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Latest Israel News – 3rd July

Blood Libel: Palestinian TV Claims Israel Gives Drugs to Young Palestinians

PA media is spreading a new libel against the Jewish state, accusing Israelis of dispersing drugs among young Palestinians.

Continuing its incitement campaign, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is spreading a new libel against the Jewish state, claiming Israeli officials are disseminating drugs among young Palestinians.

The PA, which funds terrorists imprisoned in Israel and their families as well as the families of “martyrs” who died while committing an attack, glorifies the violence against men, women and children. It also uses PA television to instill anti-Semitism and hate to young viewers.

In this clip, Palestinian Media Watch translates the words of Palestinian TV hosts making these absurd accusations against the State of Israel.

Labor to cast Israel adrift after 40 years

Labor will formally abandon ­almost 40 years of explicit ideological support for Israel with a resolution expected to be passed at this month’s NSW state conference, a move that would ultim­ately bind Bill Shorten to an unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state should he ­become prime minister.

A dramatic shift in language from the NSW branch is set to force the ALP national conference to adopt the same position next year, effectively ensuring federal Labor goes to the next election with a foreign policy position of unqualified recognition for a state of Palestine.

A significant hardening in the position contained in a motion endorsed by the NSW conference foreign affairs committee, obtaine­d by The Australian, has elevated what was previously conditional support for a Palestinian state based on a negotiated peace settlement and consult­ation with other countries, to a policy of categorical and immed­iate recognition of statehood.

A senior source close to the drafting of the motion claimed it was a “historic” move by Labor to effectively drop decades of ­“instinctive” support for Israel, which was cemented in 1977 with the creation of the Labor Friends of Israel.

“It is inevitable that the same motion will go before the national conference next year and, with the numbers as they are, it would be adopted,” the source said.

But the move risks a bitter split within Labor ranks, with pro-­Israeli Labor MPs meeting last night to resolve to oppose it. The Labor Israel Action Committee said that motions came from individual local branches and did not represent the final NSW conference position, ­despite the foreign affairs committee recommending that it be supported.

NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chairman and Labor Israel Action Committee patron Walt Secord said LIAC opposed the motions. “We see them as one-sided and do not promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict resulting in a two-state solution,” he told The Australian.

“We support a two-state solution with a Palestinian state, but the proposed motions need to be amended to include a recognition of Israel. I stressed the proposed motion in the official conference book is not final.”

While not regarded as a leadership issue for Mr Shorten — who faced pressure from Labor elders in February for a policy shift ahead of a meeting with ­Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the move will cause friction with the Jewish lobby, which he has traditionally been close to.

NSW Jewish Board of Deput­ies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said: “Refusing to expressly recog­nise Israel’s right to exist, and ignori­ng the position of two states for two peoples, is a disturbing and backward step which will do absolutely nothing to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“NSW Labor has long supported a two-state solution and it would be unfortunate in the extreme­ if a fair and constructive resolution is not reached.”

Despite Mr Shorten’s own Victorian faction, Centre Unity, now being the only significant pro-Israel­i bloc left in the ALP, the Labor leader — who in February faced calls by Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke for Palestinian recognition — is believed not to have lobbied against the NSW motion, recognising that with the numbers backing it within the party membership­ and the caucus, a policy shift at the national level was unavoidable.

The NSW motion, obtained by The Australian, marks a fundamental shift in language from the national platform and the previous NSW position, which called for a Labor government to consult first with other countries on recognition if no progress had been made toward­s a peace settlement.

The motion states conference “notes previous resolutions on Israel­/Palestine carried at the 2015 ALP national conference and the 2016 NSW Labor annual conference and urges the next Labor government to recognise Palestine”.

In 2014, following a motion sponsored by then Labor foreign minister Bob Carr, NSW Labor adopted a position that if there was no progress to “a two-state solution, and Israel continues to build and expand settlements, a future Labor government will consult like­minded nations towards ­recognition of the Palestinian state”. The Tasmanian ALP state conference passed a similar but more strident resolution at the weekend, affirming that the next federal Labor government would ­“immediately recognise the state of Palestine”.

The same words are expected to be adopted by the Queensland state conference, which will be held on the same weekend as the NSW conference, July 29 and 30.

The South Australian Labor government used its majority to pass a motion last week that also recognised a state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, marking the first formal recognition by a parliament in Australia.

A senior Labor source said it was now impossible for next year’s national conference to not adopt the same policy, with the numbers on the floor of the national­ conference dominated by the left, which on this issue would now be supported by the NSW right.

A source close to Mr Shorten said that the Labor leader, who has been a staunch defender of Israel, now believed Labor’s unequivocal support for Israel could not be maintained, with the issue of settlements­ still unresolved.

“He did not lobby against it,” the source said. “He is smart enough to know it is happening and is allowing it to happen.”

Bill Shorten with Benjamin Netanyahu

The biggest push has come from within the NSW right, includi­ng some of Mr Shorten’s most committed supporters, who are also facing pressure within their own branches to support a stronger resolution. Mr Shorten expressed Labor’s support for Israe­l at the time of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but had also raised the contentious issue of settlem­ents in a meeting with the Israeli leader.

“We want to see Israel safe and secure of its borders; we support the rights of the Palestinians people­ to have their own state,” Mr Shorten said at the time.

The outgoing vice-president of the Queensland ALP, Wendy Turner, welcomed the move by NSW and said that momentum was now there for the national conference to adopt the policy. “This issue has really awakened the rank and file,” she said. “Just as we recognised ­Israel’s right to exist, we need to recognise a Palestinian state.”

She confirmed that the Queensland conference would seek to re-affirm its resolution passed last year for a federal Labor government to unconditionally recognise a state of Palestine. (the Australian)

Netanyahu announces six-month delay of controversial conversion bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Friday afternoon that the controversial conversion bill at the heart of the flare-up in Israel-Diaspora tensions this week would be frozen for six months while a state-appointed committee attempts to reach an “agreed-upon arrangement within our people.” On a second issue of dispute, the question of a permanent space for pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall, however, there was no significant progress.

According to an agreement reached by coalition leaders in a testy meeting earlier Friday, the government, liberal Jewish streams and private Orthodox conversion initiatives will together ask the High Court of Justice to delay any rulings on conversion for the next six months while the committee does it work.

“Harmony within the Jewish people is important to me,” Netanyahu said as he prepared to board a plane at Ben Gurion Airport for the French city of Strasbourg to attend the funeral of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

“It’s important to me as the prime minister of Israel, and it’s important to me personally and a son of the Jewish people,” he said.

Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, expressed optimism over the plan for a new committee, together “with all the parties that have stakes in this,” to reconsider the conversion issue. “We still have a lot of work to do, and there are still differences,” he said, “but we’re hopeful that… we’ll be able to come to solutions so we don’t have to face this again.” He said he appreciated that Netanyahu had “listened to our thoughts,” on the issue, and said he assumed the Jewish Agency would represent Diaspora Jewry in the discussions.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Israel Reform Movement, stressed that his movement would “never accept a monopoly” over conversion, and would again resort to the High Court if necessary.

According to Netanyahu, “the appellants [to the High Court] and the government of Israel agree to freeze all initiatives, the appeals on conversion to the High Court, the legislation in the government and the Knesset, and this will have course allow me to establish a committee that will work for six months to find solutions for an agreed-upon arrangement on conversion.”

The sides would approach the High Court on Sunday, he said.

“I very much hope the High Court will acquiesce to this joint request, since it will cool tempers and open up the possibility and hope for an agreed-upon arrangement within our people.”

According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, if the High Court rejects the delay and decides to rule on one of the outstanding petitions dealing with conversion, then the government would operate according to the coalition agreements.

This statement appears to be a concession to the Haredi parties in his coalition, who demanded that if the freeze is rejected by any party, the conversion bill they have advanced would be brought back to the Knesset to begin its legislation.

But Netanyahu’s statement limits its commitment to what is required under the “coalition agreement,” which requires unanimous agreement among coalition members for any change in the religion-and-state status quo. The Yisrael Beytenu party of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has already announced it opposes the conversion bill in its current form and filed an appeals against the bill last Sunday at a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

If passed, the conversion bill would deny citizenship rights under the Law of Return to non-Israelis who convert to Judaism under private auspices in Israel. It would not affect the eligibility for citizenship of those who convert outside Israel.

Liberal American Jewish groups have noted that the bill would mark the first time the Haredi-controlled state rabbinate was given control not only over who it recognizes as Jewish, but over who the state as a whole views as eligible for the right of return.

Seth Farber, head of the Giyur Kahalacha movement — which allows for conversions according to Orthodox Jewish law (halacha), but outside the bureaucracy of the chief rabbinate — said that assuming the High Court agrees to the delay, “this is an enormous victory for reason over might.”

Farber, whose movement performed more than 400 conversions in 2016, said Shas leader Aryeh Deri “has spent the last week and a half unnecessarily wielding a stick and trying to humiliate the American jewish community, the Reform and Conservative communities, and do a disservice to the future of conversion in this country. The compromise is an effective and positive step.”

“Once the flames die down a little,” Farber said, “there are meaningful legal ways to address the concerns of the bill without resorting to bullying tactics and [inflexible] party policy. What’s at stake is the future of the Jewish people, and that’s simply too important to leave in the hands of the myopic few.”

Minister for Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett welcomed the move to delay the bill, saying in a statement Friday that it “creates dialogue between Israel and Diaspora” and “will ensure Israel remains the homeland of the entire Jewish People.”

“Conversation is the key to Jewish unity, and close relations with US Jews are a strategic asset of Israel,” said Bennett, who heads the right-wing party Jewish Home and is also education minister.

A source close to the government claimed on Friday that progress was also being made on the cabinet’s Sunday decision to freeze the so-called Western Wall compromise deal, an issue that has also drawn angry opposition from American Jewish leaders in recent days.

The source reiterated to The Times of Israel that construction of the permanent facility for pluralistic prayer would go ahead, and said that the issue of how people would gain access to the various Western Wall prayer areas — via a single or multiple entry points — would now be reexamined.

The key issue of oversight of the pluralistic prayer pavilion would not be reconsidered, however, this source said. Under the now frozen deal, non-Orthodox streams of Judaism were to have had joint oversight of the pluralistic pavilion — a concession they deemed crucial and that ultra-Orthodox leaders fervently opposed.

Kariv, head of the Israeli Reform movement, told The Times of Israel on Friday afternoon that his movement was adamant in insisting on shared oversight of the facility, and would not compromise on the issue. Any assertion to the contrary was “nonsense,” he said. “We already made all the compromises we’re willing to make,” he said.

In a separate statement, Kariv accused the ultra-Orthodox parties of leading “a campaign of destruction in Israel-Diaspora relations with the tacit consent of Netanyahu.

The JFNA’s Silverman said an effort was being made to bring together Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Netanyahu’s point man on the Western Wall issue, and Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky, in order to have them “begin dialogue working together on how to think about bringing the parties to the table and what’s going to be different this time.”

Earlier Friday, the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties had stormed out of the meeting of coalition leaders that sought to approve the delay of the conversion bill.

The delay was accepted by most of the party leaders, according to sources familiar with what transpired in the closed-door gathering who spoke to the Israeli media. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit reportedly also backed the idea.

But then Netanyahu asked an aide to draft a letter announcing the decision that he would send to American Jewish leaders.

The request reportedly led Interior Minister Deri to demand that in exchange for Shas acquiescing to the delay, the other coalition parties would agree to advance the bill if the High Court of Justice does not itself delay hearing the appeals of the Reform movement and others on recognition for its conversions.

Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, the finance minister, insisted that any new push for the bill would require a new cabinet debate, leading Deri to complain angrily that he was the only one compromising. Deri then stalked out of the meeting, followed by MK Moshe Gafni of UTJ.

UTJ sources told Hebrew-language media outlets that their coalition partners had “backtracked on explicit agreements and violated the coalition agreement.”

Defenders of the legislation, chiefly the ultra-Orthodox parties in the governing coalition, say it consolidates the conversion system in Israel and safeguards its integrity.

The conversion initiative, along with a move to nix the construction of the pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall, angered liberal Israelis and triggered an unprecedented clash this week with representatives of US Jewry.

After Friday’s meeting, Moshe Kahlon wrote on Twitter that he “expects all sides to return [to the table] and sit until we reach an agreed-upon framework.”

He added: “National resilience and the real security of the Jewish people lies in its unity. The Jewish people paid a steep price in the past for its divisions, and we won’t return to those periods.”

The bill is also being challenged from within the coalition by Yisrael Beytenu, whose appeal is slated to be debated in the cabinet at its next meeting, currently scheduled for Thursday next week.

The measure, which was drafted last month by the Interior Ministry, led by Deri, is an attempt to circumvent a March 2016 Supreme Court ruling that allowed those undergoing private Orthodox conversions in Israel to become citizens under the Law of Return. The court did not take a stand on the religious question of rabbinic recognition of the converts as Jews, but did require Israeli civil agencies to treat them as Jewish for the purposes of naturalization.

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers have vowed to fight for the bill, with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, leader of UTJ, threatening his party will bolt the coalition if it isn’t signed into law.  (the Times of Israel)

‘Israel has legal right to freeze Palestinian taxes that go to terrorists’

Israel can legally withhold tax fees from the Palestinian Authority to offset the money that it pays to Palestinian terrorists and their families, legal experts from the Justice and Defense Ministry told the Knesset.

“We don’t see any legal impediment,” Justice Ministry attorney Anat Assif told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee which on Wednesday debated a bill that would prohibit the passage of such fees.

The legislation authored by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) is in the preparatory stage for its second and third reading, after which it would be passed into law.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken about the importance of halting such funding and the security cabinet last summer agreed to halt such payments, but in practice, Stern’s office said, the money is still being transferred.

US President Donald Trump has demanded that such payments be halted as part of its efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. There is a bill pending before both the US House and Senate — the Taylor Force Act — that would require the US to freeze of its funding for the PA unless it stops paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

It was named for a US Army veteran and graduate student Taylor Force, 28, who was killed in a Palestinian terror attack while visiting Jaffa in March 2016. Neither the House nor the Senate have scheduled a vote on the legislation.

Israeli security experts are divided on the measure, with opponents fearing that the loss of funds from the Taylor Force Act would destabilize the Palestinian Authority precisely at a moment when donor funding is dropping.

Meir Indor, who heads Almagor Terror Victims Association, told the FADC that passing the bill would send a strong message of support to the US politicians who are trying to pass the Taylor Force Act.

FADC Chair Avi Dichter, who is a former director of Israel’s Security Agency (Shin Bet), said he too favored the bill. It clarifies that Israel “won’t continue to be indifferent to the the PA, as with one hand it is working on peace with Israel while with the other hand is sanctifying the terrorists who harm us.”

A Defense Ministry told the FADC that the government was also working on legislation with regard to halting terrorist payments. But he had no time table for when the legislation would be drafted.

MK Merav Ben Ari asked “how much time will it take to prepare such a bill? Every time a private member bill (such as this one) passes, we are asked to wait for the governmental bill.”

Attorney Dudi Kopel of the Finance Ministry’s legal bureau said he believed that legislation of this kind could be problematic, including under international law.

Israel collects NIS 700 million yearly in tax fees for the PA, of which NIS 100 million is set aside for offsets toward electricity, water, and other debts.

Article 16 of the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement gives Israel the ability to withhold funds to offset debts, but it cannot do so because it disagreed with how the PA used the funds, Kopel said.

Assif disagreed. The bill’s language used the word “offset,” which placed it within the framework of Israel’s practice of withholding tax fees it collected for the Palestinian Authority to pay back utility debts such as electricity, she said.

The Supreme Court has in the past left this step up to the government’s discretion, particularly since the issue is tied to the political and diplomatic sphere, Assif added.

Attorney Sara Weiss-Maudi of the Foreign Ministry’s legal department concurred.

The same 1994 agreement also bound both sides not to support terrorism, Weiss-Maudi said. Refusing to transfer funds that goes to terrorists and their families falls within the bounds of that agreement, she said.

Attorney Gal Cohen from the Defense Ministry added that many aspects of the bill are already covered by existing legislation, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law, which allows the government to seize funds involved in terrorism.

Morris Hirsch of the right-wing NGO Palestinian Media Watch told the FADC that the had personal experience with the issue as part of his work as the former head of the IDF’s prosecution office in Judea and Samaria.

He explained that the PA pays salaries to all detainees and security prisoners including those involved in terrorism on a sliding scale. If they have been incarcerated for more than five years, than the payment is for life, he said.

Payments are not made to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for criminal activity, he said.

Such payments are a clear violation of past international agreements to which the PA is a signatory, Hirsch said.

It is also against UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2334, which calls for a halt to terror activity, Hirsch said.

He estimated that more than 1,700 Israeli civilians had been killed in terror attacks in the last 30 years, not including soldiers and police officers.

According to background information given to the FADC on the bill, the PA spends $300 million annually to pay salaries for terrorists and their families.

Last week at the Herzilya Conference, PA special advisor Nabil Shaath delivered a speech penned by PA President Mahmoud Abbas that supported the continuation of the payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails and refuted the charge that it went to terrorists. These are political prisoners, he explained.

“One out of every three [Palestinian] males has spent time in an Israeli prison. Is any rational human being going to claim that these one million people are terrorists?” Shaath said on behalf of Abbas.

“It is really, quite frankly, racist rhetoric to call all our political prisoners terrorists,” he said.

“They are the victims of the occupation and not the creators of the occupation,” Shaath said on behalf of Abbas.

The PA, he said, has a “social responsibility to look after these innocent people effected by incarceration,” he said.  (Jerusalem Post)

After UN hosts 2-day anti-Israel event, Israel’s envoy says it colludes with terror supporters

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon accused the United Nations of “colluding with supporters of terror seeking to harm Israel,” following a two-day panel Thursday-Friday marking “50 years of occupation” in which groups Israel says have links to Palestinian terror organizations participated.

The panel was addressed by Palestinian officials, an Israeli MK, Israeli and Palestinian activists and others.

“It is beyond comprehension that UN funds are supporting organizations which aid terrorists and incite against Israel,” Danon said in a statement about the event, which was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and held at UN headquarters in New York.

The committee was tasked in 2016 with “bring[ing] together international experts, including from the State of Palestine and Israel, representatives of the diplomatic community, civil society, as well as academics and students to discuss the ongoing occupation.”

Israel protested the meetings which began Thursday, saying that two of the groups participating, Al Haq and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, had links to Hamas and the PFLP.

Israel’s UN delegation said in a statement that “according to intelligence information” the Al Haq group “collaborates with the PFLP” and the Al Mezan Center “works together regularly with the Hamas terrorist organization.”

Jody Williams, the keynote speaker at the forum on Friday, urged attendees to make “life hell” for Israel until it withdraws from Palestinian territory.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Williams said “Israel has a right to a narrative” which “may or may not be valid,” but was dismayed by the criticism surrounding the event.

“It is disturbing… that the state of Israel does not wish to allow the Palestinians to have their narrative heard,” she said, urging European nations and organizations such as Amnesty International to recognize Palestine as a state.

Williams did not address Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip or payments via the Palestinian Authority government to convicted terrorists and their families; nor did other panelists. Israel has been vociferously protesting payments from the Palestinian Authority to terrorists in Israeli jails and to their families and those of Palestinians killed while carrying out terror attacks against Israelis.

The head of Israel’s B’Tselem NGO, Hagai El-Ad, told the gathering on Friday that the Israeli government branded Palestinians who oppose the occupation as terrorists, Israelis who oppose the occupation as traitors, and the international community that opposes the occupation as anti-Semites. He lamented the failure to implement December 2016’s UN Resolution 2334 that branded settlements illegal.

Joint (Arab) List Knesset member Aida Touma-Suleiman said the window for a two-state solution was closing fast, but that the alternative was not a democratic single-state. Rather, she said, there was already a one-state reality, but it was not a state that gave equal rights to the two peoples under its control. Israel was showing clear signs of apartheid, she said, adding that democracy and occupation were incompatible.

Another panelist Friday, Noura Erakat, an assistant professor at George Mason University and a political activist, said the difference between the situation in the Gaza Strip and natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti is that the former is a human-made disaster.

“The naval blockade of 10 years, and the land siege can all be reversed. The World Health Organization has said that by 2020 Gaza will not be livable, and so one has to question whether we have become so numb to these numbers that we can’t do anything about it,” Erakat said.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas overthrew Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in a bloody coup in 2007. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weaponry from reaching Hamas, which is avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel. Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

Tania Hary, executive director of the Israeli NGO Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, said inertia is largely responsible for the situation in Gaza, adding that it was inextricably linked to the West Bank.

“It is one of the biggest experimentation projects on the planet. How do you test the breaking point of two million people?” Hary said of Gazan residents.

The World Jewish Congress set up a protest table across the street from the UN where the event was taking place, and said in a statement that the organizing committee was “the only UN body dedicated to an individual group of people, despite the many pressing human rights concerns facing peoples around the world. Established in November 1975 after the UN General Assembly passed its notorious ‘Zionism-equals-racism’ resolution, the Committee continues to encourage that poisonous notion.

“While it claims to support the Middle East peace process and the achievement of a two-state solution, the Committee in fact regularly disparages Israel and administers events questioning its legitimacy,” the WJC said.

The WJC called on the international community to support efforts to resume face-to-face Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, rather than encouraging unilateral Palestinian moves and rhetoric. It also called on the UN to dissolve what it said was the biased Committee and other bodies of its kind.

During Thursday’s panel sessions, senior Palestinian negotiator and PLO official Saeb Erekat said that “Hamas and the PFLP are not terrorist organizations,” and that the Palestinians “do not have a partner in Israel today” since “the Israeli government, headed by Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, is trying to replace the two-state solution with one state, two systems, apartheid.”

Hamas and the PFLP are both internationally regarded as terror groups. Most recently Hamas and the PFLP claimed responsibility for a June 16 shooting and knife attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem in which Israeli Border Policewoman Hadas Malka was stabbed to death.

Danon hit back at Erekat and the Palestinians for having “no shame,” decrying the “lies and incitement from those who are paying terrorists to kill innocent Israelis.”

“These obsessive attempts to besmirch our good name will not change the fact that the Palestinian leadership refuses to end their support for terror,” said Danon, standing next to a photograph of Malka.

Danon had protested to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday against the panel.  (the Times of Israel)

Israel freezes visits to Hamas prisoners amid talks over troops’ remains

Hamas on Thursday said that Israel had stopped allowing Gazan members of the terror group serving time in Israeli prisons to receive visits from family members, in a move intended to ramp up pressure amid negotiations for the return of three Israeli civilians and the bodies of two soldiers being held in the Strip.

Hamas leaders condemned the move as “the beginning of a war against the prisoners.”

“We will not allow this decision to stand, whatever the price may be,” they said in a statement.

An Israeli prison official refused to confirm the policy change.

Israel is holding some 150 Hamas security prisoners from Gaza. In the past, families of Palestinian inmates have been granted permits to cross from the Gaza Strip into Israel to visit them.

The families of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two soldiers killed in Gaza during fighting in 2014, have urged Israel to disallow the visits as a means of pressuring Hamas to return the troops’ bodies and praised the reported move.

“We’ve been asking the government for two and a half years to apply pressure on Hamas in order to change the equation, to make them understand that holding IDF soldiers is a burden rather than an asset. Something is finally moving,” said Simcha Goldin, father of Hadar Goldin, according to the Ynet news site.

Hamas is thought to also be holding three Israelis who crossed into Gaza.

Talks over a possible swap have mostly stalled, and lawmakers recently joined calls to cut the visits.

Earlier this month Likud MK Yoav Kisch led 40 parliamentarians who put their names to a letter demanding the government end the family visits until the soldiers are returned, the Hebrew Walla website reported at the time.

The missive, signed by MKs from both the coalition and opposition, urged a policy of “a humanitarian step in exchange for a humanitarian step.”

The MKs asked the government to send a message to Hamas that the return of the soldiers is a precondition for future humanitarian steps.

“It is unreasonable for the Israeli government to decide on a series of humanitarian steps for Hamas in Gaza while it continues to hold our sons,” the wrote.

“We call on the government to adopt the policy and as a first stage stop the visits by families from the Gaza Strip to prisoners,” the lawmakers wrote.

On Tuesday, Channel 1 news reported that Israel and Hamas have been engaged in intensive indirect talks recently over the release of a number of Israeli nationals held captive by the terror group in Gaza.

In addition to returning the missing soldiers, Israel has been seeking to reach a deal with the rulers of the Gaza Strip to secure the release of three Israeli men who crossed into the coastal territory of their own accord: Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, whose presence in Gaza is unconfirmed.

The talks, which are being mediated by an unnamed third party, have gathered momentum over the past two weeks, following the return of Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, from a visit to Egypt earlier this month, the report said.

Hamas demands that Israel release all prisoners from the 2011 exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit who were rearrested in 2014 when three Israeli teens were abducted in the West Bank (it later emerged that they had been killed almost immediately) before any advancement in negotiations between the parties can take place.  (the Times of Israel)

Netanyahu to AIPAC: It was either Kotel or my government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is telling leaders of US Jewry angered by Sunday’s government vote on the Western Wall prayer space and on the conversion issue that he faced a choice of either supporting the moves or losing his government, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

That was also the message he relayed on Thursday to a high-level delegation from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, whose members flew in for the day to discuss their concerns with Netanyahu and what they are hearing from their constituents.

Officials who have talked with Netanyahu about the issue in recent days say he is aware of the gravity of the decisions and the strain they have caused with American Jewry, but that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties gave him an ultimatum. Netanyahu stressed in these meetings that he is going ahead with plans to enlarge the platform for egalitarian prayer at Robinson’s Arch at the Western Wall and that work there will not stop.

The haredi objection to the Western Wall compromise that was frozen on Sunday had less to do with the actual establishment of an egalitarian prayer space and more to do with the compromise hammered out in January 2016, but never implemented.

Under that compromise, the site was to be administered by a committee that would include representatives from each of the liberal streams of Judaism, the Jewish Federation of North America, the Jewish Agency and the government. This arrangement, haredim fear, would chip away at their exclusive administrative control of the site.

Netanyahu’s office did not issue any communiqué following the meeting with AIPAC leaders, nor did the premier publicly discuss the matter on Thursday. Despite having attended a number of public events this week, including one on Thursday at the Hatzerim Air Base near Beersheba, he has not publicly commented on the matter.

One message he is getting from Diaspora leaders is that as distasteful as the Western Wall issue is for many segments of their constituents, the Israel-Diaspora relationship will take a turn for even worse if the conversion bill goes through. That legislation would give the haredi- controlled Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over conversions in Israel.

Although that bill would not affect the eligibility to gain Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return for those converted abroad by Conservative and Reform rabbis, there is concern that the Western Wall decision could have a spillover effect and eventually change that situation as well.

At this week’s Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting, a number of representatives said the Western Wall issue was “symbolic,” a “slap in the face,” and a “capitulation to the haredim,” and that the conversion bill could lead to Israel determining that their own grandchildren are not Jewish.

The delegation – which included AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus, incoming president Mort Fridman and managing director Richard Fishman – met with Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky before meeting with Netanyahu. They also met with Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.

The delegates returned to the US on Thursday.

AIPAC has been flooded with calls from constituents, some asking what the organization is going to do and others telling it not to get involved. The organization has also heard from the offices of some US legislators, saying they have received angry inquiries from voters in their districts.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is scheduled to fly on Friday to Strasbourg to take part in a memorial ceremony on Saturday for former German chancellor Helmut Kohl who died last week.

Numerous world leaders are expected to attend the event, with speeches delivered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and former US president Bill Clinton.

Kohl was a key figure in European integration and oversaw German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament.

On hearing of his death, Netanyahu issued a statement saying Kohl was one of Israel’s “greatest friends,” and that he was “completely dedicated to its security.”

“Kohl was the leader who united Germany with a determined and steady hand,” he said. “His admiration for Israel and Zionism found expression in my many meetings with him and in his resolute stand in favor of Israel, which he constantly presented in Europe and in international forums.”

Netanyahu is scheduled to return on Sunday.   (Jerusalem Post)

Olmert not retiring, but not returning to politics

When former prime minister Ehud Olmert becomes a free man on Sunday following the parole board’s decision, he intends to rest briefly and then return to business, his associates told The Jerusalem Post.

Sources close to Olmert said the week he spent in the hospital helped start his recovery from the rapid weight loss he suffered in prison. They said the 71-year-old’s first goal upon leaving Ma’asiyahu Prison will be to work with his doctors and family on restoring his health.

Olmert then intends to seek a pardon from President Reuven Rivlin. When Rivlin rejected a pardon request in March, he indicated that if Olmert were paroled, he could issue a pardon to remove the prison’s requirements that he check in regularly with police and receive approval for every trip abroad.

While in prison, Olmert completed writing an autobiography that was confiscated two weeks ago from his publisher by the state prosecution.

Olmert intends to promote the book ahead of Rosh Hashana, when it is scheduled to be released. He will resume his business interests in Israel and abroad and will not return to politics, sources close to him said.

Associates expressed appreciation to rightwing ministers Naftali Bennett, Israel Katz and Ze’ev Elkin for publicly calling for mercy to be given to Olmert at his parole hearing, despite their political differences. Sources close to Olmert said he would not respond to his critics.

MK Shelly Yacimovich wrote on social media that it angered her that “obsessive attention was being given to Olmert, while criminals who are less well known are being ignored.”

Her Zionist Union colleague MK Miki Rosenthal said Olmert should not dare consider following in the footsteps of convicted felon-turned-Interior Minister Arye Deri and attempt a political comeback.

“Olmert the individual can be forgiven, but the public figure however can never be forgiven,” Rosenthal said. “He was a serial lawbreaker who betrayed the public’s trust, did not express remorse and tried to pass the buck and incriminate his secretary.”

Former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin said Olmert should have stayed in jail for the rest of his life.

“Shortening the jail time of Olmert, the father of corruption, shames the memory of the soldiers he sent to die for his own political reasons in the Second Lebanon War, as well as those who fight for clear governance,” he said.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told reporters in Russia that he welcomed the decision and wished Olmert a full recovery.  (Jerusalem Post)

IDF strikes Syrian targets after two projectiles hit Israel within an hour

The IDF struck a canon belonging to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria in retaliation for errant fire from the internal fighting in Syria that spilled over into Israeli territory twice on Saturday, the military confirmed.

The target that was hit is situated in the northern Golan Heights on the Syrian side.

The army’s response comes after a projectile landed Saturday evening in Israel’s northern Golan Heights, believed to be from fighting between the Assad regime and rebel groups near the city of Quneitra.

Less than an hour later, a second projectile hit Israeli territory between Quneitra and the Valley of Tears in what the IDF described as spillover from the Syrian civil war.

No injuries were reported and IDF soldiers were sent to find the projectiles that landed in a “no man’s land” between the border fences of the two countries.

A number of projectiles have landed in Israeli territory due to intensified fighting on the Syrian side of Quneitra as the Assad regime has been exchanging heavy fire with the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other rebels groups. The offensive was launched by rebels in a bid to take control of al-Ba’ath (new Quneitra), which is one of the few towns in the province that remains under the regime’s control.

On Friday the Israel Air Force struck a Syrian regime position on the Golan Heights in retaliation for a projectile that hit earlier in Israeli territory, and on Wednesday another regime position was struck after it was identified as the source of a projectile which struck while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the Golan town of Katzrin.

“During my speech, shells from the Syrian side landed in our territory and the IDF has already struck back. Whoever attacks us – we will attack him. This is our policy and we will continue with it,” he said.

“We courageously control the Heights, and we know what’s happening beyond the border. Our line is clear – we do not interfere in the happenings in Syria, but we are determined to respond aggressively and powerfully to any violation of our sovereignty. We won’t accept any spillover in the Golan.”

According to a senior IDF official, “the IDF is acting proportionally to prevent any deterioration” and has retaliated against Assad regime positions following the errant projectiles hitting the northern Golan.

According to former deputy commander of the IDF’s Galilee Division, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, the spillover is due to the direction of the regime’s offensive.

“From a tactical perspective if you are attacking from east to west there will likely be spillover,” he said last week during a conference call with journalists, adding that “if you really want to win, attack from north to south so as to prevent any spillover into Israel.”

Last week the IDF closed the area around the Valley of Tears due to the increased danger of mortar shells.   (Jerusalem Post)

World’s largest warship docks at Haifa

Nimitz-class USS George H.W. Bush arrives for 4-day visit, with crew set to tour the country and Netanyahu expected to hop on board

Aircraft Carrier

The USS George H.W. Bush, docked outside Israel’s Haifa port Saturday, the first such visit in 17 years.

The Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier left its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia on January 21 and has been in the region since February as a base for airstrikes against the Islamic State group. It operates mainly in the Persian Gulf.

Commissioned in 2009, the 333m-long nuclear-powered ship can carry a crew of over 5,000 people, as well as around 90 fighter jets and helicopters. It is considered the world’s largest aircraft carrier and largest warship overall.

Due to its size the ship is unable to enter the port itself, and dropped anchor four kilometers from the harbor.

Channel 2 news said Israeli and American officials have not given details on the nature of the visit.

It noted, however, that the Israeli and US navies cooperate closely and have held numerous joint military exercises.

According to Channel 10, the crew of the George H.W. Bush will tour Israel in the coming days and celebrate American Independence Day in the Jewish state on July 4.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman will visit the ship on Monday, along with Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav.

The ship will then depart on Wednesday to continue its operations.  (the Times of Israel)

Abbas’s Lies and Palestinian Child Victims

by Bassam Tawil     The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10598/palestinian-child-victims

Hamas and human rights groups hold Abbas personally responsible for the deaths of the children and the possible deaths of other patients in need of urgent medical treatment not available in Gaza Strip hospitals. One human rights group went so far as to call for the International Criminal Court in The Hague to launch an investigation against Abbas.

In a move of mind-bending irony, we are witnessing a Palestinian president waging war not only against Hamas, but also against the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip — while Israel continues to provide the Palestinians living under Hamas with humanitarian aid.

That is the standard operating procedure of the man who lied straight to the face of President Donald Trump, by claiming that he had stopped incitement against Israel and was promoting a “culture of peace” among his people. Will the last sick Palestinian child please stand up?

Palestinian children are the latest victims of the power struggle between the two rival Palestinian factions, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has declared war on the Gaza Strip as part of his effort to prompt Palestinians living there to revolt against the ruling Hamas administration. It appears that Abbas and Hamas are determined to fight to the last ill Palestinian child.

Abbas is hoping that a series of punitive measures he has taken, which include reducing electricity and medical supplies and cutting off salaries to many Palestinians, will lead to the collapse of Hamas, paving the way for the return of his PA to the Gaza Strip. Abbas has had a grudge against Hamas ever since the Islamist movement expelled his PA and loyalists from the Gaza Strip ten years ago.

Abbas’s war on the Hamas may seem justified. Nonetheless, it smacks of hypocrisy and is accompanied by a smear campaign against Israel.

Instead of accepting responsibility for their punitive actions against Hamas and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Abbas and his PA are falsely trying to put the blame on Israel. They are telling their people and the rest of the world that Israel bears the full and sole responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. This, of course, is a wide-eyed lie as well as another blood libel against Israel.

The attempt to put the blame on Israel should be seen in the context of Abbas’s ongoing incitement against Israel. Moreover, Abbas is trying to drag Israel into his continuing conflict with Hamas, which is a purely internal Palestinian affair. Israel had nothing to do with Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. Two years earlier, Israel had totally withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, leaving Abbas’s PA fully in control of the area. Within two years, Hamas had overthrown the PA and seized control of the Gaza Strip, including Abbas’s house.

Abbas’s loyalists in Gaza hardly resisted Hamas. Most of them simply surrendered to Hamas or fled to Israel and Egypt. It was thanks to Israel that many of Abbas’s senior officials were able to run from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Were it not for Israel, they would have been dragged through the streets of the Gaza Strip and publicly lynched. Many PA operatives were thrown from the top floors of buildings.

What, then, is spurring this switch? Why has Abbas suddenly decided to take a series of drastic measures against Hamas and his people in the Gaza Strip, ten years after the Islamist expulsion?

According to his aides, Abbas is fuming over Hamas’s recent decision to establish an “administrative body” to run the affairs of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Abbas seems to view the move as driving a nail into the coffin of any PA-Hamas reconciliation.

He is also apparently deeply worried that his political rival, Mohamed Dahlan, and Hamas are close to forming an alliance against him. In recent days there have been reports that Hamas may allow Dahlan to return to the Gaza Strip to head a new Palestinian government that would be funded and backed by some Gulf countries and Egypt, all of which are disillusioned with Abbas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is apparently deeply worried that his political rival, Mohamed Dahlan, and Hamas are close to forming an alliance against him. Pictured above: Abbas (left) and Dahlan (right) in Jericho on June 20, 2003. (Photo by Awad Awad-Pool/Getty)

Furthermore, Abbas reads the move as a sign of Hamas’s effort to turn the Gaza Strip into an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, leaving him as the president of a mini-state in parts of the West Bank only. Such a move would seriously undermine his claim that he is the president of all Palestinians, including the two million residents of the Gaza Strip. He can hardly tell the world that he wants a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines when he cannot even return to his private home in Gaza.

At an emergency meeting of the Palestinian Authority government on June 28, Abbas repeated his demand that Hamas dismantle the “administrative body” it established in the Gaza Strip. He accused Hamas of sabotaging efforts to end the dispute with his PA and warned that the Islamist movement’s measures in the Gaza Strip “jeopardize the Palestinian national project.”

The meeting in Ramallah came in the wake of an outcry over Abbas’s punitive measures against the Gaza Strip and charges that he and his PA have aggravated the humanitarian crisis and deepened the suffering of Palestinians living there.

According to sources in the Gaza Strip, Abbas has instructed the PA to stop issuing medical referrals from the Gaza Strip to Palestinian patients who need urgent medical treatment in Israeli and West Bank Palestinian hospitals.

As a result, the sources say, at least four critically ill Palestinian children have died in Gaza Strip hospitals in the past week because they were not given permits from the PA Ministry of Health in the West Bank to receive treatment outside the Gaza Strip.

 

Hamas and human rights groups hold Abbas personally responsible for the deaths of the children and the possible deaths of other patients who are in need of urgent medical treatment not available in Gaza Strip hospitals. One human rights group went so far as to call for the International Criminal Court in The Hague to launch an investigation against Abbas.

Hamas, for its part, has condemned Abbas’s measures as a “crime against humanity” and an attempt to strangle the entire Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned that between 3,000 to 4,000 patients in the Gaza Strip are seriously ill and need urgent medical treatment outside Gaza.

“Mahmoud Abbas deserves the title of baby killer,” remarked Ra’fat Murra, a top Hamas representative in the Gaza Strip. He pointed out that the four children died because of lack of medicine supplies (which were halted by the PA in the West Bank) and the refusal of the PA to issue permits for them to leave the Gaza Strip for treatment in hospitals in Israel and the West Bank. “Abbas wants the Gaza Strip to explode in the face of Hamas or Israel,” Murra charged. “Abbas has a project for killing Palestinians and destroying our cause and society. His measures are intended to serve his private agenda.”

Last month, Abbas told Israel that his PA government would no longer pay for the electricity Israel supplies to the Gaza Strip. This measure, which has left most of the residents of the Gaza Strip without electricity for the greater part of each day, also should be taken in the context of Abbas’s war on Hamas. In addition, he has decided further to reduce medical supplies to the Gaza Strip, intensifying the humanitarian crisis there even more.

In a move of mind-bending irony, we are witnessing a Palestinian president waging war not only against Hamas, but also against the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip — while Israel continues to provide the Palestinians living under Hamas with humanitarian aid.

Israeli steps fly in the face of Abbas’s ruthless measures. Just this week, about 300 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were issued permits by Israel to leave Gaza while thousands of tons of equipment and goods were allowed into Gaza.

What does Israel get for this most recent aid to the Palestinians?

Take for example, this statement issued by Abbas’s Ministry of Health in response to the deaths of the ill children in the Gaza Strip. The statement seeks to implicate Israel by claiming that “ongoing Israeli restrictions are the main reason behind the harm caused to patients in the Gaza Strip.”

It also falsely claims that the Israeli Ministry of Health has stopped issuing permits to patients from the Gaza Strip to receive medical treatment in Israeli and West Bank hospitals. The statement goes on to accuse the Israeli media of waging a smear campaign of lies and fake news about the PA’s responsibility for the misery of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

In making these false claims, Abbas is doing double “duty”: punishing his people in the Gaza Strip while further blackening the name of Israel. These false accusations, however, accomplish even more: they encourage Palestinians to step up their murder sprees against Israelis and feed the campaign in the international arena to delegitimize and demonize Israel and Jews.

This is an old tactic of Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, who have never assumed responsibility for the suffering of their people. Abbas seeks to fight Hamas at the expense of his people, beginning with sick Palestinian children, but at the expense of Israel.

Like Hamas, Abbas sacrifices these sick children in Gaza and slanders the name of Israel, to divert attention from his responsibility for the tragedies that have befallen the residents of the Gaza Strip.

That is the standard operating procedure of the man who lied straight to the face of President Donald Trump, by claiming that he had stopped incitement against Israel and was promoting a “culture of peace” among his people. Will the last sick Palestinian child please stand up?

Shalom from Israel

by Ron Weiser

It’s pretty hard to beat walking around the streets of Jerusalem with crowds everywhere, restaurants full and a clear mixing once again of Jews and Arabs in places like the Mamilla Mall and other common seam lines as  positive signs of the political temperature cooling, if not the hot summer sun.

It’s also great to be here and counterintuitively for many, to hear that vis a vis “the conflict” at least, sanity prevails and to realise yet again that the vast bulk of the Israeli population are firmly in the political centre.

Wanting a separation from the Palestinians but fearing the security consequences.

Whilst it may make for better entertainment to hear debates in Australia between people representing the smallest of minorities at either extremist ends of the spectrum, it is somewhat disconnected from the reality.

Although “settlements” are such a big topic outside of Israel, you can actually get by quite well here, not hearing the word for days at a time.

The reality is that not much is happening on settlements, in fact if one raises the topic it is usually to hear the that the right wing are bitterly complaining that Netanyahu has enforced – depending on who one speaks to – either a partial or almost complete settlement freeze – yet again.

Whilst in the past Netanyahu was able to blame this on Obama’s overt opposition to all settlement building anywhere, now it is under the subtle public and not so subtle private pressure from Trump, at least until he decides if his dream of “the ultimate deal” either goes ahead or falls apart.

With one major difference.

A differentiation now by the US between building within the blocks that it is generally agreed will remain inside Israel under any potential future land swap arrangement and building outside those blocks.

This week the kippa wearing insider, former Major General Amidror, who was also Netanyahu’s Security Advisor from 2011 to 2013, said that whilst he thought the current Palestinian leadership and the volatility of the current Middle East do not present the conditions for a peace deal:

“Israel must preserve the possibility of a two-state solution in the future. That means only building in areas Israel hopes to keep via land swaps in a final status deal with the Palestinians.

Israel should limit settlement building to the blocs or the boundaries of existing settlements and reserve the remaining area for discussion at a time when there might be a different Palestinian leadership.”

The number one bestselling nonfiction book in Israel today is by Micah Goodman whose translated title is “Catch 67”. The book however is so far available only in Hebrew.

As Haviv Rettig Gur put it when reviewing the book, Goodman basically says that:

“The pro-settlement right failed to convince most Israeli Jews that acquiring the land was worth the risk of becoming an ethnic minority — or even only a small majority — in their country. But it succeeded in instilling its second argument: that withdrawal from the West Bank, especially after the bitter experience of Gaza and Lebanon, would endanger Israelis.”

The peace-making left, meanwhile, failed to convince most Israelis — again, especially after bitter experiences such as the Second Intifada and the Gaza withdrawal — that its “religious” yearning for reconciliation was reciprocated on the other side. But it succeeded in its second argument: that Israel could not afford to absorb millions of Palestinians.”

In other words the need as Goodman sees it, to take ideology, or as he calls it “dreams”, out of the equation and return to the pragmatic question of demographic security vis a vis physical security.

Needless to say, the ideologues on all sides are attacking Goodman for his views and assessment.

In a response to criticism for instance by Ehud Barak, Goodman wrote:

“For most Israelis, to deny the existential security danger of withdrawal from the territories sounds just as ridiculous as the denial of an existential demographic danger sounds to Barak… He expects

Israelis to surrender their strategic judgment to a security figure… for most Israelis, memories are more powerful than their impulse to obey. The territorial withdrawals that ended in the rise of new strategic threats are etched deeply into Israelis’ collective memory.”

Debate on his suggested proposals themselves however, is minimal.

The final section of Goodman’s book puts the proposition that there is in fact no solution on the horizon, but that that does not mean that there are not many steps which can be taken to improve the situation for both sides.

However, whether looked at from the perspective of either Israel or the Palestinians, avoidance of blame for the potential failure of steps towards Trump’s “deal” appears to be the only real game in town at the moment.

If nothing much changes, perhaps Goodman’s proposals will get a second look.

Where insanity reigned supreme here though, was the unfathomable decision by Netanyahu to allow the Haredi proposals on the Kotel and the proposed Conversion Bill to restrict conversion authority exclusively to the Ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate, to be brought before the Cabinet last Sunday.

And for his Cabinet, with the exception of Lieberman, to cave into Haredi pressure. All of them, even the modern orthodox party led by Bennett.

Ironically it is the status of the modern orthodox Rabbinate which is even more affected by this Bill than the Reform or Conservative.

On the Kotel it meant reneging on a previously agreed to arrangement.

In regards to the Conversion Bill it meant that the conversions of all streams, other than those under Haredi determination would cease to be valid and to place into their hands the discretion to retrospectively invalidate previously approved conversions.

The normally politically astute Netanyahu would surely have preferred to not have these two controversial decisions made right during the gathering of the representatives of world Jewry at the Jewish Agency meetings, for whom it was in some way fortuitous that it occurred whilst we were in Israel and when able to muster a unified and significantly large pushback.

It was frankly quite embarrassing to hear from one minister after another that either they had not read the proposals thoroughly or had not understood what they had voted upon.

And they seemed genuinely shocked at the storm they had created.

Aside from all of the repercussions that follow from these decisions it raises two great Zionist questions.

1 – How much longer will the State of Israel continue to tolerate important decisions about the Jewishness of the State and the Jewish status of her citizens being made by the Haredi leadership who in effect do not actually believe in the State in its current form and/or as we know her?

Yet, despite this, whose future they are bent on determining.

2 – What should the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora look like?

From time to time Netanyahu and others like to say that they represent all Jews, inside and outside Israel.

Bezalel Smotrich MK said for example, that after returning from a trip to the USA he indeed came back better understanding that he represents Jews all over the world.

But when asked about the actual issues, he reverted to type and stated that he was elected by the citizens of Israel and was answerable to them.

So which is it? Israel or the whole Jewish world?

Clearly the relationship and how to manage it and how to determine even which issues get treated in which way, are yet to be determined.

120 years after the first Zionist Congress it is about time we tackled these challenges.

Perhaps the current Israeli government decisions, which in any case will surely be amended, may bring forward that exciting opportunity.