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Latest Israel News – 30th August

Greeting UN Secretary General Guterres, Netanyahu rips UN, says Iran turning Lebanon, Syria into warfronts against Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday with blistering criticism of the international body’s treatment of Israel and accused it of failing to prevent arms from being smuggled to Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah terror group.

Netanyahu also claimed that Iran is building sites in Syria and Lebanon for the manufacture of “precision-guided missiles,” with the aim of deploying them against Israel.

Both Hezbollah fighters and Iran have backed President Bashar Assad’s government forces in the civil war that has ravaged Syria.

“Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment, and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as warfronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel,” Netanyahu said. “This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept.”

The Israeli leader offered no specifics to support his allegations.

Guterres arrived on Sunday for a three-day visit to the region, his first since taking office at the beginning of the year. His meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders are aimed at encouraging the resumption of peace talks.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the UN chief, Netanyahu criticized the United Nations, saying that it fails to check Palestinian hate speech, “absurdly denies” Jewish connections to Jerusalem and has not stopped arms from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon.

He was referring to a recent UN cultural agency resolution about Jerusalem that angered Israel, which said it diminishes Jewish ties to the city. Israel also criticized the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, for being, according to Israel, soft on Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces in the border area.

Guterres vowed that he will “do everything in my capacity” to ensure UNIFIL fulfills its obligations. The UN peacekeeping force’s mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month and Israel is pressing for the force to have an increased presence to better monitor and prevent what Israel says is Hezbollah building up its weapons.

“I understand the security concerns of Israel and I repeat that the idea or the intention or the will to destroy the state of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective,” the UN chief said.

Earlier, President Reuven Rivlin called on Guterres to curb what he described as “the discrimination against Israel” in some UN institutions.

Guterres, in turn, stressed his commitment to impartiality in “treating all states equally.” He said those who call for Israel’s destruction peddle in a “form of modern anti-Semitism” — though he also said he doesn’t always agree with the country’s policies.

During a visit to the Holocaust memorial before meeting Israeli leaders, he warned that anti-Semitism remains “alive and well” in today’s world and vowed to combat all forms of racism and bigotry.

“I believe that the horror of the Holocaust should be such that anti-Semitism should now be dead forever,” he said, adding how he was shocked “to listen to the chant of a group of neo-Nazis in a developed country in the world, chanting ‘blood and soil’, the slogan of the Nazis.”

Guterres will meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday in the West Bank. He is scheduled to visit Gaza on Wednesday. (the Times of Israel)

In Meeting With Kushner, Abbas Defiantly Vows to Continue PA Terror Payments Policy, Palestinian Newspaper Reports

A leading Palestinian newspaper published an account on Monday of a tense encounter between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in Ramallah last week.

Al-Quds, a Jerusalem-based newspaper that is close to the PA, reported that Kushner had raised the issue of the so-called “martyr payments” made to convicted terrorists and their families — a policy dubbed “pay to slay” that costs the PA more than $300 million annually. The Taylor Force Act, which is likely to be voted on during the upcoming session of the US Congress, would make American aid to the PA contingent on a wholesale abandonment of the “martyr payments.”

Gal Berger, a leading Israeli journalist who covers Palestinian affairs, was quoted in the Al-Quds piece as saying that “Abbas informed Kushner that he would never stop paying these salaries until his dying day, even if this cost him the presidency.”

Added Berger — in a translation of the Al Quds article made available by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — “Abbas’s statements reflect a measure of the Palestinian anger over the focus of the US delegation on this topic and its disregard of core issues such as the two-state solution and the halting of the settlements.”

During the same meeting, Abbas was reportedly infuriated by Kushner’s refusal “to define the borders on the Palestinian state as the 1967 borders, but said that this would be a matter to be agreed upon by the Israeli and Palestinian sides.” On the two-state solution specifically, Kushner was said to have shown “some openness” on the matter.

According to Berger, Abbas reiterated his desire for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative — which calls for a Palestinian state with its capital in eastern Jerusalem  — to be used as the basis for any future negotiations with the Israeli government. If attempts to restart talks fail, Berger continued, Abbas was likely to lobby the UN Security Council for increased pressure upon Israel, as well as seeking the admission of an independent State of Palestine as a full UN member.

Following his meeting with Kushner, Abbas issued a statement through the PA’s Facebook page underlining his unwavering support for the payments to terrorists. “I will never stop [paying] the allowances to the families of the prisoners and released prisoners, even if this costs me my position and my presidency,” the PA president said. “I will pay them until my dying day.”  (the Algemeiner)

Netanyahu: We will never abandon West Bank settlements to radical Islam

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that Israel would remain in Samaria and that radical Islam would never create a base on its hilltops.

“It has been proven that uprooting settlements does not foster peace,” Netanyahu said on Monday, as he spoke at a ceremony celebrating 50 years of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. “We have returned here to stay and, there will be no more uprooting of settlements,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking to thousand of participants who sat on plastic chairs in a large open air area in the Barkan Industrial Park, Netanyahu recalled how the demolition of 21 settlements in Gaza and four in northern Samaria in 2005 had only lead to a major increase of violence against Israel from Gaza.

“We uprooted settlements, and we received missiles,” he said. “Samaria is the key to our future. I am asking all those who visit here and all foreign leaders to imagine a radical Islamic base on these hilltops. It would endanger us, and the region as a whole,” Netanyahu said.

The hilltops of Samaria guard Route 6, one of Israel’s major highways, and Ben-Gurion Airport.

Initiatives to push Israel to abandon Samaria will be met with increased building, Netanyahu said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets the crowd at a ceremony celebrating 50 years of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. (Prime Minister’s Office)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets the crowd at a ceremony celebrating 50 years of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. (Prime Minister’s Office)

“This is a period of development in Judea and Samaria,” the prime minister said. “We are leading this initiative. There is no government in Israel that has done more on behalf of the settlements than the one under my leadership.”

Separately, Netanyahu promised to return home the bodies of the two soldiers believed killed in the 2014 Gaza war, as well as the Israeli civilian believed missing in Gaza.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan lauded Netanyahu for his leadership, saying that he was certain the prime minister would continue to lead the country for many years to come.

Dagan asked Netanyahu to give residents the power to build and develop the area.

“The land in Samaria is crying out for new settlements,” he said. In particular, Dagan asked Netanyahu to allow his council to rebuild the four settlements in northern Samaria that were destroyed during the 2005 disengagement: Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim.

Dagan said he was making this request as a former resident of Sa-Nur whose home was destroyed in 2005.

“We have returned to the land of the Bible, to the land where Joshua built his alter and to where Joseph is buried,” said Dagan. “We have returned and plan to remain here eternally.” (Jerusalem Post)

Negotiator: Israel should hold 200 Palestinians for each Israeli captive

For every Israeli soldier kidnapped by the enemy, Israel should hold 200 of their fighters, Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, former coordinator on the issue of prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, said in recordings aired on Army Radio on Monday.

“If the enemy is holding one of our soldiers, a war should end with Israel holding 200 of theirs.

If it’s two then we should hold 400, if it’s three of ours then it should be 600 of theirs,” Lotan, who resigned last week after three years in the position, is heard saying in recordings taped several months ago.

“It doesn’t mean that the problem will be solved but the formula will be different,” Lotan added, arguing that the policy would provide Israel with a “kidnap bank” that will serve as a bargaining chip.

The goal, he says, would be to deter terrorist groups against holding Israelis captive.

Israel routinely holds the bodies of Palestinians, both Hamas terrorists and assailants shot dead while carrying out attacks during the two-year wave of violence in the West Bank and Israel. In December of last year Israel’s security cabinet decided that Israel will withhold the bodies of Palestinian terrorists killed in attacks against Israeli citizens.

“The security cabinet discussed ways to effect the return of fallen soldiers and of civilians held in the Gaza Strip… and decided that [the bodies of terrorists] should be buried, rather than returned,” a statement released at the time said.

Under the policy, the bodies would be buried in Israel and could be exhumed and handed back if Hamas was willing to strike deals with Israel.

Hamas is believed to be holding the bodies of missing IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul who were killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, as well as two other Israeli citizens who voluntarily crossed into the Strip.

Last September Lotan revealed that Israel offered to return the remains of 19 Hamas fighters, including one who took part in the attack in which Goldin was kidnapped, plus another 18 Palestinian terrorists taken into custody during Operation Protective Edge in exchange for the bodies of Goldin and Shaul. Hamas declined the deal.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that Israel will not repeat the “mistake” of freeing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for any Israeli citizen held in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, dead or alive.

Liberman added that before replacing Lotan it was important to “draw clear lines for the State of Israel and its emissaries and to especially stand firm against our enemies and make it clear to them that we have no intention of compromising on the security of the people of Israel.”

In addition to Goldin and Shaul, two other Israelis, Abera Mengistu, an Ethiopian- Israeli, and Hisham al-Sayed, a Beduin, are both believed to be held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Mengistu and Sayed suffer from psychiatric disorders and both crossed into the Gaza Strip voluntarily and have been missing for three years.

The cases of Mengistu and Sayed are viewed by Israel as a humanitarian issue unrelated to the cases of Goldin and Shaul, but Israel has made it clear that they hold the group responsible for the safety of both.

The terrorist organization has attempted to use all four as bargaining chips in negotiations for prisoner releases.  (Jerusalem Post)

IDF brass warns UN chief Hezbollah is growing in strength

The head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate, Major General Herzi Halevi, met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and briefed him on the intelligence situation in the various fronts, stressing that the UN could do more to prevent Hezbollah’s strengthening and its threatening of Israel.

Halevi briefed Guterres on the intelligence situation in the various sectors, and explained the Iranian establishment in Syria and Hezbollah’s power structure in Lebanon. He stressed that Iran’s desire to produce precision weapons for Hezbollah on Lebanese soil and in the Syrian military industry is a serious development that Israel can not be indifferent to.

“The consolidation of Iran and the Shiite axis in Syria, and the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon are two processes that could lead to an undesirable escalation in the northern front,” stated Halevi.

According to Halevi, Hezbollah is tightening its hold on Lebanon. He stated that UNIFIL holds an important role with Hezbollah and could exert pressure and hinder Hezbollah’s efforts to strengthen its position. Halevi stressed that more could be done on the UN’s part, not only to preserve peace but to prevent the next war

Earlier on Monday, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah broadcast a speech the Al-Manar television network, in which he declared the organization’s victory in the war against ISIS along the Syrian border. During his speech, Nasrallah also managed to sneak in a zinger against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that Netanyahu and senior Israeli officials “are the ones crying today about ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

“Israel is an enterprise of occupation and hegemony, the United States is a hegemony enterprise, and ISIS and the terrorist organizations are the extermination enterprise of every Muslim, Christian, Yazidi and everywhere. ISIS was supposed to destroy our region, the army and our institutions, delivering it santized and cooked for the US and Israel.”

Nasrallah added that as a result of ISIS’s defeat, “Who is crying over ISIS in Syria and Iraq? Netanyahu and senior Israeli officials,” adding that “they are the ones who cry and scream, they are the ones who have a problem with the Trump administration, whose priority now is to eliminate ISIS, the same Trump government that admitted it was the Obama administration that created ISIS. This is why it is impossible to claim there is a difference between liberation of South Lebanon (Hezbollah’s attempts to conquer the Israeli Golan Heights) and this campaign (against ISIS). It is a continuation of the campaign against Israel.”  (Ynet News)

Israeli Team Develops Method to Monitor Tumors Without Radiation

Doctors at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center have developed a new method to monitor tumors without injecting patients with radioactive substances or exposing them to ionizing radiation.

The method, detailed in a study published Thursday in the Nature Communications journal, was developed by the director of the Center for Hyperpolarized MRI Molecular Imaging, Rachel Katz-Brull, and her team at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Katz-Brull showed that by using magnetic resonance imaging, the nucleus of a phosphorus atom can alert doctors to suspicious acidity levels in the body, thereby revealing the possible existence of a tumor. The researchers used a special technique that allowed them to more easily identify the nucleus, enabling it to appear to “shine” 10,000 times brighter than normal.

“This diagnostic tool relates to the metabolic activity of the cells in a tumor or other tissue that may be suspicious,” Katz-Brull said. “It may provide a better way to determine whether tumors are malignant or benign, and help test the efficacy of treatment.”

The groundbreaking method makes it possible to avoid a biopsy or other invasive procedures to measure a tissue’s acidity levels, and also to determine whether a tumor is malignant or benign without having the patients undergo unnecessary radiation or be exposed to radioactive materials.  (JNS/the Algemeiner)

 US policy in Israel remains unclear after envoys’ visit

by Charles Bybelezer         The Media Line/The Jerusalem post


They came, they saw, they left – and to little fanfare at that.

Expectations were already tempered ahead of this week’s visit to the region by President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoys. It was always going to be an uphill battle for special adviser Jared Kushner and lead negotiator Jason Greenblatt, in particular, as the wheels of the two-decades-long effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict churn ever so slowly, when at all.

And following the latest meetings between the US delegation and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, it appears as though “Team America” is no closer to reaching a breakthrough to reestablish any meaningful negotiating process.

Besides the predictable platitudes and exchange of catchwords such as “positive,” “productive” and “possible,” few if any new ideas were reportedly presented, with one senior Palestinian aide reiterating that the US delegation refused even to commit to the two-state model; namely, the creation of an independent Palestinian state living sideby- side in peace and security with Israel. And while Abbas expressed “appreciation for Trump’s efforts to achieve a historic deal,” comments made earlier this month to dovish MKs are perhaps more representative of the Palestinian leader’s frustrations.

“I have met with Trump’s emissaries to the Middle East about 20 times since the start of his tenure,” Abbas was quoted in a statement transmitted by Meretz. “I have urged them to emphasize to Netanyahu [a commitment to the twostate solution and to the cessation of building across the 1967 borders], but they have refrained from doing so… I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos.”

In February, Trump declined altogether to box himself in on any of the so-called “core principles,” clarifying that he was instead “looking at two-state[s] and one-state… [and could] live with either.” The position was reiterated ahead of Abbas’s meeting with Kushner by the State Department, which asserted that, “we are not going to [pre-determine] what the outcome has to be – it has to be workable to both sides.

And I think that’s the best view [so] as to not really bias one side over the other.”

Moreover, according to reports, Kushner told Abbas that Trump would not take a firmer stance on Israeli construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank, as doing so could end up toppling Netanyahu’s government.

The White House denies these reports and claims that Kushner “never said” that.

Notably, the Palestinians were also unable to obtain a commitment to develop economically Area C.

On the flip side, Israeli media claimed that the Palestinian leadership reinforced its refusal to halt payments to prisoners in Israeli jails.

In the result, some Palestinian officials have warned that, in the absence of a public declaration by Trump on where he stands on these issues, the PA will once again turn to international bodies to achieve their goals. A senior official recently told The Media Line that the Palestinians would return to the UN and International Criminal Court irrespective of the outcome of the Trump envoys’ latest mission.

Nabeel Amro, a former Palestinian information minister, elaborated on the recent meetings. “The results are very humble,” he expressed to The Media Line, “as there was simply an agreement on the importance of scheduling further talks. While the Palestinian leadership has few options, this will be viewed as nothing more than an opportunity for Israel to entrench its occupation.”

The probability, he continued, “of gathering all sides at one table for negotiations is really small. The American administration is working from a perspective that supports Israel – this much is clear.”

In this respect, the engagement with the Israeli side did, in fact, appear more cordial, with Kushner affirming in advance that relations between Washington with Jerusalem were “stronger than ever.” For his part, Netanyahu said that there were “a lot of things to talk about,” not only including how to advance the peace process, but also regarding regional security, in general.

According to Omar Omran, a professor at Birzeit University, despite the US administration’s desire to convey a position of neutrality, the Palestinians are skeptical. “Kushner and his family support building illegal settlements in the West Bank – it is a problem,” he declared to The Media Line. “Kushner is not fair to the Palestinians, he only grasps the Israeli positions.

“The Palestinian leadership can say all it wants that the meetings were successful, but the actions and results on the ground are what matter.”

It is perhaps a lack of singular focus on Palestinian grievances that most irks the PA and most significantly differentiates Trump from his predecessors, who with laser-like determination previously honed in on extracting Israeli concessions as a precursor to unlocking the potential for reconciliation. For Trump, however, pressuring Jerusalem no longer seems like plan A, B or C; nor does it appear that Palestinian demands, some accepted as near-gospel for over a generation, will continue to guide the process or be used as an excuse to explain away the lack thereof.

The ball is now in Trump’s court; however, his range of action may be limited due to troubles at home.

“The US president is embroiled in his own domestic affairs,” explained Yossi Shain, the Romulo Betancourt Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University, to The Media Line.

“He came to the Middle East in March when he was in a very strong position, but he lost that touch and this is looming over him. That stature is difficult to regain and that impinges on his ability to act, as it will be very difficult for him to get collaboration from regional partners once they view him as weakened.”

According to Shain, also a professor of comparative government and Diaspora politics at Georgetown University, both Netanyahu and Abbas are similarly handicapped by internal politics, with the Israeli premier currently under investigation for “fraud, breach of trust and bribes;” whereas Abbas’s mandate technically ended nearly a decade ago and he faces a population of which a majority want him replaced and, in large part, has not been conditioned to make compromises for peace. As such, in Shain’s estimation, the process has arrived at “a stalemated situation unless Trump does something very dramatic in his deep need to feel legitimacy.”

After eight months of extensive shuttle diplomacy and feeling both sides out, will Trump in fact move to formulate a coherent policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? If so, will he hold firm and attempt to carve out a new peace path, conceivably within a regional framework somehow acceptable to all parties? Or will he, like many before him, stumble along the pre-existing winding road to “Never Never Land” – or perhaps altogether abandon the effort? As Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy to Washington, succinctly put it following the latest high-profile push by American peace-processors: “We need them to tell us where the hell they are going.”

The Double Standard attitude exercised towards Israel