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Latest Israel News – 2nd June

Trump signs waiver, won’t move US embassy to Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a waiver that delays for six months any plan to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, disappointing the Israeli government and backtracking on a key promise he made on the campaign trail throughout 2016.

Announcing the move, the White House insisted it did not represent a weakening of his support for Israel. “While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House statement said.

The White House said the president still stood by his promise to move the embassy.

“President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”

“It’s a question of when, not if,” an official said, adding that Trump “doesn’t think the timing is right, right now.” The official added: “In timing such a move, he will seek to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The president had distanced himself from the pledge since taking office and had been evasive on whether he would go ahead with the move.

He made no public mention of the embassy during his visit last week to Israel.

Before his arrival, several Israeli ministers led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Washington to move the embassy, a measure that would be seen as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump was facing a Thursday deadline to renew the waiver or see the US State Department lose half its funding for its overseas facilities.

A 1995 law mandates the relocation of the embassy, but provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move on national security grounds. Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right.

The most recent waiver, signed by Obama, expired on June 1. Without its renewal, the US government would have been legally obligated to proceed with moving the embassy.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it, a move never recognized by the international community. Israel declared the city its undivided capital, but the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would be seen as endorsing Israel’s claim to the city and rejecting the Palestinians’. Countries with ties to Israel typically place their embassies in Tel Aviv; some have consulates in Jerusalem.

The US says its policy on Jerusalem hasn’t changed and that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.

There was intense speculation last month that Trump would use the visit to Israel — which came just before Jerusalem Day, when Israel commemorated 50 years since the Six Day War — to announce the move.

In January 2016, Trump told an interviewer that “they want it [the embassy] in Jerusalem. Well I am for that one hundred percent. We are for that one hundred percent.” Two months later, during a speech at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference, Trump declared to applause that if elected, “we will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”

He seemingly backed off his promise early in his presidency. It was reported that his conversation with various Arab leaders, especially King Abdullah II of Jordan at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, was instrumental to his decision to put the issue on the back burner.

Arab leaders have reportedly told Trump — as well as other members of his administration — that an embassy move at this time would spark unrest in the region while making it difficult for their countries to play a helpful role in the peace process.

On May 24, the day after Trump left Israel after his 28-hour visit, Netanyahu reiterated his call for the US, and all other countries which have ties with Israel, to move their embassies to Jerusalem. It was “absurd” that foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said.

Trump reiterated on his May 22-23 visit here that he seeks to broker an Israeli-Palestinian accord. While Netanyahu highlighted his skepticism about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s readiness for a deal, he did tell Trump that “for the first time in many years — and, Mr. President, for the first time in my lifetime — I see a real hope for change.”

For his part, Trump was adamant in his final speech at the Israel Museum on May 23 that Abbas and the Palestinians “are ready to reach for peace.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on May 24 that Trump “pressured” Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table during his visit. “There were very substantive discussions in Israel with both PM Netanyahu as well as President Abbas,” Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One. “He put a lot of pressure on them that it’s time to get to the table.”

Donald Trump’s Presidential Memorandum waiving the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, June 1, 2017.  (the Times of Israel)

IDF soldier wounded in stabbing attack at Samaria settlement

An Israeli soldier was wounded on Thursday in a stabbing attack at the entrance to the northern Samaria settlement of Mevo Dotan.

The Israel Defense Forces reported that a female terrorist approached the entrance to the settlement on foot and, when asked to stop, pulled out a knife and proceeded to stab the soldier in the stomach. The soldier’s injuries were classified as light.

The IDF troops on duty shot at the stabber, wounding her critically. Both the victim and the attacker were hospitalized.

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, spoke with IDF officials after the attack, saying, “Attempts to break the residents of Samaria will not succeed. This time, too, the soldiers on the scene displayed unusual resourcefulness. We thank the soldiers and their commanders for their quick thinking, and expect a strong hand to be taken against the attackers and the people who deploy them.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the eve of the Shavuot holiday, Border Police on duty in Hebron thwarted a planned stabbing attack by a Palestinian teenager and arrested her. The 17-year-old had been planning to attack security forces or Jewish worshippers visiting the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Border Police on duty spotted the teenager acting suspiciously as she was approaching the contentious holy site. They ordered her to stop for a security inspection, and when she resisted, they used force to stop her. A search of her bag revealed a large knife.   (Israel Hayom)

PM: Israel doesn’t have ‘diplomatic blank check’ from US

Despite the warmth exhibited by US President Donald Trump during his visit last week, Israel does not have a “blank check” from the Americans, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Netanyahu’s comments came at the weekly Likud faction meeting, against the background of comments from Likud MKs calling for Netanyahu to be more outspoken in opposition to a two-state solution.

The prime minister told the MKs that while Israel is a sovereign country that can make many decisions, and there is a great deal of understanding in Washington for many of Israel’s key positions, the country must proceed in the diplomatic process “wisely and responsibly,” and those claiming that Israel has a “diplomatic blank check” are mistaken.

Netanyahu also said that Trump is determined to reach an agreement. In a speech in Italy before returning home from his first overseas trip as president, Trump said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “assured me that he is willing to reach for peace with Israel in good faith – and I believe him.” Likewise, he said, Netanyahu “assured me that he, too, was ready to reach for peace – he is a friend of mine, and he means it.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was quoted as saying at the meeting that this does not mean Israel has to agree to any agreement, and that Israel needs to put forward a diplomatic alternative to the Oslo Accords.

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official on Monday denied a report about a confrontation between Trump and Abbas during the American leader’s visit to Bethlehem last week.

“It is a total fabrication and a lie,” Ahmad Majdalani, a confidant of Abbas, told The Jerusalem Post.

Citing an American source, Channel 2 reported on Sunday that Trump shouted at Abbas in Bethlehem, saying he was fooling him.

“You deceived me in Washington,” Trump reportedly told Abbas, alluding to a meeting they had in the US capital earlier in May. “You spoke to me about peace, but the Israelis showed me that you personally have a hand in incitement.”

Majdalani added that all the meetings between Abbas and Trump have been positive.

“The talks we have had with the American administration have been based on mutual respect,” Majdalani said.

“They have been positive, and we are feeling a major development in the American administration’s position.”

Nabil Sha’ath, Abbas’s foreign- policy adviser, told the Post that while he is aware that the issue of incitement was raised in the Bethlehem meeting, he has no knowledge of Trump shouting at the PA president.

“There was a question that Mr. Trump had about something that Mr. Netanyahu told him,” Sha’ath said. “Our president explained the matter very clearly to Mr. Trump, and the meeting went on quite productively.”

Sha’ath said his account of the meeting is based on a conversation he had with Abbas.

Israel has long accused the Palestinian leadership of incitement by praising violent attackers. Netanyahu told his cabinet meeting on May 4 that the Palestinians “name their schools after mass murderers of Israelis.”

A number of facilities and institutions have been named after Palestinians who carried out violent attacks against Israel. Most recently, a women’s center in the village of Burka near Nablus was named after Dalal Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children.

Abbas has said that incitement exists in Israel and the Palestinian territories and called for the revival of a tripartite Israeli-Palestinian- American anti-incitement committee to deal with the issue.

“Incitement can lead to violence, and we must end it in every place,” Abbas told a group of Israelis visiting the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on November 22. “We must revive the tripartite committee to deal with this issue.”

The anti-incitement committee was created following the signing of the Wye River Memorandum in 1998, but has not met since the outbreak of the second intifada. (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians paid terrorists $1b in past 4 years, Knesset panel hears

The Palestinian Authority has paid out some NIS 4 billion — or $1.12 billion — over the past four years to terrorists and their families, a former director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and ex-head of the army’s intelligence and research division told a top Knesset panel on Monday.

Setting out the figures, Brig.-Gen (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the longer the period for which a Palestinian security prisoner is jailed, “the higher the salary… Anyone who has sat in prison for more than 30 years gets NIS 12,000 ($3,360) per month,” said Kuperwasser, according to the (Hebrew) NRG website. “When they’re released, they get a grant and are promised a job at the Palestinian Authority. They get a military rank that’s determined according to the number of years they’ve served in jail.”

Kuperwasser also told the committee that PA claims that the payments to terrorists’ families are social welfare benefits to the needy are false. The Palestinians’ own budgetary documents, he said, “clearly state that these are salaries and not welfare payments.”

Kuperwasser was briefing MKs days after US President Donald Trump visited Israel and held talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. In an apparent public upbraiding of Abbas over the payments, Trump told him at their joint press conference: “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded.”

Israel’s Channel 2 TV reported on Sunday night that, behind closed doors in Bethlehem, Trump fumed at Abbas for lying to him. “You tricked me in DC! You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement [against Israel],” Trump was said to have shouted at a shocked Abbas.

The TV report said the outburst was followed by several minutes of silence from the Palestinians, and that the meeting was very tense before the two sides managed to get back on track.

Palestinian sources denied the report, saying the meeting was good and to the point. And the Palestinian Ma’an news agency quoted a PA official on Monday accusing Israeli media of “lying” about what went on in the talks in order to torpedo a return to the negotiating table “because the Israelis don’t want to achieve peace.”

The Israel Hayom daily on Monday quoted an unnamed Palestinian official offering further details of the alleged stormy confrontation, however. This official said the talks “started on a positive note,” but the meeting “deteriorated after Trump accused Abbas of supporting incitement and terrorism with the salaries paid to prisoners.”

According to this report, “Trump made it clear to Abbas that he must curb anti-Israeli incitement in the Palestinian education system, saying Abbas cannot turn a blind eye to Palestinian incitement and pay stipends to terrorists’ families while simultaneously setting conditions that hinder any progress in the peace talks.”

Abbas reportedly responded that “in the past, there was a joint Palestinian-Israeli committee that sought to deal with incitement on both sides, but it has not met for years. As for the prisoners’ stipends, those are paid by the PLO’s prisoner authority, not the Palestinian government.”

At this point, according to the Israel Hayom report, “Trump lost his patience and interrupted Abbas, banging his fist on the table and admonishing him, saying, ‘You can talk about how much you want peace, but that’s empty [rhetoric].’”

At the Knesset meeting on Monday, Kuperwasser, today a project director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank, said that for many years the US and Israel had largely ignored the significance of the payments and that it only became a major issue in the last six months. Now the US Congress is pushing punitive legislation — the Taylor Force Act. The PA channels the payments indirectly, via a non-government “payment fund,” he said.

“There was a willingness to believe the lies that it was social support. In practice, no steps have been taken to change the situation and in the meantime, the Palestinians are trying to depict themselves as supporting peace while they are still paying the families of terrorists,” said Kuperwasser. “Assurance of a cash prize for acts of terror is encouragement to terrorism, and is against international law, international conventions, the Oslo accords, and other agreements that they have signed on.”

The committee’s chairman, Avi Dichter (Likud), said he would schedule a session with top-tier security and political officials to review what action Israel should take in response to what he said was continued Palestinian incitement to terror.

Dichter, a former director of the Shin Bet security service, declared: “The State of Israel cannot get involved in a political process aimed at peace when those who are supposed to be our partners incite [to terror]. For years, not only has it [incitement] not decreased, it has increased.”

Israel has long accused the Palestinians, including Abbas’s Fatah party, of fanning hatred on social media and calling for violence against Israelis.

According to PA law, Palestinian security prisoners serving time in Israeli jails and families of assailants killed while carrying attacks against Israelis are eligible to receive stipends and other benefits. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the allowances range from $364 (NIS 1,500) a month for a term of up to three years to $3,120 (NIS 13,000) for a term of 30 years and more. There is a monthly $78 supplement for terrorists from Jerusalem and a $130 supplement for Arab Israeli terrorists.

At Monday’s Knesset committee meeting, Dore Gold, a former Foreign Ministry director-general, said Israel’s opposition to terror payments had not been made sufficiently clear since he left his post in October 2016. “The idea that a body such as the Palestinian Authority pays money as compensation to families who lost their sons as they were engaged in terror is unacceptable and contradicts common sense. Former US secretary of state Colin Powell called it ‘providing an incentive to terrorism,’” he said.

Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid) criticized the government, saying, “There is a lack of willingness to to take steps against the Palestinian Authority. They’re frightened of an escalation or that the PA will collapse, or that it won’t look good to Muslim communities around the world.”

Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) claimed that Hitler and former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein were being held up as role models in the Palestinian education system, and that “little girls in kindergarten declare that the Jews are worse than pigs, that they raped their mothers and murdered their fathers with axes.” Yogev called for economic and security-related sanctions to be imposed on the PA.

Along with criticism, Trump, at his press conference with Abbas, offered praise to the PA leader for being “committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology.

On May 3 in Washington, at the first meeting between the two, Trump urged Abbas to stop incitement, crack down on terrorism, and “resolve” his government’s police of paying stipends to terrorists and their families.

Abbas, for his part, told Trump in their joint White House press conference that “we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”

In the wake of that claim, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Abbas for the remark, saying it was “unfortunately not true.” The PA, Netanyahu charged, “names their schools after mass murderers of Israelis and pay terrorists.”

A report released last month from the Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) group found that PA textbooks for first to fourth grades were demonizing Israel and glorifying “martyrdom.” The document cited an “alarming deterioration” in content since the previous study.

The issue has taken on increasing significance of late, as members of Congress have threatened to decrease US aid to Palestinians if PA-sponsored incitement is not curbed.  (the Times of Israel)

Israeli minister holds rare meet with PA prime minister in West Bank

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met Wednesday evening in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to brief him on the steps the security cabinet decided last month to improve the economic situation in the PA.

The meeting between the senior Israeli and Palestinian officials comes amid efforts by the US to jump-start the diplomatic process through a series of measures it wants to see Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world take to improve the overall atmosphere on the ground.

The meeting came even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas have not held a substantial meeting since 2010. They spoke very briefly and shook hands at the World Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, and at Shimon Peres’ funeral in 2016.

According to a statement put out by the Finance Ministry, Netanyahu knew of the Kahlon-Hamdallah meeting in advance, as did Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and it was part of a series of meetings that Kahlon has held with senior Palestinian Authority officials since taking over at the Treasury two years ago.

Kahlon was joined by the Yoav “Poli” Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and Hamdallah was joined by Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh.

The Finance Ministry statement said that the steps that the security cabinet approved on the eve of Trump’s visit were detailed to the Palestinians.

These steps include the opening of the Allenby Bridge Crossing 24-hours a day for the next two months, and making this arrangement permanent in 2018; extending and upgrading crossing points in the West Bank, establishing an industrial zone near the Tarquimiya crossing; and easing restrictions on Palestinian building in specific areas of Area C that adjoin Areas A or B.

Trump arrives at the Presidential palace in Bethlehem (credit: REUTERS)

Under the Oslo Accords the West Bank is divided into three areas. Area C, which makes up 60% of the territory, is under complete Israeli control; Area B – which makes up 22% of the territory – is under Israeli security control, but Palestinian civil control; and Area A, which makes up 18% of the territory, is under Palestinians security and civil control.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israel conducts ‘experimental’ rocket test over heart of the country

The Defense Ministry said Monday that it conducted a successful experimental test of its rocket propulsion system from a military base located in the center of Israel.

Images shared on social media showed a projectile streaking through the sky.

Israel has a multi-layered aerial defense system, which includes the Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling, and missile system tests such as these are not uncommon. Rocket propulsion systems are designed to launch large systems such as satellites, ballistic missiles and large ground to air missiles.

The launching, conducted in the early morning hours, was planned in advance and carried out as planned. There was no comment on whether or not the test was successful nor what system was tested but some speculated that it may be the surface-to-surface Jericho 3, an intercontinental ballistic missile which according to foreign reports can support a nuclear payload.

In 2013, foreign media outlets reported that the Defense Ministry carried out a test launch of a rocket propulsion system as part of the development of the Jericho ballistic missile, speculating that the missile had a range of 4,000km. Israel has since been continuously trying to improve the system, both in terms of range and accuracy and it is now reported to have a range of over 10,000km.

Others speculated that it was a testing of the Arrow system designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside of the earth’s atmosphere. The Israel Air Force officially received the  Arrow-3 interceptors from the Israel Missile Defense Organization in January and according to IMDO Director Moshe Patel, further trials of the system were expected as Israel will continue to work with the United States in developing additional capabilities for the system.

Rocket

In 2015 during the testing of advanced version of the system the Ministry of Defense announced that one of the tests had failed and another had been called off at the last moment. The first use of the Arrow system occurred in April when the system was launched to intercept a Syrian regime air defense fired three surface-to-air missiles towards IAF jets.

Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets and the Arrow system which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. The David’s Sling missile defense system is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300km.

The advanced systems provide Israel will a comprehensive protective umbrella able to counter threats posed by both short and mid-range missiles used by terror groups in Gaza and Hezbollah as well as the threat posed by  more sophisticated long-range Iranian ballistic missiles.

Alongside the July 2015 Iran nuclear deal signed by world powers aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that “called upon [Iran] not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Nonetheless Tehran has since carried out multiple ballistic missile tests and Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps airspace program, was quoted by the semi-official Fars News agency as saying that Iran would continue its ballistic missile program despite international criticism.

Israel and the United States remain concerned that Iran has continued to work on its nuclear program and last week the IRGC said that it had established a third underground ballistic missile production facility in southwestern Iran. (Jerusalem Post)

With eyes to Hezbollah, IDF unveils ‘Lebanese village’ training center

The army on Monday laid the cornerstone of a new training facility in the Golan Heights that is meant to simulate a Lebanese village of the type Israeli soldiers might find themselves in should war break out with the Hezbollah terrorist group.

The Snir facility, which gets its name from a nearby kibbutz, is meant to prepare Israeli soldiers for urban warfare, including subterranean combat, according to Brig. Gen. Einav Shalev, commander of the army’s Ground Forces Division. (This is not to be confused with the Ground Forces itself, which is led by Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak.)

The army plans to have the training center ready for soldiers by the end of next year and construct three similar facilities in the coming years, a senior IDF official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Snir facility will take over as the army’s most advanced urban combat training center — “we have nothing like this in the State of Israel,” the officer said — superseding the Urban Combat Center, which was built a decade ago, in the Tzeelim training base in southern Israel.

Unlike the Urban Combat Center (often referred to by its Hebrew acronym Mali), which can only be used to train infantry soldiers, the new Snir facility is designed to allow for the Armored Corps and Combat Engineering Corps to operate their heavy tanks and engineering vehicles in the mock Lebanese village, the senior officer said.

Plans

The plans for a new urban warfare training facility in northern Israel that is meant to simulate a Lebanese village

“We understand that in a future conflict, tanks will enter Lebanese villages to take out terrorists positions. Our Armored Corps needs to be ready to operate in a rubble-filled urban environment, for example,” the army said.

The Snir facility will include underground elements as well. Hezbollah is known to have subterranean bunkers and tunnels, though not of the border-crossing variety that Hamas is believed to possess.

In a statement following the groundbreaking ceremony, Shalev called the plan to build the new urban combat centers “nothing less than a revolution,” as IDF soldiers will get ever closer to the true experience of war.

The plans for a new urban warfare training facility in northern Israel that is meant to simulate a Lebanese village, which were unveiled on May 29, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The plans for a new urban warfare training facility in northern Israel that is meant to simulate a Lebanese village, which were unveiled on May 29, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

“[Snir] is a Lebanese village, showing the Lebanese challenge, which is growing greater; showing the Lebanese enemy (Hezbollah), which is developing. In the village, there are people acting as enemy fighters, who are very close to the types of threats that we expect from Hezbollah in the next round,” the senior IDF officer said.

“We’re studying [Hezbollah’s tactics] closely. We’re preparing troops to dress like Hezbollah, to act like Hezbollah, to think like Hezbollah,” he said.

The army plans to construct the three additional urban combat training centers in the next six years, two in the Jordan Valley and one in southern Israel.

The Snir facility will be built by the M+W Group, a German construction company.

“By chance, it will be built by the same company that built the Mali, but with totally different requirements,” the senior officer said.

The Mali facility in Tzeelim is not only used by the IDF, but is rented out to visiting militaries who are looking to practice urban combat.

According to the senior official, the Mali facility will also be renovated in the coming years.

The officer stressed that while the new Snir facility will be impressive on its own, “it’s only one of four. It’s very important, but it’s only the first.” (the Times of Israel)

Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill to get new amphitheater

On Jerusalem Day last week, the cornerstone was laid for a new amphitheater on Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill (Givat Hatachmoshet), in a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of one of the Six Day War’s fiercest battles.

Attending the ceremony was Australian-Jewish philanthropist Harry Oscar Triguboff, who is providing financial support for the project; Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site Chairman Menachem Landau; Triguboff Institute CEO Shalom Norman; Six Day War veterans, and bereaved families.

During the ceremony, Landau and Triguboff signed two copies of a launch charter. One of the copies was buried in the ground, and the second was awarded to Triguboff.

The new amphitheater will serve a venue for lectures, events and ceremonies.

“The last time Jerusalem was united under Jewish sovereignty was during the period of the revolt of Bar Kokhba, and this lasted for several years,” Norman said. “Today we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification.”

“We must ensure that this reunification will be a substantial one, not only on paper but also on the land — a reunification of the peoples living in the city – Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.

“I believe that this was the will of the valiant soldiers who fought and died on this hill, and it is to this end that we must remind ourselves and the generations who visit and walk past this Hill.”

This is not the first Ammunition Hill project Triguboff is supporting.

In 2016, the ‘Jerusalem Garden’ which surrounds the memorial site and a special historical exhibit were inaugurated. The 2016 ceremony was attended by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Zeev Elkin (Likud).

Amphitheatre

Shalom Normon, Menachem Landau and Harry Triguboff

Ammunition Hill was the name given to the fortified Jordanian military post in northern Jerusalem which was the scene of one of the fiercest battles of the Six-Day War. The area remained under Jordanian rule following the War of Independence but was liberated along with eastern Jerusalem and the Old City in 1967.

After the war, the former Jordanian military post was converted into an official memorial site. Ammunition Hill is one the the most important symbols of Israeli military achievements and an important source of pride for Israeli paratroopers. (Arutz Sheva)

Israeli Researchers Develop New ALS Treatment

Researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) announced the development of a new treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The lethal neurodegenerative disorder causes deterioration in the brain and spinal cord’s motor nerve cells, leading to atrophy, paralysis and eventually death caused by a complete breakdown of the respiratory muscles.

BGU researcher Dr. Rachel Lichtenstein has developed a new method for slowing the advancement of ALS by successfully redesigning a segment of FDA-approved drug MabThera — used to treat autoimmune diseases and certain types of cancer — into a new molecule for treating ALS.

“Our experimental results on ALS transgenic mice showed a significant increase in life expectancy,” said Lichtenstein. “Since the drug is already approved, we believe that we will only need limited preclinical testing to reach the clinical phase earlier than other initiatives.”

Dr. Ora Horovitz, senior vice president of business development at BGN Technologies, BGU’s technology transfer and commercialization company said, “This could also have major implications on the life expectancy of other neurodegenerative disease patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” The new drug candidate, she said, could improve “the lives of millions of people.”

BGU researchers are seeking a pharmaceutical company to partner with the university on the initiative. (the Algemeiner)

Israel’s Cannabis Decriminalization Policy Comes Into Effect

Israel’s new cannabis decriminalization policy, approved by the government in March, officially came into effect on Sunday, commencing a new legal approach towards the recreational use of marijuana in the Jewish state.

The new government policy shifts the responsibility of enforcing marijuana laws from police to civil authorities. Yet recreational cannabis use is not fully legalized in Israel, and the Israel Police clarified that “even under the new enforcement policy, cannabis use will stay illegal in the public sector,” reported Yedioth Ahronoth.

Possessing more than 15 grams of cannabis remains illegal in Israel. Further, individuals caught carrying less than 15 grams may still be apprehended depending on whether or not the marijuana is determined to be for personal consumption or distribution, based upon the way it is packaged. If police determine the cannabis is for personal use, the individual’s criminal past will be checked; if no drug-related offenses are found, the individual will be fined NIS 1,000 ($280).

Second-time cannabis offenses will result in a NIS 2,000 ($560) fine, third-time offenders will be investigated for drug offenses and have the violation added to their criminal record, and fourth-time offenders will be indicted. A refusal to pay fines could result in a prison sentence of up to one year. (the Algemeiner)

Palestinians: Abbas Immediately Breaks Promises to Trump

by Bassam Tawil                    The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10433/abbas-trump-promises

Less than 24 hours after the Abbas-Trump meeting in Bethlehem, in which Abbas promised Trump and his representative, Jason Greenblatt, to cease all forms of incitement against Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Ramallah resumed its vicious rhetorical attacks on Israel.

The Palestinian denial of Jewish ties and history to the land also continues full blast, despite Abbas’s pledge to Trump that Palestinians are not in conflict with Jews or Judaism.

Hard on the heels of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s assurances to US President Donald Trump that he is raising Palestinians on a “culture of peace,” he continues to glorify terrorists who have Jewish blood on their hands.

Abbas, who met with Trump in Bethlehem on May 23, told reporters that he was committed to working with the new US administration to achieve a “historic peace deal with Israel.” Abbas also announced his readiness to become a “partner in the war on terrorism in our region and the world.” He claimed that he and his Palestinian Authority have been promoting “tolerance and coexistence, and spreading a culture of peace and renouncing violence.”

Abbas’s sweet talk, however, did not last long. Just hours after Trump left the region, Abbas and his PA returned to their anti-Israel incitement. This stands in blinding contrast to what Abbas told Trump and his Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, with whom Abbas met 48 hours after his get-together with Trump in Bethlehem.

At a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah on May 25, Abbas described Palestinian prisoners held by Israel as “heroes.”

His remarks came in response to the hunger strike of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are serving lengthy terms for murdering or wounding hundreds of Israelis. The hunger strike, which began on April 17, is led by Marwan Barghouti, a senior official with Abbas’s Fatah faction who is serving five life terms in prison for his role in a spate of terror attacks that killed five Israelis during the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

Referring to the convicted terrorists as “our heroes,” Abbas lashed out at the Israeli government for its refusal to surrender to the demands of the hunger strikers.

“We will stand with them and support them,” Abbas said, referring to the convicted terrorists. “We will emerge triumphant and we won’t allow [Israel] to defeat or humiliate the prisoners.”

Abbas’s powerful message flies in the face of his promise to Trump and his representative, Jason Greenblatt, to cease all forms of incitement against Israel.

By describing the convicted terrorists as “heroes,” Abbas is in fact sending a message to all Palestinians that murdering Jews is a noble and heroic act.

Such rhetoric prompts Palestinians to launch terror attacks against Israelis. It is a clear call by Abbas for Palestinians to follow in the footsteps of terrorists and murderers.

Is this Abbas’s way of promoting a “culture of peace” among his people? Is this his version of encouraging Palestinians to renounce violence?

Less than 24 hours after the Abbas-Trump meeting in Bethlehem, in which he promised Trump and envoy Jason Greenblatt to cease all forms of incitement against Israel, the PA government in Ramallah resumed its vicious rhetorical attacks on Israel.

The attacks came in response to celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem. They also came in response to routine and peaceful visits by Jews to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

In a statement issued by the Palestinian Authority on May 24 that is reminiscent of a medieval blood libel against Jews, Israel was accused of perpetrating “black crimes” against Jerusalem and Palestinians and of defiling Islamic holy sites in the city.

It described the Jews visiting the Temple Mount as “extremist settlers” and falsely claimed that they were deliberately targeting the Al-Aqsa Mosque (on the Temple Mount). In fact, Jewish visitors never enter the mosque.

It is precisely this kind of rhetoric that drives Palestinians to launch knife and car-ramming attacks against Israelis. For the past year and a half, Abbas and his PA officials and institutions have been waging a poisonous campaign of incitement surrounding peaceful, permitted Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. The incitement has resulted in a wave of terror attacks against Israelis. How does this fit in with promoting peace?

Abbas’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, both before and after the meeting with Trump, has also joined the chorus of glorifying convicted terrorists.

In a statement on May 25, Hamdallah, who is often referred to by Westerners as a moderate and pragmatist, stated: “We salute the legendary steadfastness displayed by the knights of freedom, our heroic prisoners.”

Like his boss, Abbas, Hamdallah also strongly condemned the Israeli government for failing to comply with the hunger strikers’ demands, which include increased family visitations, allowing inmates to have a photograph with their families every three months, installing more TV channels and air conditioning in their cells, and increased access to university studies.

Hamdallah and Abbas are sending precisely the same message to the Palestinians: if you murder a Jew, you earn the title of “knight of freedom.” In other words, Hamdallah, too, is urging Palestinians to engage in acts of violence against Israelis.

One wonders exactly how Abbas and his officials will explain these statements to Trump and the U.S. Administration.

Experience has shown that the glorification of terrorism and jihad (holy war) only serves to encourage more Palestinians to take to the streets and stab or run over with their cars the first Jew they see.

The Palestinian denial of Jewish ties and history to the land also continues full blast, despite Abbas’s pledge to Trump that Palestinians are not in conflict with Jews or Judaism.

Hours after Trump left the region, Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, issued a statement that pointedly ignored any Jewish links to the land. “East Jerusalem, with its Islamic and Christian holy sites, will remain the eternal capital of the State of Palestine,” Abu Rudaineh announced. Note his deliberate omission of any reference to Jewish holy sites in the city.

This is neither a slip of the tongue nor a poorly-worded statement on the part of Abbas’s spokesman. Rather, it is an intentional denial of Jewish rights to Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, which Palestinians refer to as an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and claim has no significance to Jews. This has always been part of the Palestinian strategy — to deny Jewish rights and to delegitimize Israel.

Like his boss, Abbas, however, Abu Rudaineh seems to have a good sense of humor. He has called on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “stop his daily incitement against Palestinians and their leaders.” And what is the content of Netanyahu’s “incitement”? His statement that a united Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel.

In the view of Abbas’s spokesperson, such a statement is clear “incitement” — not the glorification of terrorists, not the incendiary anti-Israel rhetoric and not the continued denial of Jewish history and rights.

President Trump’s visit to Israel proved to be yet another opportunity for Abbas and his Palestinian Authority to practice once again their skills of deceit and deception. In English, everything sounds great. In Arabic, however, the messages sent by Abbas to his people take on the unmistakable ring of hate.

‘New dawn’ Trump is not the little ray of sunshine Israel needs

by  Shlomo Avineri   The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/new-dawn-trump-is-not-the-little-ray-of-sunshine-israel-needs/news-story/4b09f86b63bd8e77b9b869c2795144e1?login=1

When Donald Trump left Israel after his whirlwind 28-hour tour last week, much of the country breathed a sigh of relief. Trump had not, as many had feared, issued unsubstantiated statements or further destabilised the brittle regional status quo. He didn’t even tweet. But for Israel’s leaders, simply avoiding disaster isn’t enough; they want the US President working for their interests.

Not long ago, that outcome seemed likely. During his campaign, Trump looked like a dream come true for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

He promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “on day one”, and to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran that had been spearheaded by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Moreover, when Obama, as one of his last acts as president, refused to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, Trump railed against him. For Israel’s government, which had been embroiled in bitter controversies with the Obama administration for eight years, Trump appeared to represent, in Netanyahu’s own words, “a new dawn”.

So far, however, the sun hasn’t risen. The US embassy remains in Tel Aviv, though the administration says a move to Jerusalem is still under consideration. The nuclear agreement with Iran remains intact, and the other countries involved — including US allies — seem to want to keep it that way. During Netanyahu’s visit to Washington in February, Trump publicly urged him to “restrain” settlement construction in the West Bank.

Netanyahu has continued to laud Trump as the most Israel-friendly US president ever. But all of these disappointments are having an effect. Grumbles about Trump’s unpredictability punctuate unofficial conversations in government circles, with some of the government coalition’s more right-wing members having even accused Trump of betrayal.

For left-wing Israelis, quite the opposite has happened. Having detested Trump from the start, some have started to wonder whether his unique lack of loyalty to US diplomatic tradition might actually be a boon for peace. Perhaps Trump’s consummate ignorance will make him the Forrest Gump of the Middle East, somehow able to bring about what he has called “the ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians.

In fact, Trump’s recent visit did little to indicate what Israel can expect from his administration. He did offer plenty of warm pro-Israel rhetoric, referencing the deep historical links between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. And, much to the pleasure of the Israeli right, he made no mention of a two-state solution.

Trump also visited the Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, making him the first sitting US president to do so. And, at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, he delivered a moving speech about the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis, correcting his failure even to mention Jews in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January.

Yet there were also some bitter pills. While praising the beauty of Jerusalem’s holy sites, Trump never referred to the city as the capital of Israel, much less reiterate his campaign promise to move the US embassy there. And, standing next to Netanyahu at a press conference, Trump declared that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas really wants peace, which did not sit well with an Israeli government that insists Abbas is no partner for peace talks.

Ultimately, however, Trump’s trip to Israel contained little substance at all. (“Where’s the beef?” an Israeli newspaper asked.) That contrasts sharply with Trump’s previous stop, Saudi Arabia — a visit that was all business. Saudi Arabia clearly enchanted Trump. King Salman embraced Trump’s war against terrorism and anti-Iran rhetoric and expressed support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Nothing was said about human rights, much less women’s rights, and the word “democracy” never passed Trump’s lips.

Instead, he completed a deal to provide $US110 billion ($147bn) in advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia, which in turn will invest heavily in the US economy. The agreement appears to have become the foundation of a wonderful new friendship between the world’s oldest democracy and its most repressive Islamic regime. For Trump, as for US president Calvin Coolidge, the chief business of the American people is business.

For Israel, this is more than a little concerning. Some of Netanyahu’s top cabinet ministers, including hawkish Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman and Yuval Steinitz, a member of the security cabinet, quickly expressed concern about the arms deal. Within Israel’s right wing, many worry that Trump is merely trying to appease Israel with rhetoric, and views Saudi Arabia as the mainstay of US interests in the region.

It is possible that Trump hopes Saudi Arabia’s support can help drive negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. But given Trump’s failure to take a real stand on any of the core areas of disagreement — including borders, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem — the idea that he is playing some well-thought-out long game on the Israel-Palestine conflict seems far-fetched.

The more likely scenario with Trump is more of the same: rhetoric that is by turns pleasing and contradictory, with no consideration of the confusion and uncertainty that could result — and no meaningful effort to narrow the gap between Israelis and Palestinians. In their disappointment with Trump, however, two bitterly divided camps — Israel’s right and left — may find common ground.

Shlomo Avineri is a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

They promised………..