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Latest Israel News – 20th June

Netanyahu slams PA after Jerusalem attack: ‘No limit to lies, brazenness’

The international community must demand that the Palestinian Authority end payments to the families of terrorists, “something that only encourages terrorism,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu’s comments came in the wake of the terrorist attack at the Damascus Gate on Friday night that killed Border Police officer Hadas Malka. Netanyahu noted that not only did the Palestinian Authority not condemn the murder, but Fatah – which is headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas – issued a statement condemning the Border Police for killing the terrorists.

“Apparently there is no limit to lies and brazenness,” he said.

Netanyahu said that the the same PA that refused to condemn the attacks will now pay salaries to the families of the murderers.

“I call on the nations of the world to condemn the murder and those who praise it, and to demand the immediate ending of Palestinian Authority payments to the families of terrorists,” he said.

Netanyahu told the cabinet that since Friday security forces have been active in the villages near Ramallah where the terrorists came from, and are preparing to destroy their homes. In addition, he said that Israel cancelled special permits for Palestinians to enter Israel during the Ramadan holiday,  and that he directed the police to step up security measures around Damascus Gate.

Netanyahu sent his condolences to the Malka family, saying their sorrow is the grief of the entire nation.

“Hadas was a young woman full of life and had a sense of mission to defend the State of Israel,” he said. “ Like her friend, Hadar Cohen, of blessed memory, she fell on her guard in a determined struggle against bloodthirsty terrorists.”

Cohen, also a Border Police officer, was killed in a stabbing attack at the Damascus Gate in February 2016.   (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Authority Praises Killers of Israeli Policewoman Despite Assurances to Trump on Terror

Despite Palestinian assurances to US President Donald Trump’s administration not to incite support for terror, newspapers associated with the ruling Fatah faction in the Palestinian Authority (PA) have joined with official spokespersons from several Palestinian ministries in praising the three terrorists who murdered Hadas Malka, a 23-year-old Israeli policewoman, in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday.

“The smell of blood will continue to surround the holy and occupied city [of Jerusalem] until dawn. There are young people that wanted to say a clear ‘No!’ to the occupation in their way,” declared an editorial in the official PA daily Al-Hayat-Al-Jadida, in a translation made available by the Israeli watchdog Palestinian Media Watch.

The PA Ministry of Health hailed the three terrorists as “martyrs.”

“Three young people were shot by occupation forces and died as Martyrs,” a statement from the ministry said, before demanding “that the international community seriously examine providing international defense to the defenseless Palestinian people.”

A spokesman for Fatah, which is led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, blamed the international community for “encouraging” Israel to commit “crimes” such as the shooting of the three terrorists after they stabbed Hadas Malka.

“The silence of the international community in light of the continuation of the occupation and its crimes, which have not stopped for even one moment, encourages Israel to permit the spilling of Palestinian blood. The despicable crime that was committed today in cold blood and claimed the lives of three Palestinians is nothing but proof of that,” Osama Al-Qawasmi declared.

Malka’s funeral took place early on Sunday morning in the southern coastal city of Ashdod. “Get up, Hadassi, tell us it’s a dream,” her brother Guy declared at her graveside. “A damned terrorist destroyed all our dreams. We’ll never forget you as our hero sister who protected Jerusalem.”

Leading PA officials including Abbas have routinely assured US President Donald Trump and his colleagues that they reject terrorism and oppose incitement.

“Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace,” Abbas told Trump during their meeting at the White House in May. (the Algemeiner)

Israeli police arrest 350, bolster security in Jerusalem after deadly attack

Less than 48 hours after terrorists killed a female Border Police officer guarding the Old City’s Damascus Gate and wounded two others in the Muslim Quarter, police arrested 350 Arab suspects who illegally entered Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Noting that the three assailants who carried out Friday night’s coordinated attacks that took the life of St.-Sgt.- Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, came unlawfully from the village of Deir Abu Mash’al near Ramallah, police enforced a massive crackdown.

“Police security measures are continuing at the Damascus Gate and around the walls of the Old City, with special patrol units and SWAT teams that are arresting suspects and removing individuals from the area to keep it safe,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld on Sunday.             (Jerusalem Post)

IDF: Attempted stabbing foiled near West Bank settlement

An attempted stabbing attack was foiled early Saturday morning near the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, according to the IDF.

According to the reports, a Palestinian approached and attempted to stab an Israeli citizen. The Israeli managed to avoid being stabbed but was lightly injured as he tried to defend himself.

IDF soldiers in the area soon arrived at the scene and neutralized the attacker without discharging their weapons.

The attacker has been transferred to security forces for questioning.  (Jerusalem Post)

Report: Netanyahu offered MK Tzipi Livni Israel’s Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered MK Tzipi Livni the Foreign Affairs portfolio, political sources said on Saturday night, confirming an exclusive report by Channel 10 political correspondent Sefi Ovadia.

Netanyahu tried to bring Livni into his government in order to bolster his efforts to restart negotiations with the Palestinians, under the auspices of US President Donald Trump and his Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Netanyahu has been holding the portfolio since his government was formed, hoping that opposition leader Isaac Herzog would join, but talks with the Zionist Union chairman did not bear fruit.

Livni’s associates said she rejected the offer because she believes he is not planning on taking enough steps to advance a diplomatic process with the Palestinians in a serious manner.

“She got the impression that what Netanyahu is doing is nothing but hot air,” a Livni associate said. “She is not interested in joining for nothing.”

Livni has explored an opportunity to join the United Nations as an assistant secretary-general. She is also pushing for open primaries to lead the Center-Left in the next general election.

None of the candidates in the current Labor leadership race has said they are willing to join Netanyahu’s government, though Netanyahu has not given up hope on Herzog joining if he wins the July 4 race. (the Jerusalem Post)

Hamas: War with Israel unlikely and relations with Egypt improving

Hamas played down on Sunday the possibility that the energy crisis in the Gaza Strip would lead to renewed hostilities with Israel and said relations between the Islamist group and Egypt were improving.

“We in Hamas do not initiate wars and we do not expect one, this is our political assessment,” Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas’s deputy leader in the Gaza Strip, told reporters in Gaza. The two adversaries have fought three wars, most recently in 2014.

“We do not expect war because we are not interested and the occupation also say they are not interested,” he said, using the group’s term for Israel.

Tensions over power supplies in recent weeks have led to speculation there could be a new conflict between the two sides.

Israel said last week it would reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is pressing Hamas to relinquish control of the enclave seized in 2007, limited how much it pays for power to the area.

The decision was expected to shorten by 45 minutes the daily average of four hours of power that Gaza’s 2 million residents receive from an electricity grid dependent on Israeli supplies, the officials said.

The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority blamed Hamas’s failure to reimburse it for electricity for the reduction in power supplies.

Separately, a Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Sunday that Cairo had agreed in talks last week with a Hamas delegation to sell the group fuel to get the Gaza Strip’s sole power station back online.

Fuel for the small plant ran out two months ago, and a resumption of operations could give Gazans power for eight hours a day.

There was no immediate word from Egyptian officials on whether a deal had been struck, and Hayya declined to confirm any agreement.

He said Hamas’s newly elected Gaza leader, Yehya al-Sinwar, had met in Cairo with Egyptian officials and discussed securing the frontier with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, where Islamist State fighters have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.

Egypt has accused Hamas of aiding the militants, an allegation the group denies, and has kept its border crossing with the Gaza Strip largely closed. Israel also maintains tight restrictions along its frontier with the enclave.

Hamas-appointed security chief Tawfiq Abu Naeem, one of the delegates to Cairo, recently toured the Egyptian border and issued new orders to tighten security there.

“Securing borders is a joint interest. We are keen and we have the determination and the ability to prevent any harm to reach out for Egypt from Gaza,” Hayya said.  (the Jerusalem Post)

6 Arab suspects arrested for throwing firebombs at Jewish homes in Old City

Six Arab residents of the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, including five minors, were arrested Sunday morning on arson charges for allegedly throwing firebombs at Jewish homes in the area.

Police said the arrests were carried out after obtaining warrants to search each suspect’s home amid an ongoing investigation.

“The six suspects attacked Jewish homes with petrol bombs in the Muslim Quarter over the last few weeks and were arrested for arson and attempted arson,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

“They were arrested in their homes overnight and taken in for questioning at the Jaffa Gate police station,” he added, stating that the homes sustained serious damage from the attacks, though none of the residents were injured.

According to the investigation, the suspects attacked the homes to force the Jewish families to permanently flee the area.

The suspects were arraigned at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday, where a judge extended their remand amid the ongoing investigation.

“The routine life in the Old City, where all religions live side by side, will be preserved and any attempt to disrupt or harm people’s safety will be met with a firm and determined hand, as took place this morning,” added police spokeswoman Luba Samri.               (Jerusalem Post)

IDF Soldier, Corporal Yuval Maneh, killed in jeep overturning

Israel Defense Forces Corporal Yuval Maneh, 20, from the Givatayim, was killed Saturday night in a road accident in Southern Israel, the IDF spokesperson’s unit reported.

Maneh was on patrol near the Israeli border with the Gaza strip when his jeep overturned. Three other soldiers were wounded in the accident, and were taken to Beersheba’s Soroka hospital. Two of the wounded are in serious condition, and one was lightly hurt.

The military is investigating what caused the jeep to overturn and other circumstances of the incident.  (Jerusalem Post)

3 Jewish teens detained for vandalizing WWI Anzac cemetery

Anzac Memorial

Three Jewish teens were detained for vandalizing the Beersheva War Cemetery, the burial site of hundreds of Australian World War I soldiers.

The youths who were detained are aged 14, 17 and 18, according to Israel Police. It is not known if they had a motive for damaging the Christian cemetery. Several gravestones were toppled in the incident.

The cemetery was established after the southern Israeli city was captured by the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade from Turkish troops.

After British troops had tried unsuccessfully for two days to outgun Turkish troops, 800 Australians of the Light Horse Brigade, whose horses had not drunk in 48 hours, were ordered on Oct. 31, 1917 to charge into the firing line of 4,000 entrenched and heavily armed Turks. The brigade successfully captured the area. (JTA/Arutz Sheva)

Israel asked to extradite former principal back to Australia

A Jewish woman who said she had been molested repeatedly by her former principal called on Israel to extradite the education professional back to their native Australia.

Dassi Erlich, a 29-year-old mother of one who said that her alleged molestation by Malka Leifer had left her emotionally scarred, made the plea Sunday during a speech before approximately 200 participants of Melbourne’s Limmud conference of Jewish learning.

Leifer, who left Australia for Israel in 2008 shortly after molestation accusations against her surfaced, has skipped several extradition hearings in Israel because she had committed herself into psychiatric institutions for short periods, coinciding with her court dates. Leifer is wanted for questioning in Australia in connection with 74 charges of molestation, including rape, of several teenage girls, the ABC broadcaster reported.

In 2015, Erlich received one of the largest sexual abuse damage payouts in Australia’s history with the Victorian Supreme Court ordering the Adass Israel School pay her more than $750,000 for its failure to prevent the systemic abuse suffered by Erlich since she was 15. During her speech, Erlich said she had witnessed Leifer molest another girl, but “said nothing.”

If Leifer “is mentally ill, then she should get treated until she is well enough to be put on trial in Australia,” Erlich said. “It is unfathomable that, in 2017, the justice system of a Western country is being manipulated in such a way,” Erlich added about Israel.

Earlier this month, the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand expressed similar concerns, saying in a statement that it is “deeply concerned with the outcome of the court hearings in Israel regarding Mrs Leifer’s extradition proceedings and will be voicing its concerns to the Israeli Minister of Justice.”

Leifer, who is living in Israel with no restrictions on her freedom, in May was photographed participating in a Lag Ba’Omer religious celebration in Israel’s north, in what Erlich said was proof that any psychiatric complications affecting Leifer are not preventing her from leading what appears to be a normal life.

Leifer’s lawyers, who have denied any wrongdoing by their client, downplayed the significance of the photos, claiming they prove little about her mental health.

Approached by ABC last month, Israeli justice officials said they are looking into the case.

The Leifer affair comes on the heels of similar scandals in two other Haredi Orthodox Jewish schools or boys in Australia, one in Sydney and another in Melbourne.

A government committee of inquiry in 2016 found evidence of reluctance to address the problem in both institutions, and issued a set of directives for the prevention of such cases.

“As the Royal Commission has made clear, child sexual abuse was allowed to continue because of actions and inaction by some rabbis and community leaders. Victims were not always believed or supported, adding to the trauma,” the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand said about those cases.  (JTA-Arutz Sheva)

Report: Israel and Saudi Arabia in historic trade talks

Saudi Arabia and Israel are in talks to establish open economic ties that may even pave the way for future normalization between the two countries, the London-based Sunday Times newspaper has reported.

Citing American and Arab sources, the paper said the process would begin with small steps, such as permitting Israeli businesses to operate in the Persian Gulf and allowing Israeli national airline El Al fly over Saudi airspace.

“Such progress would bolster the alliance between Iran’s two most implacable enemies and change the dynamics of the many conflicts destabilizing the Middle East,” the report said.

“The possibility of closer ties with Israel would partly explain why Saudi Arabia and its allies have imposed a sweeping blockade on Qatar, in an effort to force the Gulf state to drop its support for Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian militants who control Gaza.”

Israel and Saudi Arabia, ostensibly sworn enemies, have been rumored to have maintained low-key commercial and security ties for years. In 2014, foreign media reported that Israeli defense officials, including former Mossad director Tamir Pardo, had traveled to Riyadh to meet with their Saudi counterparts, as the two countries joined forces in an effort to curb Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East.

Earlier this month, the Saudi daily Okaz ran an opinion piece accusing Iran-backed Hamas of using the millions of dollars donated by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to bolster its terror infrastructure instead of ending the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The Saudi newspaper even compared Hamas to the jihadi Islamic State group.

The Sunday Times reported that “sources close to Saudi Arabia” dismissed the claims of a possible upgrade in diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, saying this was wishful thinking on behalf of the White House, which wishes to demonstrate immediate progress following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to both countries.

According to the report, the Palestinians are furious over the efforts, fearing that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia may damage their statehood hopes.  (Israel Hayom)

New Zealand festival removes ‘Israel’ from Joseph musical

A New Zealand production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” sponsored by a local council has been forced to issue an apology to famed lyricist Tim Rice after removing “Israel” from the lyrics to one of the songs.

Festival organizers said they were doing so to keep things simple for students who would be performing, but did not explain why they found the word Israel in the play problematic.

The substitution was discovered by Twitter user, Kate Dowling, who noted on Friday that in the song “Close Every Door,” the line “Children of Israel” had been replaced with “Children of kindness.”

She wrote to the Wellington city council and to Rice, one half of the famed musical writing team, together with Andrew Lloyd Webber, to ask for clarification.

The changed lyrics were the work of the New Zealand capital’s Artsplash festival, in which 10,000 elementary school pupils take part. They distributed song sheets to those who were taking part with the changed lyrics to one of the best known songs.

The musical, written by Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, tells the biblical story of Joseph and the Israelites leaving Canaan and going to Egypt.

In both the biblical story and the musical, the word “Israel” does not refer to the country, but to Jacob, who was given a second name, and “children of Israel” means Joseph and his brothers.

Rice was unhappy at the “unauthorized” change, tweeting, “This is a totally unauthorised change of lyric by @WgtnCC. Plus it’s a terribly drippy and meaningless alteration.”

He tweeted to the Wellington City Council asking them to explain.

“Please explain Joseph lyric change: ‘children of Israel’ to ‘children of kindness’. Permission not given. Tim Rice.”

The Artsplash event is partially funded by the council, but council spokesman Richard MacLean told the New Zealand news website Stuff that the council had no involvement in the changes made to the lyrics.

Artsplash coordinator Mary Prichard told Stuff that the organizers wanted to “keep life simple” for primary school children, though she didn’t say what is was about the word Israel that could complicate life for the students.

Prichard also said that the production had dropped two other songs from the musical, saying, “It’s not worth going there. It’s not worth looking for trouble.”

“We always look to have music that covers and looks after kids from all countries, from all backgrounds,” Prichard said. “It was decided that small change of one word would be made. It’s obviously gone down like a lead balloon.”

Hearing that three of the ten songs were being removed from the musical, Rice tweeted that either Artsplash should do the whole show or none of it.

The council was quick to apologize for the change, saying that it will rectify the situation and makes sure that all the original unadulterated songs are in the production.

The council also said that the incident was caused by an error of judgement.

Stephen Goodman, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said the incident was a case of “people trying to be politically correct where it’s unnecessary to be so.”

Subsequently, Prichard issued a full apology, replying to a Facebook user: “You have my complete assurance that this was an unintentional and innocent error on the part of one of my team, and I apologise for it. The person concerned, and myself for that matter, are religious people and would never consider intentionally doing anything racist or anti any religion.”

She also said she had run Artsplash for 30 years, and she stressed that she has “always included children of all sorts of backgrounds including Jewish.”

The incident led one Facebook commentator to quip that maybe New Zealand rugby player Israel Dagg would now have to change his name to Kindness Dagg before the next match. (the Times of Israel)

Israeli scientists successfully regenerate damaged hearts

Israeli scientists have isolated a molecule that promotes heart cell regeneration, according to the results of a new study published in Nature magazine, a discovery that could offer hope to millions of sufferers of cardiovascular diseases around the world.

The study, led by Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science in cooperation with several other schools in Israel and in the US, examined the effect of an embryonic protein on adult heart regeneration.

While heart regeneration in mammals has been observed during the prenatal stage, it is virtually impossible for the blood-pumping organ to heal after birth. Any damage to the heart from that point on, through heart attacks or other maladies, is there to stay.

Even worse, the healthy heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, are replaced by scar tissue that places further burden on the remaining healthy cells.

Thus, any damage to the heart only increases the risk of further degeneration and eventual failure.

Researchers studied a protein called Agrin, common in fetal hearts, which rapidly disappears after birth. They now believe Agrin, which resides in the space between prenatal heart cells, controls the process of cardiomyocyte regeneration.

The scientists extracted Agrin from the hearts of newborn mice, which retain the protein for about a week after birth, and tested it in various environments, to highly encouraging results.

When tested in lab cultures, Agrin was seen to promote cardiomyocyte growth in the tissue of adult hearts — both mice and human.

And when injected into the damaged hearts of live mice, Agrin appeared to heal them and restore them to regular working order within weeks, greatly reducing scar tissue and replacing it with new healthy muscle cells.

“Clearly this molecule sets a chain of events in motion,” Prof. Eldad Tzahor of the Weizmann Institute said.

“We discovered that it attaches to a previously unstudied receptor on the heart muscle cells, and this binding takes the cells back to a slightly less mature state — closer to that of the embryo — and releases signals that may, among other things, initiate cell division,” he added.

The team has now begun pre-clinical studies on larger animals in Germany, in cooperation with the Technical University of Munich.

The World Health Organization says heart disease is the top cause of death globally. In 2015 an estimated 17.7 million people died from cardiovascular ailments — 31 percent of total worldwide deaths.         (the Times of Israel)

Why Mideast Peace Ambitions Must Be Dialed Back

By Peter Berkowitz                  Real Clear Politics


President Trump’s administration is reportedly drafting a document outlining principles to guide negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The laudable aim is to bring their protracted conflict to an end.

Trump has called this the “ultimate deal.” Having promised to be a disruptive president who would cast aside Washington’s worn-out approaches and failed policies, he appears to have set his sights on the great white whale of the American foreign policy establishment—and of the international community.

Instead, Trump ought to truly break with his predecessors by abandoning the ambition to achieve a final and comprehensive peace. But he should not abandon the Israelis and the Palestinians. If—in contrast to Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—he were to pursue a partial and incomplete deal, he would considerably increase the prospects of advancing the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians while restoring American prestige and influence in the region.

In recalibrating its ambitions, the Trump team would benefit, as have Israelis across the political spectrum, from a new book by Micah Goodman. By listening thoughtfully to both sides, he provides an astonishingly succinct and trenchant guide to the complexities of the internal Israeli debate. And in the process of refining the terms in which his fellow citizens understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Goodman—director of the Academy at Ein Prat and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem—exposes the debilitating grip of absolute ideologies on the parties and the moral and political superiority of a pragmatic approach to the conflict.

Published in Hebrew last month, “Catch 67: The Ideas Behind the Controversy That Is Tearing Israel Apart” shot to the top of the nonfiction bestseller list here. It received enthusiastic endorsements from former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff (and retired Lt. Gen.) Gabi Ashkenazi and Rut Gavison, a distinguished professor of law, both associated with the center-left, as well as from retired Gen. Yaakov Amidror, who served as national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is associated with the center-right. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak honored the book with a lengthy critique, to which Goodman effectively replied. Let’s hope “Catch 67” is quickly translated into English.

Goodman explores Israel’s searing public debate—which rarely strays far from urgent questions concerning the state’s survival and the principles to which it is dedicated—about the West Bank territories the country captured in defending itself from Jordan’s attack 50 years ago this month in the Six Day War.

The debate, Goodman contends, is marked by a set of paradoxes similar to the one at the heart of the legendary novel “Catch-22.” Joseph Heller’s masterpiece recounts the travails of a World War II U.S. Air Force bombardier who wants to be removed from flying duties because he is insane. The authorities, however, reject his requests on the grounds that avoiding combat missions is rational and hence evidence of sanity.

Israel’s Catch 67, according to Goodman, flows from the disconcerting realization that Israel has good reasons for retaining the West Bank and good reasons for withdrawing. “It has become clear,” Goodman writes, “that the right is correct, but it has also become clear that the left is correct.”

The left argues that Israel cannot remain a Jewish and democratic state while ruling over the West Bank’s approximately 2.5 million Palestinians. Unless it withdraws, Israel will destroy its democratic character by denying them citizenship or, by granting them citizenship it will subvert its Jewish character. The right replies that withdrawal from the West Bank would leave Israel with indefensible borders. Both left and right are persuasive, concludes Goodman: “The withdrawal that saves Israel from one existential threat produces another existential threat.”

The left claims that conquest of the West Bank corrupted and continues to corrupt Israeli morals. The right replies that the territories are not conquered but rather are disputed: Palestinians never had a state; Jordan conquered the territory unlawfully in 1948-1949 during Israel’s War of Independence; and, when Israel tried to return the territories in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War, Jordan joined other leading Arab states in issuing at Khartoum the famous “Three Nos”—no peace, no recognition, no negotiations. Goodman distills the important truth in each view: The Palestinian people living under Israeli rule are conquered but the land on which they live is not.

Jewish identity also argues powerfully for and against withdrawal from the territories. On one hand, the Biblical prophets demand one law for all and equal justice for minorities and strangers. On the other hand, withdrawal from the territories—traditionally known as Judea and Samaria and embracing the core of biblical Israel—sacrifices a key part of Jewish identity.

Finally, Zionism gives rise to clashing claims, both of which are compelling. The Zionist movement drew inspiration from the universal principle that every people is entitled to a homeland, which for Jews means the land of Israel and in particular Judea and Samaria. Yet how then can the Jewish national liberation movement, grounded as it is in the universal principle of national self-determination, justify the subjugation of millions of West Bank Palestinians? Israel’s presence in the territories, Goodman maintains, both realizes and contradicts the Zionist vision. So does withdrawing from them.

The paradoxes and snares do not end there. The Palestinians, Goodman observes, are caught in the grips of a Catch 67 of their own. Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state rests on West Bank Palestinians dropping the claim that some 5 million of their brethren around the world have the right to return to Israel, and on recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

But both concessions would violate defining Palestinian commitments. Palestinian national aspirations are bound up not only with ruling themselves in the territory Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 but in acquiring control over all of Israel. Muslim religious law, moreover, forbids the rule of non-Muslims in land, such as all of pre-1967 Israel, that Muslims once ruled. “A Palestinian declaration of the end of the conflict and a cessation of demands, therefore, is a betrayal of the refugees and violation of Islamic religious law,” Goodman writes. “In order to make peace, the Palestinians would have to commit a religious sin and sin against their national aspirations.”

Because of the multiple and maddening Catch 67s in which Israelis and Palestinians are enmeshed, Goodman concludes that the conflict between them cannot be solved, at least for now. But it can be transformed from a “fatal problem to a chronic problem.”

Goodman sketches two pragmatic options. Both stem from the recognition that no formula currently exists for fully and finally reconciling both sides’ fundamental moral, political, and security claims and therefore measures must be fashioned that reduce tensions without denying either side’s deepest commitments. His core idea is that Israel should take calibrated steps to reduce its control over Palestinian population centers in the West Bank while for defense purposes maintaining control over the Jordan River Valley as well as major Israeli settlement blocs.

Another name for the ambition to solve the unsolvable is messianism. Easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians depends on Israelis on the left and right overcoming their messianic inclinations. It also requires Palestinians to overcome theirs. And American presidents to overcome theirs.

20 years since the Maccabi Bridge Tragedy

by Ron Weiser

On the 14th of July 1997, 20 years ago, a bridge commissioned by Maccabi World Union (MWU) collapsed during the opening ceremony of the 15th Maccabiah Games in Ramat Gan, Israel.

Four Australians – Yetty Bennett, Elizabeth Sawicki, Greg Small & Warren Zines died. Over 60 Australians including Sasha Elterman and 2 Austrians, were injured.

This tragedy resulted in the biggest rupture between Israel and Australian Jewry that I have witnessed in just over 45 years of communal leadership involvement.

With little progress in resolving any of the issues and with the obstinacy of MWU, by November of 1997 it fell to the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) to bring the community together and to lead the efforts to resolve both the outstanding matters and the rift between Israel and Australian Jewry.

Initially the Israeli government delivered US$500,000 in loan money for the aftermath followed more slowly by an equal amount from MWU. After these amounts were expended over 2 years, a further US$500,000 in loans was made available by the Israeli government.

Despite the corruption and double dealing that took place and the denial of responsibility by MWU, ultimately the Israeli justice system prevailed and 4 people involved in the bridge building were sent to jail – Micha Bar Ilan, Yehoshua Ben Ezra, Baruch Karagula and Adam Mishori.

Yoram Eyal, who headed the Maccabiah organising committee, was sentenced to 6 months community service.

On the moral accountability and compensation fronts, things moved more slowly.

It would take an entire book or more, to go through the intrigue and political and judicial machinations and to detail what took place.

Much of the successful efforts to resolve the outstanding issues stemmed from a breakthrough that occurred when the Knesset, after intense lobbying (and in a first of its kind for the Knesset) established on the 29th of July 1998, an official Committee of Inquiry (KCOI) into the bridge collapse.

The KCOI was initially chaired by Micha Goldman MK.

After the Israeli elections in 1999 the 2 previously most active committee members continued the KCOI in the next Knesset with Eliezer (Mudi) Sandberg MK as Chair and Naomi Chazan MK as Deputy Chair.

Beside holding sessions of the KCOI in the Knesset itself, in early 2000 the ZFA facilitated the visit of Sandberg to Australia to hold sessions of the KCOI in Sydney and Melbourne. These sessions and the testimonies presented, were entered into the official KCOI record. Yet another first time event for the Knesset.

In July 2000, the KCOI brought down its recommendations including:

The call for MWU President Ronald Bakalarz to resign. Uzi Netanel, the MWU Chairman had already resigned following the verdict brought down against the bridge builders and Yoram Eyal.

That the State of Israel despite not having organised the Maccabiah itself, should ensure that all matters of compensation be properly resolved. It was noted that MWU had been woeful in not taking adequate insurance for such an event resulting in the inability to achieve proper compensation in the usual way.

That procedures for the future safety and security of such large events be put into place.

In the background, the intense lobbying of Israelis from the President and Prime Minister down, continued unabated.

Bakalarz resigned.

As a result of all of the above and having been briefed on the KCOI’s probable conclusions ahead of time and after a series of meetings between the Zionist Federation and various members of the Israeli leadership, Finance Minister Avraham Shohat MK in a truly historic first time deal between an Israeli minister and a diaspora community – and against advice from his  bureaucrats who were concerned about setting a precedent – penned, signed and presented a letter on the 28th of June 2000 to myself as president of the ZFA.

That letter stated that Israel would contribute to the compensation claims despite not being responsible either for the Maccabiah nor the organisation thereof.

As a result, we were then able to proceed to have all compensation deals agreed to either by direct negotiation or in the Haifa court.

The last claim was finalised by negotiation in the latter part of 2002.

Many Israeli representatives assisted us in resolving the issues as a matter of moral imperative.

I have already noted some Knesset members, and I hesitate to start mentioning people for fear of leaving others out.

However, of special note were the efforts of Judge Berliner in the Haifa Court and Eitan Lederer (State Attorney) who both deserve to be remembered for the way they conducted themselves.

As well as the energy and devotion of the late Frank Stein and his ability to open doors for us, which will never be forgotten.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, was of invaluable assistance on a number of levels. In particular in regards to Medicare on the one hand and in conveying to Israel the deep pain felt by the Australian Jewish community on the other.

Of course, many other Jewish and non-Jewish, Israeli and non-Israeli individuals and organisations, as well as the collective Australian Jewish leadership and both the United Israel Appeal (UIA) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) provided invaluable assistance.

In 2001, as a result of the progress that had been made to that date, a conditional green light was given for limited participation in that Maccabiah.

In July of 2002 as President of the ZFA I wrote an open letter to the Australian Jewish community where I stated:

“It is clear that an avoidable tragedy occurred and many lives were changed unfairly and dramatically by the actions of MWU.

However at least one can draw comfort from the way in which the aftermath was handled and by the way in which the Israeli government, Knesset and people dealt not only with the victims themselves, but also with Australian Jewry.”

It was not until 2005 that Australia returned in full force to the Maccabiah Games.

Initially the families of those most affected had not agreed to come with the Australian team, but ultimately not only did many of them do so, they actually led the very large Australian team into the stadium in front of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to a seemingly endless standing and thunderous ovation.

From the outset, our aims were to achieve justice for the victims, their families and indeed for Australian Jewry and to right what wrongs we could, but also to help Maccabi find its moral compass and take the actions required to both save and rejuvenate that great organisation.

After 8 years, the pain and sense of loss of course remained, but trust in Israel and faith in her concern about Australia Jewry were restored and the strong bonds between us reaffirmed.

We wish the forthcoming Maccabiah a safe and great event whilst remembering the terrible tragedy that occurred 20 years ago.

Israel’s challenge: Prevent more Ramadan terror attacks

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are more amenable to making personal sacrifices • The recent decline in the number of attacks is not due to diminished terrorist motivation, but rather due to better prevention.

by Yaron Blum           Israel Hayom


The coordinated terrorist attacks in Jerusalem on Friday came as no surprise. Their location and timing were not random. In fact, they were an exact re-enactment of attacks during last year’s Ramadan holiday.

The holy month of Ramadan is when Muslims feel closest to God and are more amenable to making personal sacrifices. Friday’s attack was a product of the wild incitement in the mosques surrounding the claim — currently at the heart of the Muslim consensus — that the Temple Mount is in danger. The inciters claim that Israel is trying to destroy the Temple Mount. This claim is making the rounds on Arab social media, Hamas sites, and Islamic State and global jihad platforms, and has been recently exacerbated by the mounting electricity crisis in Gaza.

The wave of “lone-wolf” and copycat terrorist attacks that started in October 2015 has recently seen a dramatic lull. The drop in the number of attacks stems from impressive Israeli preventive operations, driven by precise intelligence, and around the clock efforts by the IDF, the Israel Police and the Border Police. This misleading calm is due to improved Israeli operational capabilities, not a decline in terrorist motivation.

The heroes of Friday’s incident are, first and foremost, the men and women of the Border Police, with the greatest hero being Staff Sgt. Hadas Malka, the victim. Malka, may her memory be for a blessing, and her fellow officers acted decisively and neutralized two attack sites. These fighters serve as a human shield. Without them, civilians would have been murdered.

Now, after Friday’s attacks, Hamas and other terrorist organizations will do everything in their power to maximize the effects and encourage additional attacks. While Hamas encourages attacks on us, global jihad groups will encourage additional attacks in Europe and other terrorist strongholds.

Both Hamas and the Islamic State group rushed to claim responsibility for Friday’s attack. The squabble that ensued over credit for the attack illustrates both groups’ weakness: Islamic State is being defeated in battlegrounds across Iraq and Syria while Hamas is experiencing one of the worst crises in its history.

The profound electricity shortage in Gaza, the outrage of the Gazan population, the budget crisis, the inability to rebuild an army, and, of course, the expulsion from Qatar, Turkey and other countries, have taken a toll on Hamas, whose leadership is now forced to operate out of Malaysia and Indonesia.

The challenge for Israel at this volatile time is to prevent terrorist attacks and copycat attacks. That is why it is important to continue in the following avenues: Maintain continuous security activity and presence of security forces; continue to gather intelligence at key junctions in the physical and cyber worlds; arrest inciters, including Palestinian Authority government officials and religious clerics; exert localized pressure on villages and towns known to be “terror generators” such as Deir Abu Mashal and Hebron-area towns, while making an effort to quell the rage and frustration among the population of those towns; continue to demolish terrorists’ homes; prevent terrorists’ relatives from entering Israel; continue to maintain intelligence cooperation with the Palestinian Authority’s security mechanisms; and continue to crack down on weapons makers and arms dealers.

Looks can be deceiving.

What happens when the good guys turn out to be the bad guys? Introducing a “nonviolent” movement that buddies up to terror and advocates the destruction of Israel.

What if people said what they really mean?

The lack of critical thinking, tendency to scapegoat, and job destruction don’t look quite as good when viewed as they are. But then, it’s hard to present the facts when your whole purpose is to skew them.