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Latest Israel News – 30th May

This photo of the Temple Mount from 1967 was published this week in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem:

The “third-holiest site in Islam,” while under Muslim control, was filled with – weeds.

No one visited. No one cared.

The only time Muslims care about Jerusalem is when Jews (or Christians) control it.

When Muslims controlled it, there are next to no pilgrimages. The entire complex was mostly empty and decrepit.

Muslims never venerated  their “third holiest site” .   (Elders of Ziyon)

Cabinet meeting in Kotel tunnels marks 50 years of reunification

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special cabinet meeting on Sunday in the Western Wall tunnels to mark the 50th reunification of Jerusalem, which was celebrated last week.

In addition to a NIS 50-million plan to improve accessibility to the Western Wall by building an elevator to the site from the Jewish Quarter and the construction of a cable car from the First Station in Baka to the Dung Gate, the cabinet also approved plans to improve public health, education and welfare facilities throughout the city, reduce air pollution, expand the Jerusalem International Convention Center and take steps to encourage government workers to live in the capital.


Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, condemned Israel for holding its weekly cabinet meeting at the site.

“The Israeli government has decided to mark 50 years of occupation and the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan by sending a clear message to the Palestinian people that the systematic violations of their inalienable rights are going to continue,” Erekat said.

He called on countries, which he said are allowing Israel to undertake “illegal actions,” to hold it accountable. “It is no longer acceptable that after 50 years of the Israeli occupation, for countries to claim to support the twostate solution while giving assurances to Israel that there will be no consequences for its illegal actions,” he remarked.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the cabinet was meeting at the site where King Solomon built the First Temple, and where the returnees from Babylon built the Second Temple.

“Thousands of years have passed, and the Jewish people returned to its land, established its state and is building its united capital,” he said. (the Jerusalem Post)

Trump yelled at Abbas: ‘You tricked me in DC,’ Israeli TV reports

On the surface, US President Donald Trump’s relations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been surprisingly warm, but that belies a furious critique leveled by Trump at Abbas in their meeting in Bethlehem last week, an Israeli TV report said.

An angry Trump yelled at Abbas during their talks last Tuesday for his alleged direct involvement in incitement against Israel, Channel 2 reported, citing an unnamed American source.

“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 is said to have shouted at a shocked Abbas.

The TV report said the outburst was followed by several minutes of shocked 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.

The Channel 2 TV report gave the alleged quotes in Hebrew. Its reporter, Udi Segal, posted some of the alleged wording in English on Twitter.

Speaking alongside Abbas after their meeting in Bethlehem, which came on the second day of Trump’s trip to Israel and the territories, the US president seemed to criticize Palestinian support for terror, but praised Abbas’s commitment to peace, saying the PA president had “committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology.

“I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal,” Trump said. “President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same. I look forward to working with these leaders toward a lasting peace.”

Speaking before Trump, Abbas said that the Palestinians’ “fundamental problem is with occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine as we recognize it,” and not with “Judaism.”

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 “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.”

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

Palestinian officials have generally countered the claim by arguing that draconian Israeli measures and decades of occupation, not incitement, instill hatred and inspire terrorism.

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 of 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.

At Trump’s final appearance in Israel, at the Israel Museum on Tuesday afternoon, the president declared that Abbas and the Palestinians “are ready to reach for peace.” Departing from his prepared text, he added: “I know you’ve heard it before. I am telling you. That’s what I do. They are ready to reach for peace.”

Netanyahu, at the same event, by contrast, noted that if the previous evening’s Manchester terrorist attack had been carried out by a Palestinian suicide bomber and had killed Israelis, then Abbas, far from condemning it alongside Trump in Bethlehem, would have been making payments to the terrorist’s family. Said Netanyahu: “If the attacker had been Palestinian and the victims had been Israeli children, the suicide bomber’s family would have received a stipend from the Palestinian Authority. That’s Palestinian law. That law must be changed.” (the Times of Israel)

‘Arab states see Trump presidency as chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace’

The Arab world views US President Donald Trump as an opportunity for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, followed by normalization between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, parliamentarians from several countries told MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union).

Bar met over the weekend with lawmakers from Iraq, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority as well as Kurdish representatives at a conference in Ulaanbaatar (formerly known as Ulan Bator), Mongolia, organized by the Progressive Alliance, an international organization of left-wing parties, where he presented his version of the two-state solution.

The conference began Friday, shortly after Trump’s visit to Israel, and Bar said representatives of Muslim countries were eager to speak to him about it.

“To my surprise… they see him as a strong president to make peace,” he said Sunday.

“They think the government of Israel and [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] must and can take advantage of Trump’s momentum to enter negotiations and reach a solution.

“They have high expectations of Trump, who’s seen as strong and decisive, as opposed to [former president Barack] Obama,” Bar said. “They see how he responded to ISIS and what he did in Syria [using military force against both], and they think he will try to force an agreement in our area. That’s something Israel needs to think hard about.”

In his talks with the Arab lawmakers, Bar found they do not think there is a chance for any regional agreement, if it does not come hand in hand with a final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

“They said that there won’t be normalization without progress on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, but if it is solved, it will open a major gate for Israel with Sunni Arab countries,” he said.

Bar also said more than one representative mentioned the Arab Peace Initiative, finding it strange that 15 years after it was proposed, Israel has not responded to it at all.

“They see on one side a freeze in negotiations, with the Arab world stretching its hand out, having come a long way,” he said. “They see it as impolite and wrong that Israel isn’t responding, not even to say no… They want cooperation and diplomatic and economic ties, but it won’t happen until there is peace with the Palestinians.”

Bar said he was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response he received to his peace plan, which includes Israel recognizing a Palestinian state and then negotiating borders, based on the pre-1967 lines with land swaps to account for settlement blocs, and other core issues.

Bar said the representatives of Muslim states told him they had not known there were Israeli politicians who wanted a twostate solution, because “they only hear about the Right.”

The deputy Knesset speaker could not give more specific details regarding whom he had spoken to due to the conference’s rules.  (the Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu, Trump in joint Knesset-Congress event for 50 years of united Jerusalem

The Knesset and the Congress will jointly mark 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem in an event scheduled to be broadcast on live video link between the two legislatures next Tuesday. The move could be viewed as tacit recognition by the White House of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and spark controversy.

Sources told The Jerusalem Post that either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence will participate in the event on Capitol Hill, alongside Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, its host. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will take part from the Knesset. All members of Knesset and both houses of Congress have been invited to the event, which was organized by Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.

While the US does not officially recognize Israeli sovereignty in the parts of Jerusalem that Israel liberated in 1967, White House participation in the event could be viewed as tacit acknowledgment of Israel’s position regarding Jerusalem. The event comes after Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall during his trip here last week but held back from making any mention of Jerusalem Day, celebrated the day after he left the country.

In his letter to the senators and the congressmen, Edelstein wrote that Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of the State of Israel, is the seat of our parliament – the Knesset. Jerusalem is also the city where the prophets of Israel spoke to the world of the universal values of morality, equality, freedom and monotheism. In Jewish tradition, this is the city where heaven and earth are linked together and the home of the holy Temple [is situated], sacred to all Jews around the world.”

Edelstein pointed out that people of all religions come to pray in Jerusalem and described the custom of writing wishes to God and putting them in the cracks of the Western Wall. He invited American lawmakers to send him their prayers.

“I will make sure your notes are placed between the sacred stones of the Western Wall,” he wrote.

So far, the Knesset has received 15 notes to put in the Kotel.

The event comes along with a strong push from Jerusalem to recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

Netanyahu called on the US and all other countries to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem. Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin both asked Trump to recognize the capital during his visit to Israel last week.

While Trump did neither of those things, he mentioned the millennia of Jewish history in Jerusalem during his address at the Israel Museum. (the Jerusalem Post)

Government approves mammoth projects to upgrade access to Western Wall

In a special session of the cabinet held in the Western Wall tunnels complex Sunday morning, the government approved two massive projects to facilitate easier access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The first is an ambitious and prestigious initiative that will cost some NIS 200 million to build a cable car from the capital’s First Train Station complex to the Dung Gate of the Old City in order to improve general access to the Western Wall.

The second will be to build an elevator to provide greater accessibility from the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall plaza.

The government on Sunday approved NIS 15m. for the preliminary stages of the cable car project and another NIS 50m. plan to build the elevator, which has received all the necessary permits.

Currently the only pedestrian access down to the Western Wall from the Jewish Quarter and back up to it is via a long set of stairs. That creates problems for those with limited mobility, as well as for families with strollers.

Access is also available from just inside the Dung Gate, or from two points coming from the Muslim Quarter, although one of these is also via a long staircase and the other requires a lengthy walk, down many stairs, through the Old City market.

The elevator project has been in the works for the last 13 years but has only now been approved.

Construction can begin immediately, however, since all the required permits have already been obtained.

The entrance to the elevator will be stationed on Misgav Ladach Street in the Jewish Quarter and will descend 26 meters to the level of the Western Wall plaza. A pedestrian tunnel, meanwhile, will be constructed from the exit of the elevator to a security check point leading out to the site.

At a later stage, several large underground floors may be built that will include space for a series of shops, public services and passageways.

Should the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed railway be extended to the Old City, moving stairs would also connect the station to this Western Wall access complex.

The cable car will be routed from the First Station to the Dung Gate and may also extend to the Mount of Olives. It will greatly enhance the number of people able to access the Western Wall and Old City.

It will extend to as much as 1,400 meters, using 40 cars that can hold 10 passengers each and transport 3,000 passengers an hour.

Construction Minister Yoav Gallant, who is responsible for the elevator project, lauded the initiative and said it demonstrates the importance of the Western Wall to the Jewish consciousness.

“Jewish ethics begin at the Western Wall, the very heart of the Jewish people,” said Gallant. “The government of Israel has said today, with a clear and clarion voice: ‘The eyes of the Jewish people have been directed toward Jerusalem and the Western Wall for 2,000 years. Now, the State of Israel is not only declaring that the Western Wall belongs to it, but it is also investing its resources in it.’” (the Jerusalem Post)

Australian Women leaders take stock of Israeli technology innovation

Cyber security, the internet of things and Israel’s cutting edge innovation will be major issues to be studied as part of a business delegation of senior women business leaders heading to Israel this week.

“Israel’s ability to innovate from a population base only a third of Australia’s should have all Australian business people intrigued,” delegation leader and company director Diane Smith-Gander told The Australian.

She said the delegation would focus on Israel’s innovation ecosystem, cyber security and retail tech offerings. “I am particularly interested in how the cyber security offerings might help Australian companies look around the corner,” she said.

Ms Smith-Gander said she was also keen to see if there were any ideas she could bring back in her role as a director of Wesfarmers, which owns Coles, Bunnings, Officeworks, Target and Kmart.

Ms Smith-Gander is returning for her second visit to Israel after a trip last year.

“I know I will unlock more lessons on this trip to make me a more informed non-executive director,” she said.

“Collaborations between government, business and academia in Israel are many and successful. I want to dig into how we could copy this in Australia.”

Ms Smith-Gander said she was also interested in studying the impact of Israel’s move to cut its corporate tax rate in January last year from 26.5 per cent to 25 per cent.

“The corporate tax rate cut was designed to encourage growth and competitiveness,” she said. “I’ll be looking for evidence to see if that’s worked.”

Former federal communications minister Helen Coonan, who is a director of the Crown casino group, said she was interested in studying Israel’s success in the commercialisation of ideas.

“We need to keep asking ourselves what is it that enables a country like Israel to be a start-up nation,” she said.

“In Australian we seem to get stuck in a couple of spots.”

Ms Coonan said she was also interested in studying issues of cyber security, data analytics and the internet of things during her visit to Israel.

Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce NSW chair Jillian Segal, who will also be on the trip with about 40 women, said there was an “ecosystem of innovation in Israel” where academia business and government “are intimately connected with the national interest in mind”.

“Given the successful joint venture between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and the Weizmann Institute in Israel, I am also interested in other collaborations that we can possibly seed.”

This week’s delegation is the second in the past few months of senior Australian business women visiting Israel.

Reserve Bank board member Carol Schwartz has just returned from leading an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce business delegation to Israel with Australian Institute of Company Directors chairman Elizabeth Proust.

Ms Schwartz told The Australian that there was now more collaboration between Australia and Israel across a number of sectors, especially in the educational space through institutions like Swinburne University.

“There is definitely the desire for more collaboration to happen,’’ she said.  (the Australian)

Trump’s message: No Mideast peace without Israeli concession

The US president’s visit to Israel was a sort of preparation for the process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During his Mideast trip, and mainly in Saudi Arabia, Trump learned that solving the conflict is a condition for normalizing relations between the Arab states and Israel.

by Ron Ben-Yishai                   Ynet News


US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel was historic in many senses, mostly symbolic. In a practical sense, the non-Israeli part of the Mideast trip was actually the significant part, while the visit to Israel was a sort of preparation—foreplay if you like—for a process of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which President Trump plans to launch in the near future.

All these things were noticeable in the American president’s speech at the Israel Museum, shortly before he left the country. This speech included three messages: First of all, Israel is the closest ally the US has in the Middle East. Second, Israel is not the problem but, in many senses, the solution to the Middle East’s problems. And third, under no circumstances does the US intend on treating the parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict equally—it explicitly favors the State of Israel.

Another clear message was stated on Tuesday: The US will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. That is much more than former President Barack Obama’s formula that “all options are on the table”—while it was clear that that was not the case.

Trump showed that he still won’t let the facts bother him. He said there was a “big, beautiful difference” between his administration and the previous one, and then brought up American military aid for the Iron Dome project and the purchase of F-35 stealth fighters as an example. Unfortunately, both deals were signed and largely initiated by President Obama and his administration, which proves that President Trump sees “fake news” as a legitimate weapon, as long as it is in his hands and not in other people’s hands.

Trump’s Israel Museum speech

As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump avoided publicly laying down the path in which he wants to establish peace between the parties. He only said two things: One, that he had found a firm commitment to the process both in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; and two, that a change must come from both sides and from the inside.

In other words, Trump said, the parties must make the mutual concessions, and we won’t impose anything on them, although we will definitely help them—perhaps by exerting a little pressure sometimes—reach decisions. Nevertheless, Trump is clearly sticking to the policy adopted by the Obama administration and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who kept saying that the parties must make peace between them, and that the US should not force them into it.

The American president didn’t present any practical or concrete move through which he plans to launch the process of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He made no announcement on an international summit in the summer, as “inside sources” had predicted, or on the duration of the negotiations, which would be limited—according to those same sources—to 12 or 18 months.

Trump didn’t say anything that would serve as an indication of how he plans to turn the words and the promises into action on the ground, even if this ground is the diplomatic arena. But people who have heard him or received reports on his conversations with Middle East leaders are under the impression that the president is very determined to strike the big, ultimate deal.

Those same people got the impression that the Israeli-Palestinian deal is, at the moment, the main foreign relations legacy Trump plans to leave behind. Like every American president, Trump is already working on his “legacy” on the first year of his term.

So how does this information fit in with the allegedly insignificant things that Trump said in his speech? A possible answer is that Trump has yet to form a real outline, and that his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority was aimed at preparing public opinion. We should pay attention to the fact that Trump showered his hosts with as many compliments as they showered him with, likely as a way to soften the sides—foreplay, if you like—ahead of the purposeful action that will follow.

Trump’s target audience: US public opinion

The things Trump didn’t say were actually more meaningful. He didn’t talk about the settlements, neither favorably nor negatively, and he didn’t mention the two-state solution at all. Trump understands that these two issues could get Netanyahu in trouble with the Bayit Yehudi party and with people in the prime minister’s own Likud party, and he doesn’t want those people to restrict Netanyahu before he decides with his advisors which path to take.

In short, the Mideast visit’s main purpose was to strengthen Trump’s standing in American public opinion through the deal with the Saudis and through uncompromising sympathy towards the State of Israel and the alliance with the Jewish state.

American public opinion was also his target audience when he repositioned the US as a key player in the Middle East, and when he put himself at the lead of the moderate Sunni coalition—in which Israel is a silent partner—against the Shiite radical axis led by Iran.

All this works in favor of the State of Israel. Netanyahu’s right-wing government, however, probably won’t like the fact Trump learned during his journey to the Middle East, and mainly in the time he spent in Saudi Arabia, that there is no chance of normalizing relations between the Arab states and Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved.

That is why he said in Bethlehem that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a condition for peace in the Middle East. In other words, Israel is not responsible for the fact that there is no peace in the Middle East, but without an Israeli concession—there will be no peace in the Middle East. And that, if you like, is the whole point according to Donald J. Trump.