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Latest Israel News – 5th July

Modi: It’s an honor to be first Indian prime minister to visit

A wait of nearly 70 years came to an end on Tuesday when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at Ben-Gurion Airport to begin his two day visit, the first ever by a sitting Indian premier.

“Prime Minister, we’ve been waiting for you a long time,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Modi at a short welcoming ceremony held on his behalf on the airport tarmac. “We receive you with open arms. We love India.”

Netanyahu began his brief comments with some words in Hindi, “Aapka swagat hai mere dost” (Welcome, my friend).

“We admire your culture, we admire your history, your democracy, your commitment to progress,” Netanyahu said. “We view you as kindred spirits in our common quest to provide a better future for our peoples and for our world.”

Modi, who arrived on an Air India jumbo jet in the late afternoon and embraced Netanyahu warmly after descending the stairs from the plane, opened his comments by saying in Hebrew, “I am very happy to be here.”

“My visit marks a path-breaking journey of engagement, a journey we are excited to undertake together for the good of our peoples and our societies,” he said. “Building a strong and resilient relationship with Israel will be my intent and focus.“

Modi, who since his election in 2014 has significantly raised the profile of his country’s ties with israel, said it was his “singular honor to be the first ever prime minister of India to undertake this groundbreaking visit to israel.”

“The people of Israel have built a nation on democratic principles,” he said. “They have nurtured it with hard work, grit and spirit of innovation. You have marched on, regardless of adversity, and converted challenges into opportunity. India applauds your achievements.”

The Indian premier, dressed in a white bandhgala in the sweltering heat, recalled in his remarks that july 4 is the anniversary of the Entebbe raid, saying that “your prime minister and my friend Bibi lost his elder brother Yoni, while saving the lives of so many Israeli hostages.”

The two men, who met in 2014 and again in 2015 at international meetings abroad, are believed to have struck up a positive personal relationship that was on display at the airport. “What a great day, what a historic day. Welcome my friend,” Netanyahu said to Modi when he descended from the plane.

Putting the arrival of the Indian prime minister in a historical context, one Indian journalist on the scene said that until the 1980s, Indian passports included the following: “This passport is valid for travel to all countries except Israel and South Africa.”

Netanyahu, in his comments, noted that at their first meeting at the United Nations in 2014, Modi said, “when it comes to India-Israel’s relations, the sky’s the limit.”

“The ties between our talented innovative peoples is natural. It’s so natural that we could ask what took so long for them to blossom?” Netanyahu said “Well, it took a meeting of minds and hearts, it took a commitment of our governments. We have that today.”

Netanyahu said he was confident in the success of the India-Israel partnership for a number of reasons. First, he said, “is the talent of our peoples,” noting that it has been said that the two most common languages in Silicon Valley are Hebrew and Hindi.

Secondly, he said, there is “a great sympathy between our peoples – the natural camaraderie between Indians and Israelis.”

And, finally, he said, he is confident in the success of the relationship because of leadership. He said that Modi’s visit was a testament to his being both a great leader of India and a world leader.

Following the ceremony at the airport, the two leaders went to Moshav Mishmar Hashiva, near Beit Dagan, and visited the Danziger “Dan” flower farm, one of Israel’s leading floriculture companies, with approximately 80,000 square meters of state-of-the-art greenhouses specializing in the reproduction of plants.

That this was the first stop on Modi’s visit highlighted that one of India’s key interests in closer cooperation with Israel is its expertise in agricultural technology. They were joined Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, and the Indian leader was presented with a new strain of a white chrysanthemum named after him: “Modi.”

He then proceeded to Yad Vashem where he visited the Hall of Names, placed a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance, and toured the Children’s Memorial.

Though the jam-packed 49-hour schedule has been planned out to the minute, Netanyahu suggested to Modi that they visit the nearby grave of Theodor Herzl, and Modi immediately agreed. Afterward, they went to Netanyahu’s residence for a dinner meeting.

Before the dinner, Netanyahu congratulated Modi for the reforms he has instituted to change India’s economy, and joked that he was “inspired by prime Minister Modi’s enthusiasm for yoga,” and was going to start himself taking up the practice at a “low level.”


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem

Modi, referring to his visit to Yad Vashem, said it was a reminder of  man’s unspeakable cruelty, but “also a tribute to your unbreakable spirit to rise above the depths” and build a viable democratic nation.

“Yad Vashem tells us that those who believe in humanity and civilized values must come together,” he said, and “as such we must resolutely oppose the evils of terrorism and the violence that plagues our times.”               (Jerusalem Post)

Herzog unseated as Peretz, Gabbay advance to Labor leadership runoff

Former Labor party leader Amir Peretz and ex-Kulanu minister Avi Gabbay on Tuesday advanced to the second round in the party’s leadership race, in an upset that saw incumbent Isaac Herzog unseated from power after a tumultuous four years at the helm.

Peretz was in the lead with 32 percent (10,141 votes), followed by newcomer Gabbay with 27% (8,395), as the polls closed on Tuesday evening. The two top contenders will face off next Monday, since no single candidate received the required 40% of the vote in Tuesday’s vote to declare a winner.

Herzog, the party leader since 2013, received just 16.7% of the vote (5,204), with Labor MK Erel Margalit close behind at 16.1% (4,997). Labor MK Omer Bar Lev received just six percent.

The turnout in the primary stood at 59%, or 30,998 Labor voters.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Herzog congratulated Gabbay and Peretz and thanked his followers.

“The members of the Labor party have spoken. I respect their decision,” said Herzog.

Peretz, a former defense minister who led the party as a junior coalition party under Kadima over a decade ago, has been campaigning vigorously for the post since December.

“I am proud of my accomplishment and am convinced I will win in the second round, after which we will replace Netanyahu,” said Peretz on Tuesday.

Gabbay, meanwhile, was seen as the dark horse in the race, bringing fresh blood and a right-wing political history to the traditionally dovish party.

“Wow,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night, an hour after the results were announced.

A former minister in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, Gabbay quit in May 2016, after coalition talks brought the Yisrael Beytenu party into the government with a dramatic tirade accusing the coalition of leading Israel on a path to destruction.

The breakout moment for Gabbay, a relatively unknown minister who was not elected to Knesset, but rather appointed as an external candidate by party leader Moshe Kahlon, was followed by his crossing the political aisle and joining the fight for the Labor leadership

Gabbay claims to have brought thousands of new members to the Labor party. However, since he is not a sitting Knesset member, Gabbay would likely not be permitted to serve as opposition leader should he win.

Herzog alienated many of his party members in holding secret coalition negotiations with Netanyahu in 2016, which fell apart in May of that year. Since then, the opposition leader has advocated other center and left-wing parties to forge a bloc to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power, though parties such as Yesh Atid have demurred.

The primaries come after Labor has plummeted over the past year in opinion polls, receiving a projected 10-12 seats (combined with the Hatnua party that makes up the Zionist Union faction), down from its current 24 seats.

The winner of the leadership bid will likely determine whether the center-left party, plagued by internal divisions, is able to become the main challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in the next elections and, consequently, whether it could seize the premiership.

Meanwhile, the centrist Yesh Atid party appears to have wooed most of Labor’s voters, climbing steadily in surveys and at this point poised to become the top contender against Likud, according to the polls.  (the Times of Israel)

More than 100 sent to hospital as season’s first heat wave breaks record for electricity

As the sun glimmered over a cloudless sky onto the sweltering pavement of southern Tel Aviv Monday afternoon, Moshe Ben-David, 88, used one hand to hold a miniature blue fan next to his lined face, and the other to spray it with water from a former Ajax bottle.

“This is how we do it here,” he said, as his two octogenarian friends, sitting on lounge chairs in front of an electronics shop off a well-traveled store-lined street, nodded their approval.

“It makes for a nice shvitz when it’s this hot,” he added knowingly.

The protracted heat wave is expected to grip much of the nation until Thursday, with breaking records for electricity demand on Sunday and Monday.

Over the weekend, United Hatzalah and Magen David Adom paramedics responded to over 100 emergency calls throughout the country due to dehydration, as temperatures continue to exceed 37°C.

Noting that a heat wave can cause a person to lose up to 10% of their body weight, United Hatzalah spokesman and EMT Raphael Poch on Monday advised people to first and foremost remain hydrated. “Avoiding dehydration at all costs is critical, so drinking large amounts of water, or Gatorade, which has electrolytes, is key to staying hydrated,” said Poch, adding that “thirst quenching” drinks such as sugared colas and certain iced teas, can actually cause dehydration.

Moreover, Poch cautioned that simply being in an air-conditioned space is not enough to ward off dehydration.

“Even inside, you must continue to drink water,” he said.

“However, people should not drink water from plastic bottles that have been exposed to the sun in a car because the plastic can melt, releasing toxins into the water,” he added. “So, if you have a bottle of water in a car, you want to put it in a cooler and not just leave it in the sun. If it was in the sun, don’t drink it, and throw it out.”

The most vulnerable populations during heat waves include children, the elderly and outdoor laborers, including construction workers or police officers.

United Hatzalah received at least four emergency calls over the weekend about children left in vehicles for extended periods.

“The most important thing is to never leave children in a car for extended periods during a heat wave,” he said.

“That’s a big problem. Luckily, the children this weekend were treated before any severe issues happened, but parents must remember that even just 10 minutes inside a hot car for an infant can be deadly.”

Poch said United Hatzalah’s chief paramedic sent out an email Monday morning warning of the signs of dehydration, which include drowsiness, vision impairment (such as seeing black spots), accelerated pulse rate, and in the advanced stages, nausea and vomiting.

“With mild dehydration, someone can lose up to 5% of their body weight from sweat and evaporation, and in advanced stages, people can lose 10% or more, which is approximately seven liters,” he said.

First-responders, Poch noted, are advised to first intravenously inject those suffering from dehydration with fluids into their veins.

“Every responder has at least three liters of intravenous fluid, and usually more on hand for emergencies,” he said.

While staying outside for the entire day is not advisable, Poch said those who do so must bring water with them, adding that taking lukewarm showers instead of cold ones when dehydrated is also advised to avoid hypothermia.

“Because a person has lost a lot of liquid, they get colder faster, so surprisingly hypothermia and dehydration can be connected,” said Poch. “Lukewarm is the way to go.”

Ultimately, Poch said people should avoid protracted periods in the sun, but to wear hats and carry water at all times if forced to be outside.

In terms of pets, he advised dog owners to always bring water to drink during walks, and avoid peak sun hours, during which the pavement can burn their paws.

“The thing with pets is that you want to avoid taking them out during the day because the asphalt and even grass can get so hot that it can burn their paws, so walk them in the morning and after the sun has gone down,” he said.

“Really,” he concluded, “you just want to drink water to stay safe.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Haley asks UN not to inscribe Hebron on World Heritage List

The United Nations should opposed the Palestinian Authority request to inscribe Hebron’s old city and the Tomb of the Patriarchs on the World Heritage in Danger list, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Monday in advance of Friday’s vote on the matter in Krakow, Poland.

“The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to three faiths, is under no immediate threat. Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have,” Haley said.

She issued the statement in a letter she addressed both to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

“Many precious sites — from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Libya to Iraq to Syria — are under real and imminent threat of destruction today. They urgently demand UNESCO’s full and immediate attention, which should not be wasted on this sort of symbolic action,” she said.

“As the United States is engaged in trying to increase the chance of a peace deal that is in the best interest of both Israel and the Palestinians, this effort at UNESCO — the motto of which is “Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women” — is particularly ill-timed and unfortunate,” Haley wrote.

“I hope you will join the United States in opposing this measure,” she added.

The US is not one of the 21-member state of the World Heritage Committee, which is examining inscription requests for 35 sites during its Krakow meeting that ends began Sunday and ends on July 12.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCohen thanked Haley and the US for its strong support.

“The letter speaks for itself on the absurd pursuit of the Jewish state in every international forum, especially in UNESCO,” Shama HaCohen said.

These words “should be repeated by every nation in the free world, but the majority of them prefer to remain silent and to roll their eyes,” Shama HaCohen said.

He alluded to the fact that the vote was taking place in the same country where so many Jews had perished in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

“This pursuit of the Jewish state is taking place a short drive away from the most horrible and sensitive place from a Jewish perspective, and from the perspective of any human being who has not lost his soul,” Shama HaCohen said.

The Palestinian Authority can request the inscription because the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization recognized Palestine as a member state in 2011.

Since then its World Heritage Committee has inscribed two West Bank sites to the state of Palestine to its endangered list; the Church of the Nativity in 2012 and the agricultural terraces of Battir in 2014.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites which evaluates inscription requests for the World Heritage Committee did not recommend Hebron’s old city and the Tomb of the Patriarchs for inscription.

It said it had not been able to assess the danger to the site because Israel refused to allow its team of experts to make a field visit and asked that permission for a trip be immediately granted.

With regard to the overall question of inscription, it said that the PA’s focus on the Mamluk and Ottoman periods weekend its case, because there were other better examples of such architecture.

What made Hebron unique, it said, was its ties to three monotheistic religions including the Biblical area of Tel Rumeiea, which was not part of the inscription request.

Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarch’s is the second holiest site in Judaism and the fourth in Islam. The Herodian building built on top of the cave where the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried, houses both Jewish sanctuaries and the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The PA had initially intended to inscribe the site through the normal procedure, but changed its mind this spring, out of concern that actions by the IDF and settlers living in Hebron were harming the historical integrity of the old city and the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

It presented UNESCO with a long list of violations including acts of vandalism and property damage.  (Jerusalem Post)

At July 4th ceremony, Netanyahu pledges to make every Jew feel at home at Kotel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Monday to make the Western Wall a place where all Jews can feel at home.

“I am committed, and I remain committed, to making every Jew feel at home in Israel, including at the Kotel,” he said at the annual July 4th ceremony at the US ambassador’s residence in Herzliya. “All we need is patience and perseverance.”

Netanyahu referred to the Wall, after saying the bond between Israel and the US “was so evident in the historic visit of President [Donald] Trump to Israel.” Netanyahu said Israel will always remember that Trump was the first president to make his first foreign trip to Israel.

Netanyahu also said Trump’s speech at the Israel Museum left an “indelible mark,” and that many Israelis were “so uplifted by the speech, by the spirit of friendship and solidarity that the president expressed with Israel.”

And when the president, Netanyahu said, “decided as the first US sitting president to visit the Western Wall, and he touched those stones, he touched our hearts, as did first lady Melania, and Jared [Kushner] and Ivanka.”

Netanyahu recalled that his brother Yonatan was killed on July 4, 1976, 200 years after America’s independence, securing the freedom of the hostages at Entebbe.

“Two centuries separate July 4, 1776, and July 4, 1976,” Netanyahu said. “But to me they are unified by a common ideal – the fight for freedom. I am reminded of that parallel every year at this time. Israel and America are two bastions of liberty defending our common civilizations.”

Friedman, who preceded Netanyahu to the podium, quipped that the last time he threw a party in Israel was 45 years ago, at his bar mitzva at the Western Wall.

In a speech shot through with biblical references, Friedman noted that so much of what makes up being American is “derived from the teachings of ancient Israel. Perhaps for that reason it is no surprise that the United States and Israel have the most special of special relations.”

He said that while the two countries have common enemies, which unites them, as well as extraordinary cooperation along a wide range of areas, which also unites them, “at our collective core, what fundamentally unites us is that we are the two shining cities on the hill joined together by shared history, shared values, and I believe a shared destiny of continued greatness.”

Friedman & Bibi

Friedman made a point during his speech to remember Hadar Goldin, the IDF soldier whose body is being held by Hamas in Gaza.

“Let us take a moment to reflect upon Hadar, and upon every soldier of the United States armed forces, and the Israel Defense Forces, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of their respective nation.

We are here only because of their courage, their bravery and their sacrifice.”

Friedman ended his words by saying God should bless “the unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel.

Earlier in the day, Friedman – who once called the left-wing American organization J Street “worse than kapos” – met with the group’s leader, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and seven US congressmen in the country under the group’s auspices.

The meeting came less than a week after Friedman, in his first public address since becoming ambassador, referred to his past comments about J Street, and said, “I am as guilty as anyone else for having entered the partisan divide that has, unfortunately, to some extent fractured the Jewish community in the US and in Israel. But it has to end.”

He pledged “to treat the Jewish people of whatever stripe, whatever political views, with the same dignity and respect that they all deserve.

And I hope we all do the same. We must turn the page.”

Following the meeting, Ben-Ami – who ardently opposed Friedman’s appointment as ambassador – issued a statement saying he appreciated the ambassador’s willingness to meet the group.

“It is vital to maintain an open channel of communication among American, Israeli and Jewish communal leaders of all political backgrounds,” he said. “While the content of today’s meeting was off the record, the fact of the meeting represents a recognition that there needs to be a broad dialogue in the pro-Israel community, even with those with whom we disagree.”  (Jerusalem Post)

IDF Skylark drone crashes in Gaza

The IDF said on Tuesday that an IDF Skylark unmanned aerial vehicle slammed in the earth in the central Gaza Strip for as yet unknown reasons the previous day.

Hamas retrieved the miniature drone near the Maghazi refugee camp, but the military said there was no risk that classified information would be compromised.

Monday’s crash is the latest of several over the past several years. Last Thursday, another Skylark went down near Bethlehem before being recovered by the IDF.

The Skylark, built by Haifa-based Elbit Systems and operated by the Artillery Corps, is the IDF’s smallest drone, with a wingspan of 2.3 meters, and operates on all fronts for tactical surveillance. It can be operated by one or two soldiers, including from a roof or in the back of an armored personnel carrier, and provides live-video once airborne.

While it is an effective and popular drone, there have been several crashes since it was delivered to the IDF Ground Forces in 2010, including this past April when one crashed in Gaza City’s Shejaia neighborhood.

In March, Hezbollah claimed to have shot down a Skylark after it penetrated Syrian airspace in Quneitra, just over the Golan border.

The Syrian Defense Ministry later said that its air defense unit had shot down a drone over the outskirts of Quneitra, without specifying the UAV’s origin. The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit denied that the drone had been shot down.

In January, another Skylark crashed in southern Lebanon after suffering a technical malfunction. Hezbollah reported the following day that it had found pieces of it. A week later the IDF temporarily lost contact with a Skylark over the Balata refugee camp on the eastern edge of Nablus and following overnight searches located it near a Samaria Brigade post.

In July 2015, another Skylark crashed in the Gaza Strip as a result of a malfunction. Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam military wing recovered its remnants and subsequently released a video claiming to have put it back together, making it operational. (Jerusalem Post)