+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 26th October

Former Defense Minister, Courted by Labor Party: There’ll Be No Peace, West Bank Can Hold Millions of More Settlers

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon expressed support on Thursday for continued Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank, but not independence, and said the territory could hold one or two million additional Jewish settlers.

After speaking at a religious girls’ school in Beit Shemesh on Thursday, Ya’alon was asked his views about Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and about evacuation of Jewish settlements more generally.

Ya’alon said that as army chief of staff he had opposed the withdrawal. “My home is the kibbutz,” he said. “The border is marked by the furrows of the plow. The border is marked by the children’s house. Where there is no children’s house, there is no army. If you want to hold territory, you need for there to be people living there.”

Turning his attention to the peace process with the Palestinians, he said: “On one hand, I don’t see prospects for a [peace] agreement in the foreseeable future. The gap between us is not bridgeable. They have not agreed to any proposal to divide the land. They are not prepared even to accept a state along the 1967 borders and a division of Jerusalem. From their standpoint, that’s just 22 percent of Palestine,” he said.

“I don’t foresee that they will have a leadership that will want to divide the land,” adding that he doesn’t foresee it among the leadership of Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, or among Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip.

“On the other hand,” he said, “I don’t want a binational state,” noting that the Palestinians already have autonomy. “I say we will not evacuate Jews or Arabs. On the map that already exists at the moment, we can protect our interest that there not be a binational state. There won’t be settlers on every hilltop.”

Referring to the West Bank by its biblical name, the former defense minister said: “There is enough room in Judea and Samaria to settle one or two million more people in locations that suit us through a policy not to become a binational state. This is done through a policy that is thought out, not through illusions. The illusion of peace has now evaporated. The illusion of a Greater Land of Israel has also evaporated,” a reference to Israel’s remaining in control of all of the West Bank.

“Between the two, we need to find a way for [the Palestinians] to live in political autonomy, not voting for the Knesset but rather for their own parliament. There isn’t peace now here. There won’t be. We need to manage things wisely, looking to our interests. That’s true [with regard] to a Palestinian state, Syria [and] Lebanon. If we conduct things wisely, there will be unprecedented quiet.”

Ya’alon also said that since becoming Labor Party chairman in July, Avi Gabbay has been pressuring him to join the party.

Gabbay was the environmental protection minister, representing Kulanu, when he resigned in 2016 to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s firing Ya’alon and replacing him with Avigdor Lieberman. Gabbay has said privately he has no political differences with Ya’alon.  (Haáretz)

Israel Denies Arms Exports Linked to Myanmar’s Treatment of Rohingya Minority

Facing a slew of highly critical reports of alleged Israeli arms sales to Myanmar, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement Monday that “vigorously denies false reports disseminated in the media regarding its alleged involvement in the tragedy in the Rakhine region of Myanmar.”

Haaretz reported on Monday that “Israel sold advanced weapons to Myanmar during its anti-Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing campaign,” and the Al Jazeera web site published a story titled “Israel maintains robust arms trade with rogue regimes.”

According to the Haaretz report, Israel sold Dvora patrols boats to the country and that these were part of a larger deal signed between the two countries. The delivery of the boats, the report said, came even as the Myanmar Army was being accused of war crimes against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

The ministry statement said the policy of “supervising Israel’s defense exports is reviewed regularly according to various criteria, including the human rights situation in the target country, as well as the policy of the UN Security Council and other international bodies.”

In late September, the High Court of Justice issued a gag order on a decision it handed down regarding a petition to halt Israeli arms sales to Myanmar.

Human rights groups are accusing Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and human rights violations – including arson, rape and massacres – after violence broke out in the northwestern state of Rakhine, triggering an exodus of some 400,000 Rohingya Muslims to southern Bangladesh.

According to the data base of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors arms sales, the patrol boats Israel sold to Myanmar were purchased in 2015 and were the only weaponry Israel has sold to the country since 2007.

China is the country’s main weapons supplier, selling 70% of the arms Myanmar buys, followed by Russia which sells the country 19% and Belarus, which provides some 4.5 %, meaning those three countries sell Myanmar 93.5% of its weapons. (Jerusalem Post)

Haredim launch counter-campaign against radical IDF haters

Activists belonging to the mainstream Haredi Lithuanian stream have launched a counter-campaign against members of radical Haredi groups responsible for staging disruptive protests and naming and shaming ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers.

In the past few days, the group has adopted their tactics by publicizing the names, pictures and other details of prominent figures and businessmen belonging to the fringe movements like the Jerusalem Faction, calling on the public to boycott their businesses and thereby harm their livelihoods.

The “shaming” campaign against radicals concentrates predominantly on social media with an emphasis on radical Haredi groups.

The inspiration was drawn from a similar campaign waged by Haredi radicals who published the names, pictures and details of Haredi IDF soldiers, denouncing them as “easily influenced Haredim.”

According to the counter-protesters, the radical fringe groups and their oftentimes incitement-filled campaigns are tarnishing the reputation of Haredi leaders and the mainstream factions of the ultra-Orthodox groups by dominating headlines with violent and disruptive acts.

“We all care about disgraceful disrespect shown to the dignity of Israel’s contemporary rabbinical sage,” it was written on one of its online placards.

“This terrible disrespect has a name and a face,” it continues, accompanied by a photo of a businessman called Menachem Carmel. Underneath, it urges the public not to patronize his chain of food stores named “Bar-Kol.”

Another target of their counter-shaming campaign is Avraham Menkas from the “Committee for Saving the World of Torah.”

“You all waited for six hours in traffic in Jerusalem and didn’t know who to be angry with. This is the man,” the accompanying message reads.

His home address, together with the name of company in which his wife is employed is also published, alongside an implicit threat: “If his wife has no work, maybe he should go and work instead of blocking the roads.”

Another man identified as Boaz Naki is described as the “village idiot.”

Anger among many in the Haredi community has mounted in recent weeks and months after radical factions have staged repeated demonstrations against the Conscription Law.

In addition to blocking main roads, on some occasions they have engaged in violence, have burnt effigies of Haredi IDF soldiers, attacked Haredi soldiers and disseminated explicit incitment to violence against IDF soldiers.

In the latest round of protests staged by the Jerusalem Faction, a police officer was caught on camera beating an ultra-Orthodox activist during demonstrations against the IDF draft. (Ynet News)

Former Western defense chiefs warn Hezbollah war ‘a matter of time’

Former senior defense officials from Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Spain and the United States released a report Wednesday warning of an exceptionally dangerous conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah that they believe likely will be sparked by miscalculation.

Writing as members of the High Level Military Group, the former defense chiefs say Hezbollah has stockpiled roughly 100,000 rockets and missiles since its last conflict with Israel in 2006; acquired anti-tank and unmanned aerial equipment; trained its men in combat alongside Bashar Assad in Syria; and spread its military assets among virtually every Shi’ite town in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah, they say, “has begun engaging in operations along the border and started preparations inside Lebanon which may force Israel to react.

“A new and grave conflict is only a matter of time,” they continue.

The group, which includes several former army chiefs of staff from Western nations, originally was formed in 2015 to assess Israel’s asymmetrical war in 2006 with Hezbollah, a pseudo-state actor.

Included in the group are: Gen. Lord Richard Dannatt, former chief of staff of the British Army and member of the House of Lords; Gen. Klaus Naumann, former chief of staff of the German Bundeswehr and chair of the NATO committee; and Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan and leader of the British Joint Intelligence Committee.

“Hezbollah’s massively expanded military capabilities are embedded among the civilian population of Lebanon in what amounts to a war crime. This is also a grave indictment of the inadequacy of the UNIFIL mechanism,” stated Dannatt. “With a leadership that controls decisions of war and peace for all of Lebanon, emboldened by Iran’s backing and battlefield experience in Syria, we must work urgently to curtail Hezbollah’s activities to help avert a potentially imminent new Lebanon war.”

Naumann characterized Hezbollah as “the crown jewel in Iran’s strategy of regional warfare by terrorist proxy.”

“We need urgent pressure – not least from Europe – on all aspects of Hezbollah’s activities and on the governments of Iran and Lebanon, or we will likely see a new Lebanon war of much worse proportions than the last conflict,” Naumann said.

Their report, released at an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Wednesday, theorized that Hezbollah would prioritize bringing the next war onto Israeli soil – potentially holding ground deep inside the country for a period.

Israeli officials have warned that the next war will escalate quickly because Israel will be forced to preemptively strike at Hezbollah’s massive rocket stockpiles before facing an overwhelming barrage.

The report notes that Israel’s defense forces faced broad international criticism for their conduct in 2006 despite the unique challenges they faced in that conflict.

But “the international environment has changed since the previous war,” it continues, “and a defensive assault on Hezbollah, a terror organization now strongly associated with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, will generate initial support not only from the United States, but also from other Western countries, in addition to tacit but increasing support from the Sunni Arab world.” (Jerusalem Post)

51 arrested in overnight operation in Jerusalem’s Issawiya

Police arrested 51 men suspected of disrupting public order in a large-scale operation early Monday in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya.

During the action, dubbed “Operation 700,” police also checked business licenses and accompanied municipality construction workers to fix infrastructure and hazards in the east Jerusalem neighborhood.

Police searched suspects’ homes and collected evidence allegedly indicating that they took part in criminal activities or disruptions of public order, such as throwing rocks or firebombs at security forces.

Meanwhile, municipality workers collected garbage, removed hazards from roads, erased graffiti from walls and fixed streetlights. They also painted pedestrian crossings and sidewalks near schools.

According to Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy, the overnight exercise aimed to apprehend those involved in criminal and terrorist activities and improve the quality of life of the neighborhood’s law-abiding residents.

“The outcome of our complex operation can be seen on the ground by tightening the connection between law-abiding citizens and the police and by strengthening the sense of security among the city residents and its visitors,” police said in a statement.

Critics, however, said operations such as this do more harm than good.

“Mass arrests in the middle of the night and hundreds of armed border policemen inside a residential neighborhood do not bring more safety to the residents of Jerusalem,” said Aviv Tatarsky, head of the left-wing NGO Ir Amim.

“Instead of understanding that this policy hurts Jerusalem and harms its residents, the Israeli authorities keep on using disproportional force that will only fuel the crisis in the long run.”

Last week, parents in Isawiya decided to strike and not send their children to schools because of the heavy Border Police presence adjacent to educational institutions, which they saw as provocative and leading to violence.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat reportedly had been scheduled to meet with the parents, but canceled the meeting.

The Jerusalem Municipality responded to that report saying it was “a small extremist minority who imposed the strike on the parents to fan the flames.” (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian mission to Colombia quotes Arafat calling for Israel’s defeat

The Palestinian mission to Colombia tweeted a quote from late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.

In a Spanish-language post Thursday, the mission wrote, “Our goal is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations…. We don’t want peace. We want WAR and victory — Yasser Arafat,” according to a spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The tweet was quickly removed from the Palestinian mission’s account, which has only 581 followers. No explanation or apology was offered.

Marcos Sermoneta, Israel’s ambassador to Colombia, told the Spanish newspaper Diario de las Americas in an interview published Friday that the tweet reflects the Palestinian’s true position against Israel.

“For the first time, they spoke the truth, not in Arabic, but in Spanish,” he said. “Such action must be taken seriously … why do they do not accept the Jews right to self-determination in their own state?”

The Confederation of Jewish Communities of Colombia, the country’s umbrella Jewish organization, expressed concern over the “religious hatred” it said was expressed by the tweet.

“We consider it extremely serious that a diplomatic mission officially accredited to the Republic of Colombia is an apologist for the destruction of a country, in this case Israel, which constitutes a violation of the protocols governing diplomacy and the minimum decency to be displayed by a diplomatic delegation, the confederation said in a statement.

Arafat’s quote appeared in the Washington Post newspaper in March 1970, long before he became Israel’s negotiating partner for peace or the head of the Palestinian Authority. (Jerusalem Post)

WATCH: 1,000 new precision missiles to boost IDF’s offensive capabilities

Firing the SPIKE missile system.

Defense giant Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has been awarded a contract with the IDF to rapidly produce more than a thousand Spike LR2, fifth-generation electro-optical, precision-guided missiles, the company announced on Tuesday.

“This substantial production order… for the IDF will kick-start the Spike LR2 missile production earlier than expected,” read the statement, adding that “the IDF and future customers will be assured technical maturity, low risk and readiness for operation.”

The 5th generation Spike LR2 design is based on lessons learned from modern warfare as well as data from the over 5,000 Spike missiles fired during training and combat.

The IDF is a long-time user of the Spike missiles, and the addition of the Spike LR2 “will enhance both its infantry engagement range and its lethality against a large variety of targets,” the company said.

The Spike LR2 is an advanced multipurpose missile, weighing only 12.7 kg., and can be launched from any Spike launcher. It has a range of 5.5 km. when fired from ground launchers and up to 10 km. when fired from a helicopter.

According to the company, the LR2 incorporates improvements in lethality and immunity which will allow it to meet both present and future threats.

The missile, which can also be fired from vehicles and ships, has advanced electro-optic seekers and smart target trackers with artificial intelligence features. It’s connectivity with the IDF’s network of sensors and effectors will enhance overall force capabilities.

Designed to be used against targets that have low heat signatures and can appear and disappear within seconds, the missile also includes new third-party network-enabled target allocation enhancement, with an embedded inertial measurement unit (IMU) assembly that allows the missile to be fired according to grid target coordinates, including advanced armor and protection systems, making it one of the only missiles in the world having this capability.

Moshe Elazar, executive vice president and head of Rafael’s Land and Naval Systems Division, said that “the procurement of Spike LR2s by the IDF continues [its] long legacy of Spike Missile employment… and signifies the trust and appreciation the IDF holds for the performance of the Spike family. We are proud to contribute to Israel’s defense through our excellent systems, and are happy to begin the LR2 production with this important customer.”

The IDF’s LR2 procurement also complements the IDF’s fielding of the Integrated Control Launch Unit (ICLU), new digitally networked launchers that provide improved tactical connectivity for third-party target allocation, the company said.

Rafael added that the Spike LR2 also has two advanced warhead configurations for increased lethality. The Tandem HEAT warhead configuration ups the armor penetration capability of the missile by over 30%, and the new multipurpose blast warhead includes gunner-controlled fusing for better control to achieve the desired effect.

The development of the Spike LR2 leverages decades of successful operational use of all variants of the Spike Family.

Rafael has four missiles in the Spike family – Spike NLOS, Spike ER, Spike MR/LR and Spike SR – and has supplied more than 27,000 Spike missiles and systems to over 25 countries, including the Philippines, Lithuania, Australia and India, where they are used by armies on various naval and land system platforms. (Jerusalem Post)

Watch the video:

Disasters know no borders – MEFF joint international exercise

The overall goal of the exercise is for participants to exchange knowledge and attain common capacities, to effectively respond to disaster situations, especially along and across mutual borders.

The Middle East Forest Fires (MEFF) joint international exercise took place on Tuesday and is conducted under the sponsorship of EU member states: Italy, France and Spain, and held in participation and under the positive cooperation of Jordan, Israel and the PA.

The joint exercise, supported by the European Commission’s Civil Protection Exercise program, aims to preserve lives and natural resources, regardless of nationality and/or borders.

The exercise encompasses 400 active participants, from the First Response sectors of the participating countries, aiming to cooperate in Firefighting, Medical care  and the dispersal of Humanitarian aid – in a scenario where a regional disaster strikes, and proliferates from one country to its neighbors.

Members of the Israeli and Palestinian teams participating in the exercise.

The overall goal of the exercise is for participants to exchange knowledge and attain common capacities, to effectively respond to disaster situations, especially along and across mutual borders.

It is especially inspiring to note that Palestinians, Jordanian and Israelis will be working side-by-side with a single common objective: saving lives, irrespective of nationality.   (MFA)

The enemy of my enemy

By Isi Leibler           The Jerusalem Post


Israel is stronger today than at any time since it was founded, but the fact remains that despite a currently friendly US administration, most of the world continues to discriminate against it.

The dramatic swing to the Right in the recent Austrian elections is likely to have widespread repercussions throughout Europe. It will also oblige Israel to reconsider its current approach to far Right groups.

While many readers may strongly disagree with my views, I feel that the time has come to face reality.

Israel is stronger today than at any time since it was founded, but the fact remains that despite a currently friendly US administration, most of the world continues to discriminate against and apply double standards to Israel. No other nation is confronted by fanatical cultures that extol evil and death and repeatedly and publicly bay for the destruction of their neighbor – to the indifference of most of the “civilized” world, which merely watches and at best remains silent.

In this environment, it is time for us to overcome inhibitions and intensify efforts to actively seek out alliances, with nondemocratic states or even those whose viewpoints on various issues we strongly oppose.

Some would condemn such an approach as hypocritical and amoral realpolitik.

Yet almost all Israelis are encouraged that our leaders have forged a positive relationship with an authoritarian Russia ruled by Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent who currently displays philo-Semitic sympathies.

In general, Israelis are optimistic – and with good reason – about our relationship with Egypt headed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Yet antisemitism still dominates much of the state-controlled media as Egyptian society has been conditioned over the years to hate Israel and the Jews. This may change in time but the reason for the current rapprochement is primarily that we face common enemies.

The covert and somewhat schizophrenic new relationship with Saudi Arabia is even more bizarre.

Fanatical Saudi Wahhabism is the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism and continues to promote it throughout the world. Its hatred of Israel and the Jews knows no bounds and is an integral component of the current Saudi educational curriculum, and its mullahs are notorious for calling on the faithful to murder Jews, “the descendants of apes and pigs.” Yet the emerging Iranian threat to impose regional hegemony induced the Saudi leaders to covertly cooperate with Israel.

Israel has likewise been cultivating relations with India and China as well as other Asian, African and Latin American states, many of which are not even remotely democratic.

By and large, despite some of the problematic attitudes shared by these new allies, the clear majority of Israelis – across the political spectrum – consider these developments positive.

However, the one region in which we seem to have made scant progress is Europe. The EU has in fact been pouring huge sums of money into NGOs that have actively undermined the Israeli government and shamelessly apply bias and double standards in all their dealings with Israel. For example, at a recent seminar in the European Parliament, a political group uniting leftists invited as one of its keynote speakers Leila Khaled, the notorious Palestinian terrorist who hijacked two civilian aircraft.

Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, some of the Baltic states and now the Czech Republic are pro-Israel and distance themselves from the EU policies. Yet these are mainly right-wing nationalist governments bitterly opposed to the flood of Muslim immigrants that Germany and the EU seek to impose upon them. Accusations have been leveled that they are supported by neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers and, in some cases that is probably true.

Likewise, in Western Europe we are now also confronted with a host of right-wing populist opposition groups that are emerging in protest to the immigration. These populists are likely to grow stronger, gain influence and may alter the entire political spectrum in Europe.

Needless to say, no responsible Jew could contemplate any association or alliance with neo-Nazis or Holocaust deniers. But the fact that a percentage of such undesirable scum support a particular party should not disqualify that party any more so than it does the US Republican Party, which is supported by some fringe racists, or the Democratic Party, which is the political home of some vicious anti-Israel and antisemitic elements.

Israel cannot simply distance itself from all of these right-wing groups and must review and weigh each case individually. It is clear that if leaders of governments include apologists for Nazis or outright Holocaust deniers, we can have no truck with them. However, the reality is that despite extremists and even antisemites supporting the emerging right-wing parties, many of these groups are overall less hostile to us than leftist governments that support the Islamists and are also becoming increasingly overtly antisemitic.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front achieved 34% of the vote in the recent presidential runoff; in Italy, the Northern League has 19 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 12 in the Senate; Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom became the second largest party in the Dutch Parliament; and Alternative for Germany created an upheaval by emerging as the third largest party following the September federal election.

The latest shock was in Austria where the hardright Freedom Party became the third largest party and will become a coalition partner to the winning conservative Austrian People’s Party.

All these parties, except for the Dutch, at one time had fascist elements actively supporting them.

Although there are problematic components in the German and Austrian parties, by and large most continue to purge antisemites from their ranks, certainly more so than the British Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Significantly, Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the Austrian Freedom Party, has been an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, as have most populist parties.

There are of course boundaries and sometimes this is a gray area but the Holocaust is too deeply ingrained in our psyche to even contemplate an alliance with pro-Nazi politicians.

This is not a simple issue but as long as antisemites and Holocaust deniers are condemned and expelled, Israel must consider each case on individual merits, applying equal standards to the Right and the Left. There are very few left-wing political parties that do not incorporate substantial antisemitic and rabidly anti-Israel elements. For example, unpalatable though it may be for some, it is questionable whether the Austrian Freedom Party, whose former leader Jörg Haider in 1999 was considered a Nazi sympathizer, is more dangerous to us than the British Labor Party under its current leadership.

We live in a world where we should seek out allies from all sectors but draw the line at those that harbor outright antisemites, irrespective of which side of the political spectrum they are situated.

Diaspora Jewish leaders should not become involved in these issues as Jews unless the parties concerned are antisemitic. This applies to Hungary’s Jobbik Party, the Golden Dawn Party of Greece, Croatian apologists for the genocidal Nazi Ustashe regime and Ukrainian nationalists who today sanctify pogromists or pro-Nazi collaborators.

The Israeli government and especially the Foreign Ministry should analyze the situation carefully and avoid the double-standard mentality that calls for boycotting extremists on the Right but buries its head in the sand when leftist antisemitism emerges.

When in doubt, we should consider our relationship with Saudi Arabia, which I support despite the knowledge that its society remains riddled with hatred against the Jewish people. There are occasions when it is acceptable to collaborate on specific issues with nations or political groups that do not share our outlook and in some cases even despise us, in order to overcome common enemies.