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Latest Israel News – 4th July

Tanya Plibersek snub for NSW ALP shift on Palestine

Acting federal Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has snubbed a push by her party’s NSW branch to give Palestine unqualified recognition as a state, sticking with the federal ALP’s pro-Israel policy endorsed by Bill Shorten.

Ms Plibersek yesterday dismissed a resolution that the ALP’s largest state conference is expected to pass this month as just “discussions at a state level” — despite the Palestinian delegation to Australia declaring it significantly strengthened its negotiating position for statehood.

Palestinian delegation head Izzat Abdulhadi said the anticipated vote by the NSW ALP conference would be a significant step towards a binding Labor Party resolution recognising Palestine at its national conference next year. Mr Abdulhadi said the NSW party vote would be a “serious and substantial step” and send a strong message to Israel that its “illegal settlements” in Palestinian territories were the main ­obstacle to peace.

The strongly worded NSW party motion — while noting previous resolutions at state conferences in 2015 and 2016 — “urges the next Labor government to recognise Palestine”.

It is regarded within senior Labor ranks as the template for enshrining official recognition for Palestine at the 2018 national party conference. If passed nationally, it would compel Labor to go to the next federal election with a ­revamped policy, a break with the past on a matter of bipartisanship with the Coalition.

The ALP’s national left faction is firmly behind watering down traditional support for Israel. The party’s push for change is firmest in NSW where it has the backing of influential right figures — ­notably former Labor premier and Gillard government foreign minister Bob Carr and serving front­bencher Tony Burke — as well as left-winger Anthony Albanese.

Ms Plibersek’s support yesterday for the status quo comes ­despite past comments critical of Israel. During the Iraq war ­debate in 2002 she called ­Israel a “rogue state” that consistently ­ignored UN resolutions, and branded its then leader Ariel Sharon a “war criminal”. She has since said she no longer holds such views.

Victorian Labor backbencher Michael Danby yesterday lashed out at Mr Carr, accusing him of being behind the NSW motion giving unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state.

Mr Danby, who is Jewish, ­accused Mr Carr, now head of the Australian China Relations Institute at University of Technology Sydney, of orchestrating the change and being “gutless” for not being open about his role.

Federal Labor’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue states it supports a two-state solution — but only commits the party in government to “discuss” joining like-minded nations in recognising a Palestinian state if there is no progress in peace talks.

Mr Carr was a “special guest” last Tuesday at a NSW ALP federal electorate council policy forum on Palestine, hosted by Mr Albanese and Mr Burke at Sydney’s Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL.

NSW party opponents of the Israel-Palestine policy change said Mr Carr had been acting behind the scenes since his ­appearance with Mr Albanese and Mr Burke, lobbying for resolution support at this month’s conference. Mr Carr declined to comment on Mr Danby’s attacks. Mr Albanese and Mr Burke were not available.

Senior sources backing them said there was no secret about the stand all three had taken to cabinet as ministers in the Labor government in November 2012, as ­detailed in Mr Carr’s book Diary of a Foreign Minister. Mr Albanese had “always” backed a change to Labor’s position, while Mr Burke spoke in support at the latest ­national conference.

Mr Abdulhadi said NSW Labor’s move, which follows resolutions passed by Tasmanian and Queensland ALP branch conferences, was a “bold response” to the continuation of Israel’s settlements’ activities and gave hope that a sovereign state was possible.

“Australian recognition of state of Palestine will strengthen the negotiation position of the Palestinian side and accordingly the possibility to reach an equitable, sustainable and durable peace will be realistic and reachable,” he said.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies executive director Vic Alhadeff said any decision toward a substantial shift in Israel-­Palestine policy at a national level sent a “dangerous message” in breaking away from the only rule-of-law democracy in the Middle East

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said the party had long supported, and continued to support, a two-state solution, and the NSW motion would not determine the position of the federal party. (the Australian)

Israeli Defense Minister to Syria: ‘Don’t test us’

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Israel’s northern neighbors on Sunday not to test the Jewish State’s patience on after numerous errant mortars struck Israel over the past week.

“We have no intention of entering any conflict, but I advise our neighbors not to test us,” Liberman told military journalists during a briefing at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

A number of projectiles have landed in Israeli territory due to intensified fighting on the Syrian side of Quneitra as Bashar Assad’s regime fights 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 the city of al-Baath (new Quneitra), which is one of the few towns in the province that has remained under control of Syrian-government forces.

“We will not tolerate any spillover into our territory,” Liberman said, stressing that the message sent by the IDF in the retaliatory strikes as been “clearly understood” by those across the border.

Although Liberman stated that he did not see any chance for escalation on the border, the smallest incident or miscalculation by either side can lead to conflict, he said, referring to incidents that led to the outbreak both Operation Protective Edge and the Second Lebanon War.

On Friday, a senior IDF official stated that “the IDF is acting proportionally to prevent any deterioration” and has retaliated against Assad-regime positions after the projectiles struck the Ramat Hagolan area.

Liberman stressed that the rebels “are not our friends,” but said Israel is ready to accept any cease-fire in Syria that does not involve Iran, Hezbollah or Assad.

“We cannot allow a man like Assad, who kills his own citizens and who uses chemical weapons against them to remain in power,” he said. “Keeping Assad in power is not in our security interests. As long as he is in power, Iran and Hezbollah will be in Syria.”

When asked by The Jerusalem Post whether it would be better for Israel if Assad or Syrian rebels to control the border with Israel, he said neither was great option: “The rebels are not our friends, they are all versions of al-Qaida.”

According to Liberman, Israel is in contact with villagers along the Syrian border who understand that Israel, which provides them with medical and humanitarian care, is not their enemy.

“People there have nothing to eat. More than 3,000 Syrians have received medical treatment in Israel, and all of them are local villagers,” he said. “They understand that the best neighbor for them is Israel. I am not hiding it; we have helped in the past and are continuing to help.”

Despite Israel having no interest in entering Syria’s seven-year-old civil war, Liberman said there are red lines Jerusalem has set, including the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and an Iranian presence on its borders.

“We will not tolerate any Iranian presence on the border, and we will continue to act against that,” he said, adding that Israel will “do what is necessary” following reports that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has established underground arms-production factories for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In March, Kuwait’s Al Jarida newspaper reported that Hezbollah has operated and managed the factories set up by the IRGC in response to alleged Israeli strikes against weapons convoys in Syria. According to the report, the factories can produce missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometers, as well as surface-to-air and antitank missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that are able to carry explosives.

The report was confirmed on Thursday by the head of Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, who said Hezbollah was using Iranian know-how to set up a weapons industry and transfer arms to the country’s South.

“We take everything seriously,” Liberman said. “We are certainly aware of the reports and, we will do what needs to be done. This is a significant phenomenon and we cannot ignore it. Precise weapons such as these missiles are a challenge. Compared to past wars, they will hit deep inside Israeli territory.”

Liberman added, however, that Israel has “increased the gap” with Hezbollah since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. “We know what to do. Neither the missiles nor their factories will rust,” he said.   (Jerusalem Post)

MKs expected to be allowed on Temple Mount this month

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will lift his ban on lawmakers visiting the Temple Mount for a trial period later this month, the State Attorney’s Office plans to tell the High Court of Justice.

According to the state’s planned response to a petition by Likud MK Yehudah Glick calling for an overturn of the ban, which went into effect in October 2015, they will be allowed at the holy site for a five-day period beginning July 23.

During that time, the government will assess whether the visits spark violence; the assumption that they do was the logic behind Netanyahu’s ban.

Glick said: “The decision to open the Temple Mount is right and appropriate. It’s too bad that we had to petition the High Court for it to be made.”

“I call on all MKs to ascend the Mount and respect the place appropriately, leaving disputes and agendas behind,” he added. “I call on the prime minister and public security minister to do all that is necessary against those who would take advantage of this decision to commit acts of terrorism.”

Glick expressed hope that the Temple Mount will “fulfill its purpose as a world center for peace and reconciliation.”

Before becoming a lawmaker, Glick was best-known as an activist for Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. In 2014, he survived an assassination attempt by a Palestinian from east Jerusalem who called him an “enemy of al-Aksa,” the mosque atop the Tempe Mount.

The police currently permit only Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount, which is managed by the Jordanian Islamic Trust, or Wakf, thus maintaining the status quo at the site since 1967.

Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but the visits became more limited after the Second Intifada began in 2000. In recent years, however, activists have been bringing growing numbers of Jewish visitors to the site.

Unsubstantiated claims that Jews plan to change the status quo on the Temple Mount have repeatedly led to waves of Arab terrorism in the past, as far back as the Hebron Massacre in 1929 and as recently as the “stabbing Intifada” that began in September 2015.

MKs affiliated with the Islamic Movement – Taleb Abu Arar, Masud Gnaim and Abdel-Hakim Haj Yahya of the Joint List – said it is not up to Netanyahu or the Israeli government to decide whether or not they pray on the Temple Mount.

“The Aksa Mosque is a holy place for us as Muslims and it is only our right to enter and visit and pray. And it is occupied Arab Palestinian territory from which the Israeli government must withdraw,” they said in a statement. “We will continue to exercise our right to enter and pray in al-Aksa Mosque, and are not waiting for permission or a license from the Israeli prime minister.”

Earlier this year, Gnaim was escorted away from the mosque by police.

In the past, Yahya and other Arab lawmakers have taken advantage of their relative anonymity and visited the Temple Mount unnoticed by the authorities, despite the ban.

A year ago, police said there are no security-related reasons to keep the ban in place, but Netanyahu said he would not reverse it. Earlier this year, the prime minister indicated that he had changed his mind, but set the date for the reversal following sensitive dates such as US President Donald Trump’s visit; the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War; and the month of Ramadan.  (Jerusalem Post)

3 years after Operation Protective Edge, southern Israel is flourishing

Almost three years after the end of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s clash with Hamas that saw Israel’s southern communities bombarded with rockets, the Gaza periphery is blooming. Although many residents are worried that the calm could be torn apart at any moment, building starts are at record numbers and more people are moving into the area than are leaving.

Maya and Marcus Lieberman, parents to Ariel (a year and 10 months) are one of the couples who have moved to Kibbutz Nirim in the Eshkol Regional Council. The kibbutz took a brutal hit in the 2014 operation against Hamas: on the last day of the fighting, residents Zevik Etzion and Shahar Melamed were killed by a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza.

“The Gaza periphery communities are known for their quality of life because of the supportive community, the good schools, the quiet surroundings, and personal safety [of residents], despite the proximity to the Gaza Strip,” explains Maya Lieberman.

“We had a lot of concerns, and after Ariel was born, we decided the time was right. The security situation wasn’t ideal. The security consideration was a dominant one, but what eventually determined our decision was the quality of life, the school system, and mostly the wonderful community and the ideal place to raise children,” she says.

The numbers are encouraging. Since Protective Edge ended, about 80 new families have moved to communities in the Eshkol Regional Council, many of them to communities flush against the Gaza border fence. Some of the families are natives who are returning, and others are new arrivals from all over the country. The total population of the Eshkol Regional Council has increased by 1,200 people since the end of the operation. Almost all the communities there have waiting lists of potential new residents, but there are almost no available homes.

Aside from the demographic increase, the Eshkol region has seen economic recovery and growth. In the period immediately after Protective Edge, construction on the first industrial park in Eshkol was expedited. The park takes up an area of 300 dunams (74 acres) in a triangular pocket bordered by Israel, Gaza, and Egypt and is home to agriculture and packing businesses, factories, a gas station, and restaurants. A business center and offices are planned. The government has invested tens of millions of shekels in the project, mostly in infrastructure.

Like Eshkol, the mood in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council — home to 11 communities, half of which are close to Gaza — has been upbeat since Operation Protective Edge. Hundreds of new homes have been built in Shaar Hanegev, and hundreds of new families have arrived. All 11 communities have stopped taking in new residents because there is no more room.

The Sdot Negev Regional Council, where about half the communities lie within the Gaza periphery, is also seeing its labor bear fruit, and 100 new families now call the periphery communities home. A total of 10 new businesses have opened in the Sdot Negev industrial area. All of the Sdot Negev communities are at full residency, and no more homes or plots of land are for sale.

“As the numbers prove, the growth Sdot Negev communities are seeing and feeling in all areas is, for us, our true victory over terrorism,” said Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamir Idan. (Israel Hayom)

Labor’s Palestinian shift wrong and bad politics, too

by    Greg Sheridan    The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/greg-sheridan/labors-palestinian-shift-wrong-and-bad-politics-too/news-story/c8ba0261e294bdef5a48f735d5369fb0

Those in the Labor Party with a sensible view of the Middle East have not yet accepted that a proposed NSW resolution — demanding a federal Labor government immediately recognise a Palestinian state — will be translated into a similar, binding resolution at a federal ALP conference next year.

For one thing, the timing of that federal conference is not certain. It could well be held in the shadow of a looming federal election. That may inject a dose of realism into the party.

But the long-term trend within the Labor Party is clear: the internal culture of the ALP is trending leftward, and organisational Labor is becoming an anti-Israel party. This is damaging for Labor, as Israel still enjoys wide support in Australia and identifying with that acrid range of international forces that hate Israel can only hurt Labor.

It is wrong in principle and likely to be bad politics.

For the two-state solution to work and a Palestinian state to come into existence, both sides will have to compromise. The Palestinian leadership has shown no willingness to compromise on a range of issues, among them: the absurd claim that millions of Palestinian-descended people be allowed to settle in Israel proper; on recognising Israel as a Jewish state; on ending incitement to terrorism; on accepting that there will have to be Israeli control over borders until the state can prove it is not a deadly security threat to Israeli security; and much more.

Not only that, a good portion of Palestinian territory, the Gaza Strip, is controlled by Hamas, which Australian law recognises as a designated terrorist group.

So to call for the immediate diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state is unrealistic, unhelpful, irresponsible and an example of the poisonous ideological extremism spreading through Western politics on the left and right like a spilt ink bottle spreads over a thirsty blotter.

All of this, paradoxically, provides a certain, limited, national security rationale for electing a Bill Shorten-led government. Given the change in the culture of centre-left parties internationally and the rise of left activism generally, Shorten is probably the last right-wing leader Labor will have for a very long time.

The abomination of Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour’s most left-wing, extreme leader in its history, means Australian Labor hard heads are unlikely to go any further down the road of changing how the leader is elected. The hybrid formula — 50 per cent of the vote to MPs and 50 per cent to a rank-and-file ballot — won’t be changed.

On national security, Shorten is the most reliable and sensible centre-left leader in opposition in the West, infinitely better than Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, say, in the US. Shorten’s defence spokesman, Richard Marles, is a national-security realist and a friend of Israel. Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong is entirely mainstream, and perhaps, with Chris Bowen, Labor’s key advocate of an open economy.

Shorten is also a political realist. If forced to declare some ridiculous recognition of a Palestinian state, he will do so. But he will run a pro-Israel government and a government that will maintain every element of the close friendship and association with Israel that Australian governments have intensified over recent years.

There is no doubt the culture of Labor is moving away from the hard-headed national-security approach Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Kim Beazley embedded into the party after the disastrous leftism of Gough Whitlam. How much damage that internal party culture ultimately does to a Labor government remains to be seen.

ALP’s Palestinian push to end Israel bipartisanship

Editorial from The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/alps-palestinian-push-to-end-israel-bipartisanship/news-story/2573f21c3b0d46259870c943f3b2d035

Recognition of a clearly non-existent Palestinian state is one of the great global obsessions of our times. But Bill Shorten will be doing neither himself nor the Labor Party any favours if he allows himself to be steamrolled into going along with moves within the NSW branch of the ALP to dump 40 years of common sense on Israel and commit a future Labor government to unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state. There is a warning for him in the mess British Labour has been in over Palestinian statehood and the highly damaging perceptions of anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel fed by Jeremy Corbyn’s “friendship” with Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists.

For cynical reasons, probably not unrelated to winning votes among large Muslim communities in western Sydney seats, former foreign minister and NSW premier Bob Carr has been leading the charge within the NSW party, even though such matters should be left for the national conference. The consequence of what would be a “historic” move by NSW to drop decades of “instinctive” support for Israel would, as Simon Benson reported yesterday, likely lead to next year’s national conference doing the same.

Mr Shorten, who has a long history of friendship for Israel, must ensure that does not happen. The “it’s time to recognise Palestinian statehood” argument may appear plausible. But it’s not. How could it be when there is no such thing as a viable Palestinian state to recognise? International law may have many arcane aspects, but it is crystal clear on what a state needs to be before that can happen. It has to have defined borders: the present Palestinian “state” has none. It won’t have any until its leaders negotiate with Israel. It also has to have a stable government in demonstrable control of the state: the writ of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority is limited to the West Bank and it has no authority in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, its arch-enemy.

Even the argument Kevin Rudd ran in February, demanding not just Labor but Australia recognise Palestine, is specious. He argued Australia should go along because 137 other states have already done so. That overlooks how all major developed nations — the US, Britain, Germany, France, Canada and others aligned with Australia — have declined to go along with the fantasy of recognising a non-existent state. The real mischief lies in backing Palestinian moves aimed at achieving statehood through the backdoor of winning numbers at the UN, rather than by negotiating with Israel. This tactic is damaging to what hopes there are for resumed talks between the Palestinians and Israelis and the two-state solution that holds the best hopes for peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his visit to Australia in February, recommitted to talks without preconditions. Mr Abbas and his colleagues remain obdurate, using claims over Israeli settlements to shy away from talking. Underpinning their refusal is the conviction they can win statehood through the UN — the course advocated by the NSW ALP.

Abandoning bipartisanship on Israel would put our nation at odds with the Middle East’s only democracy — a country whose security and welfare are close to the hearts of many Australians. It should not go unnoticed that while Labor preoccupies itself with same-sex marriage, the move in the NSW branch implies going against the only country in the Middle East where a gay pride march can be held without participants being attacked. Fashionable obsession it may be, but Labor has a lot to lose if it allows the NSW branch to get its way.

Three times – no Palestine

by Michael Danby              J Wire

Three times – no Palestine

Three times the Palestinians have been offered a state, three times they’ve run away

1) Bill Clinton – Responsibility of Palestinians for collapse of Camp David summit in 2000:

“I regret that in 2000 Arafat missed the opportunity to bring that nation into being and pray for the day when the dreams of the Palestinian people for a state and a better life will be realised in a just and lasting peace.” – Bill Clinton

Dennis Ross – During a lecture in Australia, Ross suggested that the reason for the failure was Arafat’s unwillingness to sign a final deal with Israel that would close the door on any of the Palestinians’ maximum demands, particularly the right of return. Ross claimed that what Arafat really wanted was “a one-state solution. Not independent, adjacent Israeli and Palestinian states, but a single Arab state encompassing all of Historic Palestine.”

Palestinian Minister Nabil Amr also blamed the collapse of talks on Arafat:

https://web.archive.org/web/20030210143652/http://www.amin.org/eng/uncat/2002/sept/sept02.html

Historian Kenneth Levin noted that: “[D]espite the dimensions of the Israeli offer and intense pressure from President Clinton, Arafat demurred. He apparently was indeed unwilling, no matter what the Israeli concessions, to sign an agreement that declared itself final and forswore any further Palestinian claims.” In The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege. Hanover: Smith and Kraus, 2005.

Saudi Prince Bandar said: “If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won’t be a tragedy; it will be a crime.” In Landau, David (2014). Arik: The Life of Ariel Sharon, Random House.

2) Condoleezza Rice–15th October 2007(Press statements made in Jerusalem)

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21288370/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/rice-calls-creation- palestinian-state/#.WUoATU0UlaQ

“Frankly, it’s time for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Rice told a news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who she saw on the second of a four-day intense Middle East shuttle diplomacy mission.

“The United States sees the establishment of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution as absolutely essential for the future, not just of Palestinians and Israelis but also for the Middle East and indeed to American interests,” she said.

“That’s really a message that I think only I can deliver,” Rice said, explaining her mission to prepare for the conference to be held in Annapolis, Md. as early as late November.

“If it’s going to address the establishment of a Palestinian state, then it has to address core issues,” Rice said. “You do have to have enough that is concrete so that people know that we’re not just starting out with the general principle that everyone would like to have a Palestinian state.”

“I understand as well as anybody that there are risks to announcing a meeting and then doing the hard work to get it prepared,” Rice said. But the other side of that … something had to spark their active and intensive engagement, something had to spark the region to take advantage of what was a slowly opening historic opportunity.”

3) Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas abandons Kerry/Obama Proposals 2014-2015

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.79429

“When Kerry presented (The Peace Terms) to Abbas, the Palestinian leader became visibly angry, saying he could not put his signature on such a document….”

“When Kerry met Abbas in Paris on February 19, 2014 and presented him with this (revised) version of the framework accord, the Palestinian president responded with anger and disappointment. The weak wording (on Jerusalem) was a nonstarter for him.”

“…Abbas didn’t accept Obama’s framework document. He didn’t reject it, though – he simply didn’t respond.

The Obama administration was disappointed by his reaction. Obama asked Abbas to “see the big picture” instead of squabbling with “this or that detail” – to no avail. A month later, Kerry’s peace talks collapsed.”

Michael Danby is the Federal Labor MP for Melbourne Ports

Modi Is Coming to Jerusalem – Prof. Efraim Inbar (BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)

Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP party came to power in May 2014, his administration has shed its predecessors’ reservations about regular public discourse regarding India’s ties with Israel.

Modi’s trip to Israel on July 4 is not planned to be “balanced” with a visit to the Palestinian Authority, indicating that India has freed its relations with Israel from its historical commitment to the Palestinian issue. Indeed, India has modified its voting pattern at international organizations by refraining to join the automatic majority against Israel.

India and Israel display high levels of threat perception and share a common strategic agenda. They are both involved in protracted conflicts characterized by complex ethnic and religious components not always well understood by outsiders.

Both face weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of their rivals. The two nations share a common threat: radical offshoots of Islam in the greater Middle East. Moreover, India fears the Pakistani nuclear arsenal might ultimately fall into the hands of Islamic radicals.

Initially, Russian failure to deliver promised weapons at expected prices and/or schedules led India to turn to Israeli companies to upgrade its aging Soviet platforms, such as its Mig-21s and T-72 tanks. Today, Israel is India’s third-largest arms supplier.

India and Israel represent two ancient civilizations. They share a British colonial past and were the first to become independent (in 1947 and 1948, respectively) in the post-WWII decolonization wave. Both were born as the result of messy partitions and have maintained democratic regimes under adverse conditions ever since.

The writer is professor emeritus of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and founding director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

IDF helicopter lands on US supercarrier, world’s largest warship

An IDF helicopter landed on the USS George HW Bush, a nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier used for striking ISIS targets, which is too big to enter Israel’s Haifa port and is, therefore, docked a few kilometers off the coast.

Watch the video clip:

Lessons from Israel’s Response to Terrorism – Fiamma Nirenstein