreign direct investments in Singapore from the Middle East, and the two discussed further cooperation between the countries. (the Times of Israel)
Israeli intelligence minister says Trump created a new path to peace
By Ruth Eglash The Washington Post
Israeli Minister of Intelligence Israel Katz is known as a political bulldozer. It’s a label he is proud of and a trait, he believes, could bring about peace with the Palestinians.
Albeit in a roundabout way.
Katz’s plan, which he says has been adopted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is regional and multilayered. And if all goes smoothly, there might be some type of autonomous, demilitarized Palestinian entity at the tail end.
“Netanyahu went to America after many discussions here in which we spoke about the idea for regional peace, based on security and economic considerations in the region,” said Katz in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I told the prime minister that the goal should be to deal less with labels and more with content,” said Katz, who also serves as Israel’s minister of transportation.
This was the one of the messages Netanyahu shared in a news conference with President Trump in the White House earlier this month.
Responding to a journalist’s question asking if the prime minister had come to Washington to tell the president he is backing off from the solution of two states for two people — the Israelis and the Palestinians — Netanyahu said: “Rather than deal with labels, I want to deal with substance. It’s something I’ve hoped to do for years in a world that’s absolutely fixated on labels and not on substance.”
“I am against two states. As one White House official pointed [out] – ‘if you ask five people what two states would look like, you’d get eight different answers,’ ” said Katz, a member of Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet.
Katz said this point and others made recently by the new U.S. administration has made clear that Trump will allow Israel to find its own solution, in its own time.
Trump, he said, has opened up the playing field for peace.
We sat down with Katz recently in his office in Jerusalem.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity:
After all that’s been said and done in the past few weeks by the Israeli government and the new American administration, do you believe that the two-state solution with the Palestinians is dead?
I come from the perspective of reality. This is a concept that is not relevant. Even those who want to create two states know that it can’t be done at the moment.
[Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas is weak. He needs security support from Israel. And, Hamas was extreme before but since changing Ismail Haniya and placing Yehiya Sinwar in the leadership position, this means that Hamas’s military wing is now controlling Gaza.
If there were nuances before that might have helped us reach the creation of a Palestinian state, they now no longer exist. What kind of Palestinian state can we create in this reality?
What is your solution to bringing about peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
I have been pushing a more regional perspective. Layered peace that starts with security coordination between Israel and the moderate Arab countries, including moderate Palestinians.
Relations already exist between Israel and Sunni Arab states in the region. We are not allowed to say which but they do include countries where we have no peace agreement or diplomatic relations.
How would this work?
When it comes to fighting ISIS or al-Qaeda, everyone wants to work with Israel. The whole world is against ISIS and if Israel can help share intelligence information, then there is a willingness to work with us. [ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.]
There is also the Iranian-Hezbollah axis. There are two groups that are against this axis — Israel and the Sunni states. The Iranian nuclear agreement created a situation where the United States did nothing to curb Iranian activities in the region, and Russia wants to partner with Iran for its own reasons.
But now, there has been a change in position by the new American administration and that has given us the tools and support to deepen partnerships with the Sunni states to fight against Iran and ISIS.
One of the goals of the new U.S. administration is to strengthen the relationships between Israel and these states.
After intelligence sharing and a level of strategic regional peace, what comes next?
Regional economic peace. I have been trying to push this idea forward for some time. The prime minister raised it with the Americans, too.
When the Turks ruled here, they built a train line across the whole region. Because of the tensions since Israel’s creation and the new borders, that train system was abandoned. Now we have renewed the train lines in Israel, and we want to extend this line so it reaches Jordan. Jordan will be the key that connects to the Israeli train line and to train lines across the Arab world. And we also have a plan to connect the Palestinians to that system, too.
Israel recently opened a train line from Haifa port to Beit Shean (near the Jordanian border), and we can extend that line, across the Sheikh Hussein bridge, up to the Jordanian city of Irbid. From there, the line can connect to the whole region.
I have full support from the prime minister on this, and we are currently working to garner support in the region, from the Gulf States, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. We have already met with senior officials in Jordan about this.
Why do think this will work when so many people, including leaders of the countries you mentioned, are opposed to working with Israelis unless the Palestinians receive a state?
First, there is a financial interest in this, and second, they are always looking for alternative transport routes so they can reach Europe, and goods from Europe can reach them.
Already, over the past year, because Syria is now closed to them, Turkey has used Israeli ports to send some 5,000 trucks of goods across the Middle East. It’s already being done with trucks, the train is a new element.
How will all this bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians?
Security coordination and economic peace will help bring about the diplomatic, political peace, which is more complicated for all different reasons.
The United States still supports a two-state solution, and Netanyahu has not rejected it.
But is it realistic to talk about regional peace before sorting out the problems with the Palestinians?
The Palestinians are a nation that knows how to survive. They are educated and hard working, they have their businesses in place, and this plan will give them the chance to connect economically with the rest of the Middle East. Peace can arise out of that.
It might not be a peace that will allow Israelis to head to Damascus or Riyadh to eat hummus — those are naive concepts. But I am a doer, and I believe this plan can exist within the conditions of today’s Middle East.
The ‘new’ US anti-Semitism
by Zalman Shoval Israel Hayom
Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia were desecrated, hate graffiti and swastikas were spray-painted on the door of a Jewish school, and there have been at least 67 bomb threats against Jewish community centers from San Diego to Connecticut. And these are just the incidents that have made headlines and from which we can conclude that hatred of Jews is on the rise in America — both for classic anti-Semitic reasons and because of Arab elements, as the Jews of France were forced to learn again after a violent attack on two Jewish brothers in a Paris suburb last week.
At the same time, the esteemed Pew Research Institute has published a poll on Americans’ support for various religious groups in the country, and the results showed that Jews had the biggest support among respondents, ahead of Catholics, Mormons, and evangelical Christians. Another poll conducted by Gallup shows that 71% of Americans support the State of Israel. Indeed, there may not always be a direct connection between support of Jews and support for Israel, but it’s no coincidence that the anti-Semitism that was rife in the U.S. for a long time started to wane after Israel was founded, which had a positive effect on the status of Jews in the U.S., too.
So how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? The answer lies in both the fact that classic anti-Semitism in America never entirely disappeared, and the fact that now the extremist sectors feel empowered by the results of the presidential election. Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who favored limiting the number of Jews who could enter the U.S. despite Nazi persecution, was not anti-Semitic, but many in his circle were. Apart from that, Roosevelt wanted for political reasons to avoid a face-off with racists in his party.
Some accuse President Donald Trump, unjustly, of similar electoral considerations after his spokesman refrained from mentioning the Jewish people on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Since then, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have taken practical steps to shake off these accusations: Trump himself issued a clear condemnation of any expression of anti-Semitism, and Pence made an unusual gesture by grabbing a shovel and helping repair the vandalized headstones at the St. Louis cemetery.
American Jewish organizations feel this isn’t enough, and that the administration must adopt more practical and consistent measures, including legal ones, against anti-Semitic acts and what lies behind them. There are also those who believe that the rise in anti-Semitic incidents is related to Trump’s election victory. Statistically, this claim is correct, but not because Trump or his close associates are anti-Semites, but because Nazi and racist elements rode in on Trump’s coattails in the election. Incidentally, there is no figure that convincingly shows that Trump’s victory came thanks to the support of these marginal elements — the opposite may be the truth, that their vocal and crude support of him as a candidate actually deterred voters who otherwise might have cast ballots for him.
Israel welcomes the major turn for the better in relations with the U.S. under Trump and is working to deepen ties with it in all areas, but it does not identify, of course, with every foolishness of those who presume to represent the president, and certainly not with those who crawl up to him unwanted.
Indeed, the consistent headlines in the liberal (leftist) media in America and the West in general cover up the fact that the main anti-Semitic threat to U.S. Jews today is from elements mostly identified with the Left — such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement — whose purpose is to completely delegitimize the State of Israel and to cancel out the Jewish people’s very existence. These elements may claim they aren’t anti-Semitic, “only” anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, but in practice their incitement, their tactics — which include hampering Jewish speakers on university campuses — and the rest are anti-Semitism by definition.
The reality of anti-Semitism from both the Right and the Left demands the utmost unity among Jews, so it is regrettable that the umbrella organization of Reform Jews in America took a stance against the candidacy of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. One can debate his opinions (which, from the moment he takes office, carry no weight), but we must not provide a helping hand for those who wish the Jewish people as a whole ill and rush toward any sign of internal schism among them.
Animosity Towards a Sovereign Jewish State Is the Root Cause of the Conflict – Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz (The Hill)
- True peace requires addressing the deep sources of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those lay with the Arab and Muslim reaction to the return of the Jewish people to powerful sovereignty in their ancient homeland. As far as Muslim theology and Arab practice were concerned, the Jews were non-believers, only to be tolerated, never as equals. They should have never been allowed to undermine Muslim rule over the lands which the Jews claimed as their homeland but the Arabs viewed as exclusively theirs since conquering them in the seventh century.
- The return of the Jewish people to restored sovereignty in their ancient homeland required Arabs and Muslims to accept that a people, whom they have for centuries treated as inferiors, worthy of contempt, were now claiming equality and exercising power in their midst. This unnatural historical development, in Arab eyes, led Arab governments to take revenge and forcefully expel hundreds of thousands of Jews living in their midst, often in communities predating the birth of Islam, just after the establishment of the State of Israel.
- It is also the reason why Arab states kept the Arabs who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their millions of descendants as perpetual “refugees” – to deprive the Jewish state of legitimacy and peace.
- It is the reason that even after losing repeated military wars against the State of Israel, Arab countries have continued their diplomatic and economic war against it to this day.
- This attitude towards the Jewish state is an Arab – and Muslim – issue, and not only a Palestinian one. The Palestinians are the thin end of the wedge by which the Arab and Muslim world wages its war against a sovereign Jewish people.
- If the word “peace” is ever to truly describe the situation between Israel and its neighbors, it requires the Arab and Muslim world to accept the Jews as their equals and as an indigenous people who have come home.Einat Wilf is a former member of the Knesset. Adi Schwartz is a researcher and writer in Tel Aviv.