+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 28th September

Olga Meshoe confronts the claim that Israel is an Apartheid State

Does Israel discriminate against Arabs? Is there apartheid in Israel? If you believe the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement or the media, you’d certainly think so!

But here’s the thing. You simply won’t find such systematic discrimination or apartheid in Israel.

Just ask Olga Meshoe, a South African human rights activist who actually witnessed apartheid in South Africa. Certainly, if Israel was an apartheid state, she would recognize it

However, Meshoe confirms what many people already know: Israel is not an apartheid state

Unfortunately, the BDS movement continues to fabricate lies about Israel. And if you tell lies and tell them often enough, people who do not know the truth start to believe them

2 IDF soldiers killed, 4 injured in training accident

An IDF lieutenant and a sergeant were killed and four soldiers were injured when a self-propelled howitzer in which they were traveling flipped over during a training exercise in the Golan Heights late Tuesday night, the army said.

One of the soldiers was severely injured and taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital. The army said there was no immediate threat to his life. A second was moderately wounded, and the other two soldiers were lightly hurt.

As a result of the accident, the military called off all exercises until Sunday, beginning Wednesday afternoon. In addition, no mobile cannons will be allowed to drive after dark until further notice, the army said.

The soldiers were members of the 411th Battalion of the 282nd Regiment in the IDF’s Artillery Corps. Their names have yet to be released by the military.

They were taking part in an exercise for a company and battalion commanders course, driving in their mobile cannon from the area of the Nafah military base toward the nearby Wasset intersection.

As they traveled down a dirt road parallel to the Route 978 highway, they had to make a U-turn. When they started to make the turn, their cannon was positioned head-on with a line of vehicles that were also taking part in the exercise. The driver reported that the lights of the oncoming cars were “blinding him,” the army said.

While continuing to make the three-point turn, the self-propelled cannon went off the path and fell 26 feet (eight meters) into a ditch, an IDF spokesperson said.

Two teams of experts — one led by a brigadier general from the IDF Ground Forces and the second from the army’s company and battalion commanders course — will review the crash in order to determine how it happened and how it could have been prevented. It will also be investigated by the Military Police.

According to the army, the two main questions in the accident are: why the vehicle went off the path and whether the crash could have been prevented after the driver reported that he’d been blinded.

The military censor initially barred publication about the crash until the families of the soldiers could be informed. (the Times of Israel)

First-ever Har Adar terror attack leaves residents reeling

Bracha Abramitzky was drinking tea and reading the newspaper in the kitchen of her Har Adar home at 7:14 a.m. when she heard loud gunshots.

“The sound was very strong for two minutes and I was sure they would come through the kitchen walls,” Abramitzky recalled.

She knew immediately that it was a terrorist attack even though there has never been one in her normally quiet community of 5,000 people that abuts the Green Line just outside of Jerusalem.

“Nothing like this has ever happened here,” the diminutive, red-haired woman said.

Then, as her husband slept in the next room, Abramitzky heard sirens. From her window she saw ambulances and security vehicles making their way to what is known as the Bidu gate, where the attack that killed three Israelis occurred.

Five days a week some 200 Palestinian laborers, including the Palestinian assailant Nimr Mahmoud Ahmad al-Jamal, 37, enter the West Bank settlement through this gate.

Abramitzky read Ynet on her cellphone to learn details of how Jamal shot and killed two security guards and a border policeman.

Her son, who followed the news from California, called and filled her in on some of the details. Television helped as well.

Itzhak Rabihiya was out walking his dogs when he heard the shots and headed toward the Bidu gate. There he learned that his neighbor Or Arish, 25, was one of the victims.

The conversation was peppered with phone calls. “I am fine,” he told each caller.

Politicians who came to the site spoke about Palestinian incitement, radical Islam and global terrorism.

But for the small community, whose members barely recognize that they live in a settlement, the issue is more of a family affair, because Jamal had worked in Har Adar for years.

“Oh,” gasped Orit Fainshtain when she saw his face on television. “I know him.”

It is a kind of “crisis of faith,” said Fainshtain, who recalled a time before the first intifada when she would stop in Bidu to go food shopping on her way home to Har Adar.

The shooting didn’t scare her exactly, she said, but in its aftermath she had a feeling of pain and discomfort for her community, which prides itself on moderation and coexistence.

Drora Bardizchev, who had employed Jamal in her home, told Channel 10 News she was shocked. She had spent time alone with him in the house, often talking and drinking coffee together.

Bardizchev said she aware that Jamal was under stress in recent months due to a domestic dispute with his estranged wife.

“This is very unusual,” said Deputy Council head Menahem Mor. It made him think of what happens when a man shoots his wife or at a school shooting in the United States, when a pupil who minutes appeared non-threatening, suddenly picks up a gun and shots.

“It is like someone in the family became crazy and lost his mind,” Mor said.

The community, until now, has felt very secure, he added.

Nina Gradshtaen, formerly of New York, thought that Har Adar was one of the safer spots in Israel when she moved there last month with her husband from Jerusalem.

“Out of naiveté or Zionism, I did not mind living a settlement. I did not think that something like this would happen in Har Adar, but that is Israel, you always have to keep your eyes open. What was surprising was that it was someone that people knew,” Gradshtaen said.

She had arranged for a Palestinian electrician to come to her home that morning to fix her oven. He knocked on her door just as her mother-in-law called her husband to see if they were hurt in the attack. Although she was afraid, she opened the door.

The electrician, “was just as scared. He was really shaken up. He said he saw everything. He saw all the bullets flying and the bodies. I felt sorry for him, he sat down. I gave him a cup of water,” she said.

People are now wondering if they should continue to employee Palestinian workers, “It is a personal choice,” Gradshtaen said.

Mor, who was one of the community founders in 1986, said he has employed the same Palestinian man for 30 years.

“He helped me raise my children,” he said.

The community straddles the Israeli Arab town of Abu Gosh and West Bank Palestinian villages, including Bidu and Beit Surik, where Jamal lived.

First there was a British Army camp here. Before the Six Day War, the property was owned by the Jordanian government, he said.

“We did not take a centimeter of land from the Palestinians,” Mor said.

Its residents are more likely to vote for centrist or left-wing parties than rightwing ones, he said. So much so, that as a Likud member, he feels as if he is in the minority, Mor said.

The attack, he said, “was a game-changer for all of us. From today everything will be different.”

The new wariness, though, would not mar the ties between the Har Adar residents and the nearby Palestinians, Mor said, adding: “We will stay in good relations with our neighbors because after 30 years we feel like one family.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Terror victim says slain guard ‘saved my life’

A man wounded in a terror attack in Har Adar Tuesday morning says his life was saved by Or Arish, one of the three security personnel who were killed in the close-range shooting carried out by Nimer Jamal.

Amit Steinhart, 33, was seriously wounded when the 37-year-old Jamal from Beit Surik produced a gun near Har Adar and shot dead Youssef Ottman, 25, Or Arish, 25, and Solomon Gavriya, 20.

Amit Steinhart

According to his family, Steinhart said in his hospital bed that Or had saved his life.

“He said ‘I want to be at my friend’s funeral’ and we explained to him that at the moment he is being treated in hospital,” said a close family member.

“In the beginning he wasn’t able to focus. The drugs to calm him confused him and we chose not to tell him everything that had happened,” said his brother Miki. “Two hours after the operation he wanted to know the truth and we had to tell him. He was in shock.”

Steinhart, a military security coordinator, took part in the fire exchange that ensued that led to Jamal’s death.

He was operated on in the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem and his life was no longer in danger. His injuries have thus been downgraded to moderate.

“The surgery was successful. The 33-year-old patient was hit by a bullet in shoulder and hip. One of the bullets hit his spleen and diaphragm, and after dealing with these two organs, a team of orthopedic surgeons removed the bullets. He’s been completely stabilized, is breathing on his own and is now recuperating in Hadassah’s emergency care unit. He was certainly very lucky,” said head of the Department of General Surgery at Hadassah Prof. Alon Pikarsky.  (Ynet News)

 Will Israel revamp its process for vetting Palestinian workers?

Early on Tuesday morning, Nimr Mahmoud Ahmad al-Jamal, 37, gathered with dozens of other Palestinian day laborers at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Har Adar, work permit in hand and a pistol hidden under his shirt.

Arousing the suspicion of the guards when he lingered at the eastern entrance to the settlement, he pulled out the pistol and opened fire, killing a border policeman and two security guards before being shot and killed by security forces.

Police said Jamal, from the nearby village of Beit Surik, possessed a legal work permit, making him one of the few Palestinians with that coveted document to carry out a deadly terrorist attack in recent years.

While Tuesday’s attack, which was praised by both Fatah and Hamas, was significant and deadly, the defense establishment, which has made preparations for increased violence during the High Holy Days, does not believe it signals the beginning of a new round of escalation of violence in the West Bank.

Nevertheless, the attack will likely cause the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to reevaluate the vetting process of Palestinians who apply for work permits to work in West Bank settlements and throughout the rest of Israel.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz stated, “The fact that the terrorist exploited the entry of Palestinian workers into Israel in order to carry out an attack will have serious implications for the ability to employ Palestinians and ease their conditions of passage.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated at the scene of the attack that the policy of providing Palestinians with permits should be examined, “but no hasty decisions should be made.”

The defense establishment has maintained that allowing thousands of Palestinians to work in Israel, including in Jewish communities in the West Bank, is in Israel’s best interest.

Echoing Erdan’s statement, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh cautioned that authorities are still evaluating the situation.

“We’re talking about the passage of laborers and Israeli society has needs of its own. Laborers are working with permits and the IDF itself considers it the chance of a normal life for Palestinians.

We need to be sure no rash judgments are made,” he said.

A senior IDF officer in the southern West Bank told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview: “Not every Palestinian is a terrorist and so we want them to have normal lives. Palestinians working in Jewish communities in the West Bank are less likely to carry out an attack, but never say never,” he said.

According to the Shin Bet, Jamal had a history of domestic violence and had been experiencing significant personal and family problems.

His wife had fled to Jordan in recent weeks, leaving him with their four children.

While violence and terrorist attacks have drastically decreased since their peak in the winter of 2016, when there were almost daily attacks, the defense establishment has grown worried about the erratic and unpredictable behavior of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In late July, Abbas suspended security cooperation with Israel after metal detectors were placed on the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City, following an attack on the complex that left two Israeli policemen dead.

The suspension of that cooperation has left Israel concerned as it still has not resumed and Palestinian security forces stopped many attacks in the West Bank since the recent wave of terrorism broke out.

In addition to the work of the Palestinian security forces, the IDF has stated that thousands of attacks have been thwarted due to intelligence gathering, including by increased monitoring of social media activity, arresting individuals who express their desire to set out on attacks or who attempt to inspire others to do so on social networks like Facebook.

Similar to the July attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish that left three Israeli civilians dead, Jamal had reached out to his wife on Facebook shortly before the attack, asking for forgiveness and asking her to take care of their children as he understood the gravity of what he was about to do.

Since October 2015, Palestinian youths have stabbed, run over and shot Israeli soldiers and civilians, including some tourists, in a wave of violence in the West Bank and throughout Israel that has left at least 295 Palestinians and Arab Israelis, 50 non-Arab Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to Agence France-Presse. (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Movement Praises Har Adar Terrorist as ‘Martyr’

The ruling Fatah movement in the Palestinian Authority rushed on Tuesday to praise Nimer Mahmoud Ahmed Jamal — the terrorist who murdered three Israelis in the West Bank community of Har Adar, near Jerusalem.

On its official Facebook page, Fatah honored the killer by posting his picture alongside the text, “The one who carried out the operation in Jerusalem (sic — Har Adar) is Martyr (Shahid) Nimr Mahmoud Ahmed Al-Jamal,” Israeli monitoring organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported.

Former Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar drew attention to the financial compensation Jamal’s family can now expect to receive from the PA, declaring that there “is no greater encouragement of terror than the Palestinian Authority’s generous policy of allowances for the terrorists and their families.”

According to PMW, Jamal’s family will receive annual compensation for life of approximately $9,000, based on the PA’s sliding scale that adds extra funds for each wife and child of a dead or convicted terrorist. Jamal is reported to have had one wife and four children.

Fatah — the faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas — added that Israel bore responsibility for the murders of border policeman Solomon Gavriyah, 20, and civilian security guards Youssef Ottman, 25, from Abu Ghosh, and Or Arish, 25, a resident of Har Adar.

“Israel alone bears responsibility for the Palestinian responses to the occupation’s crimes against the members of our people,” the movement stated.

Fatah activist Munir al-Jaghoub offered a further threat. “If it [Israel] continues its incessant aggression against the Palestinian people, it can only expect more violence,” he said. Many Israeli security analysts fear that the ongoing reconciliation process between Fatah and its Islamist rival, Hamas, will result in greater competition between the two as to who can more effectively prosecute Palestinian “resistance” to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The Har Adar attack comes as the US Congress prepares to vote on the Taylor Force Act — named for the former American serviceman murdered in a Palestinian attack in Jaffa in 2016 — that would make US aid to the PA conditional on a complete, verifiable end to its “martyr payments” policy.  (the Algemeiner)

Har Adar attack an impediment to Greenblatt peace effort

US envoy Jason Greenblatt’s already enormously difficult task of creating an atmosphere conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations just got even more difficult on Tuesday with the terrorist attack in Har Adar that left three Israelis dead.

The attack came as Greenblatt is in the country trying to push forward the US administration’s diplomatic initiative, an initiative based not on top-down negotiating breakthroughs, but rather bottom-up improvement of the atmosphere.

And the terrorist from Beit Surik just threw a huge wrench in the works.

Greenblatt – who in his nearly eight months in the job and has been extremely tight-lipped about what the administration is trying to do – shined some light on its strategy at a meeting of donor countries to the Palestinian Authority held last week in New York.

The US, he said, “is deeply committed to achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement,” and to this end has held deliberations with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, as well as with other leaders in the region.

“It is no secret that our approach to these discussions departs from some of the usual orthodoxy, for after years of well-meaning attempts to negotiate an end to this conflict, we have all learned some valuable lessons,” he said.

“Instead of working to impose a solution from the outside, we are giving the parties space to make their own decisions about their future.

Instead of laying blame for the conflict at the feet of one party or the other, we are focused on implementing existing agreements and unlocking new areas of cooperation which benefit both Palestinians and Israelis.”

A major component of this plan is improving the daily lives of the Palestinians, be it through brokering a deal for water and electricity projects, or plans to develop better roads and new industrial parks.

And in these efforts to improve the daily lives of the Palestinians, allowing Palestinians to work inside the Green Line and making passage from the West Bank into pre-1967 Israel easier are key ingredients.

And it is precisely those two elements that Jabbar’s attack will now call into question.

Indeed, it has already led to calls to rethink increased work permits and efforts to ease the situation at the checkpoints.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz already said in response to the attack that it would have “serious implications,” and that its message to Greenblatt was, “Israel’s security was and remains the supreme consideration in the government’s policy, and is above any other consideration of improving and easing the lives of the Palestinians.”

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev added that the Palestinians must understand that work permits “are not a license to murder.”

The Trump administration is reportedly urging Israel to make some gestures toward the Palestinians to improve the overall atmosphere. Two ideas – building a new industrial park near Tulkarm and improving a road to the new Palestinian city of Rawabi – were discussed, but not approved, at Sunday’s security cabinet meeting.

The government’s appetite for making further gestures at this point will be reduced following Tuesday’s attack, which was carried out by someone who benefited from Israel’s policy of trying to ease the situation for Palestinians.

And even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might still want to show his appreciation to the Trump administration for its Mideast policies by making some gestures the US would like to see, politically he will have to look over his right shoulder and pay attention to what ministers like Katz and Regev are saying.

That situation could be altered were Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come out and clearly condemn the attack.

But in the midst of trying to reconcile with Hamas in Gaza, and following his words last week to the UN in which he saluted “glorious” Palestinian “martyrs” and “courageous prisoners” sitting in Israeli jails – in other words, Palestinian terrorists – such a condemnation is unlikely.

The net result: Jabbar’s attack has already set back what Greenblatt came here to do just two days ago.  (Jerusalem Post)

Interpol votes to admit ‘State of Palestine’ as new member state

A week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly how Israel’s stature on the world stage was on the rise, the country suffered a diplomatic setback on Wednesday when the International Police Organization (Interpol) voted to accept the Palestinians as a member.

The move passed by a vote of 75 to 24, with 34 abstentions. The Palestinians needed more than two-thirds of the yes-or-no votes counted, and passed that threshold easily.

The vote came despite furious efforts by Israel to thwart the move. The dye was set for the Palestinian victory in the secret ballot vote after the Interpol plenary rejected earlier in the day a resolution to postpone the vote. Secret ballot votes in international fora traditionally work against Israel.

Another effort to push off the vote on a procedural issue also failed.

Israel is adamantly opposed to Palestinian admission to all international organizations, arguing that a state of Palestine does not exist and, therefore, it cannot be accepted as a state in international organizations

A Palestinian bid to join Interpol, which represents police forces from 190 countries, failed last year at the annual meeting in Indonesia.

At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the vote as a reflection of the change in Israel’s standing in the international community. Netanyahu joined together with the Foreign Ministry in efforts this year, as well, to block the move.

A closer reading of last year’s vote, however, showed that Israel benefited from the fact that Kosovo also applied for membership – something actively opposed by Russia. Kosovo withdrew its candidacy this year, knowing that — faced again with Russian opposition — it would lose.  (Jerusalem Post)

Do Advocates for Palestinians Ever Listen to Palestinians?

by Mitchell Bard               The Algemeiner

Do Advocates for Palestinians Ever Listen to Palestinians?

If you pay any attention to advocates and supporters of the Palestinians who live outside the Middle East, you would think that the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are mostly interested in settlements, boycotts, “occupation,” savaging Israel and achieving a two-state solution. You have to wonder if these activists ever speak to Palestinians who live in the territories — because when pollsters ask for their opinion, it becomes clear that their actual views are quite different.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) conduced its latest poll this month, and found that “an overwhelming majority of the Palestinian public is worried about the future of liberties in Palestine.” Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza, both deny Palestinians their basic civil rights: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. Women’s rights are virtually nonexistent, and there is zero tolerance of LGBTQ Palestinians.

As I’ve written before, advocates who claim to care deeply about the welfare of the Palestinians never stand up for the Palestinians’ rights when they’re abused by the Palestinian Authority (PA), or criticize the authoritarian rule of  Abbas. When was the last time that the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Arab American Institute, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, CAIR or any other pro-Palestinian group spoke out against the abuses? They only find their voices if they can find some way to blame the Jews — because they prefer anti-Israel propaganda to aiding the Palestinians.

But the Palestinians oppressed by their leaders know better. While advocates abroad are free to speak out — but do not, journalists and activists in the territories are routinely arrested. More than 80% of respondents said that the PA does not have the right to detain activists such as Issa Amro, who was arrested and reportedly beaten for criticizing the PA’s detention of Palestinian journalist Ayman al-Qawasmi. Most Palestinians admit, however, that they are afraid to criticize the Palestinian Authority.

When asked what they consider to be the most serious problem confronting Palestinian society, the public ranks poverty and unemployment, and the spread of corruption in public institutions, as their top two concerns. Only 23% say that their top priority is the continuation of occupation and settlement activities. But when was the last time that you heard a Palestinian activist talk about poverty and corruption?

While Abbas periodically threatens to disband the PA in response to Israeli actions, as if this would somehow punish the Israelis, 50% of Palestinians wish that he would — because they consider the PA “a burden on the Palestinian people.” A whopping 67% of the public also want Abbas to resign (80% of Gazans), and 65% are dissatisfied with his performance as president.

We hear a lot from Israel’s detractors about the blockade of Gaza, which was precipitated by Hamas terror attacks, but Gazans are increasingly angry with Abbas. According to the survey, “Gazans are moving away from Fatah and the Palestinian leadership in an unprecedented way,” because of sanctions that Abbas imposed on the Gaza Strip to try to pressure the people there to turn on Hamas.

Given the conditions in the PA, it is not surprising that 43% of Gazans and 22% of West Bank Palestinians say that they want to immigrate to other countries. Note too, how you never hear Palestinians or their supporters calling for people to move to the PA territories to build the state or fight for independence; this is one of many contrasts with the Jewish people’s commitment to their homeland.

Advocates for the Palestinians who tend to be hostile toward peace talks and a two-state solution are more in tune with the Palestinian people in the territories. Nearly three-fourths of the Palestinian public don’t think that the Trump administration is serious about reaching a peace agreement, and 55% are opposed to accepting an invitation from the administration to resume negotiations with Israel. A slim majority– 52%-47% — support the two-state solution; 31% favor a one-state solution.

One positive development in the survey was an increase in support for non-violent resistance (still only 26%), which the pollsters attribute to the success in forcing Israel to remove metal detectors from the entrance to the Temple Mount. The survey also found, however, that support for violence had increased, and that 35% of the public believes that violence is the most effective means of achieving independence. More ominously, 45% support a return to an armed intifada in the absence of peace negotiations.

One interesting finding is that the Palestinians seem to have developed a more realistic view of the importance of their cause to the Arab world. While some advocates (and Arabists) perpetuate the myth that the Palestinian issue is central to the stability of the Middle East, 77% of Palestinians believe that “the Arab world is too preoccupied with its own concerns, internal conflicts, and the conflict with Iran, and that Palestine is no longer the Arab’s principal or primary issue or cause.”

Advocates for Israel are sometimes accused of blindly supporting the Israeli government when, in fact, there are no shortage of Israeli critics of the state’s leaders and policies. The same cannot be said of our Palestinians’ friends.

The selective outrage and morality of advocates for the Palestinians is apparent from their silence when it comes to the mistreatment of Palestinians by their own leaders. This hypocritical obsession with Israel’s real and imagined sins highlights their insincerity, and reveals that most care less about the welfare of the Palestinians than the demonization, if not destruction, of Israel.

Reflections on the past year

by Ron Weiser

As we leave the Jewish calendar year of 5777 behind it is worth remembering that the three large external issues facing Israel remain unchanged and their resolution no clearer than they were at the beginning of 2017.

Moreover, to greater and lesser degrees, these depend on President Trump’s positive sentiments, but as yet unclarified policies.

Simultaneously, whilst facing numerous challenges at home, Prime Minister Netanyahu seems unstoppable on the world stage where he brings absolutely unprecedented success to Israeli public diplomacy.

The first and number one near term issue remains keeping Iran out of Syria as much as is possible. This against the backdrop of US unwillingness to actively enter this arena itself and yet to allow Russia, whose prime allies here are Assad and Iran, to dictate the situation on the ground.

Trump’s indifference in Syria has left Israel to negotiate an arrangement with Putin that allows Israel to hit targets inside Syria, with certain red lines. Perhaps the best that can be achieved in the current circumstances – but with uncertain parameters, dangers of action in close proximity to Russian military personnel and all largely at Putin’s pleasure.

The longer term second issue is Iran itself and the so called P5 + 1 nuclear agreement of July 2015, reached under Obama. This agreement lifted sanctions on Iran in return for it supposedly not being able to produce weapons grade enriched uranium, and hence a nuclear device, for some 15 years.

President Trump is required by US law to issue certification of Iranian compliance to this agreement, every 90 days.

According to press accounts, although Trump did not want to issue certification in July, he was persuaded to do so by his senior officials – Sec of Defence Mattis, Sec of State Tillerson and National Security Advisor McMaster.

This matter comes up for recertification again, on October the 15th.

To date there is a regular pattern – Trump criticises the agreement as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions in history”, calls it an “embarrassment” and then reluctantly recertifies it.

On Wednesday last week Trump said that he had already made a decision about whether to keep or kill the Iran nuclear agreement this time, but would not reveal his answer as yet.

This continues another Trump tactic used frequently, which may in fact prove very effective, at least for a time – policy ambiguity.

Keeping all parties on their toes and all waiting on the whim and yet to be clearly delineated policy direction of the US President.

Which brings us to the third issue, the Palestinians.

Whilst the United Nations address of PM Netanyahu focused almost exclusively on Iran and President Trump’s speech when he spoke about the Middle East did likewise, the Palestinians rated hardly a mention.

Prior to his UN address, Trump met separately with Netanyahu and Abbas in New York.

We do not know exactly what was said in these meetings, but we have some indications. Whilst Netanyahu tried to also maintain the focus on Iran in the private discussions with Trump, it is clear that the issue of the Palestinians was discussed there. And had almost immediate repercussions in Israel.

Trump is consistent in dealing with the Israel/Palestinian issue quite differently from all other issues. He does so uncharacteristically low key and behind the scenes.

A White House spokesperson explained it as follows: “While President Trump had productive meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas at the United Nations, we always said that the UN would not focus on peace conversations and that those conversations would be happening on a separate track. The meetings are part of the Administration’s quiet, steady discussions towards peace.”

It also appears that whilst in a different way from Obama – that is, not publically – Trump continues to pressure Netanyahu on the issue of settlement expansion.

At the Israeli Security Cabinet meeting on the 24th of September, Netanyahu surprised some members of his coalition and settlement leaders by postponing the planning meeting of the West Bank Civil Administration, which is the body responsible for approving new settlement housing.

This was apparently done at Trump’s request.

Netanyahu reportedly told his cabinet that he had no intention of humiliating the pro-Israel Trump administration by making decisions relating to settlements.

One settlement leader stated: “The government is good at declarations, but it only pretends to build.”

Back to New York – At a short press conference in the presence of Netanyahu prior to their meeting on the 18th of September, the first between them since May, Trump said:

“I really believe peace between the Palestinians and Israel would be a fantastic achievement. We are giving it an absolute go. I think there is a good chance it could happen; most people would say there is no chance whatsoever. I actually think that with the ability of Bibi, and frankly with the other side, I really think we have a chance.

We’re going to be discussing many things; among them, peace between the Palestinians and Israel — it will be a fantastic achievement. I think Israel would like to see it, and I think the Palestinians would like to see it. And I can tell you that the Trump administration would like to see it.

So we’re working very hard on it. We’ll see what happens. Historically, people say it can’t happen. I say it can happen.”

Asked at the end of the photo opportunity whether he wanted to see a one-state or two-state solution, Trump said only, “We are talking about it a lot.”

Trump’s Middle East peace negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, is returning to Israel just prior to Succoth to “continue the peace track”.

As noted above, Netanyahu continues to represent Israel quite amazingly on the world stage and it is hard for the pessimists to really understand and credit that great changes in Israel’s position amongst the nations of the world have occurred.

The last weeks have been filled with so many ‘firsts’, that the word is losing its meaning and impact. And this follows on from many other ‘firsts’ in terms of visits to Africa et al.

Netanyahu just finished the first diplomatic tour by an Israeli Prime Minister in Latin and South America, holding meetings with the presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay.

From there he came to New York and also on the 18th of September met for the first time publically, with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In terms of symbolism and message transmission, this was probably the most important of all of Netanyahu’s meetings in the past few weeks.

The photos that were distributed had very powerful imagery – both Netanyahu and al-Sisi smiling broadly, happily in conversation and shaking hands enthusiastically.

In an area of the world where these things count for a lot, the photos spoke volumes.

According to a statement from al-Sisi’s office, the Egyptian president stressed the importance of renewing peace talks in order to reach a just solution based on the idea of two states for two peoples.

The Egyptian statement also noted that Netanyahu expressed his appreciation to al-Sisi for Cairo’s important role in the Middle East, its fight against terrorism and its efforts to achieve stability and peace in the region.

And if all of that was not enough, PM Netanyahu also met one on one with the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan; and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

So yes, despite the many and serious challenges ahead, Israel enters 5778 in good shape and in a stronger diplomatic and military position than a year ago.

Indeed, arguably in better shape than ever before.

And all the better able to face whatever may come.