The Children of Israel Celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut – Israel Independence Day
Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel Independence Day – started last night with ceremonies throughout Israel to mark its 69th year of independence. The festive feeling has been building all week, with displays of flags in stores everywhere and flags mounted on side windows of many cars.
Schools are producing Yom Ha’atzmaut programs and plays depicting the founding of the nation, with parents and grandparents encouraged to participate in the festivities.
A good example is the program presented last Thursday in Jerusalem at the Yehuda Halevy School, a public religious elementary school serving the German Colony, Baka and Old Katamon neighborhoods.
Israelis move from mourning to feting 69 years of independence
Israel abruptly crossed over from grief to jubilation at nightfall Monday, as Memorial Day came to a close and the country’s 69th Independence Day began.
Mournful and somber speeches gave way to fireworks, concerts and parties across the country, with flags promptly raised back from half-staff. At the military on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the transition was marked with an extravagant state ceremony featuring a speech from Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, the lighting of torches by 12 people who are seen to have made an outstanding contribution to society, and much singing and dancing.
The juxtaposition of the two days is a key element of Israelis’ experience of national independence, ensuring that no commemoration completely excludes the achievement wrought by the sacrifice of the fallen and their families, and that the elation of independence is never far removed from an awareness of its cost.
The sudden switch is often seen as a difficult transition for bereaved families.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recorded a short video that was screened at the start of the ceremony.
“For thousands of years we dreamed of having our own flag, an army to watch over us and a state of our own,” he said. “Israel has never been so strong. What a tremendous change in the destiny of our nation… Who would have believed?”
The prime minister also posted an English-language message on his social media accounts.
Edelstein spoke on the theme of the evening, “Jerusalem: the Eternal Capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish People,” marking 50 years since the reunification of the city during 1967’s Six Day War.
“Jerusalem is the source of strength and spirit of the Jewish people. So we must protect the unity of Jerusalem, but no less we must protect Israeli unity,” he said. “Not every right-winger is a fascist and not every leftist is a traitor.”
Eli Amir, 79, a Baghdad-born author and civil servant who immigrated to Israel in 1950, lit the first torch on behalf of all those who immigrated to Israel from around the globe.
Yaakov (Yaki) Hetz, who served in the Paratrooper Brigade during the campaign for Jerusalem in 1967, lit the second torch. He dedicated it to the families who lost relatives in Israel’s wars.
Miri Ehrental, 67, who along with her husband, Chaim, founded Zichron Menachem, a children’s cancer support center set up in memory of their son Menachem who died of the disease at the age of 15, lit the third torch on behalf of those who choose to do national service outside the IDF.
Michael Steinhardt, a 76-year-old American philanthropist who co-founded Taglit-Birthright Israel along with Charles Bronfman, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the US, lit the fourth torch together, the first non-Israelis ever to light a torch as part of the official celebration.
The torch was “in honor of the partnership among Jews all over the world in the fulfillment of our historic mission,” they said. “In honor of the generations, that despite all of their suffering, never stopped dreaming of Jerusalem.
“In honor of the educators in Jewish communities, our emissaries in the most important and noble of all pursuits. And in honor of those who combat anti-Semitism, who lead the struggle for human dignity. In the fervent hope that we shall never lose our way or our identity,” they added.
US-born Rabbanit Chana Henkin, a trailblazing educator of religious Jewish women, whose son Eitam was murdered by Palestinian gunmen in October 2015 along with his wife, Naama, dedicated the next torch to the scholars.
“I light this torch in honor of the Torah scholars who, in their study, continue the chain of tradition and participate in building the spiritual strength of the State of Israel,” she said.
Eli Mizrahi, 65, owner of one of the best-known coffee shops in Jerusalem’s iconic Mahane Yehuda market, lit his torch on behalf of the shopkeepers of Jerusalem.
The seventh torch was lit by Professor Ahmed Eid, head of Hadassah Hospital’s Department of General Surgery. He dedicated his lighting to the shared future of Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Betar Jerusalem soccer player Uri Malmilian, 59, dedicated his torch lighting to his neighbors, family and friends, the people of Jerusalem.
Professor Amnon Shashua, co-founder of the Mobileye and OrCam startups, dedicated the ninth torch to the start-up nation and technological advances of the Jewish state.
Dina Simata, 19, a new immigrant from India who is a student in Jerusalem’s Jewish Institute for the Blind, recited her speech while reading it in braille.
Yehoram Gaon, a 78-year-old Jerusalem-born singer, actor, director, producer, and TV and radio host, dedicated his torch to the spirit of Jerusalem, “which spreads throughout the world,” and to poets, singers and artists across the globe.
The final torch was lit by two soldiers: Ethiopian-born Major Yarus Yerushalayim, 30, who came to Israel when she was 4-years-old and serves in the Education Corps, and Lieutenant Dean Argil, 22, a third-generation Israeli serving in the Paratroopers. His grandfather served in the Paratrooper Brigade during the campaign for Jerusalem.
Iranian-born Israeli diva Rita performed “Jerusalem of Gold” wearing an enormous white dress that had lights and graphics projected on it.
Daytime independence celebrations will officially begin at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday with a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. VIPs and political leaders will be in attendance.
A flyover of combat planes and helicopters will mark the beginning of the festivities, including a first appearance by Israel’s new F-35 stealth jets. The president, IDF chief of staff, prime minister and defense minister will sing their favorite Independence Day songs with an IDF band and an accompaniment of singers. The Outstanding Soldier Award will also be presented. (the Times of Israel)
Israel from the skies 69 years after independence
As Israel celebrates 69 years of independence, Ynet presents some of its most scenic and breathtaking views, from the tranquil green mountains of the Galilee, the Old City stones and bustling Tel Aviv beach life, to the coastal stretches lining its blue seas and the barren lands of its southern desert.
On eve of 69th Independence Day, 89% of population ‘proud’ to be Israeli
On the eve of Israel’s 69th Independence Day, 89% of the country’s citizens say they are “proud” to be Israeli, according to a new poll by Israel Hayom and the New Wave Research Institute.
More than half (58%) of those polled said they were “very proud” of their nationality, and another 31% said they were “fairly proud” to be Israelis. Only 8% said they “were not very proud” and 1% said they were “not proud at all.” An additional 2% said they didn’t know whether or not they were proud to be Israeli.
The poll was conducted on April 26 among a representative sample of 500 Hebrew-speaking Israelis.
When asked if Israel was a good place in which to live, 69% of those polled responded “yes.” Of the remaining 31%, 18% answered “no” and 13% responded that they did not know.
The poll also asked respondents what they saw as the most critical problem facing Israel, and security issues were far from the top of respondents’ list of concerns: 22% cited social schisms as the biggest problem in Israel, 21% pointed to the economic situation, and 18% said corruption was the biggest problem. Only 17% pointed to terrorism as the biggest problem in Israel.
The remaining issues respondents cited as the biggest problems in Israeli society were the conflict between Left and Right (8%), security on the nation’s borders (7%), friction between the secular and ultra-Orthodox populations (4%) and crime (3%).
When asked to assess their personal situations this year as compared to 2016, nearly one-third (31%) of respondents said their personal situations had improved, and over half (58%) of respondents described it as “the same.” The remaining 11% said their personal situations had worsened compared to last year. (Israel Hayom)
Israel: Hamas is trying to fool the world with its new policy paper
“Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed,” said David Keyes, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“They build terror tunnels and have launched thousands upon thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians,” he said. “This is the real Hamas.”
Echoing Keyes’s words, Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Monday that Hamas’s soon-to-published policy paper was a “a false display and a PR stunt only, whose single purpose is to recruit legitimacy for international action. In practice, Hamas consistently continues to promote terror attacks and wild incitement calling for the murder of Israelis and continues to refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.”
Erdan cautioned that the world should not view Hamas’s renewed charter as an actual change in the terror organization’s policy. “The international community should not treat Hamas’s charter as a change in the movement’s policy, which [the movement] acts every day for the murder of Jews and Israelis indiscriminately, while exploiting its population in Gaza as human shields.”
The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas will remove a call for Israel’s destruction and drop its association with the Muslim Brotherhood in a new policy document to be issued on Monday, Gulf Arab sources said.
Hamas’s move appears aimed at improving relations with Gulf Arab states and Egypt, which label the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as well as with Western countries, many of which classify Hamas as a terrorist group over its hostility to Israel.
The sources said Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, will say in the document that it agrees to a transitional Palestinian state along the borders from 1967, when Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a war with Arab states. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. (Jerusalem Post)
White House: Trump will continue talking to Netanyahu about settlements
President Donald Trump will continue to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israeli settlement activity, the White House said on Monday following reports that Israel plans to build 15,000 new settlement homes in east Jerusalem.
“I’m sure that we’ll continue to have conversations with the prime minister and … that’ll be something that the president will continue to discuss,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a news briefing after being asked if Netanyahu was snubbing the US president.
Trump, who has vowed to work for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, told Netanyahu during a news conference in February that he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
While Spicer did not elaborate further, the White House’s declared intention to continue holding talks with the Israeli premier seems more significant than ever as Israel braces for Tuesday’s UNESCO vote on a resolution that seeks to reject the country’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Spicer’s comment regarding President Trump’s clear intention to continue discussing the issue of Israel’s settlements enterprise come a mere week after a White House official confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that the American president was considering paying a visit to Israel in late May or in early June. “We are exploring the possibility of a future visit to Israel,” the official told the Post in a confirmation that further emphasized for both leaders to discuss several pressing issues, including Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Jerusalem.
Should Trump make the visit to Israel in the upcoming month it’s timing will be especially crucial; on June 1, a waiver on a Congressional mandate to move the embassy in Israel will finally expire.
And while the US president has mostly been perceived so far as supportive of Israel in his public statements, just this past February a senior administration official told the Post that “we urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements. The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.” (Jerusalem Post)
69-plus one new reasons I love Israel
By Barbara Sofer The Jerusalem Post
Here are this year’s 69, plus one for next year, in no particular order.
- Bikinis used to be banned in Italy. Burkinis were banned in France. In the freedom of Israel, bikini- and burkini-wearers sunbathe side by side on trendy Herzliya beaches.
Tel Aviv beach
Arab women wearing burkinis at a beach in Tel Aviv
- The morning news announcer includes the Hebrew date and the day – lest a listener forget – for counting the Omer (the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot).
- Religious or not, everyone knows that Shavuot is coming, even if it’s about cheesecake. We also know about Lag Ba’omer, Tisha Be’av and Tu Be’av.
- Hundreds of Israelis attended the funeral of a lone Holocaust survivor, 90, from the Canary Islands, whose last wish was to be buried in Israel.
- When the Shekel organization asked for a Seder host for an emotionally disabled woman, it was flooded with offers.
- Coffee at McDonald’s in Cinema City is certified kosher for Passover.
- A waitress serving Passover coffee at McDonald’s is wearing a hijab.
- Swedish IKEA showcases a Seder night table in dining room furniture in Israeli branches. Tupperware’s Israel catalogue has matza on the cover. On Passover, hospitals provide shelves to check your hametz at the door.
- Some public buses are marked “kosher for Passover – please don’t get on with bread products.” A Muslim driver in Jerusalem went further, covering his interior with aluminum foil and setting a Seder table as a gesture to his Jewish passengers.
- Kosher safari? Right in Ramat Gan, where monkeys and lions eat matza.
- Despite predictions that we would resist recycling, we turn over almost 80% of our bottles. Overnight, we adjusted to rules to limiting plastic bags at supermarkets and began carrying tote bags.
- Abracadabra. Israelis have solved our water shortage with conservation and recycling.
- Abracadabra. Technology is created to pull water out of the air by WaterGen in Herzliya, the city named for the visionary of the state.
- Kosher Sorcerer’s Club in Tel Aviv features abracadabra magic.
- “Abracadabra” – “I will create as I speak” or “it came to pass as it was spoken” – is a Jewish expression from Aramaic, a language commonly read in prayers and the Talmud, and even spoken in modern Israel.
- From the country that invented the mobile phone for people who talk with their hands, at last a solution to driving-challenged Israelis: Mobileye technology for avoiding possible collisions and now driverless cars.
- Israeli snacks come in shakshuka and shwarma flavors, not only pizza, ketchup and falafel. Now hummus-flavored Tic Tacs.
- When an Israeli family’s jeep tumbled into an abyss in (Eurasian) Georgia, the prime minister opened Ben-Gurion Airport on Yom Kippur for the first time in seven years to bring them home for medical care.
- An Israeli doctor left the Kol Nidre prayer service to bring the injured family safely home from Georgia.
- Hospital staff walked 10 kilometers to the distant Hadassah campus on Yom Kippur to save the patients who were brought home.
- The Purim weather and news were reported on national TV by anchors wearing costumes.
- Portable mattresses go on sale before Succot so people can sleep in the succa.
- “After the holidays” means after Simhat Torah.
- An IDF soldier wounded in Gaza singing a duet about dads with popular singer Shlomi Shabat brought a packed concert hall audience to its feet in sophisticated Tel Aviv.
- The UN (!) recognized the IDF Medical Corps as a leader in field medicine and disaster relief.
- Army marching on its stomach? Media announced that the IDF would consume 61 tons of matza and 115,000 schnitzels during Passover week.
- New national statistic: the average Israeli’s meat consumption goes up 25% in the month that includes Passover and Independence Day barbecues.
- Israel has the world’s highest percentage of vegans, about twice that of the US.
- Organic hydroponic veggies grow on top of Israel’s first mall on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.
- Thousands of years after the Nabataeans disappeared, who but us holds a Nabataean festival with crafts, spices and music in ancient Mamshit?
- We have an annual Cattle Conference in Jerusalem. Go figure!
- The new museum of natural history in Tel Aviv University is shaped like Noah’s Ark.
- Who else but Israel holds a Gold Festival featuring music and art from the Spanish Golden Age? (In Ashdod.)
- More gold: “Tuesdays in Suspenders.” Golden-agers go to newly released movies for NIS 10.
- The first actress to play Wonder Woman in a live-action film is Gal Gadot, a former IDF soldier from our first town, Rishon Lezion.
- Israeli audiences wait to cheer the Israeli movie star when the credits roll, even if he’s playing Jesus (Aviv Alush in The Shack).
- Israeli company AlefBet is planning a dairy in South Sudan.
- The South Sudan dairy includes a chilling system to keep the cows cool.
- An Israeli 3-D printing system helped complete the surgery when conjoined twins were separated in New York.
- Activists worked nine years to successfully save Palmahim Beach from developers.
- Who else but us could have both the Women of the Wall and the Original Women of the Wall?
- Jerusalem Monopoly: Lose a turn because a zebra escapes from the Biblical Zoo. Lose a turn because there’s an archaeology dig in your way.
- Jerusalem Monopoly: “Boardwalk” is the City of David.
- You don’t have to be Moroccan. More popular than ever: eating mufleta pancakes at the Mimouna celebration after Passover. Even the American ambassador (Dan Shapiro) attends.
- Israel is the most important hot spot along the migration route of birds from Europe and Central Asia to Africa. Half a billion birds pass over twice a year.
- Passing-over birds include 80% of the world’s populations of white and black storks.
- No wonder Israeli women give birth to an average of three children, far more than women in other developed countries.
- Israel opened the world’s first blood bank for birds (not only storks).
- Israel’s eVigilo alert system saved Chileans from a 7.7 Richter scale earthquake.
- Thousands of sick and wounded Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals, even though we’re officially enemies.
- Team Israel baseball team consists mostly of Jewish players from the Diaspora.
- The whole country cheered the surprise Team Israel victories over South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, even though most Israelis don’t understand the rules. Did you say “pop fly”?
- On Good Deeds Day more than 1.3 million always-rushing Israelis took time to take part in volunteer projects.
- Pot from Zion? Octogenarian Israeli Prof. Raphael Mechoulam has been touting the benefits of cannabis for 50 years and is contacted daily by researchers and journalists.
- Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s biggest maker of generic drugs, recently signed a deal with Tel Aviv-based start-up Syqe Medical for an inhaler that dispenses marijuana in precise doses. On Syqe’s website: “We’re looking for great people to join our team.”
- In Petah Tikva, a terrorist was overcome by a civilian wielding a sewing machine.
- Famed trauma surgeon Avi Rivkind spoke at the 2017 ceremony in Warsaw to honor the Righteous Gentile who saved his mother. He quoted his great-great-grandfather Rebbe Menahem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859): “Where is God to be found? In the place where He is given entry.”
- The London-based authoritative Economist: “Israeli Arabs develop a taste for matza.”
- New York-based Bloomberg News: “Israeli economy ranked 3rd-most stable in the world for 2016, after Hong Kong and South Korea.”
- American business magazine Forbes: “Why Israel might just have the world’s best restaurant scene.”
- Fortune.com: “Why Israel dominates cybersecurity” (because of vigilance to ensure our own survival).
- Gett (formerly GetTaxi), the ride-hailing app invented in Israel, is now used in 50 countries, but only here do you get the original Israeli cabbie. GetTaxi Israeli founder Shahar Waiser came up with the idea while impatiently waiting half an hour for a taxi in Silicon Valley.
- Pray on the run? A special synagogue in Jerusalem for marathon runners, also Chabad House of Route 6 for commuters.
- All aboard from Beersheba: IDF soldiers in the South gather for morning prayers on first train out.
- A Jerusalem soccer star borrowed a kippa from a fan to say a blessing after a goal.
- Israeli-Arab transplant surgeon Ahmed Eid, who saves victims of terrorism, will light an Independence Day torch.
- Israel’s SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization, is one of five finalists in the Lunar XPRIZE, a $20 million Google-backed competition to land and operate a robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon. All potential prize money will go to advance science and technology education.
- Teens, too. Israeli high school students are the only youth team to have their nanosatellite launched by NASA. Whizzes from development towns of Ofakim and Yeroham, from Herzliya, from the so-called settlement of Ofra and the Beduin town of Hura collaborated in a project that speaks of our bright future.
- From the wizards at the Volcani Center: New Israeli fruits include “plumegranates,” pomegranates in plum color; “lamoon” plums, which are yellow and shaped like a lemon; and Medjool date bonbons. No kidding.
- No wonder, a new hit single (by Hanan Ben-Ari) says that despite our challenges, “our lives are [sweet as] strawberries!”
Palestinians: Embattled, Weak Abbas Comes to White House
by Khaled Abu Toameh The Gatestone Institute
The joke among Palestinians is that were it not for Israel is sitting smack in the middle, the two warring Palestinian states [the West Bank and the Gaza Strip] would be dispatching rockets and suicide bombers at each other.
Abbas is well aware that the Palestinian house is on fire. Instead of working to extinguish the blaze, however, Abbas spends his time spreading the lie that peace in our time is possible, if only Israel would succumb to his demands.
The story of Gaza — which went straight to Hamas after Israel handed it to Abbas — is not a tale Abbas likes to tell. The same scenario is likely to be repeated in the West Bank if Israel makes a similar move.
This week, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Donald Trump will sit down together to talk. This is the first such meeting since the US presidential election, and it comes at a time when the Palestinian scene is characterized by mounting internal tensions, fighting and divisiveness. The disarray among the Palestinians, where everyone seems to be fighting everyone else, casts serious doubt on Abbas’s ability to lead the Palestinians towards a better future. The chaos also raises the question whether Abbas has the authority to speak on behalf of a majority of Palestinians, let alone sign a peace agreement with Israel that would be acceptable to enough of his people.
Abbas, however, seems rather oblivious to the state of bedlam among the Palestinians, and appears determined to forge ahead despite the radical instability he is facing.
He is travelling to Washington to tell Trump that he and his PA leadership seek a “just and comprehensive” peace with Israel through the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
In the meeting, Abbas is likely to repeat his long-standing charges that Israel continues to “sabotage” any prospect for peace with the Palestinians.
Abbas is not likely to mention the mayhem that the PA leadership is facing at home. Nor is the fact that the Palestinians are as far as ever from achieving their goal of statehood likely to be a preeminent subject. Why bother discussing inconvenient truths, such as the deep divisions among the Palestinians and failure to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, when you can point the finger of blame at Israel?
Abbas’s trip to Washington coincides with a peak of tension between his PA and Hamas, the Islamic movement that rules the Gaza Strip. The rivalry between Hamas and Abbas’s PA, which climaxed in 2007 when the Islamic movement violently took over the Gaza Strip from Abbas loyalists, has created a reality where the Palestinians are divided, physically, into two separate entities.
Since 2007, the reality on the ground is that the Palestinians already have two small states: one in the Gaza Strip and another in the West Bank. These two states have since been at war with each other. The joke among Palestinians is that were it not for Israel is sitting smack in the middle, the two warring Palestinian states would be dispatching rockets and suicide bombers at each other.
This war, which is currently a war of venomous words between the PA and Hamas, has left many Palestinians wondering whether their leaders will ever be able to move beyond their personal animosities and bring the people closer to achieving statehood. Many attempts by Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Yemen, to resolve the dispute between Hamas and the PA have failed. Neither side appears to be willing to make any concessions that would pave the way for national reconciliation in the Palestinian arena.
For the past several weeks, thousands of Palestinians have taken to Gaza’s streets to denounce Abbas as a traitor and Zionist agent. It is worth noting that the protesters are not only supporters of Hamas, but also include many disgruntled PA employees who are protesting Abbas’s decision to slash their salaries by 30%.
Abbas suspects that these employees, who are affiliated with his Fatah faction, have switched their loyalty to his arch-rival, Mohamed Dahlan, the ousted Fatah leader who has been publicly calling for the removal of Abbas from power.
Hardly a day passes in the Gaza Strip that demonstrators do not burn photos of Abbas and his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah (who is also based in the West Bank).
Yet, it is not only money that is bringing the Palestinian population to the streets. Hamas and many Palestinians hold Abbas responsible for the ongoing electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip, which has left tens of thousands of families without power for up to 20 hours a day.
Last week Abbas’s government told Israel that it will stop paying for electricity that Israel supplies to Gaza. Palestinians say Abbas is planning more punitive measures against the Strip in the near future. His goal is to drive desperate Palestinians there to revolt against Hamas. In the meantime, however, it seems that Abbas’s measures are boomeranging, and Gazans are, for now, hurling their fury at him and the PA government.
Abbas’s plate is quite full in the Gaza Strip. Alongside Hamas, he has thousands of Dahlan loyalists to deal with. Then there are several other Palestinian groups, such as Islamic Jihad, that have long been challenging Abbas and his autocratic rule. Recently, the leaders of these groups stepped up their harsh criticism of Abbas, with some calling for his “execution” in a public square.
“Why does Abbas take the donors’ money that is intended for the Gaza Strip? asked Marwan Abu Ras, a senior Hamas official. In the view of Abu Ras, Abbas has reached the “highest degrees of treason” and must face a popular and legal trial. “He must be hanged in the public square in front of his people because he is the biggest traitor the Palestinian cause has ever had,” the Hamas official declared.
Another top Hamas official, Mahmoud Zahar, said that Abbas has long lost his legitimacy and was no longer the president of the Palestinians. He accused Abbas and his senior aides of laying their hands on Arab and Western funds and using them for their personal interests. “Abbas is committing crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip,” Zahar charged. “Abbas cut off the electricity to the Gaza Strip and salaries to the (PA) employees. He is involved in a conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
How Abbas would fare if he ever returned to Gaza is anyone’s guess. Since 2007, Abbas has not been able to even go back to his private house in Gaza. In light of Hamas’s daily threats to kill him, it is unlikely that the 82-year-old Abbas will ever see the Gaza Strip from the inside again.
Abbas’s senior aides, meanwhile, are not sitting silent in the face of the Hamas threats. One of his top advisors, Mahmoud Habbash, last week called on Palestinians to revolt against Hamas. Habbash also stated that it would be fine to destroy and burn the Gaza Strip in order to get rid of Hamas.
The threats against Abbas are coming not only from Hamas, but also from Dahlan and other senior Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip, who think of themselves as sacrificial victims in the war between Abbas and Hamas. The Gaza Strip, then, hosts not only a Fatah-Hamas war, but also a war within Fatah. And tensions between all these parties are only headed toward escalation.
Adding to his problems stemming from the Gaza Strip, Abbas has his hands full inside PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. A hunger strike organized by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is seen as directed not only against Israel, but above all against Abbas and the PA leadership. Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison for his role in terrorist attacks, has been imprisoned for 15 years. He and his fellow inmates are convinced that Abbas is not interested in their release, which accounts for why he is not doing much to help their cause. Abbas, it is said, fears Barghouti’s popularity, and prefers him in Israeli prison over having him at large.
The hunger strike has triggered a wave of protests in the West Bank not only against Israel, but also against Abbas and his PA government. Abbas is also facing enmity for cracking down on public freedoms, lack of economic reforms and his continued security coordination with Israel.
Is it any surprise, then, that Abbas prefers to spend his time outside Ramallah and the PA-controlled territories? He rarely visits Jenin, Hebron or Nablus, but Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states are a second home to him.
Abbas is well aware that the Palestinian house is on fire. Instead of working to extinguish the blaze, however, Abbas spends his time spreading the lie that peace in our time is possible, if only Israel would succumb to his demands.
The story of Gaza — which went straight to Hamas after Israel handed it to Abbas — is not a tale Abbas likes to tell. The same scenario is likely to be repeated in the West Bank if Israel makes a similar move. It remains to be seen whether Trump and the new administration are aware of the extreme anarchy reining among the Palestinians, and act accordingly. Will the world see past Abbas’s lies this time?
Where is world outrage over Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul?
By RICHARD KEMP JIM MOLAN AND ARSEN OSTROVSKY The Jerusalem Post
On May 1, Israelis will observe Remembrance Day, honoring soldiers who fell in defense of the Jewish state, and victims of terrorism.
At an age when most teenagers are getting ready to go off to university or travel abroad, Israelis devote at least two to three years of their lives to defending and protecting their country, the only Jewish state, and by extension the West’s front line of defense in the global war against Islamic terrorism.
Two such soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the State of Israel were Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed in action by Hamas during Israel’s defensive 2014 war with the terrorist group, Operation Protective Edge.
On August 1, 2014, hours after a United Nations- and US-brokered humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect, Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel in Gaza, ambushed an IDF unit and killed Hadar, who was only 23 years old. Hamas then took his body and have been holding it hostage in Gaza since, treating it contemptuously as both a bargaining chip and an instrument to torment his family.
Shaul, who was only 20 years old at the time, was also killed by Hamas, when he left his armored personnel carrier to repair the vehicle and Hamas fired on his unit, killing him, and likewise taking his body and malignly holding it in Gaza.
Holding the bodies of soldiers killed in action and refusing their return to their next of kin for burial is a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. As is using the soldiers’ bodies as bargaining chips, which Hamas continues to do.
Only last week, the terrorist group released a morbid video including a song in Hebrew, taunting the families of Goldin and Shaul, again in breach of international law.
To this day, almost three years since their abduction, Hamas refuses even to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access.
That Hamas, a fanatical Iran-funded Islamist terrorist organization, does not abide by even a modicum of international law and basic human decency is beyond dispute. But where is the international outcry? Only last week, the international community was up in arms over a large group of Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israel. These were however violent murderers convicted of terrorism-related offenses.
Moreover, Israel affords these prisoners full rights under international law, including access to ICRC, and returns bodies of terrorists killed attacking Israelis.
Yet the same international community, overflowing with concern over the welfare of Palestinian terrorists, can’t even feign interest in the Israeli soldiers held hostage by Hamas.
Where is the Red Cross? Virtual silence.
Where is the UN, under whose auspices the cease-fire during which Hadar was killed and kidnapped was brokered? Silence. Awaking only occasionally to condemn Israel in New York or Geneva, but turning a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism.
Where are self-professed human rights groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch? Silence again.
Perhaps to them the human rights of Jews and Israelis are not worthy? What about Mahmoud Abbas? The Palestinian Authority president claims he wants peace, yet instead seeks to embrace Hamas and glorify those who kill Israelis.
You can be certain that if Goldin and Shaul were British, Australian, American, French or Russian soldiers, there would be an international outcry. But only silence and sheer neglect when it comes to the lives of Israelis.
We understand there are many pressing humanitarian concerns facing the world today, not least in the Middle East, but the world must not forget Hadar Goldin, who was killed and taken hostage during a UN cease-fire, as well as Oron Shaul.
This is not only a matter for Israelis, but a basic humanitarian issue. These young soldiers, who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, could be any of our soldiers, defending the West from global jihad.
The international community, which is seeking to rebuild Gaza and promote peace in the region, should make any further efforts conditional upon the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers’ bodies.
The Red Cross also has a fundamental duty to speak up.
Meantime, the UN, aided and abetted by the Obama administration, exerted great pressure on Israel to accept this cease-fire, and therefore bears primary responsibility for ensuring the return of the bodies of Goldin and Shaul.
The families of these young men deserve, and by law are entitled to, a proper decent burial at home in Israel.
It is time the world showed that Israeli lives matter too.
Col. Richard Kemp is a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan.
Maj.-General Jim Molan is a retired Australian army officer who served as chief of operations for the Multinational Forces in Iraq and as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Border Control.
Arsen Ostrovsky is an international human rights lawyer.